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No Time To Grow Old


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by Barbara Winter

It was September 10, 2002 when someone told me that the good looking man at the Order of Runeberg Lodge No. 124 meeting was Bill Klockars. On that particular day we were celebrating Sheila Noronen’s 75th birthday.


Bill was sitting at a table with several Swede-Finn friends when I took a good, long look at him. I found myself flashed back to the late 1940s when, as a country child, I was privileged to attend the Order of Runeberg’s Christmas Concert held at the Swedish Hall on Hastings Street in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Christmas Concert was a special occasion in my young life. There was a singing choir conducted by Gunnar Abbhors, and violin music performed by Ragnar Helin. Even I sang, "Ja Uppå Livets Stig," a song which my father, Eric Törnquist, had taught me. After the program and Santa

Claus’ visit, there was coffee and all the typical tasty food: limpa, vetebröd, and much more. The real dessert was the treat that became indelibly etched in my curious mind.

I remember seeing that couple. He was in a navy blue suit and she had her dark hair pulled back into a knot. Bill Klockars and his wife, Linnea, were to me the most incredible dancers on that shiny, hardwood floor. My gaze became fixed as the rhythmic music beat in time. I am not sure if they danced to Dala Hambo or Nordkap Hambo or something else. I suppose what impressed me was how they danced as a unit. They started out hand-in-hand, side-by-side in an open position, stepping in perfect unison to the beat of the music. The hambo as a dance has earned its distinction with strong first and third beats to every measure.

I could see their "walk, walk, walk" steps lead into a closed position. Bill would then gracefully lift

Linnea in three full clockwise turns and just as gracefully ease her feet to the floor. I remember Linnea’s skirt taking an exact circular shape as the "svikt" (springiness) evolved. I thought Linnea was like a precision feather floating before my eyes. She was so light on her feet. They were remarkably flexible as they bobbed up and down in springy hambo style.

The high that I felt as a child from the hambo experience caused me to rush over to Bill now and introduce myself.. He belied his age or was it just my imagination. After all it had been a few decades since I had seen him. Bill was very responsive and told me that he did not have time to get old.

When my husband Dale and I were in British Columbia in April, we visited Bill because I wanted to give him the picture that was taken last year. It was then that I learned he was born in Vasa, Finland on November 4, 1905. He told me that he was 97 years old. He went to school with my aunt, Anna Peterson, who was 97 in March, 2003. Bill, the third of seven children, emigrated to Canada in 1923 at age 17. His port of entry was Halifax, Nova Scotia. He, like many other Swedish-Finn immigrants, traveled by train across the country to Vancouver. He became a logger and worked as a "high rigger" for 6 years, scaling 116 foot high Douglas fir trees. With a twinkle in his eye he recalled after reaching the tree-top how he enjoyed rolling a cigarette, looking down to the ground crew and asking, "How are things down there?"

For four years he donned cork boots and spurs and rigged the spar trees on Vancouver Island. Maybe it was natural for Bill to find a life of interest working with wood. His father in Solf, Finland had been a furniture maker. In Canada, besides building three houses, he built a summer home on Protection Island, outside of Nanaimo. He was reluctant to sell but succumbed when the offer almost tripled the cost.

Bill loved boats and worked with a Norwegian boatbuilder. He has a photo confirming the 40-foot halibut seiner. As we talked, Bill showed us a lamp he had made from a twenty-year-old red cedar windfall. The design took form from the natural bend of the wood that had been sanded and finished in a natural glossy varnish.

Bill and Linnea were married in Canada. He became a widower twelve years ago. He told of his attentive niece who lives in San Francisco. His most recent loss occurred just three weeks ago. He spoke dearly of his girlfriend of two years, whose companionship had enriched his present life. Her four daughters take good care of him now. Soon he will move from the Central Park Manor, which is about to undergo renovations.

New special feelings arose from this visit with an alert, very oriented, almost 98 year old gentleman. The afternoon was moist with a softly falling spring rain, not unusual in British Columbia. Bill looked at his watch and realized it was time to put on his sportcoat and head for the dining room. He relies on a walker, but when he went back to his room No.139 for his key, it was apparent that he is still strong and steady.

He likes to read the "Swedish Press" and "Pacific Yachting" magazines, or almost anything. As he closed the door for the second time, we observed a plaque on it that read, "Born to fish-forced to work". I thought an addendum would be in order, "Danced the hambo like none other!"

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