Dreams

blanche_0009

Blanche in one of her plays.

Have you ever asked your parents or your grand parents what their dreams were when they were young? What was it they hoped for? Listen while you get a chance. My mother had to quit school after grade ten. I never realized how much she felt the loss of not finishing high school until I took her to see the movie Educating Rita and I realized that she was crying as Rita struggled to get an education.

I knew a woman who had to drop out of school because of illness. Smart, talented, ambitious but there was no money to pay for her to go back to school. She had to go to work as a servant. Often, as I had coffee with her, I thought how sad fate can sometimes be.

Most of us adjust to the reality of our lives, accept what can’t be changed, make the best of what is available. Nowadays, there are evening school courses, summer courses, education of many kinds is available electronically. You Tube provides short instructional courses on just about everything one can imagine. Yesterday, I watched a short video on how to use a carpenter’s tape measure. I didn’t know three of the four tips.

When I was growing up there was no library in town (a tragedy), no learning to use a library, no books that would create knowledge of the world out there. For adults there were few paths forward. It still wasn’t common for adults to return to school. One exception were the courses for the airmen on the Gimli airbase. The math teacher at our school wasn’t working out to well so I took the course on the airbase to supplement the teaching in the public school. This was an exceptional opportunity. Extension courses were few and far between.

Even with improvements over the decades, access to knowledge and skills can still be hard to come by. College and university are expensive. And can be intimidating.

Yet, most people, if not all, have dreams. If the resources had been available, what would your mother or father like to have done? Your grandmothers and grandfathers? Grandma, you can ask, what was your dream when you were young?

My Icelandic grandmother, Blanche, whom I never me–she died when my father was twelve–wanted to be a successful playwright, actress, director, poet, fiction writer. And she wanted to write song lyrics. Living in a small town, she did all of these, writing her plays, acting in them, directing them, writing poetry, fiction and song lyrics. She knew an actor in Hollywood who was Icelandic and corresponded with him and sent him some of her plays. The family has at least one of his replies.

With four children, living in a small, rural town, she still had big dreams. Even in such circumstances people can still hope to do something exceptional with their life.

I think of this because I was sorting and filing papers over the last few days and I came across an envelope with a copy of one of her published songs.

I wondered as I studied the piece of sheet music what her dream was, did she hope to go to Hollywood? It seems like an impossible dream but there were quite a few Icelanders did go to Hollywood, including Halldor Laxnes, in pursuit of fame and fortune. Laxness stayed in an apartment provided by a successful Icelandic developer. And I wondered how many women in small towns, on farms, in prairie cities harboured dreams of greater things?

Rose Petals

Lanes

lane

A lane is defined as a narrow country road or a narrow way or passage between walls, hedges or fences.

In Gimli where I grew up, a lane wasn’t either of these. It was a back lane. Gimli had been laid out on a grid with front streets and back lanes. Early on, I learned to love back lanes. Front streets were where people put up a front for their neighbours and the public. If a yard was going to be prettified, the grass cut, flowers planted, hedges trimmed, it was in the front yard. The owner’s public persona was on display.

Now, the back lane was different. It’s not just that the back lane was where people put out their garbage with all that revealed about what they ate, bought, cast aside. It was also the muddy, rutted track where fishing boxes were piled, corks hung to dry after being oiled, skiffs rested between fishing seasons, anchors and ropes lined up. It was where you saw who was precise and organized. Gardens revealed a great deal about someone. There were back yards with gardens with exact rows and there were gardens that were chaotic.

Back lanes often had fences, especially the back lanes that bordered cottages. Those fences, usually posts with wire stretched across them, provided us with good times. Gimli was a swamp in the 1940s and 50s. When the spring runoff came, it filled the ditches that fronted all the streets and flooded the low lying cottage yards. Squashers, our name for the egg shaped fruit that grew on the  vines that overtook the fences every spring, grew prolifically. When squashers hit an object such as another kid, they splattered. The inside was wet and filled with sectioned soft membranes and brown or black seeds. The mess was gratifying.

Today, in Victoria, far in time and place from the Gimli of my childhood, I went for a fifty minute walk, up hill and down dale. Some of that walk was on local roads but Victoria is a city of narrow country roads and passageways between walls, hedges and fences.

I walked the road to Playfair Park, crossed the park with its lawns and flower beds, its rhododendron copse, and slipped into a narrow lane between fences. I came out on a dead end road and hiked uphill back to the park where I followed a lane between the park fence and an area of salal and scruffy Gary Oaks. I’d done a loop and ended up back on the road that I’d followed to the park. I slipped away to the left to follow a loop that would make my walk a figure eight.  I was on a busy thoroughfare, but that only lasted a couple of blocks before I crossed over and, although I continued on a paved road, there were no sidewalks and a lot of vegetation dearly beloved by the local deer. The road winds through a neighbourhood of rock, blackberry thickets and fir trees.

I ended up on Cook St. one of Victoria’s busiest thoroughfares. I didn’t stay on it for long but turned onto a laneway, one of those odd little jogs that must have a history of sorts because it is so unexpected. It is at the bottom of a steep slope and the lane runs flat along the bottom of the slope. There are cherry trees grown rampant, an overgrown ditch, blackberry thickets on one side.  At this time of year, the ditch is dotted with light purple daisies growing wild. On the other side there is a mishmash of fences and driveways. Enclosed by the lane, I’m hard pressed to remember I’m in the city.

The lane ended and I began the slow slog up the steep back of the Rise. This road can be called a lane, no sidewalks, twisting its way up, past carefully tended houses and yards,past rosemary bushes so large they form a hedge, past the yard of an urban gardener who I haven’t met but have watched as he tends his half-dozen bee hives or plants and harvests his leeks and raspberries.

There are in these lanes, small surprises. Bird houses tucked here and there. A potting shed resting high up on an outcrop. Ceramic trolls and elves. Uncountable Douglas squirrels running up and down the oak trees. A tree, deciduous, with forgotten Christmas ornaments sparkling in the sun. A box of apples set out for anyone passing by to share. A large metal bowl of water for the? Deer, raccoons, dogs, cats, cougars, squirrels, blue jays, robins, hawks. A begonia at the bottom of a hedge, flaming red.

