Interview with Mrs. Carrie Abrahamson



Recorded on June 5, 1987 at Jubilee Lodge, Prince George, British Columbia. The interviewer is Thea Stewart. Carrie Abrahamson was born in Norway. She cane from a family of six; herself, one sister and four brothers. She married her first husband in Norway. He was a pharmacist of some sort, that is she mentions mining. He and a friend decided to immigrate to Canada to go West. They came straight to Prince George and he worked in the bush. She followed in the mid 1920's. She came here alone leaving all her family behind and only returned to Norway once in 1975 for a visit with her son, Jack London. Carrie entered fully into he life in Prince George and has no regrets in leaving her native country. I wasn't able to learn much about her second husband. Her first husband was called Louis London. He died in 1958. There were two children Jack and lngrid. Jack was a well known and well loved personality in Prince George and died tragically at the age of fifty nine in February of 1987. His wife Jean still lives here. Their daughter Ingrid is now Ingrid Whyte and lives here too. Mrs. Abrahamson's second husband was, of course, Mr. Abrahamson and he died in 1966. Carrie Abrahamson is now a resident at Jubilee Lodge, Prince George Regional Hospital.




 Stewart: Could you tell me something about your early days in Prince George?


Abrahamson: I don't know really if I can.

Stewart: When did you arrive?

Abrahamson: I arrived in Prince George in 1924.

Stewart: Where did you come from?

Abrahamson: I came from Norway direct to Prince George.

Stewart: Why did you come to Prince George?

Abrahamson: Because I was married in the old country to a Norwegian who came to Canada and of course, l came over to join him in 1924.

Stewart: You were already married when you came?

Abrahamson: Yes, he married me in 1923 and he came over herewith a friend of his and I came in 1924. He sent for me afterwards and I came in 1924.

Stewart: Did your husband have work in the lumber industry?

Abrahamson: He worked in Dewey, east of here. He worked in a bush. He was a chemist in the mine in Norway. I couldn't understand why in the world he would want to go in the bush.

Stewart: Did you ever find out?

Abrahamson: No, just a friend and him were talking and they wanted to go to Canada. Of course, coming to Canada meant going to the bush to work. He couldn't work as a chemist in the mine because he couldn't speak English,

Stewart: What was your first impression of Prince George when you arrived in the twenties? Was it a surprise to you?

Abrahamson: Yes, it really was. There were about three thousand people here at that time. That was quite a few people for a little town like Prince George.

Stewart: Did you come from a big town in Norway?

Abrahamson: No, but my husband came from a larger place down close to Osier in Norway.

Stewart: You left your parents and family in Norway?

Abrahamson: That's right.

Stewart: Your husband's name was Louis London?

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: Where did you live when you came to Prince George? You had a house on Third Avenue at one time?

Abrahamson: No, I didn't have a house on Third Avenue. I lived upstairs in the big building on the corner of Third Avenue and Vancouver Street.

Stewart: Was it an apartment?

Abrahamson: No. There was a theatre on the first floor.

Stewart: The Princess Theatre and you lived above it?

Abrahamson: Yes, right on the corner where I could look all the way down to George Street.

Stewart: You couldn't nowadays. There would be too many buildings. You could see right down to George Street. You had two children, a boy and a girl?

Abrahamson: Jack London was my first child and just passed away the other day.

Stewart: Do you mind talking about him?

Abrahamson: No,

Stewart: He was a very wonderful person. He was well loved in Prince George.

Abrahamson: He was born here and grew up here. He went to school and took all his education here.

 Stewart: He was in business here?

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: Did he have a men's clothing store?

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: Carmichael's?

Abrahamson: Him and Mr. Carmichael had a store together.

Stewart: He worked as Education Officer for the School District?

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: I'm sure that you know that everybody loved him. They said he was a ray of sunshine on a gray day. He said hello to everybody.

Abrahamson: He was friendly. Everybody seemed to like him because he was so friendly, an ordinary person.

Stewart: Your daughter, Ingrid, is still in Prince George?

Abrahamson: Ingrid, yes, she lives in Prince George. She is married to Glen Whyte and Glen is the Manager for a business downtown.

Stewart: Did you often go back to Norway after you came to Canada?

Abrahamson: I went back only once. Jack, my son, and I went home in 1975.

Stewart: You were bringing up your family during the depression years in the thirties. Was that very difficult?

