Thursday, August 28, 2014

Letters from Esther, Letter 2

I am writing up a series of letters my grandmother, Esther, sent "home" to her siblings in North Dakota as she traipsed around the world working for the State Department as a working woman before it was chic. This letter is the next letter I have from Esther by date.

57 M Ridge Road
Greenbelt, Maryland
March 13, 1958

Dear Jennie and all:

It was so nice to hear your voices on Saturday night. I don't know why it was such a surprise to hear Lois was married -- but you know how it is, you keep thinking of them as such little kids when you don't see them very often. I called Ida Mae the next day to see if she knew about it, but she didn't -- somehow their correspondence has lapsed recently, she said. [It could have been because she had two young kids and was about just starting her pregnancy carrying me.... just sayin'...]

I feel like I have earned a little rest from my work here as I just completed a new Form-57. The last one I had made up was way back in 1946 when I went from the War Relief Board to State, so you can imagine how out-of-date that was. I needed a new one now in connection with the job in Saigon. It looks as though I may go in about a month -- at least one of the things that was slowing it up was the fact that the office in State to which we were transferred was not willing to let me go until they got a replacement. Yesterday the Chief of that office called to talk to my boss, who was out, so he told me is the problem and when he was finished with that, he said he was aware that I was planning to go overseas, and asked if I had something lined up and I told him, yes, but that the job might be filled if I didn't get a release from State soon. So he said he would be glad to do anything he could to help and agreed to write a memo to their Personnel saying that they would have to have a replacement for my job within a month because I was leaving on the 14th of April. So I don't know what will happen now, but when I told the people over here, they said, "that's all we need."

I haven't had a physical or shots or anything like that as yet. Yesterday though I decided perhaps I should get an eye examination so I went for one and you'll never believe it but the dime-store glasses I'm wearing are just about what I need -- exactly right for the left eye and not quite strong enough for the right. And I don't need any for any other purpose than reading. Anyway I decided to get bifocals so that I don't have to keep taking my glasses off so much, but the top part will be plain glass. The doctor said my eyes were in excellent shape and doubted that I would ever need any except for reading. [She was, at this time 52 years old.]

Carole just called. Robbie is completely O.K., running and as active as ever but the doctor had told him to stay home from school for a few more days.

Its snowing here again, has been for a couple of hours now and is sticking to roofs and car tops but not the street. I heard it was probably going to snow Friday and Saturday so did a quick wash this morning and hung it out -- it'll be quite a mess by night. [So I checked it out -- she was writing this on a Thursday, typing it, so she got up that morning, did laundry, hung it out to dry before she left for work, and was typing this letter at work, probably on her lunch hour.]

I have been doing a little sewing off and on, in preparation for my trip -- its all summer clothes out there.

I have also practically finished my spring housecleaning -- including new [wall]paper in the bedroom, painting woodwork all around, including the kitchen cabinets inside and out, re-upholstering a couple of chairs, etc. Larry plans to stay on in the apartment and perhaps get someone to share it if he finds somebody he thinks he would get along with o.k.

I painted another picture this past week-end and it turned out very nice -- its a sort of a copy of one by Paul Cezzane, a French artist, from a photograph that appeared in the last Ladies Home Journal -- I think it was called The Marne.

I am trying to brush up on my French since that is the official language in Saigon but I think I should take some real classes cause what I really need is to be able to understand it when someone else speaks it. Its not a bit hard to read but it sounds so different -- not at all like Finnish which is spelled like it is pronounced. [That's an opinion I find it hard to share, as I speak French but am struggling to learn Finnish...]

Wasn't that a surprise to hear about Helen. Have you heard anything more? [I have no idea who Helen is...] Well, I hope it all works out for the best and I hope the kids don't suffer by it. [Now I need to do some research on I guess to find a Helen...]

I feel very guilty sitting here typing this when there is so much to be done, so will wind up for now.

I may be seeing you in April -- but will let you know when I know for sure.



[Mailed in an envelope marked:
E. Holien - 305-M
International Cooperation Administration
Washington 25, DC
(with "Official Business" scratched out.)

Addressed to: 
Miss Jennie Efraimson
Perth, North Dakota

It was mailed with a 3 cent Liberty stamp.

I wonder if that would still get to someone nowadays, if I mailed it to my relative who still lives on that farm, "D. Odegaard, Perth, North Dakota". Ya think? My son in law confirms that there are still places where that is all the information one needs to put on an envelope for it to get to the intended person. Not where I live, that's for sure!]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Classic Argument

I stumbled across this today on a page from Lee Binz, the Homeschool Scholar. It is so funny! Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up for 8/22/14

So summer is winding down, and school in my area is starting Monday. I often wait til after Labor Day, but this year I've decided to start when Public School starts.

I'm finalizing many of my curriculum choices. Since there is not a school week to wrap up, I thought I would use the Friday Wrap-Up to show what materials we will be using this year for 9th grade.

Now that we are entering high school, I am making course decisions to fill out the transcript to be appealing to the college(s) my son will most likely apply to one day (which courses are slightly different choices from what the state requirements for graduation are).

Here is my basic high school plan:

9th grade
10th grade
11th grade
12th grade

 9th grade English Lit/Comp.
 10th grade English Lit/Comp.
 11th grade English Lit/Comp.
 12th grade English Lit/Comp.
 Alg. I
 Alg. II
Social Studies

 World History 2
 American History I/ 1/2 credit Govt.
 American History II/ 1/2 credit Govt
 Ancient World History

 Biology with lab
 Chemistry with lab
 Physics maybe with a lab
 Marine Biology maybe with a lab
Foreign Language
 Latin I
 Latin II
Latin III
 Latin IV
Spanish I
Spanish II
Spanish III
Spanish IV
Physical Education
 1/2 credit

Health 1/2 cr
Fine Arts
 1/2-1 credit



As you can see, I am heavy in some subjects that will probably adjust as the years go by, and I will probably add some subjects to the later three years. Here are the materials we are currently looking at for our 9th grade year:

Bible: Bible readings, hyms, memory, and Apologia iWitness books

Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Biology
Math: Currently leaning towards No Nonsense Algebra

Language Arts:
for Grammar: Fix-It by IEW

for composition, either Fortuigence or Lightning Lit or Tapestry of Grace; literature choices from same or Tapestry of Grace

History: Tapestry of Grace Year 2

Latin: Either Jenney's Latin or First Form Latin

Spanish: Either Mango Languages or Rocket Spanish

Health: Boy Scout Merit Badges in First Aid and Personal Fitness

Physical Education: Regular physical activity

Logic: The Art of Argument
So how are your school plans coming?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Supercharged Science/Huge Savings -- Last Day

Have you decided what you are doing for science this year? Have you thought of Supercharged Science? I have a subscription there and like them so much that I am an affiliate for them.

