January 24, 2017

Diary of a 1938 Cabin Dweller (Part 2)

Diary of my grandmother, Edna O. Olsen, continues from January 1, 1938 - spent the winter in a cabin in the woods near Marquette during a very difficult winter season. Challenges, triumphs, and attitude!

Monday, January 10, 1938


"Another un-ambitious day. Miss McCormick out today & we gossiped & gossiped. Even Jacqueline the cat enjoyed her visit. A letter from Alice - wrote one in return - while the writing mood was on me. Cold as blazes out, haven’t even got what it takes to go out and get the clothes in. I did manage to get the house tidy, cake baked & frosted & so to bed for a beautiful nap, but broke it short when my caller came." 


(me - do you hang clothes out in the winter? We use to and remember how hard the clothes were when brought into the house. Much of their clothes had to be hand-washed on top of hanging out in those freezing winters. I'm not sure when the wringer washers were on the market, but do remember one in our basement where my mother got her arm caught and pinched, more than once. It use to grab at the loose skin under your arm - ow. We have it so easy now. Picture of Betty Olsen (Turrell), her brother, Richard "Dicky" Olsen, and mother, Edna Olsen, taken shortly after 1938.)



Tuesday, January 11, 1938

"The big boss was cranky this morning - big boss indeed! Sometimes he’s just a pain in the neck to me!! Sent the battery in to be re-charged. Hope we can get good reception on the radio when we get it back. Rusty was naughty in school yesterday. Teacher asked the pupils to make up interrogative sentences. Rusty was first with “who were you out with last night?” Pupils howled & teacher giggled & blushed. Dicky proud as punch over Rusty. Boy - that old teacher can’t get ahead of Russell." 


(me - ice fishing shanty with my mother, Alfreda, and her sister-in-law Betty Olsen, with Eric Olsen on the inside.)


Wednesday, January 12, 1938

"Alphonse down today. Into town with him - all sorts of excitement. Met old man on road, took him in, he deeded place over to young Alphonse. Bozo followed then rushed back and stole meat-gun, etc. We met him coming home & so began a merry chase! Couldn’t catch up. Don went in with Alphonse 3rd time & called daddy not to come home. Snowed in. Children had to plow a mile home from school bus thru deep snow drifts. Result, Dicky sick with sore throat." 

(me - Donald holding a stringer of fish, with sister, Janice; Eric in background with Edna Olsen by camp, about 1947.)


Thursday, January 13, 1938 (writing on this page is smeared so this is the best I can do. The … indicate cannot read wording)

"Company for breakfast!! Old & young Alphonse. Donald went in town with them to get battery from radio & coal if he could. Betty also, as I didn’t want her to plow thru the snow to catch the bus in the dark this morning. Dicky in bed enjoying the life of a … – he has a sore throat. Wonder how Emil fared last nite. Stayed in town. Don didn’t come home until 4:30. Emil came home in a raving temper. Russell and to … think he’s a lunatic. It amuses me … and is ..."



Friday, January 14, 1938 (writing on this page is smeared so this is the best I can do to read the book. The … indicate cannot read wording. Bear with the diary, there are only a couple really bad smudge entries, most are perfectly legible)

"E. (Emil) went away to work also in a horrid mood. The trouble seems to be from working in the … Alphonse to get a few groceries after ... Actually wasn’t supposed to help … here … get with Dicky … at Paveglio’s at ... Another thing.  Dicky can sleep with his … today … not interested … will be … tonite … It must … trust him. Bo … and kisses tonite but … impression."

Saturday, January 15, 1938

"Up late this morning. Betty & I cleaned the house (!) as best we could & I washed out some clothes. Emma & Billie came over in the evening. Didn’t get good reception on this thing we call a radio. Me bored to death with living in general. If we don’t go to Detroit this summer, I shall. For too continued hibernating out here in the sticks will drive one batty." 

(me - picture of Emil Olsen's mother, Laura Olsen, in Tonsberg, Norway. She looks formidable and family history is that she would answer the door during WWII when the German's would come calling. She must have scared them with her bearing, and packed a Luger under her gown - was never bothered by the soldiers. The family sympathized with the Jews, did something with the underground movement.)


