Surviving into one’s sixty-eighth year is a goodly age for anyone, but when it comes to literary magazines it should be said that one has not aged, one has simply mellowed and matured.
On October 1, 1942 the first issue of The Icelandic Canadian was published and a new magazine was born. The magazine was the ambitious endeavour of the Icelandic Canadian Club in Winnpeg.
The first staff consisted of author Laura Goodman Salverson, along with the editorial board of Stefan Hansen, Helen Sigurdson, Hjalmur Danielson, Grace Reykdal and Judge W. J. Lindal. Advertising duties were handled by Sig. T. Bardal.
The Icelandic Canadian Club was formed in Winnipeg by a group of people who were keen to maintain their links to their Icelandic ancestry and community but intended to do so on their own terms – in English and with their Canadianness firmly in focus.
Arni G. Eggertson was then the President of the Icelandic Canadian Club of Winnipeg. In that first issue of the magazine he expresses his pleasure and congratulations to the club members who had formed the editorial board and launched this new journal.
The club members felt that the Icelandic-language speaking community in North America was well enough served by the newspapers Lögberg and Heimskringla (still two separate papers at that time).
The aim of the Icelandic Canadian Club was to provide an English language outlet for articles, poetry and essays by members of the Icelandic-North American cultural community. The first editorial states: “It is our conviction that the time has come to cut ourselves free of the fallacious idea that our duty to the past must constrain us to the old Icelandic mold. We believe that our first duty is to Canada and the world of tomorrow.”
Back in 1942 the subscription rate was set $1.00 for a year. The rate today is $32.00 for mailings in Canada and $40.00 for USA and international mailings. Even though the Bank of Canada’s calculator tells us this increase is two and a half times the rate of inflation, it can be argued this is still a reasonable rate for four issues of reading enjoyment per year.
Much has transpired in the sixty-eight year history of the journal. The Icelandic Canadian has continuously maintained itself through many, many steadfast volunteers.
Only the desktop layout setter receives payment. For the rest of the editorial board and the magazine’s contributors it is looked on as a commitment to our community. Volunteering is a matter of pride rather than an onerous duty.
Many people have kept the magazine in print throughout the years; some editors have even gone so far as to back it with their own personal funds. Editors in the past include such well-known names from the history of the Icelandic-Canadians in the Winnipeg community: Judge Walter Lindal, Holmfridur Danielson, Dr. Wilhelm Kristjanson, Axel Vopnfjord, Kirsten Wolf and Sigrid Johnson.
The very first edition of the magazine began the short biographical and photo feature “Our War Effort” to recognize men and women of Icelandic descent who were then enlisted in the American and Canadian forces during World War II.
These entries later became the base of the compilations of enlisted personnel published by the IODE Jon Sigurdsson Chapter. These books are cherished to this day by so many of our families. Another early feature was to publish the names of university graduates and to note their achievements.
After some years this listing became too difficult to assemble as so many were now integrated into the general community with anything but Icelandic surnames. However we are still certainly eager to publish short articles extolling accomplishments of our younger achievers.
The magazine has offered to many an aspiring young writer the opportunity to see their work in print. Subjects are so varied over the years that it is difficult to categorize. Poetry has always played a part in the issues as have book reviews.
Many a university thesis has been edited to fit the format suitable for the general readership and has seen publication in The Icelandic Canadian, giving our young scholars another audience to which to present the results of their research.
It would be wonderful to have more translations of some of the adventure stories and essays written in the earlier days of our Icelandic-North American history. So much of this literature is only accessible to those who read or write in Icelandic. This is something the editorial board is trying to pursue.
As far back as Volume 3, Issue #1, a letter to the editor from an American subscriber, Mrs. Herman K. Thordarson reads: “…that the name of the magazine be changed. The very fact that an article entitled “Our Friends Across the Border” is contained in the magazine implies our exclusion.”
Letters such as these and suggestions from even our Canadian readership have frequently caused us to rethink the name. The subscription list has been dwindling and just like the L-H we find ourselves wondering how we can reinvent the magazine to reach out to the larger community of those of Icelandic descent and, in general, anyone with an interest in our community.
At recent editorial board meetings much discussion has gone into how to go about broadening that interest base. By using the name The Icelandic Canadian it was felt we were discouraging fellow Americans and other international readers from subscribing.
The discussions followed as to what would be a more suitable name. The culmination resulted in the board’s consensus to rename our magazine the Icelandic Connection (with acknowledgement to Bill Perlmutter for the new name proposal).
The new name will appear with the first publication of the 2010 year: Volume 64, issue 1. We hope this renaming will appeal to a wider audience. Name change notwithstanding; we guarantee that the quality of our literary journal will continue and we most certainly expect to survive for many more years to come.