Neither spoke English, so couple taught themselves and pursued their dream in the promised land.
In 1909, my mother first set foot on Ellis Island, the entrance to "The Promised Land," the land of opportunity. She had grown up on Stjerne Island in Norway and had an eighth-grade education but no English. My father came over the same year from Skane, Sweden. He likewise knew no English. They met at a Scandinavian Club and married in 1915. In the years that followed, they taught themselves to read, write and speak English very well. It wasn't always easy.
Pursuing Dad's dream of owning land "like Skane," they migrated to Iowa, where their first jobs were hired man/housekeeper for two Swedish bachelors. The bachelors worked hard and demanded good, solid food – food that would "stick to their ribs." They wanted pancakes for every breakfast.
One morning when Mother started her pancakes, she discovered that she was out of flour. Since she was miles from the store, she was at a loss for what to do, until she remembered there was a sack of flour in the storeroom. She hurriedly scooped up two cups and proceeded to make breakfast. Mother was famous for her good pancakes, but alas, these were terrible! The bachelors took one bite and wondered what had happened. When mother explained about the flour, they went to the storeroom. There was the sack, plainly marked "wallpaper paste!" She had recognized the "past" in paste and thought it related to "pastry"; hence, it must be flour. They teased her about her pancakes for years. One thing about them, I'll bet they stuck to their ribs.
Through hard work and thriftiness my parents attained my dad's dream of owning land. They are gone now, but I still own a piece of that dream in Iowa. I hope to hand it down to my children so that the dream will go on.
Helen B. Baker
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.
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