Sunday, January 16, 1938

"Had 2 chickens for dinner today - dinner for once on time. Had a set-to with the boss again. Seems his partners out at the furnace are talking about me.  That is quite childish for others when I am being discussed. Feel horrid - if it weren’t for Dicky and Russel this weekend would find me high tailing it away from here. Nice way to feel for a mother - but I am not needed here apparently. Bad influence on the children."

(me – be reminded that grandma and grandpa were living in a cabin, in winter, with grandpa having to get to and from work in inclement weather – all this month with $17.72 until January 20th. The tensions are evident, but understandable. The women in the Upper Peninsula, also fish. My mother, Alfreda Olsen, holding her catch - and in a dress.)


Monday, January 17, 1938


"Another day to get thru. Sending 11.00 to Wards today. Slept rotten last nite - keep brooding over the dirty thoughts & insinuations I get from the big boss. One more year no doubt at the rate he’s threatening & voicing his thoughts and on the rocks for us!  Too bad but his actions toward me have caused me to have lost every last shred of feelings toward him. Can’t define it but it’s gone – with the wind." 

(me - cabin fever? I think so and do have empathy for my grandmother in particular living in harsh conditions in this cabin. Picture is of our great Uncle Thorvald Olsen, brother of Emil, sitting beside King Olaf in Norway. They were friends, too. I had wanted to write to King Olaf for years and finally did in the early 1980s. I received a letter back from his secretary, a man, who said, in broken English, that King Olaf enjoyed my letter and then died shortly after - a keepsake for sure - and a reminder to not put off the important when it concerns people.)

Tuesday, January 18, 1938


"Had a good day today for a change. Washed all my curtains and different washings.  Ironed up all my old ironing - darned socks - in general feel real ambitious.  Weather has cleared some – that is on the house! Got a letter from Margaret - makes me lonesome for Detroit. Dicky beat me 3 games of checkers. The rat!"

(me - winter snow. Watch for more entries as the U.P. will be hit by one of the worst blizzards in recent history, while they are living in the cabin. Sounds like grandma Edna is feeling some more control in her life.)


Wednesday, January 19, 1938

"Finished ironing my curtains today. Had Donald ask Alphonse for 2 chickens in payment for a days work he gave him last fall bailing hay - so had chicken for supper - also cherry pie. It was good. Also beat the boss 2 games of checkers. Don’t feel quite so ugly toward him - but - he does get my goat. Alphonse brought a half load of wood home that Don cut." 

(me - my father, Donald Conrad Olsen, was the oldest of the children in the cabin and a lot fell on him to do, but, he was a hard worker all his life. As a young man he had a heart attack, open heart surgery, then a stroke, and lost his job due to his health. He picked himself up, started a business, Olsen and Sons Trucking. He had seven kids and a wife to support so had work, but also was in his nature to keep on keeping on. I think this picture looks so much like John F. Kennedy ... love it. What do you do when you live along Lake Superior? Perhaps walk the shores.)













Thursday, January 20, 1938

"Got thru my work early today so got in a mess of darning today. Also cleaned my machine drawers! I am going to take a nap now - first feed the pigs. Don has gone in to town with Alphonse. Pay day today. Can’t get a darn thing on the radio but WBEO & not that good. This is miserable ink - when I have a dime to spare I shall get some that stays blotted when it’s blotted!" 

(me - my grandfather, Emil Berger Olsen, around 1914/15 - either school picture before he left Norway or picture from America. Story is that he got in trouble at school. He went down to the docks and signed on a ship as cabin boy. Due to his height was not questioned about his age and never returned to Norway, settling in America, in Michigan. Emil was afraid of his father's wrath and punishment. If you saw the movie "Thor" the first few minutes is about Tonsberg. The blizzard is days away in the U.P.)


Friday, January 21, 1938

"Had a large day today. Did quite a large wash - baked 5 loaves of bread - made a big kettle of Mulligan - don’t like the job of peeling vegetables! and scrubbed the whole house. Missed my nap & was simply all in but the shoe strings - so directly after supper lay down & slept til 8 o’clock. Plan to take the car tomorrow - father’s day off & take Don in to the clinic, buy some grub & gad!" 

