A Reform Sampler 

Selections from a Norwegian Language Newspaper, 1898-1941 
Book Cover: A Reform Sampler

1998, Waldemar Ager Association Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
ISBN 0-9667319-0-5
Selected and translated into English by Genevieve Hagen & Alf Hjemboe, with an introduction by Tim Hirsch


One of the many hats that Waldemar T. Ager wore was the editorship of Reform, a Norwegian language temperance newspaper which he managed and edited from 1896 until his death in 1941. Father of nine, author of numerous novels and story collections, frequent traveler on the lecture circuit, Ager nevertheless was able to turn out an edition of Reform each week for a large number of subscribers. As Tim Hirsch writes in his introduction to A Reform Sampler:

"Waldemar Ager's voice rang out from the pages of Reform for more than four decades--a rare span of time for one voice so thoroughly to dominate a publication. Both Ager and Reform succeeded for so long because he was both an able promoter and an exceptionally forceful and eloquent writer. As I read through the pages of this collection, I find myself engaged, amused, persuaded. In part, because of the clarity and strength of his convictions, Ager's writing is also clear and forceful. Even in translation, one can hear his cleverness with words and syntax. He uses satire very effectively, and his metaphors are fresh and inventive. He tells good stories. He gives his readers many issues to think about, to talk about, even when they did not agree with his position. Ager also seems to have a good nose for a story strong in human interest, stories that generate compassion, ethnic pride or indignation. It is no surprise that thousands of folks eagerly awaited the arrival of Reform each week."

Excerpts

4 January, 1898
Mrs. Hannah Gould and 64 other ladies, whereof several are experienced nurses and mission workers, left on the 25th of December from New York on the steamboat "City of Columbus." Their destination is Klondike. Mrs. Gould plans to build a hospital and mission house at Dawson City. The population of this so-much talked about city at the present consists of 11 women and 3,000 men.

1 November, 1904                                 The Weaker Sex?
Chippewa Falls girls have always been considered with respect, and more will be hereafter when it is known that a horseback riding girl just outside of town stopped three men and with a revolver in hand forced them to turn over the little money they had in their pockets. The weaker sex? Yes, yes, but such!

21 February, 1905
Vagabonds in Eau Claire have now received an assignment to remove the snow from the streets. They are really competent, too, especially when the sheriff is around.

27 June, 1905
Vermont must be a poor state to be hanged in. For a long time the authorities have messed around with hanging a Mrs. Roberts who was found to be guilty of having killed her spouse. Several times the platform has been raised and taken down again. The thinking across the country is so set against hanging a woman that it has been set aside from time to time while the authorities found excuses for postponement. Her case will now be taken up by the top leadership.

The death sentence is so barbaric and wicked that it has doomed itself. There will come the day when man will shrink from officially putting to death anyone, whether man or woman. Our time, of course, has other methods of punishment whereby society's wild animals can be rendered harmless. The public death punishments only produce brutalization.

19 February, 1907
Eau Claire      Wm. J. Bryan spoke last Monday evening at the Opera House about his trip around the world. The theater was quite well filled. Bryan is recognized as one of our country's greatest political speakers, but as a lecturer he hardly came up to what most people had expected. He began his speech by saying that he had learned tremendously much from this trip, but as he progressed, it seemed that he indicated that he hadn't learned so much after all. He continually drew a comparison between what others have and what we have. And that is neither wise nor helpful. According to that, no river in Europe--even the Rhine--was as beautiful as the Columbia River. No lake, even in Switzerland, was as beautiful as Lake Tahoe; with an exception, almost no mountain as the Rocky Mountains; and he could well have continued in this course by saying that in the whole wide world he had not found a woman of any race that he liked any better than his own wife.

30 April, 1907
A new police alarm system has been installed here in the city. It is a telephone box with a large bell. When the desk sergeant at the station wishes to make a connection with one of the policemen, the alarm bell will call the policeman to the telephone. The Patrol Force will periodically make contact with these telephone boxes. Policeman Branstad is named as the desk sergeant.

28 April, 1908                                Luther Hospital
So then, Luther Hospital is ready to accept patients. It was opened for visiting on Monday and Tuesday of this week and several hundred were there to make use of the opportunity.

Completely ready, it is not. The larger sickrooms are not yet furnished. The furnishings have not yet arrived. The sterilizing room will undoubtedly be ready today or tomorrow, but otherwise it is, of course, completed.

The kitchen is in the basement, with large iceboxes, eating room for the nurses, storage room, etc., besides the central heating. [. . .] On the third floor we find the surgery rooms. They are at the north end of the building and are equipped with skylights.

10 October, 1916                                Political Name-Calling
While we hyphenated Americans are very careful in our expressions about the country's president, and never forget to speak of him with the respect a person owes the country's leader, we find that real Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt under these difficult times can stand in front of thousands and brand Wilson as a coward, a turncoat, a hypocrite, one who has dragged down the Civil Service, is untrustworthy in his word, an opportunist in politics, one whose policy has been "bluster and hypocrisy."

He gave a lecture Saturday to 30,000 people in Battle Creek, Michigan, and made use of the occasion to express himself as above. However, there are enough here in the land who thank God that Wilson is not Roosevelt and president during these difficult times. But if Roosevelt had been a German-American and presented such talk about the country's president, he would have stood in danger of being lynched.

10 September, 1931
The "Canners' League" in California dumped eight million peaches in order to bring up the price of peaches. In Alaska, salmon is being dumped, 40,000 on one occasion, to help the "times for fisherman." Brazil and the U.S. will trade wheat for coffee since neither has money to buy. Dr. Aasgaard, president of the Norwegian Lutheran Church, called on congregations to help the unemployed and others who are suffering in their communities through these years of depression.

21 July, 1938                                Changing Times
We are reminded that we live in a new time where everything is changing. I can recall the discussion that took place in Chicago when the horse-drawn street cars were going to be replaced on Milwaukee Ave. There were two methods suggested. A cable underground or an electric wire above ground--a trolley system. The cable was chosen and later changed to a trolley after forty years of use. Now they too will be discarded. The motor bus will take their place.

The phonograph was yet only a play-thing. Then came change after change. Telegraph without wire, moving pictures and talking pictures. A radio in almost every home. In a hut on the prairie one can hear the president speaking to a gathering in one of the eastern cities, hear an orchestra concert from New York, Philadelphia or San Francisco.

And before long one will be able to enjoy the scenery where someone is speaking. One can perform an opera that takes place in New York or Chicago or even a thousand miles away. Nothing seems impossible anymore.

Ordering Your Copy

A Reform Sampler costs $10.00 per copy plus $2.50 postage. To order, please specify the number of copies and send a check or money order to:

The Waldemar Ager Association
P.O. Box 1742
Eau Claire, WI 54702