Abrahamson: I didn't find it difficult. We didn't have all the fancy things of course.

Stewart: Then the Second World War came. Did any of your family join up?

Abrahamson: No. Jack was too young. I didn't have to go through that.

Stewart: What did you do for entertainment as a young mother?

Abrahamson: Played cards. We played poker too. I loved and played bridge. I had a big round table that we sat around and played poker.

Stewart: I know because l was interviewing Jane Kennedy and she told me that you had one phrase, "I always know when I'm licked."

Abrahamson: Yes, that was fun.

Stewart: Who else did you play with?

Abrahamson: One lady named Fran Boyd; Jane, of course; Mrs. White from Quesnel; the Whites that used to have the cafe down by the Bank of Montreal. She's dead now, of course. There was always somebody.

Stewart: You had fun?

Abrahamson: Yes, we had lots of fun. We used to enjoy ourselves. We had a real good time, not much money, but we did have fun. In those days you could enjoy yourself without spending money all the time. It's different now. It costs money to have fun.

Stewart: When I grew up, we had no money. We made our own entertainment.

Abrahamson: Yes, that's true.

Stewart: You liked to ski?

Abrahamson: Oh, yes.

Stewart: Can you tell me something about skiing?

Abrahamson: I don't know if there's anything to tell you. I used to ski up in the hills.

Stewart: Was that cross country skiing up in Tabor?

Abrahamson: No. l don't think so. I just put on a pair of skis and went. I skied around the hills and slide down.

Stewart: What kind of skis did you have?

Abrahamson: My skis were quite wide. They weren't narrow like the ones for cross country. They were lovely skis.

Stewart: Was it on Tabor Mountain that you went?

Abrahamson: No, I never went to Tabor Mountain. I went outside my door and put the skis on and took off just around where I lived.

Stewart: Did your children ski with you?

Abrahamson: Yes, the three of us used to ski together. Both Jack and lngrid skied. I just lost Jack the other day. That was a terrible shock. That's the worst thing I ever heard of. He was so nice.

Stewart: Were you a housewife or did you work in the Ranch Bakery?

Abrahamson: No.

Stewart: I thought you helped in the store somewhere?

Abrahamson: No. Where did you get that from?

Stewart: I don't know. Somebody mentioned it and also that you took in boarders. Did you?

Abrahamson: I don't know about taking in boarders. I had friends staying with me. I cooked and they ate with me.

Stewart: When did your first husband die, about the late fifties?

Abrahamson: No.

Stewart: When did you meet Mr. Abrahamson?

Abrahamson: I don't know.

Stewart: Was it in Prince George?

Abrahamson: Yes, of course. I haven't been anywhere else but Prince George.

Stewart:  Did you not go somewhere for holidays?

Abrahamson: I went down to Vancouver and back. We left here and went to California, Los Angeles and went right around to New York. We drove in the car and came back to Montreal.

Stewart: That was a long trip by car!

Abrahamson: That was a long trip but it was a wonderful trip as by car you could see everything. You would get to every town and little place whereas if you fly you don't see anything.

Stewart: Can you remember the make of the car you drove?

Abrahamson: I think it was a Ford that we went in.

Stewart: Where did you do your shopping for clothes? I was told that you were always a very eloquent lady, very well dressed. Did you go to Vancouver?

Abrahamson: No, I did my shopping in Prince George. I can't remember.

Stewart: The Bay or Woodwards? They weren't here then.

Abrahamson: No, not Hudsons Bay or Woodwards.

Stewart: Were they quite good shops?

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: Better than now?

Abrahamson: Yes, it was. I wore good clothes all the time. I never wore anything cheap or shabby. I always had nice clothes.

Stewart: That's what I was told.

Abrahamson: That's true because I wore nice clothes at all times and good clothes. I can't remember the store that l used to shop in.

Stewart: Were they mostly on Third Avenue?

Abrahamson: Yes, on Third Avenue.

Stewart: That was the main street?

Abrahamson: Yes, the main streets were Third Avenue and George Street but Third Avenue was really the main street.

Stewart: With the stores. Were there many hotels?

Abrahamson: There was the Prince George Hotel and the other little hotels.

Stewart: Did you like to dance?

Abrahamson: I used to go to dances. Hedlands who lived out at Six Mile Lake gave a dance every Saturday night. I used to go to the dance out there. It was nice.

