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Norman C. Lindhjem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Changing of the Guard

by Molly E. K. McGrath

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 Association.

Three 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.

On 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.

The 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,

We 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.

After 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?

Norm 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?

"If 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.

Norm 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 reform.

We 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.

Norm 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.

I 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.

As 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 signature giggle.


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.

We 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 them.

As 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.

"Well," 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 them.

A 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.

In 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)

"Charlie 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.

Andy's 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. Elisabeth Achelis.

But 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."

After 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."

"There it is!" cried Norm, caught up in Andy's speech.

Andy 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."

I 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.

As 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.

When 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.

When 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 regrets.

"Gee. 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.

His 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 her life."

Then 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.

"Norm, 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.

After 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.

I 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?

Norm’s 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.

As 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 to understand.

Next 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.

There 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.

Next 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?

The 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.

Norm 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.

I 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?

Norm 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.

It 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 me, chanting:


“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 her.)

How 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.

 

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Last updated 18 January 2013