Violet Carlson Brandt
Life and Work
Violet (Carlson) Brandt’s parents were both born in Spannarp, Halland, Sweden: Arthur on May 24, 1890, and Anna on February 2, 1889. Arthur left on his own for Canada in March 1912, the trip taking approximately two weeks. He had made the decision to immigrate because his close friend had earlier immigrated to Canada and had been employed upon his arrival. It seemed the best and most logical choice for Arthur, since there was a shortage of land for the sons. It was customary for Swedish parents to divide their land amongst their children so they are able to start their own farm and it had become impossible to divide up only ten acres of land between thirteen children. Anna departed from Sweden in April 1913 to join Arthur just over a year later. They had left their two-year-old daughter, Elsa, with relatives in Sweden until a new home had been established and she was able to join them. Arthur and Anna wed as soon as she arrived in Canada, on April 21, 1913. Violet was born August 6, 1918 on a farm in Bittern Lake District.
The Carlson farm was established about seven miles north-west of Bittern Lake and Violet spent most of her life on a farm. Food was simple, but good – eggs, milk, cream, potatoes, homemade bread, and a garden full of vegetables in the summer. Although the harvest would be bountiful, they also had to endure hailstorms, which would come across the lake from the west. They nicknamed it ‘Hailstone Alley’. Violet and her siblings – Elsa, Evert, twins Dae and Marg, Lennart, Helmer, and Vernon – spent much of their childhood helping their parents around the farm. Violet’s chore was to bring the cows from the pasture to milking every night, and then return them to the pasture in the morning, enjoying the delights of the effort in bare feet. As a teenager, Violet was a player on the local softball team, the Central Community Red Wings, for four years. The team consisted of Vetra Peterson, Emma Burkhardt, June Fieldhaber, Angela Olson, Agnes and Ellen Linden, Francis and Irene Lindgren, and Violet. She also attended many community dances and participated in several plays in the country, starting when she was 17. They were often directed by her teacher, Mrs. Cartwright. There were few forms of entertainment in the country, as well as a lack of big cultural events due to the different heritages that settled in the area.
When she was about twenty, Violet left the farm to work at a hospital in Banff, Alberta for four months. To prepare herself for the working world during the war, she took a secretarial course at Alberta College in Edmonton. After graduating in 1941, she proceeded to work at the Treasury Branch in Wetaskiwin for three years. When she was 24, she also worked at the South Side Treasury Branch in Edmonton for about ten months. In 1943, she married Earl Milton Brandt and moved to their farm in the Central Community Area. Violet worked at Montgomery’s Department Store at two different times, the first during the 60s, when she would drive into town from the farm, and pick up alterations to be fixed at home, and the second after 1969 when she moved into town. She continued to sew clothing for people, especially wedding dresses and bridal party outfits. Earl Brandt grew up about five miles from Violet’s home farm. They met at community dances and eventually married when she was twenty-five. At that time, she was considered a spinster because she was unmarried at that age. Earl and Violet owned a quarter of land, and although the farm was a lot of hard work, things had changed because power and water became readily accessible. Although they did not have any children, they did have many nieces, nephews, and friends with whom they were close and who called Violet ‘Auntie’. Relatives from Sweden would also come to visit, and would often stay with Violet and Earl enjoying her delicious baking and warm hospitality. Her second cousin, Rosemary, frequently came to visit from the ‘Old Country’. Violet’s family had many traditions, a significant part of their celebrations being the customary Swedish foods that were used by her parents. Violet’s family, on the Carlson side, had the tradition of Christmas Eve as the biggest holiday event. A large meal was prepared with as many family members as possible attending. The main course included pork, beets, Swedish meatballs, and Sil, a type of pickled canned herring. Swedish tea- rings, lefse, rice pudding, fruit soup, and thimble cookies were also served. Christmas Day was spent with Earl’s family, on the Brandt side.