(me - the kitchen at 616 Baraga Avenue, Marquette. Betty Olsen Turrell, who was living in the cabin with her parents in 1938, pours a cup of coffee, as, first we have coffee ... It must have been difficult for a young girl living in the woods, going to school and having to wear dresses and petticoats. I believe we were able to wear long pants by the 1970s. I'm amazed what our elders endured with spirit and the complaints from people now if they have to walk a block to their destination.)


Saturday, January 22, 1938

"Did I say I was going to take the car & Don! Oh yeah - Father bright & early got ready & announced he was taking me to town.  I never was so disgusted in my life. I waited til we were halfway to town & my wrath bubbled over. Well anyway I got it out of my system. Had lunch in Billie’s & the air is a little clearer now, but have I had one peach of a headache since noon. Next weekday pop is off, Don & I are off for the day – regardless. That’s a promise and I don’t mean maybe." 

(me - the family lived for a time in Big Bay, a beautiful town 25 miles above Marquette, with gorgeous views of Lake Superior. Eric and Janice Olsen stand by the car in 1947, winter and no coats. Neither were in the cabin in 1938 as they were born later. Janice went on to marry Frank Summersett and Eric married Nina Hawkins. Eric died on the Ides of March 2015.)


Sunday, January 23, 1938

"Nice day today. Betty & I cleaned the house up. I set bread & put some underwear on the stove to wash (that is in the tub!) Darn good thing I set bread early as the Paveglio’s came out & we had an hectic time. Father home at 6 & we had a pleasant evening - listened to the dandiest program with Tyrone Power & Anita Loos - & so to bed." 

(me - storm in the northeast. It doesn't seem like Emil and Edna are aware of this, maybe because of radio problems. This is a picture of Russell and Richard Olsen with brother, Eric in the middle. Russell and Richard lived at the cabin with sister and brother, Betty and Donald, and their parents. Eric was born later.)




January 10, 2017

Diary of a 1938 Cabin Dweller (Part 1)

Occasionally, a treasure is discovered unexpectedly and brings a delighted exclamation from our hearts. This was the case after my father died in 1980 - in his "cedar chest" was a small burgundy-brown hard covered diary from my paternal grandmother. 

Edna Olivia (Anderson) Olsen wrote in this book from January 1 through February 25, 1938 - portions of it through "the great blizzard" which tore through the north part of the country, hitting the upper peninsula hard and fast. Grandma lived in a small cabin in Chocolay Township, Marquette, Michigan, with her family: husband, Emil Berger Olsen, children Russel (Russell or Rusty), Richard "Dicky", Donald - my father - and Betty.

These entries encapsulate how my family survived the difficult winter of 1938, struggling at times, yet written with my grandmother's humor, in the midst of food shortages, worry and "cabin fever". I will add her daily entries into this blog as the days progress through the end of her diary.

The year begins with this poem written by my grandmother.

1938
The old year’s gone and now it’s dead
We’ve got a chance to look ahead.
A new year stretches out before,
It’s full of opportunities galore.

In days gone by we made mistakes,
We didn’t have quite all it takes,
To do the things that we laid out,
But now we’re feeling fresh and stout.

The new year’s like a brand new book,
And though we cannot take a look,
At unturned pages, as we start.
We know that if we do our part
The new year will be good to us
And leave us fat and prosperous.

On new year’s day some folks swear off
And all their old bad habits doff.
Ere a month past us has skid
You’ll find them folks has all back slid.

Some won’t promise anything
But as I look ahead, by jing.
I’ve got a hunch that maybe fate
Will be right good in thirty-eight,
With snow and rain in season so
The seed we plant will sprout and grow.

Now let’s not fret and stew and yelp
About the things we cannot help.
Nor worry til our hair is thin
About the things that might have been.

Let’s take things as they come and do
Our tasks, each day, not fuss and stew.
Because the fast descending sun
May catch us with a job half done.

We’ll get our work all done some way
And after we have hit the hay,
Let’s rest and just be satisfied
To know that we have toiled and tried!

