Frida (Johnson) Vollmin




Life and Work

Frida Lucille Johnson was born on December 21, 1898, in Canby, Minnesota. Her parents, Syver and Annie Johnson, were of Scandinavian heritage and the family had four boys (Frank, Rudy, Sydney, and Charlie) and four girls (Stella, Dolly, Selma and Frida). As a young girl, Frida moved with her family to Alberta, where they settled in the Sundre area.

At one point, the family ran a boarding house
in Calgary and it is believed that Frida met her husband there. Julius Vollmin was born in Bazil, Switzerland and had come to Canada to work and seek his fortune. After they were married, Frida and Julius had six sons together: Charlie, Ross, Leslie, Chester, Robert and Sidney. Tragedy struck the young family in 1929 when Julius and son Leslie both died within six weeks of each other of complications from influenza. Julius was only 34 years old at the time of his death and had been in charge of the new abattoir of the Drumheller Meat Market Ltd. Left alone with five sons to raise, Frida moved to the McDougal Flats area to be nearer to her family.

Frida had only a small widow's pension and an insurance policy to live on, but soon found jobs that helped provide for her boys. She was janitor at the McDougal Flats School which paid $5 per month. Another source of income was from laundering the coveralls and heavy coats of the creamery workers of Sundre. Jim Vincent, who owned the Bearberry Store, went to town every Monday for supplies and would deliver the clean clothes and bring the next batch to be scrubbed by hand on the old scrub board. Frida also found time to have a big garden, pick berries, preserve her produce and can meat. One neighbour family had many children and when twins were added, Frida did washing for them in exchange for beef for her own children. She canned it so it would last.

Frida walked everywhere in the early days and thought nothing of walking from McDougal Flats to Westward Ho or Bergen to help out when anyone was sick or needed help, doing laundry for them and packing up some of her own preserves to share with them. Frida's Christian faith was strong and she worked hard to teach the children, having Sunday School in her home, then at McDougal Flats and even walked to Sundre to have classes in the old Red Hall. Frida was strongly against drinking and gambling, no cards were played in her house. Her boys were brought up to be hard working, doing all the chores required to keep the wood chopped and water hauled. Everyone was poor in the early days, but sharing and neighbourliness and hard work sustained them. Frida helped others and in turn was assisted in her struggle to raise her sons.

In her later years, Frida lived with son Chester and his wife Florence for four years and then in Didsbury Auxiliary for the last four years of her life. Frida passed away on February 21, 1983 in Didsbury at the age of 84 years. Her tireless care of friends and neighbours and her boundless pioneer spirit will be remembered by her family and friends of the Sundre area.


Letter of Appreciation by Florence Vollmin

All alone out here after Chester and I were married in October 1947, I had no family so Granny was my second mom. She belonged to the Salvation Army in Drumheller, bringing her boys up in the Army, too. While in Orillia, Ontario my family also belonged to the Salvation Army. So we had that in common to start with.

Being I drove, Granny and I would go to different church activities and shopping. We were always together, doing this or that.
She always showed her Christianity in whatever she did.
She kept my two oldest girls (Sharon and Betty, 11 months apart), right after I came home with Betty from hospital. I had to go back to the hospital in Olds. So, I sure appreciated my baby sitter. My children were quite often in her care, and they loved her for who she was.

Betty and I, and Betty's girls, Billie Jo and Jennifer, would go to Didsbury Auxiliary once a week to see her. And Granny sure looked forward to seeing us.

So, she has put a great memory in my life, as to what a Christian should be. If I faltered in my duties being a Christian, she was there for me to put me straight: that I appreciated, and her, too.

I loved her very much, and at the end of life for her, she portrayed her love and thanks to me, which I was so appreciative of; and I knew all I had done for her the four years she lived with us was worth it all.

"We love you Granny, and appreciated you very much".