Every single day we go to different places, talk to different
people about different things, walk at different speeds,
and we even breathe differently. No two days are the same,
and no two dates are the same, either. Every date is different
than the one before it, because the year keeps count for
us. In The World Calendar then, although January first
will always be a Sunday, the year will always be different,
so that no two dates are exactly the same. No one, certainly,
could therefore argue against The World Calendar for its
static quality, or dismiss it because of a desire for
a calendar that allows unique days. The World Calendar
could help us bring order and stability to our lives,
without losing the charm of the Gregorian calendar: that
the dates are never the same. What an epiphany to have
today, I smiled to myself, since this is my first day
as the new director of The International World Calendar
days earlier, on Thursday, October 26th, I was on my way
to Bend, Oregon. It was going to be an exhausting day.
Somehow I knew my bags wouldn't make it to Portland. At
least all of my interview stuff was in my other carry-on.
We were off-first from Providence, next to Chicago, then
Kansas City to change planes after a three hour layover,
then at last we touched down in Portland. This kind of
hopping around meant I had to change my watch not just
once, but twice. Traveling is perhaps the best way to
screw up your sense of time.
the long flight segments, I wrote down interview questions
to pose to Norman C. Lindhjem, so I would feel better
prepared to meet the Director of The International World
Calendar Association, who I would see for the first time
the very next day. I drafted many questions because I
would be spending almost three days with the Lindhjems
at their home in central Oregon. I wished Elisabeth could
see me on my way to meet the man who carried on her crusade.
I was sure that if she could see me, she would be as proud
of me as I'd grown so proud of this relative I'd never
known, and then no other quest could be more natural.
drive was a tumultuous experience for me. I arrived at
the edge of Bend around six, just as twilight petered
out. Before we even stepped into the house, we began to
talk. I felt as though I'd known this man for a long time;
that we'd corresponded for much longer than the past twelve
months. Norm and Barbara moved to Bend from Portland,
where they'd lived all of their lives. Norm and Barbara
spend much of each year roaming around the West in their
RV, camping, hiking, skiing, and fly fishing all over
the West from Jackson Hole to remote corners of Alaska,
seeing their two daughters along the way. Fifty-three
years since they are still together and closer than ever,
were about to start dinner, but Norm wasn't ready quite
yet to sit down again. He still had much more to show
me, and so he led me to the study to see a gorgeous brass
clock that tells time all over the world by displaying
the hours on a huge dial surrounded by country names.
Norm told me that this clock had been a gift to him from
Charlotte Clay-Ireland, president of the Association until
Norm took over for her in 1991. Barbara had gotten the
clock to work again, and had scraped an ugly, white coat
of paint to reveal its original mahogany casing. It was
a beautiful and remarkable piece of engineering.
dinner Norm and I retired to the living room, when Norm,
with a twinkle in his eye and a sideways look, asked me
if I would take over The World Calendar Association. I
was stunned, but I knew this was coming. Didn't I?
said shyly that I was certainly the logical choice. He
then said, raising his voice and his chin with more conviction,
that I was the natural choice. "I never dreamed that
I would get to meet a relative of Miss Elisabeth Achelis,
Molly, and that you're here now, right in our living room…"
he trailed off, not needing more words just then. Instead
he watched my face, and I knew I was smiling kindly at
him, but I was also thinking ferociously. I saw suddenly
that this was the purpose of my trip; this was the reason
Norm had been inviting me here in every letter for the
past six months. I wasn't surprised when Norm asked me,
though; in fact I could have recited these words right
along with him. What was I going to say back to him?
only Elisabeth could see us now," we both wished
out loud simultaneously.
I realized all at once that I had just been given the
chance to make these wonderful people extremely happy
and to honor my relative's memory. But I also wanted to
do it. It seemed to be the right thing to do, but I wanted
to do it for the right reasons.
and I were soon again caught up in the rush brought on
by the joining of two calendrical minds. Norm jumped up
from the couch, and returned a few seconds later with
his latest collection of letters. Two were from the Ukraine,
one from China, two from Russia. They were all written
by people interested in learning more about The World
Calendar who wished to share their ideas for calendar
studied the letters. One contained months painted brightly
with watercolors by a Ukrainian calendar enthusiast. "How
do you handle these letters, Norm?" I asked, hoping
to learn what kind of correspondence he, as Director,
kept with these people, most of whom wrote to him in their
own languages. Norm explained to me that he had paid a
Central Oregon Community College professor eleven cents
a word to translate the Russian for him until he decided
he couldn't afford to do it anymore. He told me that he
"Photostatted," as he put it, the return addresses
and pasted them to the fronts of envelopes, and mailed
each of them a form letter he'd written, which explained
sweetly that an English translation would be most helpful.
