Well, I’ll finally admit it. Some days, I feel old.
By the time many of you read this, I will have reached my 75th birthday. Admittedly, that won’t seem all that old to some readers – I’ve met many who’ve surpassed that age by quite a few years. For me, though, it’s a milestone.
I don’t come from a long line of age achievers – not on the Haglund side of things, at least.
You see, when I reached the age of 70 about five years ago, I became the first Haglund male to live that long since 1948. That was the age reached then by my Grandfather Andrew Haglund, who immigrated from Sweden around the turn of the last century.
During those long-ago years, Grandpa Haglund found that emigrating from his home was just about the only sensible economical thing to do. My Great-Grandfather – his name was Klockar Per Persson – had seven sons. He owned a small farm in Insjon, Sweden, and it was customary at that time to pass that farm down to his sons. Of course, that meant dividing the farm seven ways, which made absolutely no sense economically.
So, my Grandfather packed what few belongings he could fit in an immigrant’s trunk and made the trip to America, a land he’d never seen. After about two weeks aboard a ship, he landed at the Port of Philadelphia and found he couldn’t even bring his name into the new country. No, officials at the port decided that he should not come into the country with a Swedish name and, without any other reason, changed his name to the more American name of Andrew.
Now, I have a grandson with the name “Anders Haglund” and I know my Grandfather would be proud.
Wearing his new name, my Grandfather finally stepped out of the Port of Philadelphia after two weeks’ indoctrination.
Of course, he knew nothing of his new homeland other than the stories he’d heard in Sweden. He’d read about all the opportunities the new country offered and intended to travel to Denver, Colo. On the train, he met another Swedish immigrant and they sat together on the long rail voyage inland. His newly-met friend was heading to Stratford and he tried to talk my Grandfather into settling in Iowa as well.
It wasn’t until the train finally pulled into Stratford, though, that fate intervened and my family grew in Iowa. When Grandpa stepped off the train in Stratford, he stepped off into mud that covered his shoes.
“By jiminy,” he thought (I’m sure his thoughts were in Swedish, but he’d come to use that new term quite often in later years), “if they can’t even afford planks for people to step on when they get off the train, well, there must be lots of opportunity here.”
Up and down the wooden sidewalks in Stratford, my Grandfather paced. He’d told his folks back home that he was headed for Colorado. The more he walked the planks, however, he saw opportunity and, when the train left for points west, Anders (now Andrew) Haglund stood and watched it pull out of Stratford.
If he ever had second thoughts, he never said. He set out to learn English as quickly as possible and refused to use his native tongue even when pressed to do so by his children and grandchildren. He was a proud American. He relented only a bit from his new language later when his grandson found a Pen Pal in Malmo, Sweden as part of a sophomore English class assignment.
I corresponded with Hans Johannesson for more than a year; I think we both out-grew the letter-writing when girls, baseball and basketball became more important. But, I asked my Grandfather to help me with a few Swedish words; I wanted to impress my new Pen Pal. So, he did. I learned how to say, “Jag ar en litten pojke. Jag ga til skolan.” Although, several “umlats” are missing, that translates to: “I am a little boy. I walk to school.”
Grandpa was 87 when he died in 1965. He got to see me play the best basketball game I ever played in high school. He got to see me pitch a baseball game. He got to see me in my Army uniform, which my mother later told me, made him very proud.
I remember that because I’d like to think I’m on my way to that age one day, not one day soon, however. But, things might be stacked against me. My uncle Daniel was only 52 when he died in 1960. My dad was only 44 when he died in 1963 – just a week after I’d graduated from Waldorf College. My only brother, Roger, died in 2000 – he was two years younger than I and 54 when he took his last breath.
So, as far as the Haglunds go, at least those who came to this country from Insjon, Sweden, I’m the oldest. And, that’s something I don’t want to give up anytime soon.