“One February morning, in sub-zero weather …”
At the end of the last instalment I posted of Augusta’s memoir, she and her family were starting to feel the effects of the Great Depression. Her husband John had taken back his old job at a reduced salary rather than relocate to New York City when his company’s local premises closed.
As you might guess, we’re nearing the end of the story now. There are only one or two posts to come.
We sold our car and our new lot, and moved to Springfield where we first lived in a small rented apartment, then the first floor of a large house where the owners were fine Swedish people, and finally were able to buy a small house with money we had saved from the sale of our Waterbury house and lot in Watertown. The house in Springfield was in a desirable location with woods behind us and a lake nearby, and we learned to love it.
Although we had much less money now and the depression had lowered the spirits of Americans and brought real hardships to many people, we thought we were lucky. We had our own house, John had a job, our son had a good teaching position, and our daughter at this time by means of scholarships and church jobs as an organist was able to remain at Yale and finish her musical training, later obtaining a teaching position at the Utica Country Day School in Utica, N. Y.
So our lives continued. John read in his study and enlarged his life in this way, and I found many customers for my dressmaking.
In Springfield there was a Swedish Lutheran church we could attend. When we moved to Watertown we had to give up our Swedish connections, and instead we joined the Episcopal church there. We were happy to find a Swedish church in Springfield, but it was a great disappointment. We attended this church regularly, and our daughter was confirmed into the Swedish faith, but we were very unhappy in this church. The people in it did not attempt to adapt themselves to American life. They refused to learn a new language, and were very narrow-minded in every way. John with his liberal views and broad self-education was especially unhappy. The minister was very young, and rigid in his views on every subject.
The utter dreariness of this church and its views on religious faith defeated us, and we left it and joined a non-Swedish Congregational church which we found very congenial. It had been difficult to break with our Swedish church life, but this church did not seem to have anything in common with the warmth and loving relationships of our little church in Sturup in Sweden or the Swedish Lutheran Church in Waterbury which had been the center of our lives for so many years. We had not grown away from our Swedish upbringing, but we had grown away from the narrow minds we found in this particular church. There was no other Swedish Lutheran church in Springfield.
It was heartbreaking to us to make this break, our last real tie with our homeland. We felt the loss deeply, but knew we had made the right decision. Gradually we came to enjoy Springfield very much, made new friends, and appreciated the advantages of living in a large city. We found it clean and attractive. It often reminded me of Malmö. We adjusted to our new life and surroundings, and our daughter had four fine years in Springfield’s Classical High School before going on to the Yale School of Music. And our years together went on as happily as ever.
Suddenly they ended. One February morning, in sub-zero weather, my husband, who loved exercise and always walked to his work, a distance of a mile, went there as usual, entered the building, walked up the stairs, and fell down dead. It was February 3, 1936. His death was caused, the doctor said, by over-exertion in the intense cold. The shock was great, for it was entirely unexpected. He had always been very healthy, and there had been no warning signs as far as I knew. My only comfort, apart from my children, was that he had not had to suffer, for it had happened instantly. I could only be thankful for that.
After the funeral and burial in Oak Grove Cemetery in Springfield, where I shall also rest some day, my daughter and I sold the house and furniture, including our fine piano. Then she went back to Yale, and I lived with my son and family in Hamilton, N.Y. while she finished her musical education.
John had been a wonderful husband. We were married 41 years, and stayed in love with each other for our whole married life. He was a kind and loving father to our children, a source of inspiration with his open mind and studious interests.
John should have had the opportunity of living in an academic world. He had had to relinquish his desire for further education and had no formal schooling after he graduated from the eighth grade in Sturup, but he had the gift of a scholarly and inquisitive mind, nurtured entirely by himself. No day passed without his acquiring new knowledge and absorbing it, adding consistently to the great store he amassed during his life. He explored philosophies and religions, science and all aspects of nature, and the lives of great people all over the world. He often speculated about life on the moon. He was curious about everything, wanting to know more and more. Compared with him, my life was trivial, but our married life suited us both, and could not have been happier.
After I had lived with my son and his wife for some months, my daughter after graduating from Yale was offered a job as director of music at the Utica Country Day School in Utica, N.Y. She found a little apartment, invited me to live with her, and we had two happy years together, making many friends in an area new to us.
Then she met and married a young Professor of History at Colgate University and moved to Hamilton, N.Y., where her husband bought a fine home that had formerly belonged to the director of music at Colgate, and included a concert grand Steinway piano. In Hamilton she has had a busy musical life, giving many piano lessons, directing choirs and choruses and Gilbert & Sullivan operas. She and her husband have a fine son, Truman Hylander Rockwood. He and I have a lot of fun together. I call him my best chum.