"How many letters do you get back again, translated?"
I inquired, trying again to understand how much effort
went into this part of his job. "One, so far, from
a French fella," he said, somewhat ruefully. Maybe,
just maybe, I could handle the necessary leadership. I
realized that the role of had changed since Elisabeth's
day. Whereas Elisabeth Achelis had traveled the world
meeting with the leaders of all civilized nations to promote
her calendar, Norman C. Lindhjem received letters to his
post office box that he could not read, from people he
would never meet.
got up again, still restless, excited, this time going
to get a 11 x 14 picture frame, within which glued on
a blue mat was a small Russian flag, an American flag,
a gorgeously penned poem and a picture of a man who looked
distinctly Russian. Norm told me he had framed and matted
these materials himself, and that this man was an astronomer
with whom he had been corresponding for years. I saw that
a bond had formed between them- the Russian wrote the
poem expressly for Norm-and I felt terribly conflicted.
would have to believe wholeheartedly in The World Calendar
and I would need to work with the same passionate zeal
that gripped all of the previous directors to push tirelessly
for worldwide calendar reform. I did want to make Norm
happy and I wanted the honor of carrying on Elisabeth's
torch. And, having read through countless books and newspaper
articles about The World Calendar, not to mention the
tens of thousands of pieces of correspondence in the 269
boxes that Elisabeth had donated to the Library of Congress
in 1956, I knew I was no longer apathetic. This calendar
was indeed a good deal better than our current calendar.
I really did believe that we would be much better off
if we adopted it for regular, civic use.
Norm, Bobbie and I sat on the living room couch, Norm
unveiled a “calendar caddy” for me. I was
charmed easily by the creativity of its inventor. Constructed
of cardboard, the height and breadth of a shoebox and
only slightly shorter in length, the caddy was covered
in little paper cutouts of the Gregorian calendar changing
into The World Calendar by 2006. Norm had cut out a circle
wide enough to hold pencils, pens and a ruler, and a wooden
block on top perched in front of this well. This block
was just a model, to be replaced by my real clock at home,
Norm explained. While I admired it as best I could, truthfully
I was dumbstruck by the limitless scope of creativity
this man possessed. When I complimented Norm on his neatness,
he teased me, pointing to a stack of papers stacked neatly
on the coffee table. "Well, I'm a pilot, didn't you
know? I pile it everywhere!" Norwegian humor, I was
finding, is a bit tough to take, but the twinkle in Norm's
eye makes it worth it, especially when coupled with his
After breakfast the next day, Norm came with me to a local
store, where I needed to go to get a back-up recorder.
Mine was not working properly, and I had a feeling that
the upcoming interviewing would be too good to miss. Before
I would interview Norm formally, I would get the chance
to talk with Andy Whipple, reporter for the Bend Bulletin.
Norm had invited him to join us for lunch, and Andy, who
has written several articles endorsing The World Calendar
and profiling Norm, had obliged.
found the recorder I wanted, and returned just in time
to meet Andy Whipple, one of the sharpest journalists
it has ever been my pleasure to know. Andy had just had
back surgery so he wore a brace, has red hair pulled away
from his temples and softly bushy in back, wore jeans
and a work shirt. He was somewhat soft-spoken and sharply
intelligent, and he clearly loved the Lindhjems, and I
felt at ease with him instantly seeing his respect for
we continued our discussion over lunch, I indicated my
recorder on the table. Andy said he didn't mind being
recorded at all and so it was possible for me to steer
us into talking about Andy's involvement with The World
Calendar. First I asked him how he had met Norm.
Andy said, "he came into the Bulletin with The World
Calendar Association press kit.”
