The Immigration Story of Lorens Andersen (Danish immigrant)

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Culture : 
Country of Origin: 
Port of Arrival: 
Language: 
English
Creative Commons: 
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Accession Number: 
S2015.267.1
Story Text: 

Immigrant
Prince Albert
(Throughout this narrative reference is made to previous stories)

Christine and I were born, raised and educated during the first thirty years of our lives
in Denmark. Denmark is a homogeneous country, that is to say 99% of the population is
Danish with a small German speaking population in the southern part of the country. We
did not know of such a thing as a "visible minority". I did not know that we had a Jewish
Community living in Denmark until, during the German occupation, the Gestapo started
to arrest the Jews. I had never seen a coloured person before I saw units of the American
army after the war.

Every Danish citizen is by birth a member of the Lutheran State Church unless he or
she by written declaration chooses not to be. Our schooling told us about the Catholic
Church but as far as I knew there was only one Catholic Church in Denmark.
The Danish language is a branch of the Scandinavian language, which is a branch of
the Germanic language. And then again the Danish is broken up in many different
dialects. People from the south can not understand people from the north or east, unless
they speak the "Kings Language" proper Danish which is the language used at schools.
In addition to the regular curricular subjects, starting in grade 4 all students in the
Danish schools are to learn one foreign language. In the schools Christine and I attended
that language was German, and we had no knowledge of the English language.
Living in the rural environment, as we did, we never saw a foreign person other then
an occasionally German tourist. And I remember that for a short time my soccer team had
an English coach. We could not understand what he was yelling at us, but he taught us
how to play football.

After the war for a couple of years I was trying to run a small electrical contracting
shop. I had a hard time to make it profitable as electrical supplies were difficult to get. In
the spring of 1950 one of my aunts from California was home in Denmark on a visit. She
told every one she talked to, that they should come to California. There were lots of jobs
to be had and great opportunities to make a good living. Christine and I listened to her
and applied to the American embassy for a work visa, we were told that eventually we
would be granted a visa but it may take a year or two as the quota for Denmark was full
at the present. We were not prepared to wait that long.
After the war the Canadian government carried on an extensive recruitment program
all over Europe for new immigrants to settle in Canada. We had discussed the
possibilities trying our luck in Canada, and now we contacted the Canadian Consul to
find out more about the program. Their answer was that we would be granted an
immediately visa providing we would be willing to spend the first six months in Canada
on a farm in order to familiar us with the way of living in Canada. My answer was that if
I could not get a job in my trade I was not interested.
Although we were considering, and toying around with the idea of emigrate to a
English speaking country, we did not seriously try to learn the language. A teacher friend
of ours taught us to say "how do you do" but not much beyond that. Perhaps we selfconsciously
felt not to bother with it, as we may never have to use it.

1

In the early part of July 1951, while I was in the process of closing down the shop, I
received a job offer from the Canadian consulate. The job was as a power plant
electrician with Saskatchewan Power Corporation in Saskatoon. The consulate invited me
to come to Copenhagen for an interview. We talked about it and decided that I should go
for the interview, and after that we would make up our mind what to do. At the interview
I was informed that if I accepted the offer I would be able to get a berth on an immigrant
boat sailing from Copenhagen to Halifax on the 24th of July.
On my return from Copenhagen, Christine and I had a couple of days talk about the
situation, and we agreed that I should go to have a look at the job. At that time we had
been married for six years and had a family of two boys and Christine was pregnant
expecting a baby about November. Her doctor recommended that she had the baby in
Denmark under familiar conditions, rather then be confronted with strange surroundings.
We had come to the conclusion that I should go to have a look at the job, and if I liked it
and liked to stay, Christine would come to join me after the baby was born.
We knew very little about Canada, my dad said "Canada is nothing but forest and
snow and the people live in log houses, and there is no health care, nor unemployment
insurance". Christine had an uncle living in Alberta but he had not been in contact with
his family for many years, so nobody knew exactly where he was. We located
Saskatchewan on a map of Canada and found that Saskatoon was in the middle of the
pram e.

I left Copenhagen on the 24th of July and arrived in Saskatoon on the morning of the
gth of August. (For details of the journey see "Journey to Canada I"). I found my way to
the immigration office where an officer was expecting me. He had my papers on his desk.
After having checked the papers I had been given on the arrival in Halifax he drove me
over to the power plant. I was introduced to the plant superintendent and the electrical
supervisor and asked to come back in the afternoon. The immigration officer then took
me to a boarding house where I would get all my meals, the landlady told me to bring a
lunch box wherein she would place my lunch. The officer then drove me to the YMCA,
where I would be living for the time being. I was to share a room with a young man. The
officer was very concerned that I understood all the information he gave me, and made
me understand that if I ever had any problems and needed help to contact him. He also
informed me that several young Danish tradesmen had arrived in town in the recent
months and he gave me the address of some of them.
In the afternoon I walked back to the plant and met the plant superintendent again. His
name was Olson and was of Swedish decent, and spoke Swedish well enough that I could
understand him. He explained to me that the Corporation was in progress of expanding
three of their plants and was in need of skilled tradesmen. The installation of a new
generator at the Saskatoon plant was to begin shortly and that where I was to be
employed, in the meantime I was to work in the plant's electrical maintains shop starting
the next morning. He also informed me, that although I had a Danish journeyman licence
and a technical college certificate, my pay would be less then a Saskatchewan
journeyman until I obtained a Saskatchewan licence. I was taken to the dressing room
where I was given a locker for my clothing and personal gear. I was informed that the
workers would arrive at the plant in their street clothes and change into work clothes, and

