In the late 1970s, I was the assistant editor at Lögberg-Heimskringla, the Icelandic newspaper in Winnipeg. The hyphenated title references the marriage of two publications dating back to the late 1800s. Heimskringla was founded in 1886, and Lögberg in 1888; the two newspapers amalgamated in 1959.
At the time of my employment, the paper’s content was one-half Icelandic and one-half English. I was responsible for the English half.
When I first began working there, the newspaper’s office was located at the rear of a building owned by Gardar Gardarson on St. Anne’s Road in Winnipeg. Gardar was one of the only, if not THE only, Manitoba printers using Icelandic type.
The editor at the time was Jón Ásgeirsson, who had moved temporarily to Canada with his wife to manage the paper. The other employee was Emily Benjaminson, whose husband’s cousin was married to my father-in-law’s cousin. It’s a small world, they say, and for Icelanders in Manitoba, it is even smaller. In 1986, Emily was the Íslendingadagurinn Fjallkona, and I still have the commemorative photo she sent me.
The newspaper came out weekly in those days. Now it comes out on the 1st and 15th of each month and is completely in English. I had previously worked at a daily newspaper and found the pace of a weekly paper slow in comparison. Decades later, I wonder how we got all that work done week after week.
Mondays and Tuesdays were spent writing and preparing the content for that week’s issue. On Wednesdays, we would give it all to Gardar, who would produce that week’s paper. Then on Thursday, Emily and I began the enormous task of affixing address labels for subscribers and bundling all the papers according to postal and zip codes. If I remember correctly, there was a five-p.m. deadline to get them to the Winnipeg main post office and Jon had the job of transporting them there.
The paper went all over Canada and the United States, and I learned the names of Icelandic communities throughout the continent. – Elfros, Foam Lake, Churchbridge in Saskatchewan; Seattle and Blaine in Washington; Mountain, North Dakota; Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and many more. And, of course, all the Manitoba cities and towns, many of which I already knew. I was particularly interested in the Saskatchewan communities since my paternal grandmother lived there as a child and in Mountain, ND, where she was born.
Friday was always a slow day since we now had six whole days until we had to send off the next paper.
Part way through my time with the paper, Gardar Gardarson sold the Winnipeg building and moved to Arborg, a rural community about an hour and a half northwest of the city.
Logberg-Heimskringla was forced to move and found a new location on Lombard Avenue downtown near Winnipeg’s famed Portage and Main intersection.
Our routine changed. Now Jon needed to spend time on Wednesdays driving out to Arborg and then picking up printed papers at the city bus depot so that Emily and I could bundle them.
The Islendingadagurinn issue was usually larger than others and we spent time finding both editorial and advertising copy for its pages. Once the annual event held in Gimli over the August long weekend was over, however, Logberg-Heimskringla went on hiatus until September.
The new office on Lombard shared floor space with an architectural firm in which Terry Tergesen was a partner. Years later, Terry and his wife Lorna would return to Gimli and the landmark store Terry’s family-owned. For many years, Lorna has been involved with the content and publication of Icelandic Connection, a quarterly publication formerly known as Icelandic Canadian.
Some of the Icelandic Connection board (left to right, Avery Simundsson, fiction editor; Lorna Tergesen, secretary and former managing editor; Elin Thordarson, managing editor, myself, contributor; Stefan Jonasson, contributor and Logberg-Heimskringla editor; Rick Loftson, treasurer. Taken August 2020
I have continued to submit stories to Logberg-Heimskringla until the present day. Most recently, I wrote brief columns about my adventures in Icelandic class and what I learned in an Icelandic folklore class hosted remotely via Zoom during the height of the COVID pandemic.
I also continue to submit non-fiction book reviews and poetry to Icelandic Connection. In the summer of 2020, I agreed to sit on its board as a contributor.
My work for both publications has taught me much about the ties that bind me to the land of ice and fire. I remember my consternation when I discovered that Canada was spelled with a ‘K” in Icelandic. Until then, the only other language I knew was the French I learned in school and Canada was spelled the same way the English spelled it. I did not know then that, since there is no ‘c’ in the Icelandic alphabet, the letter ‘k’ was a perfectly reasonable alternative.
Decades later, as an Icelandic language student at the University of Manitoba, I went on an in-person tour of the department’s Icelandic library. I found an archived edition of Icelandic Canadian in which a photo and story appeared detailing my new employment at Logberg-Heimskringla. It is strange to see your own picture in a historical exhibit.
A friend recently traveled through rural Saskatchewan and came upon an old school building marked by a plaque. Knowing my background, she sent me pictures. The plaque read:
Mountain School District 1548 – served as the heart of the community from 1906 to 1958. Many of the settlers came from the Icelandic settlement of Mountain, North Dakota, to the Quill Plains seeking new land and opportunities – the name Mountain being the link between what had been and what was to be.
Here again, I see the link between past and present, played out in the geography of my country.
But the most important part of my association with North American Icelandic groups, of course, has been the relationships forged with others. The people I have met and the stories they have told have enriched my life.
And now, I have become a volunteer with Icelandic Roots, a new connection binding me to my past and linking me to a future with cousins I haven’t yet met and stories I haven’t yet heard.