It was quite a heap of it-" Norm interjected, explaining
how he had brought a booklet in to Bob Chandler, the well
loved and extremely well respected managing editor of
the Bulletin, who has since passed away. Mr. Chandler
invited Norm to come with him to a meeting with all of
the staff editors and writers, and see how the stories
for that day's paper were to be developed. Andy Whipple
was in the room, and after the meeting Mr. Chandler introduced
year or so later, Andy's first article on the World Calendar
appeared in the Bend newspaper. Norm was on vacation with
Bobbie, but when they returned home friends told them
his picture had been in the paper. "My picture's
in the paper?" Norm remembers inquiring. This article
was later released by the Associated Press, and a calendar
enthusiast from Seattle read it. Meanwhile, in 1995 Rick
McCarty, a professor at East Carolina University set up
a website on calendar reform, and in September 1996, he
started a listserv for calendar enthusiasts, one of whom
was the man who had read the AP piece about Norm. Rick
McCarty and Norm then got in contact, and Rick posted
The World Calendar on his site. In 1999, I found Rick's
site, which listed Norm as the Association contact, and
so, we all chuckled, Andy Whipple is really responsible
for my being there at all. Andy humbly corrected this,
though, saying that I was there because of Elisabeth.
his article Andy recounts the history of the Association,
noting that when Elisabeth died in 1973, American Railroad
Association bigwig Arthur J. Hills took over, and after
a few years as president he passed it to Charles Clay,
who died in 1980, leaving it with his daughter, Charlotte.
(Correction added 2 May 2006: From
a report in the Journal of Calendar Reform (Vol. 25, page
192), A.J. Hills succeeded Elisabeth Achelis on 16 January
1956 at the Ninth Annual Meeting of The World Calendar
Association - International.-wer)
was a great dad," wrote Norm to me. In 1991 Charlotte
gave the 25 boxes of IWCA archives and active files to
Norm and Bobbie, who'd driven up to Ontario with a truck
and trailer to retrieve it from her.
article also outlined how Norm had come to get interested
in calendar reform. In the 1960s a co-worker showed him
a pocket calendar that listed all fourteen cycles of the
Gregorian calendar for each year of the twentieth century.
Norm developed this further adding a wheel to it so that
the years spun for added convenience. Then he went to
the Multnomah County Public Library in Portland to see
if he could discover why we still used this messy arrangement
of fourteen different calendars. The first book he picked
off the shelves was The Calendar for Everybody, by Ms.
how did Andy go from simply reporting a story on The World
Calendar to endorsing it? "Well," Andy told
us, thoughtfully, "on the one hand, it's such a good
idea you can't ignore it, on the other hand, implementing
it is the challenge. And it's sort of ironic that something
as practical and as simple and as money-saving and as
logical…would be so difficult to implement."
a bit I asked Andy if global adoption of The World Calendar
happened, how might he imagine it had happened? "Through
the Internet," Andy stated, this time without any
hesitation. This seemed to make a good deal of sense to
me, considering I had found it online, as did most of
the people who wrote to Norm. "Andy's article was
all about how the Internet can make it happen," Norm
added. Next Andy fished for the right words, "The
Internet is democracy, a very refined form of democracy;
it's also chaos. It's beyond being regulated, but in my
opinion, it's also going to open up China. It's also free.
It's also fast. It's instantaneous."
it is!" cried Norm, caught up in Andy's speech.
continued, "Look, we've all had that experience where
you get something that comes from someplace you've never
even heard of, and yet it finds you. Well, sure enough
as Norm found his way to me, The World Calendar can find
its way to everyone."
wanted to get to know Andy even better, now that he'd
given me a taste of his mind, and Norm and Bobbie said
they were up for an adventure, so we left the warm home
hospitality for the desert cold, headed for a tour of
the new Bulletin building.
we drove to the paper, Andy said to me, "You should
be proud of yourself. Norm and Bobbie are so happy you
decided to come. It took two full days for me to take
in the fact that you were coming. It means so much; and
you are certainly the logical next choice." When
I confessed that I was nervous about taking over and had
doubts about whether I would do a good thing by it, Andy
told me I already had done a very fine thing indeed. In
that instance I knew I had decided what to do, but I would
wait to tell Norm and Bobbie. I did tell Andy then, though.
we got home I read in the Bend history book while Norm
read my draft chapter on The World Calendar and Elisabeth
Achelis. Bobbie read from the Saturday Bulletin. I recorded
a good deal of my last day with Norm and Bobbie on the
little micro-cassette tape recorder. I was glad I bought
it; the interview was a gem. Norm answered all of my questions
well. The first ones were easy - background stuff, and
Norm had told me a lot of it again.