2

after the end of work would shower and dress back in to their street clothes before living
the plant.
In the evening I got acquainted with my new room mate. While we were trying to
understand each other he offered me a bottle of beer. The next morning I asked my room
mate if I could have one of his beers. He gave me one which I stuck into the bag with my
work clothes. At the boarding house the lady handed me a brown bag containing my
lunch.
Arriving at the plant I reported to the electrical maintains department. I was greeted by
the supervisor Mr. Brant and he introduced me to the staff, two journeymen, Lome
Me ......... George ....... an apprentice Ted Dawson, a utility man Scotty and a summer
student Murices ....... For the first few weeks I was to work with one or the other of the
journeymen to get acquainted with the Canadian electrical system. The Canadian system,
differ from the European system in the voltage used, in the transformer connections and
the wiring color code. Not that it makes all that much of a difference; it just takes a little
time to get use to it. All the people I worked with were very helpful in teaching me the
electrical system and the English language.
The first day at the lunch break I pick up my brown bag and the beer. I was surprised at
all the laughter and commotion that erupted in the lunchroom as I placed the beer on the
table in front of me. It took a little while but I finally understood that in Saskatchewan
one could only drink alcohol in licensed establishments. It was different from what I was
used to, in Europe one could buy and drink beer and soft drinks at any place.
In the plant were three other European immigrants, one of them told me to learn the
English language as fast as I could, and do not ever say "that is the way we do it in
Europe" Ted was especially helpful, his brother was an electrical inspector and from him,
Ted borrowed some electrical code books and exam questions for the journeyman exam,
for me to read and get acquainted with.
One day the supervisor called me into his office where he showed me a wiring diagram
of a heating ventilator that was to be installed. He asked me if I could read the drawing
and understand it, and if I could install it by my self. I looked at it and saw that it was
quite simple and answered that I could do that. He then gave me a stores requisition slip,
told me to go to the site of the job measure up the material needed go to the store and
withdraw the material. At the store I meet for the first time the supervisor Wilf
Desnoyers. Wilf was very friendly and showed me how to fill out the needed forms, he
asked me how I was getting along. I was grateful for his help and liked him very much,
during my years with SPC I came to work with Wilf in several places. On completion of
the job I drew a schematic diagram of the control circuit making it easier to se the logic
of the control. I showed the diagram to Brant as I reported to him that the job was done.
When he saw it he said " I see you can draw electrical circuits I am going to send you up
to the drafting office to help our mechanical draftsman he is having some difficulties with
the electrical schematics. I then spent some of my time in the office.
Shortly I made contact with the new Danish immigrants and we spent most of our free
time together. A couple Svend Erik and Ruth, and a single man Hans were living at a
boarding house operated by an elderly Norwegian lady Mrs. Hanson. They told me one
day that Mrs's Hanson had a vacant room and that I should apply for it. I did and then
moved in to Mrs. Hanson's boarding house. In addition to us four Danes two young men

3

and a young female school teacher were also living in the house. The young Canadians
were very good to us, they helped us with the English language they told us a lot about
the way the Canadians lived. The teacher, I seem to recall her name to be Peggy,
especially took great pain to help us. Every Sunday afternoon she held court in the
dinning room and had us all practise English. She was frustrated that we could not utter
the "th" sound. Stick your tongue out between your teeth and pull it back she would say
and it will come out right. Some one told her no self-respecting Dane would stick the
tongue out between his teeth just to produce a sound. We had a lot of fun. One day
Peggy summoned us all to the dinning room, she was modeling a Persian Lamb Coat she
had just received and was all excited about it. When the hockey season started one of the
young men took us down to the arena for a game, we found that exciting and related it to
the soccer which we knew.
The meals Mrs. Hanson served were much like the meals we were used to, except the
bread; we found it quite different from the bread at home. A couple of weeks after I
moved in to the house Hans's wife Kerry arrived from Denmark, so now the house was
full of Danes. Svend Erik was a furniture maker and Hans an electrician.
It was hard to be so far away from Christine and the boys I longed to see them. I wrote
many letters to them and also received many letters from them. I was anxious to hear how
Christine was getting along with the expected baby, and how the boys were doing.
Christine told me that the boys were doing fine and their grand parents enjoyed having
them around. It helped that I was busy at the plant and enjoyed my job and then I found
some good friends, as it turned out Svend Erik and Ruth became very good friends for the
rest of our lives, and Christine and Kerry became very close.
While I was still rooming at the "Y" I often met with the other Danes, Johnny
Rasmusen, Søren Sørensen, Ken Dalsgard, Frank Madsen and others, we would compare
how we were doing and getting along in our jobs. Although none of us spoke English we
all felt that we were doing well and been well received at our work place. On Sunday
afternoons we would met to go for supper at a Chinese restaurant for Chinese food,
something we had never tasted before.

4

On Remembrance Day November 11 some of us vent to see the commemoration service.
As Denmark had not take part in any military action during WW1 or WW11 no
Remembrance Day service are observed in Denmark. We wanted to be part of the
ceremony and to honour those who lost their lives for the freedom of mankind. As the
ceremony started we could hear a military band plying and see a flag parade coming up
the street, and to our surprise and astonishment the first troops we saw were children in
military uniforms some shouldering real rifles. We had never seen or heard about army
cadets, to our mind an army is serious business and not to be conducted be any one under
the age of 18 years.

Also Ted Dawson would drop by some evenings to help me with the electric code. Ted
was at that time single about 20 years old and engaged to a young girl Audrey, ( his
future wife ).In later years we would cross paths several times.
On receiving my first pay check I found there were deductions for taxes,
unemployment, and union dues. I was informed that after three months residents in
Saskatchewan there would also be a deduction for health care. I was happy to see that I
would be covered for unemployment and health care contrarily to what my father
thought.