Stewart: What was his name?

Abrahamson: Hedlands.

Stewart: Was that where the Sons of Norway hut was?

Abrahamson: They weren't there then but are now. That's where the Sons of Norway is now. That's where we danced on Saturday nights. It was nice by the lake. There was only one awful thing that happened at that time out at the lake. I forget the name of the chap but he had a wife and two little boys. He had gone into Prince George from the lake to pick up something. She wanted to fly all the time. The plane was there and the pilot. She got the pilot to take her and the two boys up in the air and fly around. They flew around for awhile. When you go to land, your eyes can't focus properly on the water and he couldn't tell when the plane was down close enough to straighten out so the plane went into the bottom of the lake. Of course, they were killed.

Stewart: What was the name of the person?

Abrahamson: I can't remember his name. I would only be guessing. They got her and both the boys out af the bottom of the lake. When he came back from town, the three of them were laying on the floor in the cabin down by the water. It was a terrible shock for him.

Stewart: He lost his whole family?

Abrahamson: All three of them, his wife and two little boys.

Stewart: You liked to ski, you liked to dance and you played cards. You were a busy lady?

Abrahamson: Yes, I kept busy.

Stewart: Did you do any ice skating?

Abrahamson: No, l didn't do any ice skating but l did ski.

Stewart: Did you have an accident when you were skiing?

Abrahamson: I don't remember any accident when I was skiing.

Stewart: Do you have grandchildren?

Abrahamson: Yes. Debra Ann is one. She was Jack's daughter. Then l have Thiel. I have a great granddaughter. She is just a little girl, very young. She is my grandson's daughter.

Stewart: Do they come to visit you?

Abrahamson: Yes. They are very good. They come and visit me. I have a very good friend too. Before I came here he used to board and room with us. His name is Arthur Reid.

Stewart: Did he work in Prince George?

Abrahamson: He's a teacher. He is busy. He is very good with the children and they like him too.

Stewart: What schools did your children go to?

Abrahamson: They went to Duchess Park. None of them went to King George V.

Stewart: Did they enjoy school?

Abrahamson: Yes, they never complained about it so they must have enjoyed it. I had no trouble getting them to go. They would get up in the morning and take off to school.

Stewart: Did they walk to school?

Abrahamson: Yes, they didn't have far to go.

Stewart: Were you still living on Third Avenue?

Abrahamson: I didn't live very far from Duchess Park. I just lived down the hill on Tenth Avenue.

Stewart: Did they wear a school uniform?

Abrahamson: No, they did at the Catholic school. My daughter went to school there for awhile with the Sisters. When my husband and I took the long trip all the way to New York, I put Ingrid in the Catholic School with the Sisters as a boarder.

Stewart: And your son?

Abrahamson: Jack stayed home. We sent Ingrid to the Sisters because I wanted her to be all right so nothing would happen.

Stewart: It gave yourself an easy mind so you could enjoy yourself. Do you remember any stories or any funny things that happened or the names of any of your friends during the years?

Abrahamson: One of my friends was Mrs. Whyte who had the cafe next door to the Bank of Montreal.

Stewart: You knew a lot of people because Prince George was such a small place when you first came here.

Abrahamson: When I first came, there were three thousand people here.

Stewart: Now it is sixty seven thousand.

Abrahamson: They were nice people, just like one big family. They were so close. It was so funny when I think about it now.

Stewart: Prince George is a nice place to live.

Abrahamson: I think so. I couldn't live anywhere else and be happy. I love Prince George, Prince George has been good to me too. I have a lot of good friends. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Stewart: Did you speak English when you first came to Prince George?

Abrahamson: I couldn't speak a word of English when l first arrived, not a word. My first husband worked in Dewey. When I cane to Canada, they had to contact my first husband to see if he would be responsible for me so I sat there for a whole week.

Stewart: You sat where?

Abrahamson: In Quebec in the Immigration Hall.

Stewart: You came by boat and waited a whole week?

Abrahamson: A whole week I sat there. There was a Swedish girl too and she wanted to come to Canada. She had a friend in Canada and she had to marry him to come to Canada. She said, "How can l marry you when I don't love you?" She went back to Sweden. She didn't want to come over.

Stewart: You had a husband in Canada so why did they keep you waiting?

