A Dedicated Scandophile: Friends

Of all the assorted -philes in the world, the one that describes me best is Scandophile, someone who appreciates the nuances of Scandinavian culture. In this post, I list a number of friends of Scandinavian origin, who I met in New Westminster to the end of 1972.

I tell people that i grew up in a Norwegian ghetto in New Westminster, on the banks of the Fraser River. Before the fishing fleet was relocated across the river to Surrey and Delta, many fishermen of Norwegian origins lived in New Westminster. With the fleet relocation, many moved to larger, but less expensive, houses across the river.

One of my strongest childhood memories is lying on a polar bear rug at the home of Brian Ottosen. He moved across the river to Delta, and it was more difficult to keep up contact. With origins in Sunnmøre in the west of Norway, his father ran a salmon cannery.

I have only to touch my forehead to be reminded of another childhood friend, Ralph Sather. His father was a boat builder, not from the Norwegian coast but from Lunner, near Oslo. Many years ago now, I visited Ralph’s aging mother (who came from Halden), shortly before she died, and had a conversation with her in Norwegian. She spoke a very formal language, very distant from what is spoken today.

Perhaps my closest friend of Norwegian origin was Arnold Bårdsen, a salmon fisherman who refused to eat fish. His parents had come from Harstad. In economically good years he would spend lavishly. He drove a Ford Thunderbird, and owned the largest and loudest high fidelity systems I have ever experienced.

During my junior high school years, one of my best friends was of Icelandic origins, Steve Scheving, older brother of Doug Scheving, who was a good friend of my sister. Steve became a city planner for the city of New Westminster. Steve’s major interest was military history, but a form of history that put great emphasis on numerical values. Doug’s major interest was gold. Both Scheving children were born in Manitoba, but only arrived in New Westminster when I started at junior high.

In 1972, I became good friends Clarence (Olaf) Olafsson, who was born in Winnipeg. After serving in the Canadian Army in Europe, at the end of World War 2, he became a language teacher. I met him hosting firesides celebrating the Baha’i Faith, in New Westminster. One project we worked on together was building the Upset, a Sabot dinghy.

I didn’t have any friends of Danish or Finnish origins, but one with Swedish roots, Rick Ericson, whose father owned and operated two laundromats in north Burnaby. I was always surprised how much income these two locations generated. Rick was probably my best friend during my last two years of secondary school. He lived beyond McBride Blvd, first in Sapperton, then in Massey Heights, which was being developed at the time. He studied education at UBC.