They're having a huge sale, and today's the last day. Here's the information:
There is still some room left to enroll in Aurora Lipper’s  online e-science curriculum.
And, she's giving away a whole bunch of extra cool stuff.
BUT, today is the last day to enroll for fall 2014 and still get all the free bonuses.
Click the link below to get the details before it fills up:
My son and I have had some real fun with things we learned through Supercharged Science, and there's still so much we haven't seen! The site is huge!
If you're just tuning in, here's the scoop.
e-Science is the best hands-on science curriculum out there.  Aurora Lipper, creator of the program, want people to see this for themselves so much that she’s put together this special sale with a whole lot of extra bonuses where you can save 70% over the regular price.
This is a self-teaching hands-on curriculum that kids can do on their own.
So, if you don’t have time to teach science, or if science isn’t your forte, this might just be the curriculum for you.
The kind of learning that really relates to the world around them.
Rather than try to explain it all, I'll leave that to Aurora herself.  But having  seen her stuff, I can tell you that she really over-delivers.
Today is the last day to enroll for fall 2014 at the special 70% off price and get all the bonuses. 
I think there aren’t many spots left.
So, get the whole story from Aurora herself.  Click the link below now to learn more:
I know your kids will have their best year ever in science with the Supercharged Science curriculum.

Letters From Esther - 1

I have come into a packet of letters from my grandmother, Esther, to her sister (my great-aunt) Jennie (and other family members). I will post them here weekly, and link them to her "Letter to My Family", to reflect where they were written on the timeline.

This first letter was written shortly after Esther's return to Greenbelt, MD, after visiting Perth, ND for her mother's death and funeral.

October 26, 1945

Dear Rupert and all,

Thank you so much for your letter that we received last night. It was most welcome, needless to say. Yes, I certainly hope he has (Rudy) had both the cable and letter by this time. [Rudy was in the military at this time - World War II, and they are hoping he received the note to let him know his mother died.] After I got back here I heard that the best way to get in touch with anybody in the Service is to notify the Red Cross and they do everything, even to getting transportation for them and all. That it is much quicker than cabling them direct. Too bad we didn't know about it at the time.

Yes, I understand exactly what you mean. [We don't have Rupert's letter, so we don't know what she was responding to except to try to extrapolate.] Things do seem kind of meaningless now, but we must remember that Dad and the rest of the family are also concerned and interested in what the others do and even if Mother doesn't know right at the moment what we are doing, she will someday. So we must keep on living like she would want us to.

I agree with you on the superiority of the Sunday programs. [Lutheran Church? Television? Radio?] I too rather dislike going out on a Sunday afternoon just for that reason. I will have to this coming Sunday though. First church here at Greenbelt, (the choir is singing), then Finnish church at 3:00 and after that the National Lutheran Chorus is giving a concert down town here so I should go to that too. That is quite a session, isn't it? Have to leave the house about twelve and it will be at least eight before I get back.

The kids don't have school today, teacher's meeting, so Carole, Ida Mae and Larry are going to Georgetown to have their teeth checked out and will stop here at the office on their way back. Wayne was going too but is taking someone else's place at the gas station. He wanted to get himself a leather jacket. [I think her point is that Wayne is working extra hours to earn money to buy the jacket.]

I was surprised to hear Vi and Gene went on to Ohio as I received a card from them from New York Mills and she thought then that they were going to b back home by Sunday. It will be nice for them tho, for him to see his folks and Vi will meet them. That is quite a long trip too, isn't it? Ohio doesn't seem very far from Washington. [DC]

How is your weather?Ours has been superb ever since I got back until the last couple of days when we had rain. Today the sun is out again and its quite warm.

What did you think of the President's speech? [That would be FDR. Makes me want to Google FDR speech for 10/1945.] I wonder if that will go through with all the opposition it has. [Social Security? Military draft?] It probably won't affect you anyway, Rupert, as you will be past 21 then. Wayne thinks its a good idea and is all excited about going already even though he won't be going till he is 19 if it does go through. [Now I need to ask Wayne if he ever did serve in the military...]

Well, I guess I better cut this out and get to work. I have been very busy since I got back until today. This is a Board meeting day, but they decided not to have one this week. We just got through transcribing the mess we took last Friday [the shorthand from that day's Board meeting]. We wrote steady for three and a half hours and had about forty pages of transcription. I hope I never get anything as bad as that again. I usually like to do something that is a little difficult as I think things that are easy are too humdrum and monotonous but that was just a little too much. If it hadn't been that the two of us took it together we never would have made any sense out of the whole thing.

Write again soon.

With much love,


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Menu Monday - 8/18/14

Menu Plan Monday for the week of August 18/14 - Join Us!

Last week was county fair week, so it was a little crazy at my house. I did menu plan, but I didn't get it posted on my blog, and I also didn't manage to follow the plan exactly. I won't bother posting it here after the fact.

So here is this week's menu plan. The week is flying and I'm already on day 3, but here it is anyway. The carnivores have been winning most of the main meal here (five carnivores vs. one vegan), so I just pull something different out for myself right now.

Saturday: leftovers/fair food

Sunday: rib-eye steak, salad, corn on the cob (okay, I love rib-eye. I ate some steak.)

