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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