Emery’s astonishing Norwegian connection
By Tim Lambrinos
Back in 1957, Emery Village was unexpectedly visited by a family from Oslo, Norway. Ivor and Berit Nordenson arrived at a farm in Emery with hopes and dreams of planting new roots with their two young children. In the 1940’s, the couple had previously been able to experience their first sample of farm life at Ivor’s parents’ Norwegian farm.
Ivor and Berit Nordenson had suffered greatly as a result of uncivilized treatment during WWII. Norway was invaded by the German Occupational Army and food and clothing were rationed to all citizens.
After the war ended, Ivor Nordenson worked as a printer and lithographer. In 1946, the young couple gave birth to their first child, a boy named Kjell. In 1954, a girl followed named Vera. The Nordensons lived comfortably in Oslo but Ivor had grander visions in mind for his young family.
Ivor and Berit decided to satisfy their deep-seated curiosity and together they joined in a colossal mission to widen their horizons and go to Canada.
For some time, Ivor had considered moving his entire family to Ottawa. An opportunity arose where he could work on a farm in Emery and he jumped at the chance to relocate to Canada.
It was on a cold April day in 1957 that the Nordensons said farewell to Norway with only enough cash to purchase a return ticket home. They arrived in Gander, Newfoundland with their two children. By this time, Kjell was eleven years old and Vera three.
Upon arriving at their destination point in Emery Village, the Nordenson family were accepted by the community. They anticipated working on the farm of Richard and Mae Storer. Evelyn Thomas was already working as a bookkeeper at Storer’s plant. She had responded to a Toronto Star ad saying, “if you are intelligent, can manage a plant office, like fresh air, sunshine and cows, please contact us.”
The Nordensons were placed in George Usher’s original farmhouse about 400 metres west of Finch and Weston Road. Usher came from a family of 16 children and was a deeply religious man. He had three children; Fannie, Joe and Fred. Usher constructed the buildings on the farm up on a hill to what is now Finch and Jayzel. Unknown to the Nordensons, the entire property had been marked for looming demolition and neighbourhood development. Once she moved her family into the farmhouse, it was clear to Berit that no one had lived in the farmhouse for some time as cobwebs were abundant and filth seemed everywhere. Kjell began attending the Emery Public School at Finch and Weston Road. His teacher was Mr. Ferris who went the extra mile in assisting Kjell with English as a second language. The landowner was Richard Henry Storer who operated Rivalda Farms. The name Rivalda was created by joining the first two letters of Richard’s name to his wife’s name, Hilda (Mae). By 1957, Storer’s parcel expanded to include all immediate lands south of Finch. Storer already had a dozen employees working at his printing plant named Associated Advertising. The company was located near his house where Goldpine Crescent intersects Windhill Crescent today.
Ivor’s job on the farm would be to milk cows, about 50 of them. He started work every day at 6 a.m. Dick and Mary Veerbeek had already arrived in Emery from Holland with their own hopes of a small beginning. The Veerbeeks, along with their two red-headed boys, were placed in a farmhouse close to where Emery Collegiate stands today. Dick worked alongside Ivor milking cows and driving a tractor.
Margaret and John Gray lived just west of the Esso gas station at Finch and Weston Road and became dear friends of the Nordensons. Mr. Riley was a nearby resident of Weston Road at Finch who served as a manager for Richard Storer’s operation. The Rileys first came to Emery from Peterborough and were a prominent family in Emery for almost a century. At the time, other neighbouring families near the main intersection of Emery or along Finch were Rowntree, McClure, Glendenning, Seeds, Middleton, Hermansen, Storer, Usher, Gray, Pitman, Riley, Devins, Ella, Cooke, Duck, Rose, Truman and Hoover.
Within a year of the Nordensons arriving, Richard Storer sold his entire farm for an impending housing development and moved his well-to-do printing business to a brand new building at 160 Rivalda Road. Storer relocated his Rivalda Farm operation to a farm north of Steeles on the west side of Weston Road.
In 1958, the Nordensons moved to Rexdale south of Albion and Kipling to work on another farm operated by a man named Peter. Lastly, Ivor Nordenson was able to find trade work as printer at Arthur Press in Weston. On the very spot where the Nordensons lived in Emery are now two six storey yellow brick apartment buildings. The buildings were built in 1959 and are known as the Finch Main Gardens’ apartment buildings. Initially, these rental units were built to provide accommodation for families of construction workers building factories north of Finch.
These days, Berit Nordenson is 98 years young and recently paid a visit to the land she resided on when she first came to Emery. Revisiting the land was a result of her son Kjell tracing all the connections that they remember from this period of their lives.
On the day of their visit, Steve Cutts was on hand to proudly pose for an historic photograph alongside the Nordensons. He is the current building Superintendent of the Finch Main Gardens’ apartment buildings.