Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stories from the life of Sadie Stean, part 1

Sadie Stean*, ca 1917
Like Anna, Sadie wrote her life story and kept a journal or diary off and on through the years. Her accounts are so long they will need to be split into 2 or 3 parts. Here begins some of Sadie’s stories from her childhood--

“One of the first things I remember happened when I was only 2 ½ years old. My parents rented a small far just a little ways from where we were living. A bachelor friend of my mother and father was helping us move. On the last trip mother took my two older sisters by the and and walked, but the baby was to ride piggy back with my arms around Erick’s neck and we were going on skis and to this day I remember the excitement flying down the hill so to say and Erick had to jump a small stream. What a thrill it gave me. Yes, children do remember things many times and many things happened in the next year, but nothing exciting to a child’s mind until father bought a small piece of land and an old log cabin that he moved and fixed up as a home. I remember mother taking me across the river to look at our new home.

“One day they were putting in a new ceiling and a nail puller fell down and I had to have a hole cut in my curls to get the blood washed off. I cried but after being treated to ginger cookies I forgot about it and it soon healed up. All that reminded me of it was when my hand should touch the bare spot where the hair was cut short.

Ragnhild and Ola Stean (Birkeland), inside the house**
[photo courtesy of Agnes Allpress]

“It seemed like father never could make enough money only for the very necessary things, and sometimes we didn’t always have enough to eat. I remember particular one evening mother gave us the last piece of bread and butter we had in the house. Father was away working in the mine and only came home Saturday nights and we didn’t have a cent in the house to buy with, us children didn’t realize how she must have felt, there were 5 of us then with big appetites and nothing left to give us for breakfast. Us children went to bed and mother sat knitting by the fire. I woke up and heard someone knock on the window and I heard a well known voice say—“I saw the lamplight so I knew you hadn’t gone to bed, something just told me you might need a little money” and she gave mother $2 that she had earned that day washing clothes for our neighbor, Dr. B. Mother told her she was an answer to prayers. “I was praying for something to feed the children for their breakfast.” How well I remember that old lady and I am glad to know that mother was able to return some of the kindness she showed us.

“My oldest sister*** was soon thru school and then she went out to work, she was only 14 years old but happy to be able to make enough to clothe and feed herself. She had lots of ambition and was so extremely neat and clean that wherever she worked they were very pleased with her. She came home one winter and went to high school, but though she was very smart in her studies, she liked nothing better than cooking, so that’s the last time she stayed home. In the spring she went to cook for Captain and Mrs. Gunderson and she stayed there four years and they were lovely to her and when she left Mrs. Gunderson gave her one of her beautiful bracelets, I hope she has it yet.

“My sister Anna**** was the next to leave home. She had two years left in school, but she worked her way thru and she was happier away from home anyway she was full of pep and loved to be with the rest of the young people to dance and have a good time, and mother was very much against dancing even though her favorite brother loved to dance. How I used to sit in the twilight and dream while mother was down in the barn doing the chores. How I wished time would hurry and get me out in the world too. How I could see myself married to some prince coming down long winding stairs dressed in white velvet with diamonds in my hair and I thought of all the wonderful good things I would have to eat every day not just on occasions like Xmas and other holidays as was the custom at home. What a wonderful thing for a child to have a good imagination. I had a sunny disposition and was not unhappy because most of the time I had to wear gingham instead of wool dresses like the other girls my age.
“Mother had no sewing machine so all the clothes for the family had to be sewed by hand. Wish I had the patience now that I had when I was 7-8 years old to sew a nice seam. I am sure I can’t sew such fine stitches now as I could then. Sometimes we would get clothes ready made that friends of my mother sent us that had been ordered for their children but didn’t fit, but we soon had them so they looked like they were bought for us. Mother liked to have us look nice. We would card wool and spin yarn for sweaters and mittens dyed beautiful bright colors, winter was a gay time for us children. The snow to play in ice to skate and a lot of bumps we would get but that didn’t stop the fun. How good it was to run in and have afternoon coffee with mother—bread and butter with some kind of preserves on. Mother was interested in our play but never had time to join us, the only time I remember mother having any time to spare would be winter evenings, we would listen to her read to us for an hour or so at a time and she taught us to read and write before we started school so all of us were ahead of the rest of the children at school. I graduated from grammar school when I was 13 years old. The next fall in October I was confirmed, a big event it seemed at the time and my first long dress black trimmed in white and we were all presented with bibles. It was a big day. Yes, that bible has traveled with me now for more than 30 years, it has memories.


* The Stean name sometimes appears as Stern in American records.

** Notice the framed photograph on the right. It is the same picture as the one at the top of this post.

*** This would be Sadie's sister, Gunhild who later married Hans Svanstrøm.

**** This is the sister Anna that Sadie traveled with to America. Anna later married Al Bensen and lived in California.

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