--1938 Diary, first day of January. Written by Edna Olsen, wife of Emil, mother of Donald, Clayton, Richard, Russell, Betty (Turrell), Janice Summersett, and Eric--

Saturday, January 1, 1938


"Snowed in today - biggest blizzard of the season.  Wrote to Pohls, Smiths, Kerriotts & Odbjorg Olsen. Had 3 chickens for dinner - ate too much - so spent the rest of the day trying to sleep it off.  Beat Emil at a game of checkers - some start of a new year.  Also checked up on our finances. $29.00 cash on hand. Liabilities $203.22.  Hope we can be free of debt by Spring."

Sunday, January 2, 1938


"Hung out my wash today - it's been standing since the 30th of Dec. waiting on the weather to abate. Poor Rusty had the job of shoveling thru a 3 ft. drift so I could hang them. He did a neat job too begorrah! Got to press Betty's red skirt and silk petticoat for school tomorrow.  Also darn a pair of hose for Dick & Russel - darn it all anyway!  Couldn't get my gasoline iron working so Betty is out of luck, has to wear a soiled dress to school.  Such is life out in the sticks!" 


(me - a picture of deer camp in Deerton, Michigan - sitting on the front stoop with my father, Donald, is his daughter, Laura, and son, Stephen.)





Monday, January 3, 1938


"Had a splendid start today!! Betty, mad because of her old dress - near froze walking to get her bus - 7 o’clock - missed it, had to walk back. Emil couldn’t get his car started so had to get Alphonse to tow him. Here it is nine o’clock and me jittery as a wet hen! Don went in town with Alphonse, got my groceries, and had a haircut, fainted in barber’s chair - worries me.  And the barber Braxton went berserk. Alphonse fixed my iron. Betty got her new dress “Gone with the Wind”. We are all dippy over it." 


(me - with plenty of liberty I include this picture of two delightful outhouses at one of the family camps. They were rather raw but worked perfectly with no plumbing issues, but an occasional skunk visitor.)



Tuesday, January 4, 1938


"No car trouble this morning! Me I feel as ambitious as a dissipated dish rag. So I’m going to wash out daddy’s working clothes and about a million hdkf’s (handkerchiefs) as punishment. Got to bake bread too and how I can manage to put that off!! Also iron a few pieces. Father inclined to be cross when he came home tonight - no reason - so mother starts walking kind of stiff legged expecting a good tiff but F (father) backed off. And so to bed friends once more. Beat Russel 2 games of checkers." 

(me - picture of Edna and Emil Olsen from a family camp in Marquette.)

Wednesday, January 5, 1938

"Ironed just 50 hdkf’s last night. Iron works good but leaks a little gas. Car wouldn’t start this morning so Big Joe gave F (father) a tow. Timer out of whack again. Going to finish my ironing today if my ambition holds out! Hope F. gets to work on time. He rang in just as the whistle blew! Made 13 mi. in less than 1/2 hr. Was to bring me hamburger tonight for my spaghetti. We waited until 8:30 then ate without him. He took his car to a garage. Cost him 50 cents to get timer adjusted. Also wrote to Walborg today." 


(me - Emil Olsen (grandfather) in background with Jimmy Stewart and Eve Arden in "Anatomy of a Murder". Through family recollections, Jimmy would wander around Marquette and stayed in a place down the street from Emil and Edna (who was also in this movie) and was an all around nice guy. Russell and Betty Olsen purchased the car Stewart drove in the movie. Emil was also a stand-in for Stewart being the same build.)




Thursday, January 6, 1938

"Today I’m alone. Don up to Readers to cut wood. Hope I feel more ambitious than I did yesterday. It’s going to be fun though - not more than 6 armfuls of wood in the shed! Emil’s pay yesterday was only $17.72 - going to be some fun to stretch that over til the 20th! Got a “B” battery yesterday and we tried to get Alphonse’s old battery radio to work but “no soup”. Emil was cranky last nite but when yours truly got up on her high horse he tuned down a bit! Irene Tonsignant over today for a 2 hour visit." 


(me - what do you do when you live by Lake Superior and other local water sources? Fish and do more fishing. This is a picture of Emil Olsen with my father, Donald, who was 17 when they lived in the cabin during the writing of the diary.)