At the top of the rise is a dead end. No vehicles can pass but I can cross over to the lane that leads down to my house. It is here  one evening as dusk was falling that I met a four point stag. We both stopped and studied each other. I wished I had an apple to roll toward him. He was just about at the cross road where I was standing. Handsome, the way the stags in the old Encyclopedia Britannica looked, noble, head held high. The words from Scot jumped into my mind unbidden. “The stag at eve had drunk his fill/Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill.” Finally, I lifted my right hand in a salute and went on my way.

 

June’s World-an art show

sunrise

I attended June Valgardson’s art show this morning while it was still being set up. It was nice to see her three daughters helping get the show ready. They and their sister, Debbie, who died some years ago when quite young, are the subjects of a number of the paintings and collages in the show.

The show is a mix from years of production: oils, a piece of fabric art and a number of collages. The subjects divide into local nature, family, flowers and scenes from June’s travels. The Icelandic background of the family (June’s husband, Zeke, was half Icelandic and June is one hundred percent Icelandic) is obvious. Even the cake that is for the attendees has a Viking on it. Various Viking images appear in the art. As well, there are landscapes from Iceland.

To me, the most interesting of the paintings are those in which the vision of the artist is not limited by convention. The most successful of the paintings is “Summer at Willow Creek.” The family has an acreage on historic Willow Creek and it is obvious that the creek fills their lives for Zeke was an ardent bird watcher, knowing the names of all the types of birds he attracted onto the property. As well, he was a wood carver. I have a loon he carved and it has a proud place in my house. Otters and beaver, a mob of Canada geese live in and around the creek. The view toward Lake Winnipeg is awe inspiring and has inspired many of June’s paintings.

sumeratwillowcreekbetter
On a card fitted into one corner of “Summer on Willow Creek”, June has written, “This painting was done at an especially busy time. It was the first winter we moved out to the farm. We had a workshop and I was going to the Gimli Art Club every afternoon and evening. One morning I got up and painted this from my window before going to class. On an old tree, year around, hangs a dipper for the farmer to drink from an old artesian well.”

In “Sunrise” (the painting at the top of the page)the colours are bold, the strokes determined and both the medium and the method join together to make a strong statement about the power of the sunrise at Willow Creek. There is no attempt to prettify it, to subdue nature like the European painters did in the early years in Canada. There’s nothing bucolic about these paintings, no nature that has been tamed and made unthreatening.

The Railway Tracks

railway

 

I walked the tracks yesterday . When I was a teenager, I often walked the tracks, sometimes stepping from railway tie to railway tie, sometimes balancing on the steel rails, sometimes standing at the side of the tracks as a train rumbled past. Canada had a railway system in those days. It was that railway system that joined Canadians from coast to coast.

I had a sense of pride about the railways because my grandfather worked for The Great Northern Railway at the roundhouse in Winnipeg.

As a child, I’d ridden the train with my parents. There was train service twice a day in summer, once a day during the rest of the year. One unforgettable time when my father was taking me to Winnipeg because I had a bad ear infection (no antibiotics in those days), we missed the train. It was pulling out as we got to the top of Centre and the highway. My father, who had stopped to talk to various people as we walked to the station, ran over to a taxi (yes, Gimli had taxis in those days. The war was on and Gimli had lots of single air force men who hired taxis.) and shouted “Catch that train.”

Highway nine was gravel, rutted, we bounced about in the back seat as the taxi driver did his best to get to the Winnipeg Beach before the train. It was like being in a movie. The taxi driver hunched over his steering wheel. My father with his head out the window yelling “Faster. Faster.” There were no seat belts in those days, the gravel surface of the road and the ruts meant slipping and sliding sideways, bouncing up and down. “Faster. Faster,” my father yelled.

I remember the moment we passed the train. We screeched to a halt at the Winnipeg Beach stop. My father said I’ll pay you when I get back, grabbed me and bounded onto the platform. My father hoped my mother wouldn’t hear what had happened but, alas, Gimli was a small town, nearly everyone was related, and hardly before the taxi had raced out of sight someone had stopped at the house and said, “Rae, Dempsey missed the train.”

Traveling by train was comfortable. The click click of the wheels on the rails.. The magic of the passing landscape. Few people owned cars so there were always people on the train that my parents knew so every trip was a chance for a leisurely visit and my thoughtful mother always packed a sandwich along with home made lemonade in a glass sealer.

When I was twelve, I started delivering The Winnipeg Free Press. That meant going to the train station each day to meet the train, to hang around with the other carriers, collect our bundles of newspapers that were thrown onto the wagons that had been pulled up beside the freight car. We filled our canvas bags and off we went, young entrepreneurs at the end of the line of railways that had spread out across Canada.

The railways nearly didn’t come to Gimli. Marshy land and Willow Creek were barriers. It made more financial sense for the railway to be built west of town where the land rose up and formed gravel ridges. This was very serious. There are numerous stories of towns being built on what was expected to be the railway line only to have the railway line built miles away. Entire towns made of frame buildings were moved to where the railway line existed. Goods had to be sent to market. Goods were needed in the towns and farms. Transportation was everything.

The Icelanders of Gimli always had good political connections. It was those connections that got them the only known transportation grant for immigrants within Canada. Faced with no railway, they formed a committee and went to Winnipeg. After a lot of lobbying, they got the railway line extended from Winnipeg Beach to Gimli. Winnipeg Beach had been the terminal point for the cordwood economy that kept Winnipeg houses and businesses warm in winter. Now, cordwood, farm produce, fish, everything that country people might produce and city people, buy, could be sent directly to Winnipeg.

The railway brought people to the village, people who needed hotel accommodation. Some people liked the town so much that they built cottages. Without the CPR line I wouldn’t have been born. My grandparents came to visit friends who had a cottage. They liked Gimli so much that they built a cottage. While my father was helping his father build my mother’s parents’ cottage, my father and mother saw each other through a window and we all know how that worked out.

You could say that I was a CPR kid.

That’s why my walk along the railway tracks yesterday was filled with sadness. Canada used to have a strong, powerful railway system. It was our railway system. It has been allowed to fall into disuse.Clean, cheap, efficient transportation for people and goods has been replaced by the car economy. The profits from making cars, building highways for them, producing oil to fuel them are so great that common sense and the environment have been brushed aside and, in many cases, bribed aside.

Between the ties there are now weeds. The ties are rotten, falling apart. The tracks are being torn up and sold to other countries. The railways made Canada. It wasn’t enough to save them.

The Dying of Old Dreams

monkey
My Irish grandfather came to Canada from Northern Ireland so he would “no longer have to carry a pistol in his pocket.”