Abrahamson: They wanted to find him and make sure he was going to meet me and take care of me. They were very careful in Canada that they didn't get a bunch of people here that they had to look after. After all, they couldn't stand to see them go hungry so they had to feed them. That is what they wanted to get rid of as they didn't want to have to do that.

Stewart: Where did you stay in Quebec? You had no friends?

Abrahamson: In the Immigration Hall,

Stewart: In the Hall?

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: Until they found your husband in the bush?

Abrahamson: Yes. I stayed in the Immigration Hall and l didn't mind. I could never drink milk but there I could drink the milk. I think it was half cream end half milk. It was lovely.

Stewart: There were other people in the same position as you, waiting?

Abrahamson: Yes. There was a Norwegian lady who had sat for a whole week. She had been in Canada but she hadn't become a Canadian citizen. She went home to Norway to visit and coming back she had some time getting into Canada.

Stewart: They were pretty strict in those days?

Abrahamson: Yes, they were.

Stewart: Can you remember the name of the boat you came over on from Norway?

Abrahamson: No.

Stewart: That's a lovely trip from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River up to Quebec, isn't it? Then, did you go by train to Prince George?

Abrahamson:  I came by boat to Quebec as they didn't fly in those days. From Quebec l came on the railroad to Prince George.

Stewart: You found something similar in the countryside here to Norway with all the spruce and fir trees? Did it remind you a bit of home?

Abrahamson: I don't really know.

Stewart: is there anything else you would like to tell me about your life?

Abrahamson: No, I can't think of anything to tell you.

Stewart: You've told me many things already.

Abrahamson: Yes. I can't remember anything else to tell you.

Stewart: Were there many Norwegian people in Prince George?

Abrahamson: No, I don't think so. There was a Swedish family here when I arrived but no Norwegians.

Stewart: There are quite a few now.

Abrahamson: Yes.

Stewart: A friend of mine was giving some Norwegian lessons here so there are quite a few now. Norway seems a long way off to you now?

Abrahamson: Yes, it sure is a long way. My son, Jack and l went home in 1975. Jack wanted to go over and see what it was like so Jack and I went home. We had a wonderful time. Jack was such a nice boy.

Stewart: Did you see many relations and friends in Norway?

Abrahamson: Yes, I will never forget. We flew over to Norway and I'll never forget the plane landing there. When we started to get off the plane, they came running out through the door. They weren't supposed to but they didn't bother, they just kept coming out to meet us as we were coming down from the plane. l will never forget that. They were all so glad to see us. l guess they had given up hope that I would ever go over.

Stewart: Did your parents come to visit you in Prince George?

Abrahamson: No, they didn't.

Stewart: Did you have brothers and sisters?

Abrahamson: Of course, I had brothers and sisters.

Stewart: How many?

Abrahamson: I had one sister.

Stewart: What was her name?

Abrahamson: I had only one sister, that I know.

Stewart: How many brothers?

Abrahamson: Christian, Morton and Halvton and (.....) and  Johanna. I had four brothers.  (transcriber's note: fourth brother may be "John")

Stewart: You didn't mind leaving all your family behind you to come here?

Abrahamson: Yes, I did.

Stewart: You loved your husband so you had to come?

Abrahamson: Yes, I had to come. He had already paid for my ticket. I had a good time in Canada. I'm not sorry that I came to Canada.

Stewart: That is good. I'm sure that you did nice things too. Did you work in the community at all, like the hospital or the library?

Abrahamson: I used to help whenever we had a convention. I had a nice time in Canada. I'm not sorry I came.

Stewart: I see you're interested in the Royal Family?

Abrahamson: Yes, I'm very fond of the Royal Family, Prince George and Princess Diane. That's the next King of England. I guess the Queen won't step down. The Queen won't step down until her other son gets married. He's getting married this summer either July or August so she wants to stay on the throne until he's married.

Stewart: The photograph above your bed? Is that your parents?

Abrahamson: That's my Dad and Mother. Dad was married twice and my mother on this side and his first wife on his right side. That's my Dad and both his wives.

Stewart: What did your father do? Was he in business?

Abrahamson: I don't remember him in business. I don't know what he did, just ordinary work.

Stewart: I think you've had enough Mrs. Abrahamson.

Abrahamson: I think so too.

Stewart: I do thank you very, very much. You've been wonderful. You really have.

 Abrahamson: You're welcome.