After the war started, we had no problems getting tenants to move into the empty rooms in our house and our economy changed for the better.
On Christmas day of 1942, August and I went over to the home of Carl Nystrom's parents. It had been a long time since we had heard anything from Roland and so we wanted to find out if the Nystroms had heard any news about the boys. They weren't home so we came back. We had just come into the house when we heard the sound of terrible explosion from somewhere near the boys' bedroom. We rushed over but hardly dared open the door. When we did, we saw Lennart struggling up from the floor, all black in the face. If he had not injured his eyes it would be a wonder. We tried to get him to the nearest doctor, but he was not at home. So we took Lennart to Hahnemann Hospital and left him there.
Lennart had liked chemistry at school. His cousin Paul had given him a chemistry set and he had began to experiment with it. Lennart had been making a big wooden firecracker when the explosion occurred.
With Lennart in the hospital, it was a long night, and we could not sleep. As soon as there were visiting hours, I went off to see the sick boy. He was in a room with two other men. There was an X-ray machine on a platform that they rolled around on ball bearing casters, a formidable looking machine. I went over to Lennart and asked if could see me and he answered that he could, that he had been reading the funnies in the paper. He did not seem so badly burned except for his eyebrows and his eyelashes which were burned off.
Seeing the X-ray machine had given Lennart an idea about how he could win the Yankee Ingenuity Scholarship Award to help pay for his education. He was working nights at the Norton Company, but during the days he started to build an X-ray machine.
The scholarship award rules stipulated that what was done should be done at a minimum of expense. In fact, this was one of the basic rules upon which the award was to be granted. So Lennart figured out what to do and how he was going to go about it. It had to be done it three steps or phases. First, copper wire was to be drawn through beeswax, then, he needed oxygen for glass blowing to make the X-ray tube, and a Bunsen burner , and then, he needed to make the apparatus to evacuate the X-ray tube itself. I let him have the Bunsen burner attached to the stove all summer. He had begun this work in the winter in the dark basement where it was warm, but when it began to be spring, I said he could come up in the kitchen. He said that I should remember that his starting to work on the X-ray machine in the kitchen had been my idea.
One Saturday morning I came out into the kitchen and Lennart sat there on a high stool, blowing glass and forming some kind of fat vacuum tube. I told him he was up early. He told me he hadn't been to bed yet. There was also a penny going into the thing as a target. He wrote down everything he was doing on sheets of paper which he sent in to Worcester Tech. One morning, one or two weeks later, the mailman rang and handed me a letter with the return address of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute on it. I saw right away that it was important and took the letter and went into his bedroom with it. He had come home from work at Norton's about nine in the morning and was sound asleep. I woke him and told him that a letter had come for him. Maybe he had won the prize I told him. He took the letter and I went out. I didn't hear anything from him so I went back in and saw him sleeping. I picked up the letter and read it. And sure enough, he had won the scholarship. I woke him again. I asked him how he could sleep at a time like this after having won the scholarship. He asked me if it were true. He said he had thought it was a wonderful dream. Then he really woke up. The scholarship was for the sum of five hundred dollars. It would cover one full year's tuition and some of it was for books and supplies at the Worcester Tech bookstore.
Lennart was pretty sick and tired of working at the Norton Company machine shop and he had already saved quite a bit of money. So I suggested to August that we all take a little trip to New York to see Roland who was then stationed at Mitchel Field out on Long Island east of the city of New York as Assistant Air controller for the Eastern Defense Command. So all three of us went to see Roland. He met us at New York Central Station. Roland drove us in his 1931 Ford to the Henry Hudson Hotel which had partly been taken over by the armed forces. Soldiers came and went through all hours of the day and night. August and the boys got a room for themselves and I got a single room for myself. The evening was warm and we went out to try to see a little of the big city. There were big crowds everywhere. We tried to get into a movie film but we could not get in anywhere as all the theaters were full to capacity except for a little place where they showed the latest news reels.
Late the next morning, Roland took us through the Queens Tunnel under the East River and we soon saw Mitchel Field at a distance but could not go near the operations area because of Army regulations. We could only go to the officers' club. Roland told us that from the air at night Mitchel Field stuck out like a square black sore thumb when the rest of the area was not blacked out. At noon all four of us had lunch at the Officers' Club, a really big imposing red brick building, covered with ivy, with a large swimming pool in front. In the dining room Roland treated us all to nice and juicy T-bone steaks with all the fixings. We all really enjoyed ourselves. August, as usual, said very few words, but he seemed very pleased.
The boys were used to their father even though his behavior was sometimes poor, he was often hard, and he was always special. He tried to keep his hands hidden as they were rather misshapen and his walk and posture were not so good either. He was seldom very polite to anyone and usually rather curt to strangers, so there were not many that liked him at first. Another thing about him was that he would not take a bath in fresh or sweet water, neither at home or in a fresh water lake. The closest places to get to salt water were the Narragansett beaches in Rhode Island, or the Point Judith beaches in Connecticut, but those places were at least three hours away by car, so that it was seldom that he bathed. If I ever mentioned anything about him taking a bath, he got angry. He food habits were rather peculiar, too. He disliked shellfish, all fish in fact, especially bottomfeeders. He ate no salads, nor vegetables of any kind. Neither did he eat dishes such as casseroles because he could not see what it contained. Each item of food had to placed separately on its own plate.