He had joined the Orange Order in Ireland. He told me that he was the youngest member who had been inducted into the order. In Ireland, the Order was a political and military power. When I was a young boy living in Gimli, Manitoba people knew about the Orangemen but, nowadays,in North America, the name doesn’t mean anything to most people.

The Orange Order was founded in 1795. Its purpose was to protect and support the Protestant faith and, also, to protect Protestant privilege.

When I was growing up, once a year on Orangeman’s day, my mother and brother, my grandmother and I, would stand on Main Street in Winnipeg to watch my grandfather march by. Parades are always exciting for children. To me, it wasn’t any different from watching the Santa Clause parade at Christmas. There were the fifes and drums, the kilts, the colorful banners and, for a moment, my grandfather marching past wearing his sash.

At the head of the parade there was a man in a red coat, wearing a white wig and riding a white horse. Everyone applauded as King Billy rode past. After the parade was over, we went to a local park for a family picnic. There always was a stage from which some men made speeches but none of us ever sat close enough to hear what was said. We were more interested in potato salad, chicken, green salad, apple pie, and lemonade. The men’s drinks often had a bit of whiskey added to the lemonade.

I never thought to ask who King Billy was or why he led the parade. Or why, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, we were applauding a man on a white horse. Once the day was over, my grandfather put away his sash until it was used the following year.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, King Billy was revered by the protestant population because in 1688, he invaded England, got rid of the Catholic king James II and became the king of England, Scotland and Ireland.

My grandfather often praised the Battle of the Boyne but, again, no one explained what it was or its historical importance. Or why two armies were fighting.

The Catholics were fighting for Irish sovereignty, toleration for their faith and the right to own land. When Cromwell (two of my ancestors were officers in his invading army) conquered Ireland, he took the land away from the Catholic upper classes and redistributed among his followers, including those two ancestors. He also took away a Catholic’s right to hold public office, practice Catholicism or be elected to Parliament.

From this distant perspective, Cromwell’s behaviour seems excessive and just about guaranteed rebellion. If someone came along and said I’m taking your house, you can’t be Lutheran anymore, and you can’t hold any political office, I expect that I’d be rebellious. However, much more was afoot. There were Catholic ambitions in France. There were previous conflicts in which people had been slaughtered. Everything comes with a history.

Nobody told me any of this. All I ever heard from my grandmother was that there was a book in Ireland with a hand written account of our family, that said that one of the two brothers who came with Cromwell thought so little of the land he was given that he traded it for a fighting cock (rooster) and went back to Scotland. The brother who stayed is the Irish-Scot who founded my mother’s family.

But no one ever mentioned Cromwell and, I, for my part, living in Gimli, Manitoba in the 1940s and 50’s despised history because all we seemed to do was memorize the dates and names of England’s kings and queens. The town was predominately Icelandic surrounded by Ukrainians with a few Germans and Poles. We lived a hardscrabble life. The area was the poorest in Canada except for Newfoundland. When we heard any history at home or on the street, it was Icelandic and Ukrainian and those stories were nearly always about the tragedies and triumphs of our fairly recent immigration. Nobody cared about or knew about the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Nobody cared about the Orangemen. It wasn’t our circus and they weren’t our monkeys. Well, it was our family’s circus a bit and we were monkeys in this circus, but we were barely on stage.

The only Irish elements in my life were my grandparents’ thick accents, the occasional Irish lottery tickets (which were illegal), the annual parade and my grandfather, if he’d had a few drinks, declaring “Down with the Pope.” But there, too, no one bothered to explain who the pope was. There was no TV in those days. Radio news didn’t provide any clues as to who he might be. In any case, I was much more interested in rushing home from school at noon hour to hear the beginning of The Happy Gang and to have soup and a sandwich before I rushed back to school to kick around a soccer ball.

As well, I had good friends in Gimli who were Catholic. We went to school together, we played together, we shared holiday meals like Christmas and New Year’s and we went to each other’s birthdays. If someone had said that Catholics should have houses taken away from them or that they had no right to go to church or be on the town council, I would have thought that person was a monster.

Over the years, the Orange parades, once long, became short, the young men became old men and, gradually, there were fewer and fewer of them. King Billy’s soldiers were conquered by age and by the fact that Ireland’s conflicts weren’t Manitoba’s conflicts. The present gradually pushed aside the past. Public schooling can take a lot of the credit for that. Play on a hockey team, curling team, soccer team, baseball team, sit beside someone all day in the classroom, get crushes on the opposite sex, go to dances together, it all helped make the present matter and the past largely irrelevant for my generation.

There have been attempts to hang onto vestiges of the past. Romantic nostalgia. In Gimli, we’ve had decades and decades of the Islendingadagurinn that became the Icelandic Celebration that became the Icelandic Festival and which will probably morf into the Gimli cultural festival or the pickerel festival and be more concerned about bringing business into town than preserving an Icelandic heritage. It’s harder and harder to get volunteers. A lot of people are like me, a mongrel: half Irish, three eighths Icelandic, one eighth English.

The same is  happening to the descendents of the Ukrainians, Poles and Germans.

The Northern Irish were assimilated quickly, became part of the mainstream. When my grandfather came to Winnipeg, his accent got him a job at Eaton’s. Those days are long gone. Eaton’s, once a powerhouse, is long gone. Companies are often multi-national with employees posted around the world.

Time betrayed my grandfather as it betrays us all. Gout kept him from marching and then there were no marches, no fifes and drums, no King Billy on a white horse.

It’s not just the Irish, of course. The people of Icelandic descent in what is called New Iceland who are FBis (full blooded Icelanders) grow fewer and fewer. Our children marry people from every tribe and race. The world has grown smaller with immigration and travel. We live in a society divided by classes determined by money but not so much by ethnicity or history. The conflict in the Middle East with people murdering each other over differing views of how the world was created or what clothes women should wear seems like something from Medieval Times but it wasn’t so long ago that my ancestors were murdering and being murdered by their neighbours.

It’s interesting and amusing to know that somewhere in the distant past, one of my Irish relatives is supposed to have led King Billy across the Boyne River, that relatives fought with Cromwell but it is irrelevant to my daily life. I’m more concerned nowadays with global warming, with conflict in the Ukraine, with conflict in the Middle East, with the price of oil, with drug dealling, with the stock market, with the degradation of the environment, with poverty in our society.