Monday: pork roast, mashed potatoes, asparagus (gnocchi out of the freezer)

Tuesday: beef pitas,  green beans, potato chips (garbanzo-felafel pitas)

Wednesday: Roast chicken, broccoli, rice (faux chicken patty)

Thursday: sloppy joes, steamed carrots (sloppy-vegan crumblies)

Friday: chicken pot pie (faux chicken patty in whole wheat flat)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Esther Holien - "A Letter to my Family", Part 3 (final)

Here is the last installment of my grandmother Esther Holien's story of her life. She lived fifteen more years after she wrote this, and I'm sure she could have added many more chapters. She wrote this 8/1988 and passed away in 2003 at the age of 98.

[Read "A Letter to my Family" Part 1 or Part 2]


My next post was Seoul, Korea. The only snag in that trip was that one of the motors on the plane (it had two) caught fire about half way between Tokyo and Seoul.

We had to turn back for repairs because Seoul didn't have facilities to take care of it. Ruth Holmes met me at the airport, and even though we were hours late, had some of the girls over that evening to welcome me. In Seoul, we all had apartments on the Military Base and could use the PX, so life was really easy.

I was doing the same type of work as in Saigon so that was easy too. That was where I met Barbara Burns and Dorothe Cummings, who are still good friends of mine and live quite close to me in Florida.

While in Seoul, we took trips up to Pan Mun Jong, the border area where talks between the North and South Koreans take place. We went by boat to a beach area south of Inchon called Mali-po for weekends, and did a lot of mountain climbing right around Seoul. There were delightful native eating places where we often went to eat Pul-ko-ki. I have the recipe for it and many of you have eaten it.

One of the most memorable trips from Seoul was as far as Singapore one Christmas time. Four of us went by train from Bangkok to Kuala Lampur. We ordered breakfast on the train -- eggs, toast and coffee. The eggs were swimming in a platter of grease that was so rancid you could only get it half-way to your mouth before you realized you could not possibly eat it. We did have a few oranges that we had brought along, and that was about all we ate on that two-day trip!

I have movies from the hotel there of the Cambodian Royal Ballet practicing, and of the arrival and departure of Prince Siahnuk and his entourage who stayed at the same hotel.

We spent several days on Penang, a beautiful little island. We had planned to go swimming there, but just before we got there a lady had been bitten by a water snake and died.... Needles to say, we didn't go!

We went to Midnight Mass in Singapore; visited the Raffles Hotel one day and had Singapore Slings there. On the way back, Barbara and I stopped in Saigon and had two Christmas dinners. In Hong Kong, we met up with some other friends from Seoul and had a lovely day at the beach at Buzzard's Bay.

Business in our section of USOM/Seoul was very slow and my job was abolished, so I took a direct transfer to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia in Africa. En route from Seoul to Salisbury, I stopped in Beirut, Lebanon, to see a friend of mine who had gone there a few months before. I stayed in the Phoenix Hotel, which in later years was the scene of many battles, riots, etc. But while I was there it was beautiful. Pony had some friends who took us out to a night club one night, and I went on a tour with one of the fellows the next day. We went down to Baalbeck and that place, too, has been the scene of much fighting since then.

I had sold my red Fairlane before I left Korea so I bought a small used English Ford (with a driver's seat on the right side) to get around the country there. We weren't in Salisbury before the whole office moved up to Blantyre, Malawi. I drove up and was followed by two USOM drivers. The road was rough and my battery fell out. They strapped it in with a strap from a suitcase.

Banda, who was President (or Ruler) at that time, is still in power there. There were a lot of Indians in Blantyre, while most of the people I met in Rhodesia were English or natives.

I won't bother with office work -- it went well and I did all sorts of things -- working for the Controller, the Executive Officer, etc.  Kitty Hayes arrived at the Mission about the same time I did, and I took some trips with her. One of the main trips was to Victoria Falls, of which I also have movies.

I went on a trip to Mozambique over Easter weekend and got a terrible case of diarrhea. I had to go looking for a doctor in a land where everyone spoke Portuguese.

I had to use sign language but managed. I had already spent one stint in the hospital with a similar case in Saigon, so it's easy for me to get it again if I eat food that doesn't agree with me. They said the Saigon ailment was amoebic dysentery.

Another trip from Blantyre was by ship from Beira, Mozambique to Port Elizabeth, South Africa with Bligh DeBresey. We stopped at Durban and from Port Elizabeth, went by bus to Capetown.

My next post, and also my last, was Leopoldville, in what used to be known as the Belgian Congo. It is now Kinshasha, Zaire. I was assigned to the Office of the Mission Chief, and shared an office with Christina Lepworth. What a character -- the wildest dresser you ever saw -- and so worried that I would infringe on her rights! Since there was so little work to do, I took a correspondence course in Personnel Management from the Department of Agriculture, so that I had something to look busy with.

In Leopoldville I bought my first VW -- a little green bug which I shipped home after I retired and used for many years. One morning when I went down to the parking area, almost all of the cars had at least two or more wheels missing -- two of mine were gone.

Romy Gross came to Leopoldville while I was there, and we resumed our off and on friendship. She was so moody that it was very hard to get along with her. She was always looking for a man, but didn't find one to suit her.

Also in Leopoldville, we met Anna Marie Tietgen, who years later called me in Washington asking me to come and pick her up somewhere in Chevy Chase, as she didn't have any place to go and had left New York because she was afraid to live there any longer.

Carole and I went to pick her up and she had a fit because we both happened to be wearing polka dot dresses. She thought polka dots should be outlawed because she thought that a woman who was wearing a polka dot dress was involved in the killing of Robert Kennedy.

I was living in an apartment in White Oak [MD] at the time, close to Carole's, and she had gone back to work at IBM, so I would go over every day and stay with the kids for awhile. Anna Marie kept talking about writing a story and Carole let her use her typewriter to do it. I doubt if she ever wrote a line, but it didn't take us long to realize there was something terribly wrong with her.

