Left to right :May, Thorston (Toddy), Ruth, Gertrude, Raymond, Dexter (my dad) sitting on Knut (Henry) lap
This picture was up on the wall in the house I grew up in for as long as I can remember. It is funny how you can look at a photo every day for years and not really know much about it or the people in it. My dad was the little boy on his dad’s lap. He was only 2 at the time and they were still living in Worcester, Massachusetts. I love my grandmother’s hairdo and her dress, so elegant looking. I only knew her when she was confined to a wheelchair or her bed after a stroke, looking nothing like the lovely lady in the photo. Over the years I had to ask questions, research in libraries and on line to find the stories of these people. It would be many years later that I found out we had no blood relation, but they will always be my grandparents nonetheless. They were a colorful bunch and their stories should never be forgotten. I will start with Grandpa, Knut Henrik Halldin, who always went by Henry after he became a naturalized citizen in 1903.
My grandparents were both from Sweden, both emigrated in the late 1800’s. Grandma came with her family but Grandpa came alone, in fact he was the only one of his family to emigrate. I never met him as he died before I was born, but my dad used to say that his father was a wanderer, he loved to travel and would only come home to get grandma pregnant and then leave again. I have found evidence that Knut Henrik Halldin (1862-1947) came to the U.S. in 1886 alone, to New York and then to Philadelphia and very soon traveled across the country to San Francisco. He only stayed a year and then traveled all the way back east. That could not have been an easy journey in 1886, I can’t even imagine it. I have a few of his writings from that time period and it seems he had names of people from Sweden to visit along the way – this was the era of mass migration to the U.S. so I am sure many people they knew from Sweden had immigrated.
Henry is listed as an Engineer or draftsman on some census records but I honestly can’t find a record of him really ever working much. I have a picture of a button he had as an employee of the Osgood Car Company (they made railroad/trolly cars). He looks to me like a prisoner. His father had a successful business in Sweden and I wonder if he didn’t help them out over the years. Henry and family lived in a huge 3 story house that they built in Worcester, Massachusetts until 1921 when they decided to join their eldest daughter in Los Angeles. They packed up their open touring car and drove across country. What a trip that must have been in 1921!! No interstate highway system, no motels yet along the way. I don’t know how or why my Aunt Gertrude ended up in Los Angeles, but she married there and had their first child (Willis “Bill” Jones) and shortly thereafter here come the folks and siblings.
Henry did go back to Sweden twice in his lifetime that I can find. He stayed in the U.S. from 1886 to 1890ish, then went home to Sweden and stayed there until 1896 – the year he married Grandma – but they met here in the U.S. so I don’t really understand how that all fit together. They were 10 years apart in age, he being 33 when they married and she was 23.
Knut Henrik Halldin and Maria Louisa Ohman 1896
They had a grand wedding in Sweden and then returned to the U.S. to begin their life together first in Philadelphia, PA, then Worcester, Mass. They had their daughter Gertrude in March 1897 and then Henry went prospecting for Gold during the Alaskan Gold Rush in 1898, he went with a whole group of people from Massachusetts. He stayed about a year and then came home, nope he didn’t find any gold!
Henry went back to Sweden in 1920, his brother had just died and his father was old and I think he went to help him either sell or close the business. I have a letter from him to grandma where he is complaining that nobody is writing to him while he is away. Poor guy.
I once asked my dad about his dad and what kind of man he was. It seems he didn’t know his dad very well. My dad was born in 1915 and grandpa was already 54. He
Henry and the group he went to the Alaska gold rush with
probably wasn’t too keen on little kids by then. My dad also told me that his mom worked her butt off in the rooming house they owned in downtown Los Angeles. It doesn’t sound like Grandpa did much to help her. Dad said he did work with him on some apartments they built behind the boarding house, but it didn’t sound like fun. I asked him if he ever played ball with him or something and the answer was no. Grandpa was very close to his daughter Gertrude, and when she died in 1930 I think it broke his heart completely. I have learned from other family members that Grandpa also had a bit part in a movie in Hollywood, but don’t ask me the title, it is a story that is passed down. They had actors stay in their boarding house all during the 1930’s and grandpa even tried writing a screenplay and tried to get someone to pitch it to a studio. Problem was it was HORRIBLE. I have it and tried to read it and it’s all about vikings and such and terribly boring. Sorry Grandpa
Knut had lots of heartache in his life, his daughter dying in 1930, his grandson Bill in WWII, his younger daughter moving to Australia and his youngest son (my dad) getting a girl (my mom) pregnant and having to marry at 19 and living in the boarding house with them. And there was lots of alcohol in the mix to make family gatherings sometimes very interesting affairs. Once his son Tod (Thorston) threw a brick through the front window of the boarding house during an altercation at a family party. But all in all he had a good life. He got to travel, he had loving children, a wonderful wife and many grandchildren, great grandchildren and now great great grandchildren. He left a lasting legacy I am sure he would be proud of.