At the end of September the plant superintendent Mr Olson retired and Bill Riddell
from Estevan came to take over. One other of the electricians and I, were asked to go to
the residence of the Riddell' to connect the electric stove and light fixtures. When Mrs.
Riddell found out that I was a recent arrived immigrant she wanted to know how I was
doing and she asked a lot of questions about my family. I told her about myself as good
as I could. The Riddell' had arrived in Canada from England before the War. They had
two teen age boys. I had a difficult time to understand Mrs. Riddell; she spoke to me in a
British accent which I had not heard before. Up until then I had thought that English, that
is Canadian English, was English, but then it occurred to me that it is just like Danish
with so many dialects.
Also about the same time a Quonset was been erected adjacent to the plant, it was to be
the home of the construction crew. The electrical construction supervisor moved in and
shortly after called my over to his office. He informed me that the construction of the
new generator was behind schedule and for the time being I should be keeping working
in the maintenance shop.

On October 27th I received a telegram from Christine;" En Dreng (a boy)". I rushed
down to the telegraph office and sent her a return telegram acknowledging her message
and as soon as possible send me a letter to tell me how they are doing. At that time it was
some what difficult to place a telephone call over seas. One had to order the call days
ahead for a specific time at a specific number and with the time difference that was
impossible for me to do. A few days latter I received a letter wherein Christine told me
that the baby was born at the hospital in T~mder, and was given the name Finn and the
middle name Rudbeck, Christine's family name. Erik and Erling was doing fine they
were helping their grandpa with all his chores.

Early in November the electrical superintendent from the head office in Regina Mr.
Jackson wanted to see me. He needed someone to go up to Prince Albert to help with the
installation of a new generator. He asked me if I would be willing to go up there for six
months and then come back to Saskatoon again. I said "Yes I would like to do that".

5

In addition to helping Crawford I also helped a young man from the plant wiring a
house he was having build. Bert Woodhouse was a boiler operator at the plant and newly
married, and he was doing some of the work on the house himself, such as plumbing,
wiring and decorating, and some how I got involved in helping him, so I was kept busy
but I did not mind. One day Bert told me that during the Easter holidays a friend of his
and himself were going to Saskatoon to visit the Riddells and onto the mental hospital in
Battelford to see a friend of his, he invited me to come along. I was surprised and pleased
to be included on a trip like that and was happy to accept. It was some family relation
between the Woodhouse and Riddell thus the visit. We stayed overnight at the Riddells
and together with their two teen age boys vent to a hockey game.
In March Christine wrote that she had finished all the travel arrangements, she and
the boys would be leaving Copenhagen the 16th of May on board the Norwegian ship
"Oslofjord" arriving in Halifax 22"d of May. I told Ida Fitch that Christine was coming
and she got all excited. I will help you to find a place to stay she said. She would
scrutinize the ads in the paper for rental housing, and one evening as I came home she
excitedly told me about a house for rent one block east from her home. She had phoned
the owner and made an appointment for me to see the place.
After supper I walked to the house and met the Mac Isaacs. The Mac Isaacs lived in
a big three storied house on a large lot. At the back of the lot were a small storey and a
half house. Mrs. Mac Isaac showed it to me, it had two rooms and a large kitchen on the
main floor, two rooms on the upper floor, and a toilet in the basement, but no bathtub.
The interior needed some redecoration. I made an arrangement to rent the house and
could move in by the middle of April.

Now I became busy, I had to find some furniture, beds, table and chairs, etc.
Fortunately direct across the street an Auction Hall was located where I obtained most of
what I needed. And as soon as I moved in to the house I started redecorating.
The lunch room at the power plant was a great place to get information about
anything all matter of subjects were discussed during the lunch breaks. At the time I first
entered the lunch room all discusses were about curling. I did not know what curling was,
but I did hear all about in and out turns, fast ice and a lot more. The plant had a once aweek
curling night and I was invited to join in the fun. The game was played in an
unheated building and at the end of the game I was frozen stiff, not a game for me.
Of course I was telling the staff how I was getting along, that Christine was
coming, that I had rented a house, and that I was going to met her in Halifax by going out
there by train. Shortly after I had told them that I was going to Halifax by train, Percy
suggested to me that I would be better of going by car. That way he explained to me
rather then traveling five days in a crowded train with little opportunity of privacy, going
by car we would be able to stop at motels over nights have a bath and a good nights sleep.
I thought that was an excellent idea, but now I needed to get a driver license. No problem
the shop foreman Joe Brown said, take my car drive down to the inspection office and
show them your Danish license and you may have to take a driving test. I did so and got
my license. Percy then helped me to look for a car he drove me around to the used car
lots, until we found a coupe in good shape.

One evening while I was redecorating the house there was a knock on the door, as I
opened the door, there were four ofthe staff from the plant standing there, they had come

8

to help me redecorate. And they came several nights to help, and the house was nicely
painted and cleaned by the time I was ready to leave for Halifax.
The night before leaving I had planned on an early bedtime so that I could get a
good sleep before the long drive to the east coast. But it was not to be so six of my
friends arrived loaded with food and beer. They wanted to wish me a happy journey. Of
course I was pleased to see them but it took some
time before they were ready to go home. My planned
early start was delayed a couple of hours.
Bert seated to the left. I do not remember the names of the
of the gang.I finally left mid morning, for details of
Halifax and back see (Journey to Canada rest the drive to II and III)

Arriving back in Prince Albert I had one day left of my holidays barely enough to
show Christine and the boys the house. But now Mrs. Mac Isaac took over she would
come over to the house and start to teach Christine how things were done. Mrs. Mac Isaac
was a lady in her late 60s a retired school teacher. She would give Christine and the boy's
English lessons by pointing out the various objects in the house and have them repeat it.
At first Christine resented Mrs. Mac Isaac's visits and what Christine thought her
dominating behaviour. On coming home from the plant Christine would tell me "Now
"she" has been here again". I explained to Christine that Mrs. Mac Isaac was a kind lady
and that she was only trying to help us as much as she can. And I suggested that she
should take advantage of Mrs. Mac Isaac to learn English as quick as possible. Now that
we were to live in Canada we had decided to learn and speak English between our self
and not to teach the boys Danish.