For one thing, she went through what liquor I happened to have in nothing flat and asked me to buy some more. I didn't. She would come to Carole's with me sometimes and walk around the pond over and over, never looking up, as though she were in a trance. 
I was trying to think of a way to get her back to her friends in New York but at that time Carole had mentioned our problem to a friend, and he came over to talk to her one day. When I got home, she was gone, and I've never heard from her since, so I don't know where she is now. She did have some relatives in Holland, so she may have made her way back there.

In the Congo, she bought every freakish type of wood carving that she could find, and was planning to open up a shop in New York.

Well, back to the Congo. While we were there it was a very scary time. The natives were attacking whites everywhere. They murdered nuns and we heard they ate parts of them.

They captured the US Legation in Stanleyville and kept three of the officers as hostages several weeks before they were rescued in a daring rade by the Marines. Plane loads of people were brought to Leopoldville after the rescue. We all had to have a small bag ready in case of evacuation. A popular song at the time was Bert Lahr's "They're Rioting in Africa".

I played a lot of bridge in Leopoldville with people of many nationalities. We took turns having the group over for a light supper and then cards. There was a nice little lake not far from town where we would go on Sunday picnics and for a swim.

In all of the other posts, I had a maid to help with the shopping, cleaning, etc. In the Congo I had a man servant, and one day the stores had shelves full of a new product - something like Comet (the cleanse), so I bought a can. When I came home for lunch the next day, the servant was rubbing the furniture with it. He loved to iron -- he had the ironing board out on the patio and I had never seen an iron move that slowly! I didn't keep him too long. I did have a man servant in Salisbury too -- the dishrag was always black! Either he cleaned his shoes or scrubbed the floor with it, so he didn't last long either.

On memorable trip in the Congo was down to Matadi at the mouth of the Congo River. Christina and I and Romy went in my new VW. We ran into several road blocks where we were searched.

At one point the guards wanted us to take one of their women with us to Leopoldville but we told them that I was the American Ambassador's wife and that we had strict orders not to take anyone with us. I don't think Ambassador Godley ever heard that.

I came home on vacation that summer, and Carole, her boys and I went on a trip to North Dakota. We had a grand time and were on our way back in Pennsylvania when we ran into car trouble. We stopped for gas and could not get the car started.

We finally had to have it towed to Beaver Falls. Since we were so close to home, we splurged on a big dinner, etc. the night before, so we were getting low on funds. We had to wire for money from Maryland before they would fix the car.

The funds weren't going to get there till the next day so we had to get a Hotel room. The room we had didn't have air-conditioning and it was really hot. Even after the car was fixed (supposedly), it didn't work very well till we stopped at a little station off the highway. True to form, we made up a song about it -- At a station, on the Turnpike, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!

That was in 1965 -- the year I was going to turn 60. That fall, a notice came out from Washington saying anyone over 55 with a certain number of years service could retire with some advantages, so I applied for it. I left the post at the end of the year and stopped in Finland again to visit with Rupert who was there at the time.

I can't remember just which trip home it was that I stopped in Morocco at Rabat to visit Barbara and Dorothe. It could have been when I left Blantyre. Barbara had a car and we went on a trip down to Fez and some other places of interest. I also stopped in Spain on that trip.

I think this is getting much too long, but there's a lot left. I rented an apartment in White Oak, Md., and for the first year I didn't do much of anything except play around with Carole's boys. The problem with the apartment was that I have an organ that I loved to play and other musical instruments, and we couldn't really enjoy them because the neighbors below would bang on our floor every time it got above a whisper.

Anyway, realizing that I had no Social Security and only needed a few quarters (about 4 years) to qualify, I took a Kelly Girl exam and was immediately called to take all sort of secretarial jobs.

I kept that up for some time, but decided that I would rather live in Florida. I went down to St. Petersburg to visit my friend, Florence Richards, who had just bought a house in Gulfport. I couldn't find what I wanted in Gulfport, so took one nearby in St. Petersburg. I continued on with the Kelly Girls for some time, and then went to work as Secretary to the Priest of a Greek Orthodox Church near there.

I lived in Florida for about 7 or 8 years until 1976. Carole and Bob had been separated for a year now. Bob's brother [Ed] and his wife, who had been living in one of their [Bob and Carole's] two houses, were divorcing, so that house became available. I, in the meantime, had been robbed three times in Florida because the area I lived in was becoming sort of slum-like, and I thought I should move. We decided to pool our resources and clean up the house in Olney. That was a summer of great work.

Eddie and his family had lived there for twelve years and had not taken good care of it. There were termites in the floors and doors in the kitchen and utility room, and the roof leaked and had to be replaced, the picture window in the living room was covered with plywood because it had a big hole in it.

Most of the ceilings had to be replastered and the carpeting smelled so bad we had to tear that up and get it out before we even started working.

We did get it in shape, and even built a sauna in the back yard. And it's beautiful -- especially in the summer. But I kept going back to Florida almost every winter for a month or two, so finally Carole decided we need a house down there too. She bought one three years ago, and I spend about as much time down there as in Maryland.

About the time we moved to Olney, we got interested in golf, and now it is our favorite pastime. Ida and I have belonged to the Needwood Women's league since then. Carole has been in charge of tournaments for IBM for several years and plays in many of them. 

Some of my other activities since really retiring have been making braided rugs, painting pictures, making Cabbage Patch type dolls and clothing for them (some of which I sold) and also Barbie Doll clothes.

And my present favorite pastime is quilting. I've made several quilts for children and grandchildren and babies as they come along.

Last year I went out regularly with my next door (in Maryland) neighbor, Roy German, to help him get started in golf, and this year I'm doing it again with his wife, Ruth. He now plays better than I do and it won't be long before she does too. Goes to show you I'm a better teacher than doer, eh.

After reading the foregoing, the thought occurred to me that this has been a pretty rosy story all round. I'm very good at forgetting the bad parts, but there have been a few.