This is the circus in which I perform every day.

Economist extraordinaire

leokistjanson

Story by Karen Morrison

When others are hanging their “gone fishin’” sign Leo Kristjanson is contemplating how to save the western economy.

The former president of the University of Saskatchewan retired to Gimli, Manitoba, this past year to try to slow down the advance of Parkinson’s disease. But he hasn’t spent the time idly watching the boats go by in this sleepy resort town.

He renovated a brother’s home and daughter’s basement with his wife Jean, while continuing with fund raising efforts for the University of Saskatchewan’s new agriculture building. Somewhere in between, he found time to create The Western Institute for Public Policy.

He had planned to take a one year’s leave and see if his health improved, but as the Kristjansons conceded they have since decided to move the furniture to Gimli.
The transition has been no less difficult for jean, whose schedule was kept busy raising their four children, and in volunteer activities. Playground equipment in the backyard indicates time is now spent enjoying the next generation of six Kristjanson grandchildren.
Leo credits much of his success to having Jean at home to keep the home fires burning when he was away. In retirement, Leo laments that time away from his family. “He did a lot on the job and did a lot of extra things,” said Jean, a self-proclaimed feminist who chose to give up nursing and raise a family. “In order to do those extra things someone had to be at home.”

“Jean gets very little credit for what I did at university but it would have been impossible for me to act as I did without that understanding and participation,” said Leo, who was quick to point out his family member’s many accomplishments alongside his own.

His latest project, the public policy institute, is comprised of academics, businessmen and lawyers seeking to generate research and challenge fiscal policies of the Bank of Canada and government.

Calling such work good therapy for both the mind and body, the conversation quickly becomes more philosophical as he launches into a long-winded explanation of what the institute’s goals are.

“It emerged because a group talked about the nature of the response to insufficiencies and inadequacies in society,” he said, noting most reactions have been too stereotyped.
“You have people wanting to turn the clock back to solve the problems of the future or turning the clock back to something that didn’t exist,” he said. “They didn’t really have a complete grasp of what’s happening.”

Privatization is espoused as the answer to our current economic woes, but he said letting the market rule doesn’t work any better than the total government involvement of Eastern Europe.

He said the answer is to find what is appropriate to solve particular problems of society, with the main goals of his group being western solutions to western problems.
Leo’s personal goals for individuals to live with dignity, self –respect and equity are also the goals of the institute.

The group produced a research paper examining growth, income, immigration and investment levels over the last decade called the “State of the West Report”.

They have plans to do it annually, commissioning studies on a code of ethics for public officials, on the state of housing in the West, examining ways of creating equal pay for women in the workplace, and on poverty and health care systems.

Downplaying his role in the group Leo said, “I agreed to chair this group for a little while, but we need to let people in with more ideas than I have.”

He encourages that innovativeness because it is a means of helping people feel some control over their own destiny, as opposed to having Main Street Canada impose what it feels best for Canada on the West.

“Instead of asking what we can do, there is a tendency to ask what programs are available for this purpose,” he said. “I think things can be done that are uniquely western and unique to a particular region.”

Lobbying Ottawa to create programs is the traditional approach, but Leo said solutions might be more available through purely local action. “Politicians will try to solve it when it really is more suitably handled at the local level,” he said.

Leo warned against universities fueling this bureaucratic solution to problems by producing people enslaved to systems, citing the dehumanizing effects of assigning student numbers and enrollment quotas.

“A number is unique but if you don’t deal with it as a unique individual, then you lose students with particular characteristic,” he said.

“People look at them as the 30 to 500 who didn’t get in—it’s not 500 people whose careers might be affected,” he said, reiterating his desire to treat people with dignity. He noted he might have been one of those denied education opportunities when he applied to do a PhD in economics with a master’s degree in history.

He felt a greater share of the country’s gross national product should be invested in education in the West to solve current funding crises.

He expressed concern over the urban orientation of the University of Saskatchewan, publicly funded by a largely rural, agricultural tax base. There has to be special effort made in extension services for this rural community, building it into the workload of the staff, he said.

One of six boys and two girls born to Hannes and Elin Kristjanson, Leo’s support for the grass roots approach and the co-operative movement and his sense of responsibility towards community and family came from his Unitarian upbringing. His parents brought the family as children to Manitoba from Iceland.

Today the Kristjanson siblings continue to gravitate there to t heir summer and year-round homes and to the original two-story homestead, in which Leo and Jean now live. “It’s where we belong,” said Leo simply.

While his sisters Maria and Alda chose careers traditional for the time, in business and nursing, Leo and his brothers all pursued doctoral degrees. Baldur was an agricultural economics professor, Larry, assistant chief commissioner of the Canadian Wheat Board, and Kris was chairman of Manitoba Hydro and Great-West Life Insurance Company. Albert worked as a sociology professor and Burbank was once the agricultural advisor to the Shah of Iran. They were raised to challenge world issues, but also to help one another and their fellow man.

Leo’s goal while university vice-president and president was to enhance the agricultural component, by establishing the centre for agricultural medicine and a new $75 million agriculture building now nearly completion.

For the immediate future, he looks to upgrading the sprawling 1914 retirement cottage on the lake in which he was born and raised, taking time off only to accept such prestigious recent honors as being named to the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame and Order of Canada.

Published on WDValgardsonKaffiHus with permission from The Western Producer and Western People magazine, Nov. 1, 1990.

The Kindest Gift

DSC00595Yesterday, I found an unexpected package at my front door. I’m not used to receiving packages unless it is a book I’ve ordered over the internet.

The return address said it was from Clayton and Doris Bristow.

My finding the package, picking it up, reading the return address, taking the package into the house and setting it out on the dining room table, opening it, is a scene in a long narrative that began before either Clayton or Doris or I were born.

My great grandmother, Fridrikka Gottskalksdottir, came to Canada in 1876. She was three years old. Her parents had left a desperate situation in Iceland and traveled to the UK, changed ships, traveled to Quebec City, then on to a swampy, forested shoreline on Lake Winnipeg. They were part of what was called The Large Group. Earlier, a small, initial group had arrived on the shores of Willow Point after their barges were cut loose by a steamboat captain because a storm had started.

Shortly after my great grandmother and her parents arrived, smallpox broke out. One hundred and three people died. One of those was Fridrikka’s three month old brother. That they all didn’t die was probably due to the fact that some of them had previously had the cow pox, either from working with dairy cattle in Iceland or because they had been inoculated. .