I asked, "What do you consider to be the biggest
mistake of your life?" When I asked Norm this question,
he was really stumped. Not because he couldn't think of
any lifetime mistakes, but because he had clearly never
thought of his life in that way. This was a man with no
I'm always looking for tomorrow. I mean, there's always
something, bigger, better…and I'm not finished yet!
Today is done. It's gone!" his voice rose to nearly
a shriek, in pitch, not in volume. He confided to me,
leaning toward me to help imprint his next statement on
me. "You gotta move from this day to the next. To
tomorrow!" This was the kind of tenet he lived by,
and he believed in it deeply and thoroughly. He had spoken
this way when we talked about calendar reform, and now
I saw he lived this way, too.
hands reached for me. "…The most wonderful,"
his eyes filled "…and hopefully the person
that will continue the legacy of her great-great-next-of-kin,"
he sat up, threw his arms out straight, "…spread
Elisabeth's giving to the world," he brought his
arms around and clasped his hands together so that he
made a big circle, "…and all that she had in
he shrunk into the couch, spent. "She was just a
wonderful lady…changed my life. Ms. Achelis changed
my life!" Now I was dumbfounded. I said nothing,
just realizing that over the past few days Norm had put
everything out there for me to see, and now I saw how
much it all meant to him.
Bobbie," time seemed to stop altogether then, "I
would be honored and deeply touched to take over for you."
Before I had finished, they were screaming, their wet
faces touching mine, and we were all standing on our knees
on the couch, falling over one another, hugging and laughing.
about a minute of this, we pulled ourselves together,
and now we were ready to go to the garage. I would no
longer be just a casual observer of what I would find
there, but instead I would enter the garage to look at
the archives through the eyes of the director of the association
that kept those records.
followed Norm into the garage. Surrounding me, in boxes,
on shelves, and sprawled out on the cement floor, was
the material evidence of how much of Norm's heart and
soul he had invested for the past ten years. What have
I gotten myself into? This thought, which had been abstract
and kind of fun to entertain when it had just been a hypothetical,
was now real. I no longer wondered about whether or not
I could do this-I was doing this-but how would it be done?
What kind of a director would I be?
hands shook while he unrolled one collection of calendars,
held them out to me in silence, making me judge for myself
the importance of what I was seeing. They were wall calendars
from gas stations; one from 1916, the year he was born,
which he had found and bought at an antique store for
$19; and many others from countries around the world.
"On most of the international calendars," Norm
pointed out, "the week begins on a Monday and ends
on Sunday." This made good sense, I thought, for
a business calendar, and I wondered if The World Calendar
shouldn't begin this way. It doesn't, and this simple
change might throw its advocates into a tizzy. I was in
a tizzy myself.
Norm marched me around the garage, I couldn't quite comprehend
what I was seeing. Even when I asked him to explain the
objects and documents he paraded in front of me in a couple
of different ways, I just couldn't grasp it all. One thing
was this ordinary deck of cards, to which he had glued
his business card, one side of which displays The World
Calendar (I am going to need to get some of those, I worried,
distractedly), to the back of the playing cards. This
so far I understood; a fine marketing idea, I thought.
But another deck of cards were glued together on a foam
backboard, to form the weeks of The World Calendar, and
Norm had written numbers on a third deck to represent
the number of days in a year. This I didn't get. He explained
it was a game for children; they could put the cards together
like a jigsaw puzzle and learn the simple math of The
World Calendar at the same time. I was confused, but I
admired his mind, and just decided I was too overwhelmed
he showed me a poster board, onto which he had typed up
all of the calendars that would lead us to 2006, the next
possible date to start the World Calendar. This demonstrated
how many calendars we would need until we could finally
use just one. Then he opened the tin box.
lay his original calendar counters. The ones that he made
that had inspired his initial interest in The World Calendar.