Health-wise, I'm blessed, except for a few minor things. Once when Carole and I were planning to leave for Florida for a vacation, I climbed into the attic to bring down my suitcase. On the way down I tripped and fell from about the middle of the ladder and crushed a vertebrae. The doctor told he girls that I would probably never walk again. He was wrong. The second day in the hospital I was helping my roommate get to the bathroom.

Then I had to have a cataract operation a few years later. And a couple years after that I had a detached retina. While I was recovering from that operation, the resident doctor at the hospital decided my blood pressure was too high (for surgery) and put me on such a strong dose of something to correct it that when I reported back to my regular doctor because I felt run down, he was surprised that I had driven in, much less was walking around. My blood pressure was much too low. Anyway, as a result of that I do have to take a blood pressure pill a day.

Oh, yes, in 1982, I was in a car accident. My car was totalled, but I wasn't. I did have to have about 50 stitches on the side of my head and left arm -- they were glass cuts. It was a very dark evening and raining -- I was coming home from the Needwood Golf Course and making a left turn onto Muncaster Mill Road. Everyone had their car lights on, except the one who hit me. He was coming up the hill in his all black truck, and was upon me before I saw him at all. Carole came home some time after I did, saw the car at the corner, and was sure I couldn't have survived.

The police said that he could have been going a hundred miles an hour and it would still have been my fault that I got hit -- so I paid the $30 fine and bought a new car.

One of the most horrible accidents in our family was when we were living in Cando and I was working at the Court House. We had an old Maytag washer on which the wringer didn't work unless someone held a little gadget on it. Ida Mae had been holding it for awhile, and since it was getting late and past her bedtime, I asked Carole to come and hold it. She came, but while holding it with her left hand started fiddling around below the open part under the washer. She wanted to see if the bottom of the machine was hot, so first stuck her foot (with a shoe on) to see. When she couldn't tell that way, she stuck her hand under, and her forefinger got caught in the cogs.

I turned off the machine; our neighbor downstairs heard our screams, and came running up. He was able to reverse the cogs and got her loose, and I wrapped her hand in a towel and carried her to the doctor a couple blocks from our place. Her finger was crushed and full of grease. He cleaned it up as best he could and bandaged it. There was no chance of its healing, however, so it had to be amputated a few days afterward. She was nine at the time and has learned to cope very well without that finger.

When she signed up for typing class, her teacher said there was no way she could do it, but of course, if you know Carole, you know there is no such word in the dictionary as "can't" as far as she is concerned.

So there you have my story. I've made it as brief as I could and am now wondering why did I write it all. It has been an interesting life for me, and I have enjoyed it and am still enjoying it every day. The years do seem to fly past very fast now, and I guess that is what prompted me to start this journal.

I wish I could tell you that I have accomplished some great deed for the benefit of mankind, or amassed a fortune to pass on to all of you, or that I have served on this or that charity committee, etc., but I can't. First it was mostly work, and now it's mostly play -- the frosting on the cake of life!

I am very proud of my children and grandchildren, and they way they turned out. All of them are busy, happy, responsible people, and I hope I can claim some credit for instilling in them some of their values, characteristics, ideas, etc. that were passed on to me by my parents.

Many great changes have taken place in my lifetime and although it's fun to look back on the "good old days" as many people my age say, it's not too bad right now either. Of course there are problems, but there always have been -- they're just different. Wars and rumors of wars have always been with us, as have been the poor, the greedy, the bigots, the uncaring and selfish, etc. Now it's drugs, air and water pollution, traffic congestion, a huge government budget deficit and more. I'm sorry we could not have left the world in better shape for the youths coming along.

With best wishes to all of you and much love from Esther (alias Mom, Grandma, Great Grandma, Sister, Aunt, etc.)
 Esther Efraimson Holien
For the Geography buffs, here's where I've been:
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Vietnam
  • Laos
  • Cambodia
  • Thailand
  • China (Hong Kong)
  • Malaya
  • Korea
  • India
  • Lebanon
  • Kenya
  • Zimbabwe (S. Rhodesia)
  • Zambia (N. Rhodesia)
  • Malawi
  • Zaire (Congo)
  • Mozambique
  • South Africa
  • Morocco
  • Spain
  • France
  • England
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Hawaii (pre-statehood)
  • Alaska
  • Turkey

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Esther Holien - "A Letter to my Family" Part 2

The first half of this post, A Letter to my Family, Part 1, was published in July. I am overlapping four paragraphs to make today's entry start more smoothly. I have inserted some notes in brackets [ ] to assist in understanding some things.

The kids got settled in school and, since Larry was still too young to go to school, we had a maid who took care of him. She was black, and one of the things Larry said about her was that he didn’t think she knew it! None of us had hardly seen a black person before we came to Washington and had no idea of bigotry towards them.

After we had been at Newton Street for a year or so, we decided to go out and take a look at Greenbelt, which advertised cheaper rents for people whose income was below a certain amount. I can’t remember what it was, but we qualified for it, and so we decided to move there. So that’s how we happen to be Marylanders now.

At first it seemed like the end of the world, because it took over an hour to get there from downtown by street car, but once we got used to it, it wasn’t so bad.

And it did seem like an ideal place for kids, with “underpasses” – paths cut out under the roads, so children didn’t have to cross streets to walk to school. There were a lot of activities planned for children, and a swimming pool too.

It worked out fine. Carole and Ida were in the Majorettes, learned to swim, worked at the theater, and occasionally as baby sitters. Wayne worked at the gas station. Since Jennie and I both worked down town, they didn't have much supervision, but seemed to manage all right. If we told them to have some vegetables prepared before we got home, we would finish the evening meal when we got there. Carole and Ida were both acrobatic and upside down half the time.

Saturdays and Sundays were busy days. At first we didn't have a washing and had to wash by hand in the tub in the kitchen [wash tub, think half of a wooden barrel]. That was really a chore when it came to sheets because when we first moved to Greenbelt the front yard was nothing but mounds of red clay. Consequently, everything white turned a ghastly clay color [I presume this was from hanging the laundry outside and clay dust blowing onto the wet laundry]. Polyester had not been invented, and it apparently had not occurred to the makers of nylon to use it for anything but stockings, so naturally, the ironing board got a lot of use. At first we attended church in Mount Rainier, Md., but as soon as Pastor Pieplow started Church services at the Greenbelt Elementary School, we went there instead. Carole and I also joined the choir, and we had rehearsals at our house, since we had acquired a piano by then.

