It was a busy time, getting ready for that party. We were all excited and hopeful. We hoped that we would get a good crowd.
I was lucky enough to travel to Winnipeg for the event, and many of us spent the entire previous day decorating the newspaper’s office on Portage Avenue.
Vi Hilton picked me up that morning, and off we went to the office. When we arrived, we found Linda Hammersley and Pat Odegard already hard at work, dusting the decorations on the shelves. Soon, Garry Oddleifson and Peter Johnson came in.
Peter was carrying several bottles of Brennivín for the party, and I took that as a very good sign. Dan Snidal appeared with a beautiful silver samovar and all the makings for the coffee, and then rushed back to work. Balloons, flowers, and ribbons. Vi’s tasteful elegance came through at every turn.
All the while, Audrey and Catherine tried to do their regular work with us rushing around them, and often had to stop to help us with one thing or another. When we left that night, we thought we were pretty much ready for the next day. Only last minute things remained to be done. Rúllupylsa and brown bread from Palsson Family Foods remained to be sliced, and other foods prepared and set out. The 125th Birthday Celebration of the Lögberg-Heimskringla newspaper was almost upon us.
On the day of the party, the Icelandic community definitely came through. There were lots of people, and in addition many greetings were sent in. Some were read aloud. President of the Board, Grant Stefanson, did a great job as master of ceremonies. He is definitely in his element at this sort of event.
Samples of greetings read aloud to the party-goers:
From Valdine G. Johnson:“The heads of our family as I think of them now, were my parents John and Olina Johnson, who were married in 1920. The only newspapers they had at that time were the two newspapers Lögberg and Heimskringla. 91 years later, there are still some of their descendants who take the newspaper. One of the descendants is very much involved in the Board and writing for the paper, and two people have strong attachments to Icelandic organizations which have attachments to Lögberg-Heimskringla. One of the fifth generation attended Icelandic camp this summer. As a family, we still feel a deep connection to the newspaper. I will be pleased to attend the 125th birthday celebration of the Lögberg-Heimskringla, and to hear about the history of the paper.”
From Dr Allan M Johnson and Joanne Fredrickson DiCosimo:
“Congratulations to Lögberg-Heimskringla on its 125th anniversary of publishing a newspaper for the Icelandic community in North America. I first subscribed to Lögberg-Heimskringla in the 1980s, when Bob Oleson was Chairman of the Board. Bob convinced me that it was very important for us, as descendants, to ensure that this vehicle for communication among Icelanders in North America be kept viable. I have been a subscriber ever since. His rationale was and is compelling. When I was in my early teens, I remember the Heimskringla, in Icelandic, arriving in our home. It was read cover to cover by folks who had very little formal education themselves, but who had a very high value for the written word and for learning. This inspired me to continue my own education. Heimskringla commenced publication on September 9, 1886 and four years later, in July, 1890, Gestur Palsson arrived in Winnipeg to become co-editor with Eggert Johannsson. Gestur had been Poet Laureate of Iceland, and was a first cousin of my wife’s (Joanne Fredrickson of Winnipegosis, MB) great-grandmother, Sigríður Petursdóttir. A large stone memorial stands on a hillside near Miðhus, his home in the West Fjords, to commemorate Gestur as Poet Laureate (Skald). My wife, Joanne and I send our sincere best wishes to the Lögberg-Heimskringla on this 125th anniversary.”
A message from the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter of the IODE:
“Greetings to the Lögberg-Heimskringla from the Jon Sigurdsson Chapter IODE on the occasion of this 125th Birthday Celebration. Lögberg-Heimskringla re-mains the single most important conduit for North Americans of Icelandic descent. The paper informs, reports, and connects events and news from both sides of the ocean, keeping third, fourth, and fifth generations in North America aware of their shared cultural heritage. Lögberg-Heimskringla is fortunate to have good governance and at the same time a management team fully capable of running a smooth operation. Both entities work in cooperation to produce a lively, interesting bi-weekly paper. To 125 years of a continuously published ethnic newspaper. Congratulations!”
During the interludes in speeches, attendees were offered brown bread and rúllupylsa, fruit and cheese, pönnukökur and vínarterta, and they could help themselves to kaffi and molasykur. If they were really brave, they could have a shot of Brennivín. Later in the ceremony, the special 125th birthday cake was cut, while The Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra’s Richard Gillis played the jazz trumpet to Happy Birthday, from the mezzanine.
We were entertained by the Sólskrikjan choir, directed by Kerrine Wilson. Kerrine is a professional musician, teaching, accompanying, performing, and directing more than one choir. The choir was originally formed by Ingrid Slobodian and Dorothy Christofferson-Tygat about two years ago, because none of the local choirs were singing in the Icelandic language. They sung four Icelandic songs – Nú yfir heiði háa, a riding song; Sú rödd var svo fögor, a song about the songbird sólskrikjan;Hvað er svo glatt, a well know song about getting together with friends; and Undir dalanna sól, under the valley sun. The choir sounded beautiful singing from up on the mezzanine floor.
During the party, former editor / now film-maker Caelum Vatnsdal worked on filming the event for “MTS on Demand”. Caelum received a grant for this film, after having sent in three proposals. Lögberg-Heimskringla was the lucky winner. In addition, Peter Johnson donated video equipment so that we will have a permanent video record of the day. For some reason, the video shows me all dressed up, but continually carrying a plastic bag around with me! I have no idea what was in that bag, but I guess that is how I will go down in history.
As part of the anniversary of the oldest surviving ethnic newspaper published in Canada, Lögberg-Heimskringla had made up plaques for those advertisers that were with us then, and are still with us now. Eirik Bardal accepted the plaque for Neil Bardal, Inc. The Bardals are the longest continuing advertisers in our history, beginning in 1894. Other plaques will be distributed to the two Betel Homes in Gimli and Selkirk, H. P. Tergesen and Sons Store, Gilbart Funeral Home, Thor’s Meats, Tip Top Foods and Icelandair.
Special guests in attendance were Norwegian Consulate Natalie Denesovych, who made a speech, and Danish Consulate Helle Zeidler Wilson. Wendy Hart represented the Press Club. Wendy had previously presented Lögberg-Heimskringla with a magazine that included the history of the Club, as well as the long history of our newspaper. In her research, Ms. Hart discovered that Lögberg and Heimskringla preceded the formation of the Press Club. We were honoured to have Grant Nordman, City Councillor St. Charles Ward, and Peter Bjornson, MLA Gimli present. Peter Johnson and Tim Samson each spoke about aspects of the successful application from the paper’s endowment fund with the Winnipeg Foundation, and about the future of the paper. Their speeches also appear in this issue.
For all of us who attended the party, for all of us who helped in many and various ways with the party and for all of us – who sent messages of congratulations to the party, our Icelandic North American community was especially dear to us on the evening of October 13, 2011. May that spirit live on and thrive for another 125 years.