Friday, January 7, 1938

"Dirty weather today. Don meandered up to Reader’s after chores, didn’t realize it was so stormy or I wouldn’t have let him go. Alphonse came over, got stuck by Sevimers (sp), wanted Don to help him. I gave him some coffee, bread, jam then when he went - went to town with him. Got tubes for the radio - hope it works! Storm was terrible. Emil came home, had supper and went again to stay in town over nite so he wouldn’t miss work in case the snow plows didn’t come thru." 


(me - Russell Olsen sitting on the porch of a cabin at camp. I am often amazed that after this difficult winter of 1938 the Olsen family still loved their camps and everything about the wilderness of the U.P. He was 14 during his time at the cabin.)


Saturday, January 8, 1938

"Saturday - nobody ambitious - killed 2 chickens for Sunday dinner. Emil home at 8 o’clock, we’d given up expecting him home. Had a terrible trip yesterday, one flat after the other on the way in Fri. nite. Then parked on Main St., got a room - 504 - & didn’t sleep. Traffic ticket for parking in the morning. Had to get time off from work to square that - no charge. Then trouble all the way home. Bought $1.10 worth of coal. Does it ever feel good!" 


(me - Alfreda and Stephen Olsen, obviously a newer than 1938 picture, peeking from a cabin door at deer camp in Deerton, Michigan. Tar paper walls, cheap, and not the doorways of today, but hardy and probably bear proof.)


Sunday, January 9, 1938

"Got Father’s breakfast this morning! Car froze up so he had to unfreeze it! 2 new tires came yesterday so let us hope our tire trouble is over! Didn’t feel equal to putting them so took them along in case! Got to defeather my chickens this morning. Am going to wash out a few things today as I have coal & can have a fire with no stinting. Sun. Eve. The chicken was swell! & so to bed." 


(me - some ask how people take their baths in the woods with few cabins with shower facilities. Our experience is that the younger ones get put in these tubs on the kitchen floor, and, that a drape can be drawn in the sink area so older ones can wash up in relative privacy.)


January 4, 2017

Creative Juices are Flowing

The new year brought old friends back to Coaching Corner this morning. This informal group shares thoughts, ideas, and successes (or failures) with a life coach - continually building our intentions, goals, being challenged with action plans along with how to avoid inevitable road blocks. It is a wonderful diving platform for getting the creative juices up and circulating in a supportive environment.

At the end of each class we choose a goal for the week – only one as many of us have other intentions, families, obligations. I chose to visit a coffee shop in which to write and nestle with my coffee and a treat – Bloom was my destination.

Bloom Coffee Roasters opened in July 2016 and is located in Old Town, Lansing, an artsy community. Free parking along the street was a plus in today’s pay per minute meters. Walking into the building on this windy, snowy day, I was embraced by the aroma of roasted coffee beans, and welcomed by the friendly manager and her fellow barista. My first impression was that Bloom appeared to be a pleasant coffee shop with cozy places to sit, talk, reflect and write.

The manager assisted me in ordering the kind of coffee I liked to drink, which was a bold brew – she chose for me Guatemala and her barista prepared my pour-over drink set in an attractive rugged cup and saucer. As for a treat, with her recommendation, I decided on a sweet Kouign Amann, a crispy, slightly salty and sweet croissantly delicate wonder.

I sat listening to conversations in the background while I sipped at the Guatemalan coffee, which was smooth and had a nice coffee taste which lingered perfectly in my mouth. The Kouign Amann was as described – delicious and slightly decadent.

Bloom’s simple design includes a few built in angles for wood shelves, woodsy barn wood plaques on the white walls with pictures hanging from wire. Music is piped in on wall speakers - I’m not versed in the language of music but would describe it as contemporary folk, relaxing alternative, a bit international – overall very pleasant, conducive to writing or conversation, and comfortable. 

Old fashioned lighting hangs from the ceiling with exposed pipe giving the building a funky yet upbeat appearance. A large black chalkboard, framed in wood, hangs on the wall with numerous selections of drinks in which to choose. The simple white chalk on the board is a clean and organized look for this charming coffee shop.


"Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid, 5 cents a glass"

My family and I have often and happily traveled Back Roads on our forays from one area of Michigan to another. My children grew use to the ...