We came home again and life flowed on as usual. There had been a rather small notice in the Worcester Evening Gazette about Lennart winning the scholarship with his X-ray machine, but a few days later there came a reporter from the Boston Post newspaper who wanted more details and he took some pictures of Lennart and me. Lennart explained how he had proceeded in his work. The reporter remarked that I must have especially enjoyed the wax on the floor when Lennart was waxing the copper wire. I told the reporter laughingly that I had also enjoyed rolling around the big five foot long oxygen tank when I was cleaning. The Boston paper gave Lennart a whole page spread in the Boston Sunday Post, complete with many pictures. Lennart became very popular amongst his crowd of friends. They called from Worcester Tech and said it was very interesting and asked if he had really taken any X-ray pictures. Lennart told them, "not really." Lennart never went back to Norton Company to work, as he started at W.P.I. in the fall.
It so happened that the very same day that the article was published in the paper that August and I were invited to a place named Shrewsbury, a little town outside of Worcester, for an open party called a housewarming. A cousin to Roland named Vivian and her husband Philip G. Hedquist had bought a house so they were receiving guests all afternoon. And when they came back to Worcester, people came and told us that in Norton Company there had been a terrible outbreak of food poisoning, possibly caused by sabotage. All the people who had had dinner there, roasted ham had been served, became so sick that the ambulances had to shuttle back and forth to the hospitals, but luckily nobody died. But it was on account of this incident that August would never dare to take a meal there again. Also he would not try to buy any meat on the black market, and he was a man that needed meat. He hardly ate anything else. It was hard on us all, but August had always telling me just how he had to have his food. There was no butter as that was rationed too. I tried for a while to get along on cottage cheese and jam, but that was not healthy.
I became sick and Doctor Lemeir was called to the house. He did not seem to understand the cause of the condition I was in. There was likely more than one cause. One was tonsillitis, one was migraine and weakness from loss of blood and an abscess in the breast. They called an ambulance and drove me to the City Hospital for observation. It was then a dew days before the first of July. The room I got was dirty and I was asked if I needed any food. In time a doctor examined me. I was told that I could go home and could come back later to have the tonsils and the abscess in the breast removed. August came to get me and never said a word. He did not even ask me how I felt, even though my hair had almost completely turned white. I wondered how any man could be so lacking of feelings for a sick person, especially a wife with whom he had lived for so many years.
After a few weeks the tumor in the breast acted up and I went again to City Hospital and was given care in the Out Patient Department. If it was given by a real doctor or an intern, I never did find out. He started to cut without any anesthetic at all and of course I screamed. When he was finished I took the bus home. There were at least five or six return visits before they had all of the tumor picked out and completely removed. August never said a word to any of the doctors. I was just a if I was of no concern to him. In the fall my tonsils became so badly infected that I called the hospital again and made an appointment to have them taken out. I was told to come in the night before which was on a Sunday. I wouldn't or was too proud to ask August to take me so I walked the six miles to the hospital. That time I had a local anesthetic and it did not hurt so much. After it was over I took the bus home. August did not even ask if it had hurt. It did not seem to concern him in the least, but going out into the air so soon after the tonsillectomy brought on a temperature for a day or two. I seemed that from this time on that I began to hate August more and more.
In May of 1943 Roland got married to a girl named Mary Pawlak. They were married by a Lutheran army chaplain, Major Mattsen, in the home of Captain and Mrs Gulian in Miami, Florida (1943 letter). My first grandchild was born in August of the following year (1944 letter).
Lennart quit Worcester Tech, entered dental school, and then moved to Houston Texas, married Mavis Sawyer and began his career in dentistry.
August's brother Otto opened an electric ice box and radio repair shop and the repair of refrigerators became non-profitable when appliance stores started their own service departments. But Otto continued in the radio repair business until he sold it when he retired. I think Anna died at age ninety-four.
Otto's son Paul tired of Civil engineering after eight years and studied to be a Doctor of Medicine at Boston University.
August's brother Anton, out west, had a son, divorced his wife Hilma, and then bought a gasoline station in Oakland, Oregon.
August's brother Olof and his sister Hilda were still living out in Chico, California and as the years passed we started to get a bit out of touch. Lennart wrote us after he visited them when he was in the service in California (1945 letter). I still have a letter that Elsa wrote me (1946 letter).
August and I decided to split up. (1948 letter) I wanted to get a job of my own so I would be able to support myself better. So I went to work as a maid. I managed to save enough money to take a trip to see my folks in Sweden and on the way to Halmstad I visited August's sister Emma near Malmö. She had bought a house and was taking in roomers. I enjoyed myself there in Sweden. It had been over 20 years since I had last seen my family. I told August that his sister was renting out rooms when I returned to Worcester as I thought that he could live with her because the doctor had made a diagnosis of his illness and wanted him to go into a hospital. (period photograph) So he took a berth on an ocean liner which at that time sailed between New York and Gothenburg. He went to live with with his sister Emma in Malmö.
Four years later he died there in Malmö on the operating table during a spleenectomy (various documents). That was in February, 1952. Then just two months after he died, my mother died. That was in April. It had been several years since I had last seen her. (1950 letter from mother Ulla to Edith) She was pretty weak towards the end (documents). Two weeks after my mother died I went back home to Sweden, by air. That was my first time in an airplane (travel notes).
After I got back to America, I sold the house in Worcester and moved to Houston Texas and stayed there four years near my son Lennart, but found the heat and the climate too oppressive. I moved back to Sweden in 1956 and this is where, I guess, I am going to end my days. It is now 1978 and I have always been interested in art and have kept myself occupied. Among other things that I have been doing, I have been painting flower pictures in oils and portraits of my sons.