While we were still at the Newton Street house in Washington, we received word that Ted [her husband] had died. There was no question of being able to go to his funeral, but some of my family did attend. He died of pneumonia and other complications.

In the summer of 1945, Jennie went to North Dakota on vacation. She found Mother to be very tired and didn't want to leave her alone with the work that still went on at the farm. Mother was 64 at the time. That fall, she got one of her sinus attacks; it turned into double pneumonia and she died. I flew home for the funeral -- in fact, I got there before she died, but I I don't think she was conscious anymore. [Letter 1]

So Jennie never came back. She continued to keep house for Dad. Dad lived till the age of 91 and since then, Rudy and Jennie have run the farm. [It has since been purchased by D. Odegaard, another family member.] Neither of them ever married. They have a town house in Rock Lake where they spend the winters, and Rudy often comes down to visit me in Florida. Jennie has worked in Janke's store in Rock Lake from time to time.

Yesterday, August 10, we received sad news from North Dakota; Eino died. He had suffered from Parkinson's for many years and was in a rest home in Rolla. We had visited him just a few weeks ago.

Every time I've seen him the last few years, he has been more and more frustrated because he could no longer do the things he had done before. He used to love to play golf and often, when I was up there, we would play together out in the pasture on the golf course that Rudy had fixed up. If there is a golf course in heaven, I hope he has found it and that he and Bill can play together. Eino would have been 80 next month.

Speaking of Bill, he died in 1975. He got bone cancer shortly after his youngest son was drowned off the coast of Oregon where he had been rock climbing with his cousins.

While I'm on the subject of my sisters and brothers, I may as well give you an update of what they are up to these days.

I've already mentioned that Rudy and Jennie live on the farm during the summer and in Rock Lake in the winter. They rent the farm out to Emma's grandson, Darren Odegaard, but they still help him out as he is a new farmer.

Eino and Martha had only one child, a daughter, Jane. She lives in Grafton with her husband, Paul Glander. [They have since divorced, and Jane lives in Grand Fork.] They have no children. [They later adopted Andrew.] Eino was a farmer and owned the land East of the original Efraimson farm.

Emma's husband, Ivan O'Brien, died a few years ago, and Emma still lives in Rock Lake. She has five children, all of them married and with families mostly in the area. The youngest son, Pat, is a Lutheran Minister and is in southern North Dakota.

Ivan and Emma started out as farmers but later bought the grocery store in Rock Lake and ran it for several years. Now their grandson, Darren, and his wife, Connie, run the store. Emma's oldest daughter is Wynne, and she is married to Don Odegaard. Don is a builder and has built many houses and other buildings in Towner County.

They have four children: Mike, Lee, Darren and Darla. All are married and have children.
My sister Jo is married to Vern Larson and they live in Clearbrook, Minnesota. They had four children. The oldest son, Bill, was killed while digging a ditch -- the earth caved in on him. Lois is married to Ken Bjerke and lives near Minneapolis. Joan is married too, and so is Tom, and both have three children. Vern has a farm and he also worked on the Oil Pipeline that went through Minnesota.

Hilda was married to Roy Gregor, who was an officer in the Veteran's organization, and also a photographer. Roy died when his son, Rod, was only 8 years old. Hilda still lives in Elgin, Illinois and Rod lives nearby in Chicago.

Bill was married to Helen Moore and they had three children -- two sons live in Oregon, and their daughter, Judy, is married and living in Canada. After Bill and Helen were divorced, he married Jeri. It was Bill and Jeri's son, Bill, who drowned when he was 17. Bill [the dad, Esther's brother] had his own firm. He and his crew painted some of the tallest bridges in the Portland, Oregon area.

Viola was married to Eugene Lampela and they had eight children. Gene died of Leukemia several years ago. All but the three youngest are married. Jim is her only son, a scientist, and lives in St. Louis, I believe. Kathy, who is slightly retarded, is at home with Vi in Moorhead, Minnesota. Susan is also at home, and working as a secretary. Vi's husband was a Lutheran Minister, and her eldest daughter is married to a Minister.

Carl is married to Ellen. Their home is in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, where he is also a Lutheran Minister. They adopted three children: Carla, a Navy Lieutenant [Carla was actually in the Air Force, not the Navy], is married. Danielle lives in Fargo, and Jonathan is somewhere in that area, too. He graduated from college this spring.

Rupert, the youngest, is also a Lutheran Minister and lives in the Bronx, New York. He spent several years in Finland. His congregation in New York is composed of people who came from Finland so the services are in Finnish. He has also served in Toronto, Canada, and in Montana, Minnesota and Michigan.

Rupert is also an accomplished musician. He has an excellent tenor voice, and was a member of a quartet while in college. He plays the piano and organ and has had a choir in every church that he has served, except for the one he now has. The median age of his parishioners must be about the same as mine. Over the years he has composed several songs, some of them about the farm.

He wrote one recently, "The Bible in the Attic", and he really should have published it. We've been having some mini-family reunions almost every summer over the past few years. Sometimes when I go to North Dakota, I'll stop and see some of the family en route. This year we were all there at the same time. That is, my brothers and sisters, but not their families.

Now, as to my own family. Wayne is married to Mary Ann Walton. They have two sons. The oldest, Eric [died in 2005], is married to Lynda and they have three children: a daughter, Adriane, from Lynda's first marriage, and two sons, Joshua and Matthew. They live in Beltsville [MD] [Wayne, Mary Ann, and Mark], except for Eric, who lives in Greenbelt. Mark is not married at this time, but I understand he is engaged.