Violet contributed greatly to the community. She was passionate about singing and from the 60s to the 90s she belonged to the Sweet Adelines, the United Church Choir, and the Community Choir in that order. She was also very passionate about sewing and started when she was only six years old standing at a treadle machine. Violet recalls a time when she had run a needle through her finger. Her mother, a seamstress, had been sure that this would cause her to quit, but she never did. She started by making doll clothes, but her natural ability was quickly revealed. Violet was only fourteen when she did her first alteration. She then started to sew clothes for her family and friends, custom-made garments inspired by catalogue pictures. She made nearly all of her own clothes, as well as most of her sisters’ garments. She also volunteered to sew costumes for the Sweet Adelines, the Community Choir, and the Choralaires. Violet never had a tape measure until she was married, and she never used a pattern until she and Earl moved to Wetaskiwin in 1969. Even though she did get an electric sewing machine in 1957, she has said that she prefers to use her more ‘old-fashioned’ machine. Violet’s favourite garments to sew were wedding outfits, especially wedding dresses. She was often invited to the wedding that she sewed for, and it always gave her great satisfaction to please the brides and watch her creations worn down the aisle. She sewed her first wedding dress when she was about twenty-seven, for her niece, Virginia Torstensen. She even sewed a dress for a bride in California. The bride had mailed her measurements to Violet, and she made the dress with absolutely no fittings or alterations. As it turned out, the dress had fit the bride perfectly. Violet was so busy sewing wedding outfits for other people that when it was her turn to walk down the aisle, she couldn’t be bothered to make her own dress. Instead, she bought her wedding dress from a store. Although it was hard to place a number, Violet believes she has sewn for hundreds of people and sewn about a thousand garments in her lifetime. Even though she did not belong to any sewing clubs, she did teach a group of about ten girls how to sew, and she believes that many of them continue to sew well into their adult years.
Violet belonged to some community clubs: the Social Credit Club, along with Earl, the Homemaker’s Club, and they enjoyed modern square dancing together. The Homemaker’s Club was an embroidery and knitting group that started as part of the Red Cross during World War II. Violet’s extensive artistic abilities allowed her to create beautiful embroidery, crocheting, and needlework and petit point works. She was one of the original members of the club, which started in 1943, and stayed involved until she moved into Wetaskiwin in 1969. Since Earl’s death in 1983, Violet has found it very lonely, though she still has kept busy with sewing and handwork. The last long wedding dress that she sewed, in 1997, is her favourite and most special. It was for her great-niece, Janel Holte. Although she does not sew wedding dresses anymore, she continues to alter clothing for herself and a special friend. Violet has always been very artistic in other areas, as well. Art was her favourite class when she was in school, as she has always loved to paint and draw. Over the years, she has done several oil paintings and has even donated one to The Heritage Museum, a fall scene featuring a stream that she painted in 1968. Violet has also spent hours upon hours creating spectacular needlepoint and petit-point pictures. Her precise needlework skills have produced stunning life-like images such as flourishing flowers and the delicate features of ‘Pinkie’ and ‘The Blue Boy’. Her skills are obvious in the fine features of both human and natural subjects. She has created six large needlepoint pictures as well as many smaller petit-point pictures that have been given to friends and family across the country and in Sweden.
Violet was also an extraordinary baker and was known for her cinnamon rolls. Her nieces and nephews would flock to her home whenever she baked, and she adored the company. Before she moved into her apartment at Sunrise, her neighbour requested that Violet bake them for her one last time. While she was visiting her relatives in Sweden, she baked rhubarb pie since she said they have never tasted – or even heard of – a pie before. She has visited many places during her life including Mexico, England, and Sweden five times. During her travels, she would often stay with friends, although in Sweden she would stay with great aunts and cousins.
For her birthdays, recently Violet has tried to experience something new for each one. There seemed to be a consistent theme throughout the last decade of trying to drive unusual modes of transportation. For her 84th, it was a semi-truck; on her 85th, she drove a Columbine tractor, though her 86th birthday was exceptional. She was able to ride in a STARS helicopter. They taught her how to take off, as well as manoeuvre in the air, but the pilot landed it for her. And most recently, on her 92nd birthday, she drove an ATV around in the country. Violet was well-known for her tremendous generosity amongst friends and family. One friend of Violet, who was previously her neighbour, recalled many times when she and her husband would return from church on Sunday to a batch of her legendary cinnamon rolls sitting on the cupboard, awaiting them. Violet was the kind of friend who always made herself available whenever someone was in need. She had always been very quiet, allowing her actions to speak louder than words when it came to her friendships. Although she tended to be shy in large group settings, her light-hearted personality always shone through when around one or two close friends. She is also very close to her friends’ children – and now their children’s offspring – and always treats them as her own. She will forever be known to them as Auntie Vi.
Compiled in 2011.