At sixteen, Fridrikka went to Fort Garry to work. There she met William Bristow, a member of the British Army. The Icelanders had come to Canada hoping, like many other groups, to preserve their language, culture and religion. They named the exclusive reserve the government had given them New Iceland. None of the fantasies of cultural purity had much impact on young people and certainly not on Fridrikka. She married William Bristow.

One would expect that he would have stayed in the army, that Fridrikka would have become English. After all, the English dominated Western Canada politically, financially, and socially. Instead, William Bristow left the army and moved to what was now Gimli. Gimli, a small village on the shore of Lake Winnipeg, survived on commercial fishing. William became a fisherman.

William and Fridrikka had thirteen children.

My grandmother, Blanche Bristow, was a sister to Clayton’s grandfather, George Bristow. George and his wife, Dolly, lived across the big field from us. We were on third and they were directly opposite us on second avenue. Times were hard but at Christmas we always exchanged gifts.

Dolly and George had four children. One of those was Clayton’s father,Rudy.  Rudy and I, in spite of our travels,  have always stayed in touch.

Clayton and Doris live in Winnipeg, a three or four day drive from Victoria. I don’t get to see them very often. Usually, if we bump into each other, it is at Gimli’s annual Islendingadagurinnin. This is the way of the world in 2014. When I was growing up, our families all lived close to each other. Nowadays, we are spread across the world.

This journey that culminated on my front porch began when Fridrikka, and her parents Gottskalk Sigfusson and Holmdridur Jonatansdottir, made the decision to leave Akureyri, Iceland. When William Herbert Bristow, the son of a Church of England minister,came to Canada on his own at fifteen.

When I opened the package that Clayton and Doris had sent me, there was a cheerful cookie tin. When I pried open the tin, there was a Christmas card and a vinarterta, the layered prune tort that symbolizes everything about our North American Icelandic culture. The note was from Doris and it said that like me, Clayton has celiac disease, and they knew how much I must be missing having vinartera at Christmas. They’d baked some vinartera as an experiment and were sending me one of the layered cakes.

It’s been a long journey, from Aukreyri and Oxford to decades in Gimli, Manitoba,, from Gimli to Winnipeg, from Gimli on my crooked path through Iowa and Missouri to Victoria, from 1876 to 2014.

I pick up this package and take it inside and put it on the dining room table where the winter sun shines on it and I cut off the padded envelope, then I take off the brown wrapper and open the tin and find within it that special vinarterta and I stand there and think, thank you Clayton and Doris, Rudy and Sig, Dolly and George, William and Fredrikka, Gottskalk and Holmfridur. Thank you. .

My Little Red Wagon

creche
We sang “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.” We were small and our voices were thin and high but enthusiastic. We weren’t Dutch religious theorists or Jesuits. There was Jesus and Joseph and Mary and a donkey and a manger. I don’t think any of us had seen a donkey. There were lots of horses still around Gimli in those days. So many that Gunnar Johnson had a livery stable.

Most of us had been in that livery stable so we knew about mangers and how they smelled of hay and horses. Farmers were still coming in from the country on high-wheeled wagons or sleighs. The sleighs often had a caboose on top, a wooden frame covered with building paper, a window at the front so the driver could control the horses from inside where he was out of the wind along with his passengers, a tin stove with a black pipe that poked through the roof.

We didn’t know any geography but since Mary was riding on a donkey and Joseph was walking, we thought it couldn’t have been cold like Manitoba. The pictures showed them wearing sandals. If they wore sandals in Manitoba, they would have frozen their feet off. We wore a light pair of socks, heavy wool socks, moccasins with felts in the bottom. When it was really cold, we might have worn boot felts inside the moccasins. One time, I skated back home on the icy roads instead of taking off my skates at the outdoor rink and putting on my moccasins. I froze both big toes. The toenails turned white and fell off.

There was the North Star. It was in all the pictures of the holy family. It was guiding them. My parents explained about stars, showed me Orion’s Belt, the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper. My father said you could navigate by them. It didn’t make any sense. One day I went further on my bicycle than I was supposed to and got lost. Gimli was only one mile by one half mile and I’d crossed the big ditch on the south side of town and gone into South Beach. I had to ask a man working in his yard how to get back home. Even if it had been night time, I doubted if following the stars would have helped.

There was an Inn in this story. I knew about in. It was the opposite of out. When I was first told Mary and Joseph went to an Inn, I asked “In what?” I didn’t know about stopping houses. There was a hotel in town but men just went to the beer parlour. I had to have it explained that people could pay money to stay there. Why, I wondered, didn’t they just stay home?

Mary was going to have a baby. I knew people had babies. My mom had my brother. She went to the hospital and came back with him. I wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t into sharing, either. It was all very mysterious. No one explained where babies came from. I would have understood better if he’d come from the post office. Sometimes, my grandmother sent us packages in the mail. So, I got the idea that sometimes unexpected things came from the post office.

Getting the pieces of the story to make any sense was hard. To make matters worse there was three kings on camels. I’d never seen a king or a camel except on a Christmas card. There were gifts but I didn’t understand why they were bringing these gifts.What does a kid want with gold, frankincense or myrrh. I wanted a red wagon.

red wagon

The next summer, when my grandmother took me to Assiniboine Park to the zoo, I saw a camel. I remember thinking, wow. Three kings rode camels like this for days across the desert to bring gifts to the Christ child. I didn’t resent him getting a bunch of gifts because I’d got my red wagon.

I wondered though what Christ did with his gifts. I played with my gift. I ran up and down the front sidewalk pulling my brother in the wagon. Or I kneeled in it and pushed myself along with one foot.

My father went out and chopped down a spruce tree. It smelled great. When he pulled it inside and set it up, it was exciting. My mother had spent her evenings making decorations. They sparkled. There were lights. What I liked best were the brightly colored birds that sat on the branches. What I liked bester were the gifts under the tree.

We went to church on Christmas Eve. It was exciting. We only had to walk through the snow and cold for about half a block. No camel. It would have been fun to ride a camel. I sort of had hoped there’d be a camel at church. Instead there were people dressed up in costumes and they pretended to be Joseph and Mary. The Christ child was a big doll. I liked that. We sang Christmas carols. The best thing is that when we were leaving, we were given a brown bag with an orange and striped candy. In 1945 in Gimli there were few oranges. This was probably the only orange I would get until the fall of 1946. Sugar was rationed so the candy was precious. Oranges and candy were better than frankincense and myrrh.

