Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The wife’s aunt responds...

...to my inaccurate story about her father:

My father, Johannes Wang Dalgaard (Elvi's grandfather), was born in 1897 on the west coast of Denmark. At the age of 15, his father died, devastating the family of eight children. Some 50 years later, my aunt described to me the deathbed scene. My grandmother, who had been the wife of a man of influence, suddenly became a widow, struggling to raise the children by herself.

My father was apprenticed to a carpenter and made the chest which is still in the family and I hope his great-grandson, Child Three, will claim it someday. Johannes soon had it with carpentry and wanted to be an engineer. His uncle said he would pay for his education if he would became a Lutheran minister, but Johannes declined the offer and the financial burden fell on his mother.

Since he had already missed two years of high school, he wanted to catch up. He worked very hard and finished the four years in two. This made history in the city. My cousin (his sister’s son) asked me if I knew what my father had accomplished with this feat... 50+ years later.

In 1919, Johannes left his home town of Lemvig, and entered the Polytechnique of the University of Copenhagen to study civil engineering. One summer there was a seamen’s strike and students were hired to take a ship to Rio. I have the “document” given when Johannes passed the equator the first time. One of his teachers was Nils Bohr. My father studied engineering for three years - then he emigrated to Canada. So why didn’t he stay one more year and finish his degree? I don’t know.

In 1923, he landed in Quebec and went straight to Winnipeg. I just found a letter which may give further details. He sent money to his mother every month, duly recorded in a notebook.

Eventually, he came to Montreal and joined the Danish community. He found a Norwegian girlfriend, Alphid Hoeg, who became his fiancee. Somehow, they both ended up working in Arvida, Que. My father was in charge of cutting the stone for the Sun Life building.

Alphid gave Johannes many gifts: a ring; a pair of leather gloves, worn by my mother and now by me; a large heavy silk scarf; a pair of sterling silver and enameled art deco cuff links; and a diamond stick pin in the original Birk’s box. She also gave him an embroidered pillow... after he was married... to my mother. What I would like to know is what he gave to Alphid.

In 1929, my father lost his investments in the stock-market crash and became a poor man with ulcers. That’s the condition he was in when he met my mother, Ida Augusta Jensen, through mutual friends in the Danish community. She had emigrated from Copenhagen three years before, had movie star looks and the mind of a philosopher.

At the time of their meeting, Alphid was visiting her family in Norway. Her father owned an engineering firm there and she wanted Johannes to come settle in Norway, and work at her father’s firm. Ida was well aware of Johannes and Alphid's engagement to be married and told Johannes thet she wished to be friends and nothing more. But my father was truly smitten and the Danish community could see it. They wrote to Alphid, urging her to return as soon as possible to reclaim her man. My father, an honourable man, could not bring himself to break his engagement - so, after a time, Alphid did it for him. He was grateful and free. In 1933, he and my mother married. Alphid continued to send gifts for years afterward, such as the pillow, until she herself was married.

My mother cured my father’s ulcers. He seldom bought her gifts. He said she had the bankbook and she could buy what she wanted. When my mother was pregnant with her first child (me), he went back to work in Arvida which resulted in eight months of correspondence which is being translated into English. He wrote then that he would never leave her again.

They bought the house I live in in 1942.

The mystery remains. Was the pin in the house already? We'll never know.


Blogger elvi said...

I'm used to learning things about Webs in this blog, but I think this is the first time I've been so enlightened about my own family history here. Cool.

November 7, 2007 10:02 AM  
Blogger Naila J. said...

Wow!!! That's really interesting! I don't actually know much about my family... they're not very talkative.

November 7, 2007 10:59 AM  

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