Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 1: Birth and Beginnings

"I was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 17, 1909. My father was Arne Andersen, an immigrant from Sølør, Norway. As a young man, he left his parents and siblings behind on a modest farm and came to the United States, looking for opportunity. My mother was Jennie Olivia Johnson Andersen, of North Muskegon, Michigan. Her father was a seaman from Lulea, in northern Sweden, who came to America as a young man and worked in the timbering business. That was what brought him to Muskegon, where he met my grandmother. My father was a streetcar motorman in Chicago, operating on the Halsted streetcar line out of the Ashland Avenue car barns. My earliest memory is of riding with him on the streetcar and being permitted to clang the bell as we came to street crossings. The bell was a foot-driven device in the floor of the driving area. Stepping on it sounded a bell below the floor that rang loudly in the street."

Early in his life, Elmer's parents separated. "Just what were the circumstances of my parents' separation, or what provoked it, I have never known. There was no divorce. Efforts at reconciliation, if there were any, were not successful. It was never discussed among the family—or, at least, not with me. It was just accepted that there had been a change, and we went on."

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