After church, we walked home over the snow packed sidewalk. There were lights in in the Scribner’s house. They lived on the corner. Then there were vacant lots until we got to our house. Across the street there were no houses, just the big field with the monument to the Icelandic settlers. My grandpa Swanee worked on that. He helped put the big stone on top.
My father carried my brother. My mother held my hand. I had on a fur lined helmet tied under the chin and a warm coat my grandmother had made for me. It was so cold that the snow squeaked. The sky was dark and filled with stars. We stopped to look at them. There was a light in our window and when we got inside my father went downstairs to put wood into the furnace. We had cocoa. Then we went to bed.

I lay in my bed looking out the east window. I could see the stars. I thought about Baby Jesus. I hoped he’d had warm blankets. I thought the kings should have brought him really warm clothes and hot cocoa. I hoped Santa Claus would bring me my little red wagon.

Keeping It Cool

dennis and fred

Dennis Anderson with his brother, Fred, writer, painter

Fred Anderson has published a new book, edited by his sister, Marjorie Anderson: Keep It Cold and Other Good Advice. It is a collection of fifty short anecdotes from a widely varied group of people who have responded to a request for “memorable words of advice that have made a significant difference in your life”.

David Arnason, poet, fiction writer, filmmaker, former head of the Icelandic Department at the University of Manitoba has written the forward. He says “They tell of the moments, the words, the flashes of insight that have altered their lives in meaningful ways….Sometimes, it comes from incidental encounters – with a teacher, a workmate, or an older self looking back on childhood reactions….It is a testimonial to the human spirit.”

There was a capacity crowd at the launch of Keep It Cold at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg on November 27. Various people who have written pieces for the book read their contributions. Jim Anderson, Fred’s brother, said that Audrey Waytiuk’s reading about her lifelong challenge of living with depression touched everyone in the room. The most important piece of advice she’d ever received was from an uncle who told her that what she needed to do was to “Keep trying to try”.

Fred’s anecdote, “Advice on Ice” is about a interview he and three fellow university students conducted with Otto Zwigg, the owner and CEO of Provincial Cold Storage. Mr. Zwigg provided Fred with the title to this book by replying to every question about his business practices with some variation of the phrase “keep it cold.” He was obviously teasing the students, but, in the end, “keep it cold” is brilliant advice if you are running a cold storage business. And it became a mantra that Fred could apply in other aspects of his life.

Fred is the youngest of the eight children of Asdis Guttormson and Thorsteinn (Stony) Anderson of Poplar Park (now Libau) MB, that isolated marshland behind the south shore of Lake Winnipeg. In his forties, Fred developed Parkinson’s – a terrifying disease that compromises muscular strength and mobility. And, over time, remorselessly attacks both body and mind. The younger someone develops Parkinson’s, the more severe it usually is. His family members, many of whom are writers and editors, joined in helping him achieve the publication of this book.

Fred’s Parkinson’s started with stiffness – frozen is the word. The dopamine level in his brain was not high enough to keep his muscles flexible. The Parkinson’s meds added dopamine, but it was difficult to keep the level balanced, and as the disease progressed, the stiffness could last for up to ten hours. There’s no cure for Parkinson’s, but over the last twenty-five years there have been many attempts to help Fred medically. He has had electrodes implanted into his brain and has undergone many different drug therapies .

Faced with a debilitating disease he began to write. His first published book was White Flashes on Charcoal, a book of poems. When he was young he had started to paint. Defying the effects of his Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and stints in a wheelchair, he’s continued to paint, and now sells his paintings at Lynnwood Capital Care facility in Edmonton where he lives.

Born in 1946 in Poplar Park, Fred did everything right. Academically brilliant, he won the Governor General’s medal and was the valedictorian at his high school graduation from Selkirk Collegiate. He went on to distinguish himself as he earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in business and worked for the Manitoba Government, Northern Life Insurance Company, Ladco Development Corporation, and then his own property development firm, Jason Properties Limited, located in Edmonton.
In spite of contracting Parkinson’s in his early forties, Fred continued to operate his property development company for another ten years. Only when his mobility was severely compromised did he move into assisted living and then into Edmonton’s Lynnwood Capital Care complex.

Ray Taylor, in the last anecdote in the book, writes about Fred. Ray was blinded in an industrial accident. He knows about Fred from visiting the complex where Fred lives.

I had often felt sorry for myself. Blind, you know…lots of extremity pain…tremors and the usual “why me?” attitude—all the normal aspects of depression one goes through with a disability. But then I’d think of Fred: How many trips to the hospital, how many setbacks, and how many recoveries? Where did his spirit and tenacity come from? And, what the devil did I have to complain about!”

His brother Jim answers by saying that Fred never gives up because, “he remains interested in people and the world.” His brother Dennis claims, “Fred does not have the word ‘despair’ in his vast vocabulary”. Fred is an inspiration to everyone who knows him.

I’m pleased to have had a small part in this book. I provided one of the anecdotes. The brief narratives are heartfelt and inspiring. Time after time, the problems and the advice touched me. I came away from reading the book, thinking, “There are good people in this world.”

Keeping It Cold can be purchased from McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg (www.mcnallyrobinson.com) or Tergesen H. P. and Sons in Gimli (e-mail: tergesen@mts.net).

The New Iceland Diaspora

michal-mountains
When I first moved to Victoria many years ago, one of my colleagues said, “On the prairies, people live to work. On the West Coast people work to pay for skiing, scuba diving, drinking wine, smoking weed, sailing, surfing and, as soon as they have enough money to live on, they quit their job and buy a few acres so they can raise prize animals, fruit or vegetables and pour their passion into producing the best wines or peacocks. Or plums. Or peaches. Or kiwi fruit. Or sheep. Or llamas. Or they buy a boat and sail.”

People who move west and then further west and then even further west until they can’t go any further west end up on the shores of mainland BC or on the many islands that dot the coast.

In Vesturfarar, Heather Ireland, (from Winnipeg but moved to Vancouver long ago with her husband Bill Ireland) the grand daughter of Guttormur Guttormson, tells us that she said to her uncle that she wished her amma and afi Guttormson had moved to the Coast. Her uncle said, they’d been to the coast a number of times but wouldn’t have moved there because life was just too easy. It was also a world beyond imagining. Think what those early arrivals must have thought of the world represented by this masks like this one by Bill Henderson of the Kwakwaka’wakw?

