June, 1902. Taking you back to the very beginning of Mormor's stories: the true tale of her mother's brave journey, alone, into a country bigger than her imagination could stretch. Waiting for her there were her fiancé and his cousin (the only two people she knew in America), and American English, a language she would never really learn.
My mother, Elise Holmgren (born Alis Karlsson) was born in the province of Skâne in southern Sweden. After she finished school she met my father and they became engaged. To Dad there didn't seem to be much of a future in Sweden as there wasn't enough family money to send him to a university, so, when an offer of a job in California came, he set off. Both he and Mom were to save money for her passage to join him as soon as possible. Finally the great day arrived and she sailed off for America.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
She was afraid she'd get seasick, so a friend of Dad's gave her a small bottle of brandy with instructions to take a small swallow every morning which, he said, would take care of that. Well, the Atlantic was calm in June and many passengers spoke Swedish so Mom had a great time.
She made the transfer from Ellis Island and to the train for Chicago with not much trouble, but there her difficulties began. A clerk in Liverpool had sold her a ticket on a slow, old milk train that wound up through the Dakotas, far from the direct route by Union Pacific to San Francisco that she had paid for. Of course, the clerk kept the difference in the fare price.
As the train poked along it stopped at every tiny station. Then Mom discovered there was no diner or sleeping car so she knew something was wrong, but couldn't do anything about it for she spoke no English. All she had to reassure herself was asking the conductor, "San Francisco?" and seeing him nod, "Yes."
After about two days of this the train stopped for water and a few men passengers. Mom had her window open a bit and heard one of the men swear lustily in Swedish. She threw the window open wide and called out, "Can you speak Swedish?" One young man looked quite startled and answered that he did, and could he help her in any way? He came up into her car and heard her sad story.
He, too, assured her that the train was going to San Francisco, and that he was traveling on that train to a place called Sacramento, which wasn't very far from her destination.
At the next station he found some food for Mom and even rustled up a pillow. He said he was an electric engineer who had just finished a job on a dam and was going to a similar job up the San Joaquin River in California. Mom told him that she was going to Eureka where she would be met by the man to whom she was engaged.
For the rest of the way the engineer saw that they both had regular meals with little treats, for he was becoming quite enamored of the unexpected passenger (Mom was a cute little lady). He told her he was going to write to her, and hoped she'd change her mind about that guy she was meeting. He told her how to transfer from the train to the boat in San Francisco, which worked out very well.
Once on the ship her troubles began again, for the ship was small, the waters near the shore are rough, and Mom got most dreadfully seasick. She said she got to the point that she didn't care if she ever saw Dad or her folks or Sweden again -- she just wanted to die.
Finally the ship put in at Eureka, and a very tottery little lady was met by my father. He took her to the Western Hotel, which was run by Swedish friends of Dad's. Mom said she slept for a day and a half, but not before deciding that Martin looked very good to her, and he really was The One.
When Dad came to see her the next weekend the hotel owner hurried to ask him who Mom knew in Fresno. Of course he wanted to know why she asked him that, and she answered that my mother had gotten two letters from there in the past week, and they were in a man's handwriting.
Well, I guess they had quite a quarrel about it, which ended with Mom's promise to write the engineer and tell him she was going ahead with her plans to marry Martin.
Which she did on October 12, 1904, after working two years to build up a dowry in the European fashion.