Carole and I live together here in Olney [MD], since her divorce from Bob Hall. Carole has an excellent position at IBM and has been with the firm for close to 25 years. She is now looking forward to early retirement. She has four sons: Robert, who is not married [died 2013], works as a building engineer in a high-rise apartment complex not far from here. Brian, married to Kathy, has a son, Madison, 1 year old. Ricky, married to Jane, has a son, Jake, about 6 months. David, the youngest, married to Janice [but since, divorced], has the oldest son, Jesse, who is three [died in 2011].

Ida Mae was married to Bob [Hall]'s brother, Herbie, and they had three children, Lois, Bruce and Diana. Lois is married to Paul Anderson and lives in Oakland, California. They have two children, Crystal and Joshua. Bruce is not married, and I'm not sure what he's doing these days. Diana is married to Rick Malament and they have a young daughter, Kristin. They have moved to Denver.

Ida Mae married Emmert Walker after her divorce, and they have on son, Scott, who is 17 and beginning collage at Maryland University. Scott plans to be an architect. Ida's husband, Emmert, has his own firm, Turf Management. He installs underground sprinkling systems for commercial customers. He installed the system at the Tampa International Airport, and has done many government buildings, as well as golf courses in the area. Emmert's daughter, Debbie, has worked with her Dad for many years, and Scott joined them this summer.

Larry, my youngest son, is married to Darleen, and they have four children. Julie just graduated from a college of nursing in Kansas City, Mo., where the family has lived for about ten years. Amy was married in May. Cheryl has completed one year of college and is working as well. Michael, the youngest, has one year of high school left.

Larry was in the Navy for eleven years, where he studied meteorology, which has served him well, since he's worked for the Weather Bureau ever since. Their daughter, Amy, was born in the Philippines during an earthquake.

So there you have a very sketchy family tree. And here I am on page 18 already, never dreaming this would be so long. So you'd better get some refreshments and rest your eyes before you continue.

The following will be a resume of my working career. As I told you earlier, I started in the State Department on March 17, 1942, in the Visa Division. I was in the stenographic pool, which consisted of about 50 of us.

Our job was to take notes of hearings that were held by the Visa Review Committee, composed of representatives from the State Department, Navy, Army, FBI and Immigration. People from Germany and other European countries, especially Jewish people, were trying to bring their relatives to the United States either on Visitor or Immigration visas, and this committee would question the relatives or their lawyers to see if they could be admitted to the U.S. without becoming a burden on the public.

Sometimes the applicants themselves would appear, as they were already in this country on Visitors visas, and wanted to change that to an Immigration visa instead. Two of us stenographers would go in to take notes at the same time because we were not, after all, court reporters. We would then transcribe our notes for the files, comparing with each other to see that we got the whole story. Our shorthand speed really increased while doing this. The most important part of the operation, of course, was the committee's decision, which we took down in dictation. I had started with the salary of $1,440,00 per year, but my efficiency ratings were excellent and I got periodic increases. When the war was drawing to a close, the services of that section were coming to an end too, so I applied for a transfer to the President's War Relief Board. I got the job, which included a nice raise. My new title was "Secretary to the Board". Arthur Ringland and Charles Brunot were the Executive Directors of the Board. Charles Brunot is the inventor of the game, "Scrabble". [WHAT!!!! GRAM WORKED FOR THE INVENTOR OF SCRABBLE!!! No wonder we have played the game our entire lives!] The members of the Board were well-known and rich. Two names I remember are Charles P. Taft and Charles Davis. Charles Davis had been Ambassador to Russia.

They coordinated the work of many private agencies that were helping European countries with funds, clothing, etc. One of the ones I remember most was the Jewish Relief Committee. It was This Board that brought CARE into being. I took minutes of the meetings in which the CARE Program was formed. When it looked like that Board had just about finished its purpose, I went back to State and was assigned to work as secretary to Mr. Jones, who was Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Public Affairs.

Mr. Jones was, among other things, a speech writer for the Secretary of State, and sometimes for the President.

It was while I was working for him that the MARSHALL PLAN and President Truman's speech promoting the Foreign Aid Program were begun. Mr. Jones would go to the meetings where these things were discussed and then would draft speeches that he dictated to me. He would then present them to the Secretary of State or others to see if they wanted to make them.

Before the Marshall Plan speech, which President Truman made on June 5, 1947, we had also drafted the President's speech of March 12 to the Joint Session of Congress. These speeches are reprinted in a book that is on the shelf of the room divider in the hall at the Olney house. This is the book that Mr. Jones wrote afterward, and in which there is a dedication to me on the front fly-leaf. The name of the book is "The Fifteen Weeks".

We also drafted several speeches for Dean Anderson. It was a real thrill to listen to Mr. Truman's speeches on the radio that I had first taken down in shorthand.

I left Washington about July 1st, 1958, on my first overseas assignment, stopping briefly at Vi and Gene's who were living in the Cleveland area. My brother Carl was ordained into the ministry at that time.
Esther with her brothers, Rupert and Eino
Dad, Jennie and Rudy took me to the airport in Grand Forks where I got the Northwest Orient plane for Tokyo, with a fueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska--the day Alaska became a state--July 4, 1958. [HOLY SMOKES!] [Well, I had to research this because I recalled Alaska becoming a state in 1959. From the Eisenhower archives: "After the annual introduction of various statehood bills H.R. 7999 passed in the House on May 28, 1958, passed in the Senate on June 30, 1958 and was signed into law by the President on July 7, 1958. On January 3, 1959 he signed the official proclamation admitting Alaska as the 49th state." So they were celebrating something, but not the actual day of becoming a state.] I arrived in Tokyo on schedule and took the plane for Saigon. There is a one-day difference in time, so I was arriving in Saigon on the 4th of July. [She left Alaska on the 4th of July and arrived in Saigon the next day, she went forwards before the rotation of the earth. Clockwise it was the next day, but calendar-wise it was still July 4th!] 

It is customary that all new employees to a Mission be met by the Travel Officer and someone from the section to which you have been assigned to help you through customs and to take you to the quarters that have been arranged for you. This was not the case on my arrival though. I did not see a single American anywhere! The Customs official did speak English, so I was able to get through that.