After a while Christine warmed up to Mrs. Mac Isaac and they became very good
friends. The Mac Isaac's belonged to a catholic church two blocks away from their house,
and at times Mrs. Mac Isaac would invite Christine to come with her to activities at the

9

church; weddings, funerals, teas and bingo. The Mac Isaac's had four children, two
married daughters, a teen age daughter and a teen age boy. The teen age children were
still living at home and they became baby sitters for our boys. During the six years we
lived in Prince Albert the Mac Isaac's were great landlords and the whole family became
our good friends. Mrs. Mac Isaac lived to be 113 years old, on her 111 birthday we sent
her the following greeting;

The Andersen family congratulate you on your 111 years birthday.
We recognize that during your long and eventful life you have encountered many
different people, and although we may have been only a small interlude in your life, on
our life you made a large impression. .

When we settled in the small house across the yard in 1952 we spoke very little
English. and Christine none at all. having just arrived from Denmark. you took us under
your tutelage and taught us about the Canadian way of life. As your son Ron says rn a
newspaper interview, "You were always looking out for people to help in whatever way
you could". Yes, you looked after Christine, when she came out to the sh~red
clothesline you would come out to teach her the names of the clothrng artrcles, you
would take her along to your church to bingos, to weddings, to funerals, and you would
invite her to tea at your kitchen. And your children helped ours to become Canadians.
With your help we have become Canadians and proud of it.
Again congratulation on your 1111
h birthday,
Christine&Lorens

In the neighbourhood were many children in the age range from 0 to 10 years.
Across the street were the Fournier's, they had children from 0 up to Erlings age, half a
block away were the Albrights with a boy about 6 year and then the Mac Leans with two
girls a year or two older then Erik, and a boy Jimmy 10 year old living across the back
yard and other ones which I don't remember. The kids, especially the two Mac Lean
girls, would all come to play with Erik and Erling and to teach them English.
The back yard was always full of children playing and having a good time.
In September 1952 Erik started school at Central School, he was one of the many
immigrant children in Prince Albert and the city's schools were crowded. An article in
the paper

10

"Prince Albert Herald" March 1953 states; " Overcrowding of schools is leading to
use of unsuitable quarters and threatening to lower educational standards in Prince
Albert. A Herald survey today found four basement and attic rooms, formerly used for
storing and cloak rooms, are in service as classrooms. One instance of poor conditions is
that of Central School, Grades I and II kiddies, ranging from six to eight years of age
(several hail from Scandinavian countries with no knowledge of English) are spending
nearly all their waking hours in a remodelled basement classroom".
That may have been so, but I do not feel that Erik or any of the other kids suffered
very much. Central School was very fortunately in having a compassioned and dedicated
grade I and II teacher in Mrs. Morgan. The kids adored her and she loved the kids. Erik
enjoyed school and it did not take him long before he was at home in the English
language. A year latter Erling started school, and we as parents were invited to attend the
monthly meeting of the "Home and School Association". Christine and I attended every
meeting and as far as I remember we were the only immigrant parents that attended the
meetings on a regular base.

At the meetings we had the opportunity to meet and talk to the teachers and they
were all very helpful to us. The principal Mr. Lustig and Mrs. Morgan took great care
to help us any way they could, both with our language and telling us about the way
Canadians lived.

A story in "Prince Albert Herald" April 1954 reports, "Mother sat back and let
father try his hand at cooking and washing last night. It was "Dad's night" at Central
home and School association meeting and father made lunch and capably performed
all the kitchen duties. Garbed in aprons and frilly hats, they cut sandwiches, served
coffee and cleaned up the dishes after lunch. Only contribution mother made to the
night's entertainment, was hats that graced heads of the "housewives-for a-night".
Above, suffering from dishpan hands, are Merle Elies, Joseph Lustig, Lorens
Andersen, Robert Latoski, William McLean and A.O. Hagen".
As we did not speak to or teach the boys Danish, Erling and Finn know very little
Danish, however Erik did remember the Danish from his early child hood and it helped
him latter in his professional career.

11

Dorthe and Herlufhad arrived in town and were working at Andy's bakery. They were
a couple about our age, but had no children. We liked them and often spent some time
with them. Herlufwas a farmer and was not all that keen on working as a baker, he asked
Andy to find some one else to help him. Shortly after Andy found a Danish baker just
arriving in Canada, and immediately hired him. Paul and Esther Hansen and their two
boys aged 6 and 8 thus came to Prince Albert. Herluf and Dorthe left for Alberta where
they had got a job on a sugar beet farm.

During the next year or so more Danish Immigrants arrived in town, I do not
remember in what order but these are the couples we came to know;
Hans and Annie Nielsen, with two small children, they were a few years younger
then us. Hans was a plumber and was working for a plumbing contractor in town.
Tom and Elna Matzen with two children, they were about our age. Tom was also a
plumber and worked in town.

Gunnar and Nancy Bj0rnholt younger then we and they had no child. Gunnar was a
restaurant waiter and found work as a steward in the Canadian Club.
Svend and Dagny, about our age, and they had one child 2 years old. They had been
working on a farm when Svend had an accident on some farm machinery and lost his
right hand. He now had got a job as a night clerk at a hotel in town.
And there were others which I don't really remember that we had much connection
with.

There were several Danish farmers in the vicinity of Prince Albert which had
arrived one or two generations ago they were;
Ejner Nielsen a widower with two married daughters. he lived about 1 Okm south
of town. Karl Rasmusen and his wife, they farmed south west of the city, they had two teen
aged children a girl and a boy.

And there were also two bachelor farmers, both living to the north of town.
All those people visited and partied amongst each other and most of us played
whist at the monthly meeting in the Scandinavian club.
Christine and I decided that we could not afford to keep the car, beside we did not
really have any use for it, we did not have any place to go but around town and that was
no further then we could walk. But we needed a baby carriage so Christine could take
Finn along on going grocery shopping.

