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Memories of Harold Wang


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Harold is a cousin, in his 90s, who lives in California. He wrote this upon receipt of a letter from me about some of his ancestors.

Your letter certainly broke the dam of memory. The name Finell, of course, brought back a lot of recall of what was said in the family during my boyhood. We had those cousins in Iron Mountain, I remember. Went to see them once with our old Model A Ford, flat tires and all. I remember the red-haired girls and thus do recall that I was the only one to have red hair in the Wang family. It has since cropped up in a niece of my sister, Bernice, who now lives in Stevens Point. Also, one of my other sisters, Ellen, had a girl with red hair....

We were quite impressed with the Finells, of course. Even as a boy I was impressed by their neat house and how generously they entertained us. Only one thing: A cousin, Willard Hagberg, who seemed also to be living there in Iron Mountain, I did not like (odd) because on that visit he took me to a POOL HALL, and then he smoked; so we did not get along as friends..

Anyway, we did not see the Finells again, though my mother, Selma, often wrote them. Scuse my memory if it starts darting now, for such a flood of thoughts are coming: There was a cousin of my mother's who fled the old country and tried to come to America by way of Canada (illegally, of course). I remember his arrival at our Northern Wisconsin town in Rhinelander, and all the whisperings in the house about his illegality. My father and mother must have had some worries, for after a time of long delay, it was decided the man was to be returned to "Sweden." Result: he cracked up, had a nervous breakdown because of the refusal of citizenship and was sent to a State hospital. I remember his ruddy-faced good strength. He would have been an asset to the country; now days it seems one can just walk over the border, like down here in California!

How often I have heard the name Karleby (tho I believe my mother always called it Gamla Karleby - her hometown. She must have loved it there. And I wonder why she left; the many young women wanted to come to the U.S. in those glamorous emigrant days -- they thought gold lay in the streets, but in more cases than not they came to a life of drudgery, or went West to the frontier....My mother came because two of her sisters had come first: Ella, the oldest, and Elma. Ethel, the youngest, followed my mother. All the girls came to the same town in Northern Wisconsin (Rhinelander) and got jobs where the language was not a problem. Elma became a housewife (died of the flu during WW I epidemic); Ella "went West" with Ethel once she had come. Ella married in the gold fields of Nevada, had no children (died in Holtville, CA, in the Depression years). Her husband went from their high adventures in Tonapa, Nev. (we got so many cards from there) to a night-shift worker in a dry milk firm. (I visited them in '39 and remember the sour milk factory). Ethel, of course, you know about. She was a seamstress like my mother, married and settled in Aberdeen, Washington. Her son, Ronald Forsell, survives. (By the way, I will try and coax some information out of Ronald, for I met him since my visit by car with my mother in '39 to see her two sisters in the West..

This sounds terribly disjointed, but I will continue:

I believe I have a photo of a painting of the house of these sisters in Gamla Karleby. They were certainly not "poor" farmers!...

My mother Selma, of course, was a seamstress in Rhinelander before she met the 6 foot tall Peter (Wang), who was working as a shoemaker for a Mr. Schauder on the main street of the town. My mother hated her job, subservient to a hard taskmaster; it is felt she married to get out of her drudgery only to find raising 4 girls and a boy could be an even harder task. My father made four moves during our residence in Rhinelander. Once he could financially do so, he went into business for himself, even dividing his place of business into selling of shoes, and repairing of shoes. For a time, in the 20s, he had two men working for him. The Depression got him, like with so many others. He lost all; and ironically, went back to work for his original boss. My mother, distraut after thhe failure of the business and desiring to do something to help, took off one day without leaving word. She walked the railway tracks to a nearby resort town, got a job as a cook's helper, and was only returned home after the city drained and dragged the local river for her, thinking she had jumped off the local bridge... Any problems these two parents of mine had before this shock were gone forever; my father and mother lived more serenely than ever they had raising five children.

You mentioned the famiily Haglund, cousins of my mother, Selma. I visited them often up at their farm home in Ashland, Wisconsin. I especially liked Rut, the wife of Ernie (who had a lingering death when well into his 80s). Rut took care of most of the hard work of the farm -- some 15 cows to milk and birth!... I remember how hard she worked, with sores on her legs; if a woman ever worked like a man, it was she. Yet she was always cheerful. Poor Ernie had been ill so long, he was of little help, except to tell the greatest stories to "tickle" the bones, as he said, of shy ladies. He was in county government before his illnesses, and did quite well at that time. They had a daughter and 3 boys, who worked the farm part-time (and one still does, I guess - probably Luke.) The daughter's name was Linda (now Mrs. Andrew Jensen, 104 Central Ave., Slinger, Wis, 53086-9598). She has corresponded with me often. Was a foreman in some type of mill employing MEN; then married a Lake Superior ship's captain (Jensen). She has a boy and a girl...

I will give you a little "chat" about how a small-town "boy", son of Selma Wang and Peter, took it into his head at age 18 to see the country of the USA. Ten months were spent hitch-hiking and riding-the-rods throughout all the U.S. back in 1932-33. Returning back home during the infamous Depression, I worked at odd jobs, then got a job as a night clerk in a local hotel, joined the CCC; again came back and got a job as clerk in a lumber company locally. And what THEN did this country bumpkin do? Hating the northern Wisconsin winters, I headed out with my mother and car in 1939 and took in the West coast so that she could see her sisters, Ella and Ethel.... Returning, I was determined to light out and try just anything. WW II threatened and I got my first government job as a clerk in a New Orleans Port of Embarkation (sending Lease to Britain). There the Army "got" me. And THERE, that unbelievably naive small-town boy met his wife-to-be (a WAC in the American Army). And what is even more odd, SHE was a German aristocrat refugee who had come to the US in 1939, then joined the WAC on obtaining her citizenship. Even more odd, she is the daughter of a former German Baroness...how fate operates! We now have three children, two daughters and a son - and are retired in the high desert of California!

June Pelo

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