Bill Henderson,Kwakwaka'wakw

Joan Thorsteinson Linde says that when her parents were on the train to Winnipeg and they arrived, her mother took a look at the city and said, “Let’s keep going.” She said Point Roberts was a wonderful place to grow up and she was grateful her parents stayed on the train.
Jerry McDonald says she is grateful that her grandparents moved to the Coast in 1943. Her grandmother read a poem about the West Coast and insisted on moving there.

Years ago, Bob Asgeirson, told me that he had been working for a radio station in Winnipeg. He had holidays at Christmas. He got on a train during a blizzard and arrived to a light rain and everything green in Vancouver. He immediately bought a ticket back to Winnipeg, quit his job and moved permanently to Vancouver.

Fort Victoria had been first settled in 1843. By the time the first Icelanders started arriving with the railway reaching Vancouver, there were scenes like this.

Tea Party at Point Ellice House

Although my wife and I visited my wife’s grandmother in Victoria during the summer of 1967, I’d never thought of moving here. In 1974, I had a job in Missouri, was heading for a better job in Texas, when I was asked if I’d like a job at the University in Victoria. I said I’d come for a year. That was forty years ago. I did try to move back to Winnipeg. However, try as I might, no job was forthcoming. I was following an old pattern created by the Icelandic immigrants. Go where there is work.

Most Icelanders left Iceland because of poverty, hunger, lack of opportunity, bad weather, political oppression. Although the fares were small and, in some cases, subsidized, many could not afford to pay for the trip from Iceland to Scotland, from Scotland to Quebec, from Quebec to their final destination in the United States or Canada. If they could, they sold their land and animals to pay for their trip. It was the bad luck of some that stormy weather delayed the sailing ships and the would-be travelers’ funds were used up paying for room and board at the harbours. Not only did these people not get to go to Ameríka but they now were landless and were going to be poverty stricken farm workers.

However, times were so desperate that it was worth taking risks. Living conditions were poor. Sod and lava huts nowadays are made for museums and tourists so they are constructed to look romantic. Sod and turf huts were not romantic. IN 1845 Madame Pfeiffer says ‘Small and low, built of lava, with the interstices filled with earth…A dark narrow passage about four feet high, leads on one side into the common room, and on the other to a few compartments, some of which are used as storehouses for provisions and the rest as winter stables for the cows and sheep…The rooms of the poorer class have neither wooden walls nor floors, and are just large enough to admit of the inhabitants sleeping, and perhaps turning round in them. …Above the beds are fixed rods, from with depend clothes, shoes, stockings, &c….Stoves are considered unnecessary, for as the space is very confined, and the house densely populated.

Rods are also placed round the fire place, and on these the wet clothes and fishes are hung up in company to dry. The smoke completely fills the room.”

Houses were cold. They was no stove. They were crowded. There was little light because glass was scarce. Laws were passed by the landowners to control all the workers who, by law, were forced to work on a farm. They could only change jobs on one day a year. Marriage was not allowed unless a man had the equivalent of four hundreds. This meant that many men and women had no hope of marriage. With wages appalling low, in some cases a few dollars a year, there was little opportunity for a man to save enough money to put down on a piece of land and some animals. It might take a careful, tight fisted man twenty years working as a farm hand to save enough for a down payment on a farm. When he did he also had to rent the sheep or cows from a wealthy landowner at exorbitant rates. What land was available for men who wanted to become independent farmers in the years of good weather was marginal land.

Good land had long ago been taken. The land that became available was usually on the edge of lava deserts. With a cold summer that same land quickly became uninhabitable. A cold summer meant the grass didn’t grow. No grass, the sheep and cows didn’t survive. Without them, there was starvation. People farming marginal land could with one or two cold summers lose everything and become paupers with family members sold off to whoever would keep them for the smallest amount of money. A volcanic eruption that destroyed hay land was a disaster.

Even when the weather was decent, farming alone was not enough to sustain most people so the men walked to the coastal fishing areas. Fishing conditions on the North Sea were dangerous. Boats frequently sank, taking ten or fifteen men with them.

Richard Burton, 1875, says that “The storekeeper must advance goods to the farmer, and the latter refunds him when he can, especially in June and July, September and October, when wool is pulled (Icelanders did not shear sheep. The wool was pulled as it became loose.)and wethers (castrated male sheep)killed. A few of the farmers have money at the merchants, who do not, however, pay interest; many are in debt, and the two classes hardly balance each other. Prices are generally high.” That is the prices of goods available at the store are high.

Those people who chose to make two dangerous sea voyages, first to Scotland or England, then to the North America, were people prepared to take risks and endure hardship. Sailing ships were at the mercy of the weather. Conditions on board the ships for steerage passengers were appalling. Narratives of those voyages often record burials at sea.

Icelandic emigrants tried Nova Scotia.The good land was taken. They tried Kinmount, Ontario. The Pennsylvania Dutch (Germans) already had taken up the good farmland in Ontario. The land in Kinmount was not suitable for farming. The immigrants then made a long and hard journey that ended on the beach at Willow Point with winter closing in and no milk cows because hay had not been put up to feed them. The land was mostly swamp and higher ground was heavily forested. Icelanders were not farmers. When an Icelander answered bondur to the question about his employment on his immigration paper, he was not describing himself as a farmer but as a herder of sheep and milk cows.

Having endured living in ratty tents, then packed into roughly made log cabins because there could only be as many cabins as there were stoves, they endured more hardship. The settlers must have wondered when their suffering would be over. If ever.

Gimli may mean the home of the gods but these people were not gods. They were farm folk who had made a heroic journey from Iceland to Canada only to suffer from lack of food, from poor shelter, from diseases such as smallpox and scurvy. It is no wonder that nearly all of them abandoned New Iceland. They’d already made the decision to leave Iceland to search for a better life. For many, New Iceland was not providing a better life. It was cut off from trade. Except for some work provided by the government, jobs were non-existent. In breakup and freezeup, it was impossible to travel over the lake. There was work in Winnipeg. There was work, at least at harvest time, further west where farms were already established. Many walked west.

Will Kristjanson, in The Icelandic People in Manitoba, says, because of the exodus from 1878 to 1881, the colony was reduced to 250 people. It would be replenished as more Icelandic immigrants arrived. However, a pattern of arrival and departure was established that continues to this day.