They were constructed simply; cardboard boxes without
fronts of backs, through which he had cut holes for sticks
to run down the length of the boxes, which rolled paper
months over them the way a player piano's music sheets
rolled continually. Like the Bulletin printing press,
too, I thought. This man had the same kind of mind as
did Gutenberg. Another hole in the cardboard revealed
the day of the year for any of several years, which was
rolled along on a small spinning wheel. He watched my
reaction carefully, and I tried my best to show him how
ingenious they were, but I was sure no amount of enthusiasm
on my part could equal his pride.
we walked over to two ceiling-high cabinets. He'd had
to buy them, Norm explained, when Bobbie and he arrived
back with the trailer load of stuff he had inherited from
Charlotte Clay-Ireland, since he hadn't adequate space
in the huge garage without them. I could see why. One
bulging cabinet held fourteen huge cardboard boxes in
all, each one overstuffed with old correspondence from
each of the three previous presidents, plus newspaper
clippings and other stuff Norm and I could only scratch
our heads and wonder about. What would I do with all of
these old boxes and their files, mostly decayed with age
and tattered with travel and re-organization?
other cabinet shelved countless books, including twenty-two
of the twenty-five issues of the Journal of Calendar Reform.
Norm handed me a short stack of manila folders, his hands
shaking-he'd photocopied issues one through three. He
told me he had given Rick McCarty, the professor whose
website on calendar reform I stumbled across when I first
looked up Elisabeth Achelis on the Internet, the original
issues so that East Carolina University could have a complete
set. When Elisabeth had been president, she had donated
the Journal to many, many university libraries. I had
read them all myself over the course of a dozen or so
afternoons at the Mugar Library of Boston University.
also had a copy of each of Elisabeth's books, plus old
books about time that had traveled from president to president
to president. The shelves also sustained his own store
of books that he felt were relevant-including a Newt Gingrich
biography, Tom Brokaw's book, Bill Gates', Cokie Roberts',
Nicholas Negroponte's, Jimmy Carter's and a host of others.
Norm had typed up a bibliography of the books in chronological
order, and had sent me this bibliography long ago in one
of our first letters, and so it was marvelous to see them
all there for real. I put most of them in an empty box,
to be shipped to me. I love books and certainly could
not resist these ones. These books were such a treasure
since many were rare, some would be invaluable to me for
my research, and all should undoubtedly be in the possession
of the Association Director.
had to make some quick decisions about how to handle all
of this stuff. The towering, six-drawer filing cabinet
held all of his own correspondences since becoming president
in 1991. I knew suddenly exactly how to handle all of
the written documents. I would donate them to the Library
of Congress. They already had all of the stuff through
Elisabeth's presidency, so why shouldn't they also keep
the archives through the reigns of A.J. Hills, Charles
Clay, Charlotte Clay-Ireland and Norman Lindhjem?
didn't show that he cared much if I gave the stuff to
the Library of Congress, and though I was sure he would
mind if I told him I was flushing it all down the toilet,
I think he had already placed his trust in me to handle
it all just right. This was nice to perceive, but weighty.
I knew I had done the right thing. I understood what it
must have been like for them when they received my first
letter detailing my kinship with Elisabeth and my interest
in The World Calendar Association. They had been so worried
about it’s future.
was soon time for me to go. I didn't know if I would be
a good director, but I was glad I had accepted the post.
I knew I would always be thinking of the wonderful people
who stood by the perfect calendar. Echoing across the
lake, I hear the chorus of past presidents, smiling at
“Good luck, my brave Darling!
You are a very wonderful person.
Never despair, but stride strongly into your future.
You will win laurels for your integrity,
Your kindness, and your intelligence.“
(From a Charles Clay wrote the following to his daughter
Charlotte when he knew he was leaving the presidency to
could I go wrong? The cause is valiant, the people make
it so, and besides, the World Calendar makes sense. Although
I will try to see that it does, The World Calendar may
not bring world peace, but it brought the Lindhjems peace,
and I hope Charlie Clay, A.J. Hills, and Elisabeth Achelis
are resting in peace, secure in the knowledge that The
World Calendar Association is alive and well.
notify TWCA of the context in which you use any content
from this page. Thank you!