12

The main city of Prince Albert is located on the south bank ofthe North Saskatchewan
River with a small suburb on the north bank. The north bank is mostly forest with some
clearings for housing, a large tuberculosis sanatorium and a beautiful picnic park. On
week ends during the first summer in P .A. we would pack a lunch and walk across the
river out to the park. There were lots of barbecue pits to roast the winners on and an
exciting swing bridge to cross. We liked the park as it reminded us of the country side we
had left in Denmark.

Once a month, the older Danish community meet together to conduct a Lutheran
church service, the service was held, on a rotating base, in the homes of the participants.
All the new Danes arriving in town were invited to attend. For the first few years
Christine and I did. The service was conducted by a retired pastor living in Canwood a
village west of P .A. Some one would drive out to bring him in to where ever the service
was held, most of the times on one of the farms. The Rasmusen farm was a favoured
place to meet. They had a large farm yard with lots of animals where all the kids had a
wonderful time. After the service coffee and dessert was provided and we shared all the
latest news. We new immigrants conversed mostly in Danish amongst our self, but after
a while stared to use some English.

The pastor's name was Vilhelm Larsen and during conversations with him Christine
discovered that he had been a teacher at her father's Danish Folk-High School in
Denmark, a school Christine also attended. That discovery brought the two of them little
closer together, and as pastor Larsen had a very poor eyesight he asked Christine to read
the scriptures for him which she was happy to do. After about two years of coming in to
P.A. once a month pastor Larsen's health would not allow him to continue doing it, at his
last service he presented Christine with a hymnbook with an inscription thanking her for
her help. Christine relished that hymnbook to the end of her life.

At one time, two young Danish men, attended the service, they had recently come
back from Uranium City where they had been working in the mines and made a lot of
money, and were now on their way to Vancouver. They wanted to know what church
they belonged to. As they said the first ting they are asked on meeting new people is
"What nationality are you and what church do you belong to" We answer the Danish
Church but apparently that is not good enough so what church do we belong to. Pastor
Larsen explained to them that all Danes belong to the Lutheran church; "The state
church" and the right answer would be "We belong to the Lutheran church" Thank you
they said. As a matter of fact many of us did not know that to be the answer.
And we vent to school, that is to classes held at one of the city schools for all new
immigrants to improve our English. The students were of many different nations and tried
to speak English as best they could. We had a lot of fun, most of us, but Paul and Esther
quit after a few lessons, they could not get the hang of it. And Tom became annoyed with
the teacher because she made him repeat words over and over again.
Christine and I attended the school for two winters, Christine because she liked it and
me because I needed to. We did learn to speak English reasonably well, but could never
get rid of our Danish accent. When I hear or read about people being able to speak
several languages fluently I am some what sceptical about it, it seems to me it is next to
impossible to lose one's native accent.

13

About a month or so after we arrived in P .A. Christine said she would like to see a
doctor, she said she was not feeling as she should. As she had not yet been a resident of
Saskatchewan for three months she was not covered under the Saskatchewan health care
which meant we would have to pay the doctor fee which we would gladly do. Some how
Christine managed to tell Mrs. Mac Isaac about her problem. Mrs. Mac Isaac suggested
that we should see Dr. Hjertaas; she knew that he was of Swedish ancestry and may be
able to speak some Swedish which we may understand. Christine did see Dr. Hjertaas and
that turned out to be a good choice, he checked her over and could not find anything
seriously wrong. He said she appeared to be bit run down from the moving away from
home and trying to settle in a strange land, he recommended that she drink a little of red
wine every day. He only charged Christine a small fee for the consultation, and he
became our family doctor for all the years we lived in P .A.

Christine had the radio going all day long, at first she understood very little of what
she did hear, but one day she proudly said, " I can understand every word of the "Red
Rose Tea" commercial", and soon she was following the news, weather and sports.
The Bjerre's were anxious to see Christine and the boys and shortly after their arrival
they invited us to visit them, the first of many visits. The Bjerre's did not socialize with
the Danish people in the community, except one family, however we became very good
friends and had many enjoyable hours together. They had one son, Vaughn, about my
age, living in Toronto. He was married to Pat a British woman and they had a family of
three daughters, for some reason Niels and Stine never visited their son and his family
and did not talk about them. One day Christine said "I think they are substituting us for
their own family "and most likely they were. The conversation at the Bjerre's was a
mixture of Danish and English, Niels spoke only English but Stine mostly Danish and
every so often a few sentences of bad English.
Crowford and Ida Fitch came to visit us quite often as they lived only one block from
us and Crawford's shop was directly across the back lane from us, and of course we
frequently visited their home.

I wanted Christine to meet my friends in Saskatoon, I got in touch with Hans and we
arranged for us to come to Saskatoon to visit them. One week-end we took the train to
Saskatoon and spent two days at Hans and Kerry's place and also met Svend Erik and
Ruth. That was the first of many visits between the six of us.
At the plant the installation of the new generator was completed in the fall of 1952, but
the regular maintenance work kept the electrical crew busy. I had a good relationship
with Percy and Cecil we worked very well together. I hardly saw Niels at the plant, he
spent his time in the office or he was out in the province inspecting some of the smaller
plants.

One day in the fall of 52 Bert came to me and said "Tell Christine to pack a picnic
lunch on Sunday, I will pick all of you up in the morning and we will drive up to
Waskesiu lake, you will like it, it is a beautiful place". Thanks to Bert we had a
wonderful introduction to lovely Waskesiu, with its gorgeous sand beaches and ice cold
water surrounded by magnificent forests. Over the coming years, together with our boys
and friends, we spent many happy summer days at W askesiu.

14

The lunch room at the plant was a good place of education it was always a lively
discussion about any issue taken place, especially about sport. The hockey season had
started and that was the main and nearly only subject talked about.
P.A. Mintos were supposed to be the 52/53 champions. I told Christine that we should
go to se a hockey game. We did and we became enthusiastic about hockey, as often as we
could find a baby sitter, mostly one of the Me Isaac kids, we went to yell for the Mintos.
One of the engine room operators from the power plant, Art O'Brian, was the referee at
the Mintos games and whenever he made an unfavourable call against Mintos we were
among the loudest to boo him.