They went to Brandon. They went to Argyle. Always looking for good land. They went to North Dakota. The good land in North Dakota filled up quickly so those who didn’t get some of it, went back to Manitoba and settled in the Arborg area. The immigrants traveled for years, making a living where they could. Magnús Jónsson with his wife, Margét, and two daughters, settled in New Iceland in 1887. In 1891, they homesteaded in the Argyle district. In 1902 they moved to Blaine, WA.

Metúsalem Vigfússon moved to New Iceland in 1876. He moved to Winnipeg and worked around Manitoba wherever he could find work. He and his wife, Borghildur bought 80 acres southeast of Mountain, North Dakota. After seven years they moved to Roseau, Minn. They lived there eleven years. In 1917, they moved to Yakima, WA.

Many settlers went to Swift Current when the railway line ended there. From there they went by horse and wagon north. They went to Alberta and settled in places like Markerville.

Good land. A place where they might prosper, where they might have a Canadian farm, grow grain, raise animals and, when they got over the mountains into the Okanagan, as unlikely as it seems for Icelanders, create orchards.

The railways opened up land, made it possible to ship produce and to receive necessities. In New Iceland the railway, first stopping at Winnipeg Beach and then Gimli and, finally, Riverton, created the cordwood economy. While those people in New Iceland were struggling in the second poorest part of Canada, only ahead of Newfoundland economically, their brethren, the original settlers and their children, were moving west. Some of those found jobs, land, possibilities. Many stayed in Winnipeg, the new Chicago, a dynamic city, for a time, but then the Panama Canal was built and the boom began to fade. Others gathered in places like Wynyard and Foam Lake, Regina, Moosejaw, Calgary, Edmonton, eddied around the base of the mountains, but with Olafur Norman arriving in Victoria in 1883, the path to the coast was established.

Gerri McDonald says that a survey in the 1930s showed that only 5% of people of Icelandic descent lived in BC. In 2011 25% of people of Icelandic descent lived in BC.

That is not surprising. Although there was no organized group movement to the West Coast, many people during the Depression moved from the Gimli-Riverton area to Steveston to fish, work in the canneries and build boats. A group did settle Osland on Hunter Island in the mouth of the Skeena.

But most were like me or Robert Asgeirson, moving west to take or find a job. My contact with the West Coast wasn’t Icelandic. My wife’s grandmother and grandfather were English. The Oak Bay neighbourhood was still referred to as behind the Tweed Curtain. I knew of no one in Victoria of Icelandic background before I arrived. I’d come to take a good job. There were tea houses, not coffee houses. Doormen in historic English outfits stood outside tourist establishments. The accents on the streets and in the stores were not Icelandic or Ukrainian. They were English, Irish and Scots.

It took a while to discover other people of Icelandic background. Halli Johnson, Mattie Gislason, then a meeting organized by Alphonse Hansen at a restaurant in the country to discuss forming an Icelandic club, the Icelanders of Victoria. Fred Bjarnason was there. We did form a club. We went on to have Thorrablots. We do celebrate June 17.

Richard Beck, that great champion of all things Icelandic, retired to Victoria. He died, then his wife, Margaret, died and their joint will left the University of Victoria their house to sell and create a foundation for the dissemination of Icelandic literature, language and culture. The Beck lectures began in 1988. Since then the Richard and Margret Beck Trust, under the direction of Dr. John Tucker, has funded around two hundred lectures by Icelandic experts.

This is how a diaspora is created. Travelers settling somewhere, meeting each other, forming a cultural club, or a church group, or an educational group. Point Roberts, Bellingham, Blaine, outposts held together by memories, evidence found in photo albums, club records, graveyards. Outposts like Osland on Smith Island, now nearly abandoned, its existence attested to by the book, Memories of Osland. The Jonassons, Haldorsons, Johnsons, Philippsons, Freemans, Oddsons, Grimsons, Kristmanssons, Longs, Snidals, Bjornsons, Einarssons, Laurassons, Erlendsons, Emmersons.

Think on it. The people who have gone west. My uncle Earl (Gimli) went to Edmonton. My uncle Alan (Gimli) ended up in Calgary. My sister in law (Riverton) moved to Victoria. My nephew and niece (Gimli) are here. My cousin, Rudy (Gimli), is on the mainland. His wife, Sig (Riverton) just died. His daughter (Winnipeg) is with him.  Keith Sigmundson (Gimli) has a place here. Dennis Oleson (Riverton) is in Victoria. Glenn Sigurdsson (Riverton) in Vancouver. His mother. (Riverton) His father died here not too long ago. Ruth and Randi Jonasson (Riverton). Christine Anderson (Riverton).

The list seems endless. Linda Bjarnason (Gimli) in Naniamo. Carol Bjarnason (Gimli) Whiterock. Margaret Bjarnason (Gimli) Vancouver. If I tried to list all the people of Icelandic descent in Vancouver, it would fill pages. It far outnumbers the people of Icelandic descent now living within the boundaries of New Iceland. If all these people had stayed in New Iceland, what would they do? They are teachers, architects, lawyers, stock brokers, art gallery owners, veterinarians, chefs, secretaries, professors, city planners. They are myriad.

The Icelanders were not alone in their experience. The Finns came to the coast of BC. They created a village called Sointula on Malcolm Island in 1901. It was to be the new Finland, led by a charismatic leader Matti Kurikka. They came as a group, rowing their way north from Naniamo.

In 1908, led by Verigin, 6,000 members of the Doukhobor sect migrated to BC. Neither of these communities survived in their ideal form. This was the fate of most immigrant groups. They left the mother country, Finland and Russia, in these cases, formed communities in Canada bound by ethnicity, religion and isolation, and these communities could not remain cohesive. Even isolation is not enough to keep the community together. So, there was the original diaspora and then the diaspora from the original settlements. All such cases can be looked at as failed dreams, failed ideal images. On the other hand, they can be looked at as successes because the original communities provided a place for its members to prepare to enter Canadian society.

New Iceland lost many of its original settlers. However, others came, settled in an area where they knew some of the earlier settlers, where people spoke Icelandic, where the harshness of immigration could be softened a bit as people adjusted to a new life. They moved to take up greater opportunities, that often meant leaving the mother colony. That is they stayed true to their original purpose in emigrating, to create a better life for themselves, their children, and future generations.