That Christmas in 1940 was a very rough time for me..."
And then [they] asked about Einar and Mike but we did not know how they had gotten lost [on the train] along the way, and Dad said if they are not here by morning I’ll go down and inquire about them, but they did come safe and sound and then we found out that they had been sent up through Canada but no one knew why but that was not important anyway. We were all together again, and everyone was happy and for some time there was a lot of things to explore and enjoy.
My Dad had rented my Uncle Sivert Gulla’s farm and there was a lot to do and to learn. We had to learn the English language and get used to new customs. We had to get used to a different climate and weather conditions and make new friends. And there was a lot of nice people to get acquainted with: right east of us was the Fred Nelson, Ben Knudson and Tom Halverson Families, and two Bachelor brothers Charles and Alfred Anderson; and across the road from us was the Christ Erickson farm; and to the west of us was the Schesvold Family and the Mrs. Marit Thoreson farm; and to the south and west was my Uncle Ole Gulla farm; and south from him was the Lars Felde Family; and across from the Felde was Nels Wallin; and north of Wallin was my aunt Mrs. Bakman. Mrs. Bakman was my mother’s sister. I mention these things, in order to keep the geography as well as the relationship in mind.
I believe Mrs. Thomas Schesvold and Mrs. Ben Knudson were sisters, and I think they came from Valders in Norway, and I believe that Valders is in Hallingdal Norway and that may or may not interest you but it takes my mind back to familiar places in Norway. Peter Schesvold and I was confirmed by Pastor J.E. Nord in the class of 1905. Lydia Schesvold was a lively and attractive girl, and I had a secret crush on her myself but my brother Einar was more of a man than I was and more in her age class, so they were married and they bought the Thoreson farm and lived and raised their family there. Otto Schesvold married Emma Felde and lived on the old Schesvold farm until retirement. In 1907 my Dad bought the old Felde farm and we moved there in the spring of 1908. Peter Schesvold married my sister Bertha and they bought the Bakman farm and raised a fine family there. My sister Guri married Nels Wallin and lived across the road from us for many years. My brother Mike married Sophia Nelson and they farmed in the Town of Stanfold until they retired.
I married Euphamia Peterso in 1917 and lived on the old Roen farm. We had four children Alvin, Orville, Eunice and Gladys. She was a wonderful woman, a jewel among woman. She died in 1932 at the age of only 33 years. My niece Marie married my brother in law and lived in many different places, and they are both dead now. My sister Ragna married Hjalmar Anderson and that just about covers the main part of the original Roen family register. I may add that Einar, Mike and I worked in the logging camps in the winter and in the sawmill in Rice Lake in the summer. We worked 10 hours a day and when I started there my pay was 10 cents an hour. I worked there for 8 years and my last hourly pay was 17 ½ cents an hour. How does that compare with today’s wages?
All the original Roen family are dead except myself, and I feel like an old gnarled, twisted tree standing alone where once was a green fertile forest. I could tell of many funny episodes but it would take too long and be too complicated, and so you will just have to use what you can and discard the rest, but by writing this I have mentally lived through all these periods and I found it interesting….
I thought I had covered all of the territory but there are a few things that should be added. The man my niece Marie married was my wife’s brother, and like I mentioned before Marie was Guri’s daughter, and Oscar Moxness was Marie’s half brother. You see Guri was married to John Moxness and he died in Park Falls when Oscar was just a baby, and later on Guri Married Nels Wallin.
Eight years after my wife died, I married Millie Nelson from Couderay, Wisconsin and that was in October 1939, and she died on December 23, 1940 giving birth to my youngest son John. He will be 40 years old this Christmas. He is a good mechanic and has a diesel repair station in Big Spring, Texas.
That Christmas in 1940 was a very rough time for me. I was 50 years old and had a baby to take care of, so the storms I faced on the Atlantic was not the only storms that has shaken my life, and then I was alone for 14 years and I had moved to Rockford where I met and married my present wife and we will celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary April 1st 1981. Edith is a good wife but there is no substitute for that first love, and lucky are the ones who can marry young and stay together and be permitted to watch the last beautiful sunset after a long and fruitful life.
And another thing that might interest you, and like I told you earlier we were scheduled to go on the boat named Norge. But for some mysterious reason we were transferred to the steamer Hekla, and that was the last trip that boat made as a passenger boat. It was sold to Russia to be used as a cattle transport. We had been in Rice Lake [Wisconsin] a week or so when we got a report that the steamer Norge that it had hit a reef outside of Scotland and sunk; and about 700 lives were lost and you can imagine how close we were of being among them and how lucky we were to be alive, and all I can say is "God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform."
As you see from this report I have given you a summary of what happened in the community, which involves the Roens, without giving the Roen name too much prominence. The Roens haven’t got too much to brag about, but thank God we haven’t got much to be ashamed of either. And I hope this jumbled report doesn’t confuse you but you can pick out what you can use and discard the rest. It has been a pleasure to go through these episodes again, and that’s all folks: ta ta dancke shon mange tak, and thank you. —Uncle Joe
Wesley Allen Riddle
is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. This article is an edited version of original source material not previously published. It is from an extended letter written by Joe Roen to his nephew Arnold Roen, dated 11 December 1980. Joe was from the Old Country, born October 1st, 1890. He passed away March 13th, 1984. Arnold settled in Belton, Texas after service in the Army Air Force during WWII. Email: .