We were the only one of the Danes that went to hockey games, none of the others
cared for the game. The Mintos arena was 8 blocks away from our house and the bus
schedule was inconvenient so we walked. It was not too bad in the fall and spring, but we
had many very cold walks in the middle of winter. In the fall of 53 Christine bought a
heavy muskrat fur coat which she wore for many years, it kept her warm, and afterwards
Erling used it as his camp coat.

By now we were mostly using English in our conversation with each other, but
occasionally we had to go back to Danish to get a point across. Erik would come home
from school with a word he did not understand and we would sit down together to get it
translated.

And my co workers at the plant and our neighbours were very helpful to us. They
would invite us in to their homes for a visit and a cup of coffee, the first year we spent
many hours at Percy and Nancy's home. Nancy told us that she was also an immigrant;
she was from England and had met Percy during the war while he was stationed in
England in the Canadian navy. They were married in England and came to Canada at the
end of the war. Christine said to her, "It must have been easy for you, you did not have to
learn a new language". Nancy laughed and replied, "Well it is not quite so, I have a hard
time understanding the "Colonial English", I hear all around me".
The employees of the S.P.C. Prince Albert district met and visited with each other
twice a year, at the summer picnic and at the Christmas dinner and dance. Bert and his
wife asked us to join them for our first S.P.C. Christmas party, which we were very
pleased to do, and we had an enjoyable evening.

15

The association with our Canadian friends and their friendship toward us was an
invaluable help in our transition to become Canadians.
Christmas was always a difficult time; we missed the gathering of our family and the
celebration with our parents and siblings. That is one of the hard prices an immigrant
must pay. We carried on celebrating Christmas the Danish way. On 24th December if
possible, a church service in late afternoon, followed by the Christmas supper then
dancing and singing around the Christmas tree and the opening of the Christmas presents
before bedtime. ( see Christmas in s~mderjyland, Denmark)
In the spring of 53 the Danes, that is the newly arrived, discovered Waskesiu, whether
is was because we had told them about it or they knew from some other source we all
vent to Waskesiu. One of the first things Paul and Tom did on arrival in P.A. was to buy a
car, so they provided the transportation for most of the people. On till we bought a car
again Christine the boys and I often took the late Friday evening bus and returned Sunday
night. We would rent a shack tent for the week-end. A shack-tent was a 6x10m ply- wood
floor with 2m ply-wood walls topped with lm canvas with openings for windows and
covered with a canvas roof. The room was partitioned in two parts by a fabric curtain.
The first part inside the door contained a wood burning stove, a cabinet for dishes and a
table and a few chairs. The back part had two double bunk beds on each side.
The resort of Waskesiu consisted of a business district with various stores, hotels,
motels, movie house, roller-skate ring, riding stable, boat rental, excursion boats, and a
first rate golf course. And a nature interpretation center with guided tours through the
forest, a large picnic area and play ground, and the gorgeous beaches. And a sub division
with privately owned summer cabins and a sub division with shack tents for rent.
By various means of transportation we would congregate at Waskesiu two or three
times during the summer. After spending the day swimming, boating, or other activities
we would meet late in the afternoon at the picnic ground for a pot-luck supper.
In later years from Saskatoon and Regina, we would bring our family and friends and
visitors from Denmark and U.S.A. to Waskesiu. Judy, our daughter-law, was the only one
that appreciated the vigorous effect the cold water has on the human body.
In the fall of 1953 due to death and retirement several changes were made in the
S.P.C. management some that trickled down to affect me. Mr. Jackson in Regina retired

16

and Niels was promoted to take his place. The P .A. plant superintendent retired and Art
O'Brien replaced him, the shop foreman Joe Brown was promoted to assistant plant
superintendant, and to replace him, came a foreman from the Battleford plant Lome
Coulter a man a couple of years younger then me. And Percy was moved to Saskatoon so
now Cecil and I was the electrical staff.

The office part of the plant consisted of two offices for the superintendents, on office
with an adjacent lab for the plant engineer, and a large open floor space, equipped with a
desk and a drafting table, intended for an office clerk and a draftsman, neither position
were ever filled.

As I had been doing in Saskatoon I was using the drafting table to update the
construction drawings to as- build drawings. At times when the plant engineer Roy Smith
passed through the outer office he would stop to chat with me for a few minutes. One day
he told me that he could use some help in the lab to test the boiler water, and suggested
that if I had any spare time he would like me to help him. I thought that would be
interesting and said I would find the time. For the next couple of years it became my job
each morning to obtain a sample of boiler water and to make a rough analyse of it for
Roy to see and act upon.

Shortly after Art O'Brien had taken over as superintendent he started a Friday
afternoon inspection routine. He would walk the plant from end to end and make notes of
anything found amiss. One day as I was at the drafting table he came over to me, handed
me a clipboard and told me to come along. He wanted me to take notes of his dictation.
He said it would be a good way for me to improve my English. Well it may have
improved my spoken English although 50 years latter my children and grand children
would still correct my pronunciation. The notes were taken to the down town office were
one of the stenos would type them up and they would then be placed on the plant's
bulletin board. How the stenos could decipher my writing and spelling is still a mystery
tome.

Now I had three jobs; the job as an electrician to maintain the electrical equipment, a
job as a part time lab technician, which I carried unto Roy was transferred to Regina in
1955, and a Friday afternoon job as a note taker. But I did not mind and liked it, that way
I came in intimate contact with every working person in the plant.
And Art had a further job for me. In addition to being a hockey referee he also
coached a junior hockey team, which played pick-up games with other city teams and
teams from surrounding towns. One day he came in to the shop carrying an arm full of
new and used hockey sticks. He handed me a box of electrical friction tapes and said I
should like you to tape and re-tape these sticks for me, and I have a game coming up at
the penitentiary, would you like to come along as the stick boy? "Yes I should like to it
will be interesting ", I answered.