I waited around for awhile to see if anyone would show up late, but as it was late afternoon and I thought I might be stranded at the airport if I did not catch one of the cabs, I finally hailed one. As I got in I said I would like to go to the Majestic Hotel.

The driver did not comprehend, so I tried my rusty French and said, "Majesteke 'otel sil vous plait", and he immediately answered, "Oui, oui, Madam", and off we went. I tried to remember how to say, "wait, I have to change some money", and finally figured out that it should be" attenday -- je vais chanjay de l'argent".

That worked too, and he waited till I changed some money at the desk and went back and paid him the piasters he wanted. I thought that the Melody's might still be at the Majestic, because that is where they were, the last I heard, but found out that they had just moved. I got their telephone number and tried to call, but there was no answer, so I figured everyone was out celebrating the 4th and just got a room and settled in for the night.
Esther Holien 1963
The next morning there was a group joining a tour of Saigon,, so I went too, since it was Sunday, and I knew no one would be at the office, thinking I'd just go in Monday morning.

When I returned from the tour in the afternoon, there were several frantic calls, and questions. Wires had been crossed. They thought I was arriving on the 5th. Well anyway, they did have an apartment for me. I did not stay in that long before I moved into a larger, nicer one on Flower Street near the Majestic.

The work was different all right, but with the assistance of some of the girls that I met I did catch on. One who was most helpful and is still a good friend of mine is Cappy, who is also retired now, and lives in Chevy Chase, Md.

There were requisition forms that had to be filled out for supples and technicians that were needed to accomplish the work we were doing. Communications media - things like radio, TV, newspapers, telephones, etc. were all necessary to perform the job.

The technicians actually went out in the field to help with these, but it was my job to keep track of the money we were allotted, the orders, etc., and to get reports from the technicians to include in overall reports to Washington. At first it seemed so strange to be concerned with just one little country after working in Washington and being concerned with programs the world over.

I made many good friends in Saigon and we had many good times. Cappy lived in the same building as I, as did Romy Gross, who lived on the floor above us. Al Leverson was also on our floor. One funny incident comes to mind in remembering Al. One day he was going to be late at the office, so he called his maid and told her to have dinner ready at 8. There was always that language barrier and she thought he meant dinner for 8. She must have rushed to the market to get supplies and had borrowed dishes and silver, and even a tablecloth, from my maid.

I didn't know this until later. Around 8:00, Al called and asked if I had had dinner yet. I hadn't, so I accepted his invitation. He had already tried to call Cappy and several others, but they had already eaten, so we ate together in style. And of course, it became a good topic to laugh at for a long time.

Cappy had an accordion and I found it fascinating, so the next time I had a chance to go to Hong Kong, I bought one for myself. I learned to play it quite well and Carole, Ida and I still play. Ida has that first one, and I later bought a larger one. Carole and I used to do a lot of singing together and harmonizing. While I was in Saigon she had a little record made of some of the songs we sang together. I had gotten a record player and tape recorder too, so I played the record, sang the harmony to the pieces on tape, and returned it to her.

Cappy and I did a lot of singing together too. I think she also had a guitar -- or somebody did. Another friend of ours in Saigon was Ruth Holmes. She lived on Catinat Street and liked to play bridge. I played some, but Cappy didn't. Once we decided to have a Sadie Hawkin's Day party at out building -- in Cappy's apartment -- and all of us dressed in gunny sack outfits. I have a picture of Ruth (as Mammy Yokum) with a pipe in her mouth. Ruth died a few years ago.

While I was in Saigon, I bought a used Buick from a guy who was leaving to go back to the States, and after that, we used to go to the beach quite often, mostly to Cap St. Jacque. We always stayed overnight, and sometimes till Monday morning, leaving early enough to get to work. We had a two hour lunch period in Saigon, and that is when I learned how to swim. I bought a little book by Esther Williams on how she teaches children to swim. It worked too, and I still love to swim, especially in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. That is where I spend the winters now -- in Palm Harbor, which is about five miles from the Gulf.

Twice while I was in Saigon, I was requested by Washington to go to Hong Kong to take minutes of the meetings of all the Missions Chiefs in the area. These were usually one week, but I could take a few extra days for shopping, sight-seeing, etc.

Also, while in Saigon, Romy and I went to the Cau-dai Temple, which is close to the Cambodian border. I have pictures of it. I also went to Cambodia twice by car, taking some other ladies with me. We went through the ruins of Angkor Wat that has been closed to the public now for many years, and I also have pictures from there.
[Esther on top of mountain in Saigon]

I enjoyed my time in Saigon very much -- got to know some locals and taught English to some boys who were of high school age.

That also helped improve my French, but I did also go to French classes at the Mission. The two years went fast,. but I did miss my family so I opted to return to Washington instead of taking another post.

On my way home from Saigon, I did not come directly across the Pacific, but went around by way of India, etc., and stopped in Paris, where I met Jennie and Ellen Kaleva.

We went to Finland together to visit our mother's brother, Uncle Alexi and his wife Siiri, and Aunt Aina, her sister. We went by ship from Stockholm to Torku, where Aina was living at that time. Uncle Alexi lived on a little island and met us by boat.

We really enjoyed our visit there. I gave Siiri and Alexi a hand embroidered tablecloth from Hong Kong, and after Siiri died, Uncle Alexi sent it back to me and I still have it. We stayed in London a few days and then flew back to the United States via Pan American Airways.

It did not take me long to realize that I had made a big mistake in coming back to work in Washington, and I again requested an overseas assignment. I was in Washington the year that Kennedy was inaugurated and was in that big snow storm the night before the event.

I had a red Ford Fairlane at that time and had one passenger riding with me as she worked close to my office. We made it home, but it took hours, and every once in awhile I had to get out and clean the snow off the windshield as the wipers couldn't keep up with it. The next day, the Parkway was full of abandoned cars.
Watch for Part 3 next Thursday.


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