When I told Christine about it she was not too pleased, she reminded me what our
neighbour Mr. Fournier who is a guard at the penitentiary had told us, that there it is
some very bad people out there. I told her that Art had assured me that we would not be
in any danger of being abused, the guards would closely supervise our visit and the
inmates were excited of having an outside team come to play a came with them.
We arrived at the penitentiary in a city bus, the players all dressed in their uniforms
and skates, each carrying his own stick. I had an arm full of spare sticks. At the main

17

entrance we were checked and counted and then led trough several steel gates into an
enclosed yard where a regular hockey rink had been erected. The yard was full of people
moving around and the inmate's team skating on the ice. We were placed on benches on
one side of the rink. After a warm up skate the game started, the out side of the rink was
covered by people yelling and screaming, and every body was having a good time. It was
just like any other hockey game, the inmates were talking to us and we did not feel
threatened at all.

After the game we were ushered in to the dinning room where we were served a lunch
by some of the inmates. We were then escorted back to the main entrance to be counted
before we left the building. Although we only saw the recreation area of the penitentiary
it was still an eerie feeling to be inside the building I was glad to be out side again, and
Christine was happy to see me home.

Some time in the late summer of 1953 a serious forest fire was burning just across the
river from the city of P .A. it threatened houses in the suburb and was close to the
sanatorium. From the plant we watched the fire all day, in the evening as I came home
from work Christine met me and was all excited. " Did you see the fire? Finn and I went
across the bridge to have a look, but the fire fighters would not let us cross the highway.
I asked her how she did do that. " I put Finn in the baby carriage, I wanted to see a forest
fire I have never seen one before, it was very exciting, we could se big flames and lots of
smoke. "

In the spring of 1954 the Prince Albert Herald carried a story which reads in part:
New York: - Prince Albert stands out as a rich market with families earning more and
spending more than those in most cities in Canada.
This is disclosed in a new, copy-righted survey of buying power covering Canada and
the United States, prepared by Sales Management.
Larger incomes made it possible for families in Prince Albert to buy more and live
better than those in most other places. This is indicated by the volume of business done
by the local retail stores during the past year.
Thus the condition for establishing new business in P .A. was ripe and many of the new
immigrants from Europe did that. Several of our Danish friends began their own shops.
After working in Andy's bakery shop for about two years Paul with the financial backing
of one of the old Danes, opened his own shop. Even as Paul struggled with the English
language his product was excellent and he soon had a profitable business going.

18

Esther would be working behind the sales counter and she also had trouble with the
English language. She had a difficult time pronounce numbers and amounts and although
she had a local lady helping her she asked Christine if she would come to help serve the
costumers. Christine likes to talk to people so she thought that would be fun, so she
agreed to help every day from llam to 4pm. After she had seen Erik and Erling off to
school she would put Finn in the baby carriage and walk the three blocks over to the
bakery. Finn would be placed in the back of the shop and attended to as needed.
After school the two boys would come to look after Finn until Christine was ready to
go home. Christine did this for about six months and although she loved to met and talk
to the costumers she told Esther that she would not be able to continue doing it, she had
to look after her boys and husband first and the work in the shop was too much.
We enjoyed our friendship with Paul and Esther and after we moved to Saskatoon kept
in close contact with them. We were very sorry to learn Paul became ill in 1958 and after
a short time died from cancer.

Hans Nielsen was an astute, aggressive and ambitious business man. He was a
plumber by trade but he was equal good as a carpenter, painter or any other trade. While
he was working for a local contractor it did not take him long after arriving in P .A. to buy
an old run down house in which he and his family lived while he restored it during
evenings and weekends and sold it for a profit. And then he would buy another run down
house and do the same ting over again. After a couple of years he started his own
plumbing business and did extremely well, but he still kept his hand in the real estate
business and in 1958 build the frrst high raise apartment building in P.A. sold it for a
profit. He then sold his business and moved to B.C. We kept in contact with Hans and
Annie and in later years visited them a couple oftimes in B.C.
Tom Matzen also established a plumber shop which he operated until he retired.
Gunnar opened a delicatessen shop and after a couple of years sold it and bought a
restaurant in Canwood.
Christine and I certainly enjoyed visit and socializing with our Danish friends but we
now started to find Canadian friends. The S.P.C.' s two yearly events, the summer picnic
and the Christmas party were great places to get acquainted with the people from other
departments of the corporation and find new friends.

19

Erik Erling
The pack had 15 - 20 cubs (boys) and as the Akela I was in constant contact with the
boys parents and I learned a lot about the Canadian way of living. Erik and Erling took
part in the provincial jamboree held at the Red River Park in 1956. It was the fust of
several jamboree's they attended during their scouting years.
I do not remember how Christine found her uncle Hans's address in Alberta but
somehow she did. She found him to be living in Mercoal a coal mining town west of
Edmonton. After the exchange of a few letters he suggested that we come to visit him
and in August 1954 we did so. Uncle Hans had emigrated to Canada in the early 1920s as
a young man; he had worked at several jobs across Alberta until he found his present job
as a coal miner in Mercoal. He had married and had a family of two boys and a girl, but
was now divorced. He lived in a small company house, and at the time we arrived he had
taken a weeks vacation. He shoved us the mine he worked in and we drove around the
country side visiting a ghost town and the Miette hot pool. At the time we left Mercoal
we made arrangements for him to come to visit us at Christmas.

22

On the way home we drove through Nebraska to visit my cousin Harmon (aunt Anne's
son) his wife Eileen and their family. We spent a couple of delightful days at their home
and became acquainted with them and the beginning of many years of visiting amongst
us, both in Nebraska and Saskatchewan. As the com was just ripen Eileen was treating us
to Com on the Cob, a, as far as she was concerned, delicious and wonderful meal. Meals
in North America and Europe are very similar but Com on the Cob is not known in
Europe and we had never seen or tasted it before. We did not know how to handle it and
had a hard time convincing Eileen that we liked it.
As a plant electrician I was on call at all times, and at the corporations expense we had
a telephone installed at the house. We very seldom used it for personal calls, but on one
occasion we used it for a long distance call to Denmark.
Living at a place away from family and relatives where visiting is out of the question
is at times taxing and worrisome especially when sickness takes place. In 1955 my dad
became ill with leukemia, and we of course kept in touch with our parents through
frequent letters but we would also like to have a visit with my dad and the best way to do
so was by telephone. At that time an overseas telephone call had to be requested ahead of
time for a specific day and time. We made such a request for a late afternoon in Denmark
and mid morning in P.A., and had an enjoyable yet emotional conversation with my
parents, and it was also the last time I talked to my dad, he died the next spring.

My parents in their home while talking to us on the telephone.
Shortly before 5.00am on the morning of December 22nd 1955 the ringing of the
telephone woke me up. As I lifted the handset to my ear an excited voice yelled, "Get
down here quick, the plant is on fire". I hurriedly dressed and was on my way in the car
to the plant. It was a bitterly cold winter that year with night temperature around 35-40
below and I usually did not use the car as it had to be plugged in over night and that cost
money so I dressed warm and walked. However that night I had plugged in the car
because I had not finished my Christmas shopping and wanted to drive down town before
coming home after work. I got to the plant in record time, the fire trucks were already
there and the firemen were dragging hoses in through the door to the engine room. Thick
smoke was purring out of the door, I ran past the firemen into the engine room and quick
look told me that the newly installed switchgear was on fire. I also noticed that the
generator connected to the switchgear was shut down and the circuit breaker connecting

24

the new and old plant was open. It then occurred to me that the
protection relays on the connecting transmission line from the Saskatoon plant may not
see the damaged switchgear as a fault but rather as an additional load and thus keep the
line alive and the switchgear energized at 14000 volts. I told the charge engineer to keep
any one away from the damage until I had opened the pole top switch on the transmission
line. I ran to the key board grabbed the keys to the switch yard were I opened the pole top
switch, as I did so large flames shot out between the switch blades as they are not
designed to open under load, after a few seconds the flames did down and the switch was
open. The flames confirmed my suspicion that the line was energized and had some one
touched the damaged switch gear before the pole top switch was opened it would have
resulted in serious consequences. After every thing was cleared the firemen attacked the
burning switchgear with dry chemical and the fire was finally quelled at 7.00am.
A part of the city was without power and an alternate route of power supply had to be
made through the transmission system which took a couple of hours, and people were
warned to use as little power as possible as the supply was limited.
The damaged switchgear was beyond repair and had to be removed and some new
(temporary) gear installed. As Cecil and I were the only electrical personnel at the plant
and the repair was beyond our capability additional personnel was brought in, Percy came
from Saskatoon with some of his crew. New gear was ordered up from the Regina store.
Because it was only a few days before Christmas and the weather was extremely cold
the power demand was as its peak it was imperative to get the shut down generator
working again. We worked with very little rest until we got the generator working at
4.00pm on the 24th.

I phoned Christine and told her that I would not be home for a while, which meant that
she would have to finish the remaining Christmas preparations her self. She was very
disappointed but said she understood and would do her best. I told her that what ever
happened I would be home for our traditional Christmas dinner on the eve of the 24th.
After I left the plant I had to rush down town to pick up Christine's gift, a new dress. I
made it home just as Christine was starting to prepare the dinner, she and the boys were
glad to see me home again. After I had a much needed bath we had our traditional goose

25

dinner, but we had to leave the traditional dancing around the Christmas tree and the
exchange of the gifts to the next morning, I was too tired and could not keep my eyes
open.

In the summer of 1956 Erik tried out for the school base ball team and one day he
surprised us by coming home in a base ball uniform, he had made it to the team, so from
now on we had to go to base ball games. One day we were sitting in the bleachers
watching the team practise and talking to each other, when a man sitting behind us leaned
over saying," I suppose you have a child on the team, do you like base ball?." We told
him that we were immigrants from Denmark and did not know the base ball game but we
were learning along with our son. He seemed to be a friendly man and talked to us for a
while. Latter on we learned that he was John Diefenbaker the man to become prime
minister of Canada in 1957. Although none of our boys became great baseball players
Christine and I learned the game and liked it. Over the years to come we attended many
games across the continent.

Herluf and Dorthe came back from Alberta and worked in Andy's bakery shop again.
Some time during the summer of 1955 Dorthe became sick and was diagnosed at been
affected by tuberculosis. She was placed in the tuberculosis sanatorium located in the
forest north of the city where she was a patient for the next nine months. Christine would
visit her as often as she could. On a visit to Gunnar and Nancy, Nancy told Christine that
she was pregnant and the baby would be arriving early in 1956 and she was going to have
the baby at the hospital in P.A. Christine invited Nancy to stay at our place for a week or
so before the baby was due, and Nancy happily accepted invitation. Now for a while
Christine became very busy, she had a patient in the sanatorium, a pregnant woman at
home, beside her husband and boys to look after. She managed it quite well and just
loved it.

On Dorthe's discharge from the sanatorium she and Herluf decided that Canada was
not the place for them, and they would return to Denmark. Before they left the Danes
held a farewell party for them at our house.
Dorthe- Herluf

26

Sometime in December of 1956 I was informed that I would be moved to Saskatoon to
become the electrical construction supervisor at the new plant to be built there. I was to
start the new job on the 1st February 1957. Of course I was pleased and excited about the
promotion, I am sure it had something to do with the way I handled the fire in 1955, but
now we had to move again. We were a little apprehensive about it, we had to leave our
Danish and Canadian friends and the boy's to start in a new school, however it turned out
to be a good move.

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