Loyla Henriette Von Osten Ohmer
February 21, 1900 – December 18, 1977
By Judy and Susan Ohmer, granddaughters
Loyla was one of the first children in Petersburg, arriving in 1903 with her father Captain Von Oston, when she was only three. They sailed to Alaska when the town of Petersburg was not much older than she was. Her father purchased a house, and the two of them returned to Tacoma to get the rest of the family.
When Loyla, her little sister Edna, and parents Henriette and Carl Von Osten settled in Petersburg, the Norwegian language was commonly heard on the streets. Loyla’s mother was of Norwegian heritage and her father of German/Prussian, so there was a comfort in calling the developing Scandinavian town home.
As young girls, Loyla and Edna enjoyed their dollhouse furniture, setting it up in different ways and telling stories of life. They also treasured their Noah’s ark with the carved wooden animals. As they grew, they learned the homemaking and handicrafts skills necessary for a self-sustaining lifestyle: sewing, knitting, cooking/baking, preserving, laundry, cleaning, and gathering the harvest (various berries, clams, etc. which were so plentiful in Petersburg).
Loyla married Earl Nicholas Ohmer in 1918. They reared four children, Bob, Dave, Jim, and Patti.
In addition to her own family, Loyla also cooked for the cannery mechanic, the assistant mechanic, his wife and baby who lived with the Ohmers for several years. The baby was born in the front bedroom because somebody in the hospital had measles, and they were trying to avoid exposure to the disease. Dinner was served and grace was said at 5:30 each evening. Those who were not seated at that point got to clear the table, wash and dry the dishes, and clean up the kitchen. The women made clothes for all the children.
In the summertime Loyla and the children headed for “Bum’s Retreat” at Green Rocks across from Papkee’s Landing. They left for the cabin the day after school got out and didn’t come back until the day before school started, except for a trip to town for the Fourth of July parade and celebration. They packed water from the creek and recycled it through dishes and bathes until it was finally used on the garden. They referred to the outhouse at “Bum’s Retreat” as “Bum’s Relief.” Earl would join them every weekend aboard The Jim, bringing guests and fresh foods from town. In keeping with their family tradition, he would prepare salmon Indian style, as it was called, with the side of fish standing up in the fire on a stick.
In both the spring and fall, picnicking at Sandy Beach was popular. They pulled a wagon over the boardwalk and enjoyed the changing colors of the muskeg at the different times of year. Berry picking was often a part of the adventure, depending on the season. Blueberries, huckleberries, salmonberries, and cranberries were profuse. At Sandy Beach there were clams to dig – and nobody could fry pink-necked clams better – crispy on the outside and succulent inside.
At Christmastime, Loyla organized the children to fill over 100 decorated boxes with candy and nuts to give to the cannery workers. Colorful ribbon candy was a favorite. Another holiday treat was pitting dates, filling them with walnuts and rolling them in powdered sugar. Loyla baked walnut bread that was especially good as toast.
And she made melt-in-your-mouth Berliner Kranse using her favorite recipe:
- 8 egg yolks (4 hard and 4 raw)
- 1 pound butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 6 cups flour
Press sugar and hardboiled yolks together. Add raw yolks and mix well. Work in butter and flour. Chill overnight. Pinch off a small portion and roll the size of little finger. Shape into small ring and lap end over each other, pinching together. Dip in beaten egg whites and then into granulated sugar. Bake at 400 degrees until light brown.
Loyla had many interests. She enjoyed gardening, especially for an early spring bloom of daffodils and narcissi. And she loved to pick cranberries in the fall. She grew rhubarb to supply the many requests for her famous Rhubarb Cream Pie with Mile High Meringue. She was an avid bridge player, meeting every Friday in a different friends home. She was also enthusiastic about solitaire, playing many varieties, among them “free cell.” She was an animated member of community theatrical productions presented at the Sons of Norway. She liked the stage and the entertainment it provided for the town. Loyla was active in Eastern Star and in the Women of the Moose. She collected ceramic Siamese cats, displaying them on a mirrored shelf in her livingroom.
She was active with many handiworks. She wove afghans on a loom and crocheted the squares together. She knit mittens, caps, and sweaters, and she braided rugs from wool strips she’d made from old shirts and pants.
When she wasn’t busy with family and community activities, Loyla loved to travel. She visited in California, Canada, and Bryce Canyon, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and even further north into interior Alaska. She visited her father in New York who had retired to Long Island to make sails, returning with gifts he’d made for her children – tents and saddlebags for their bikes complete with snaps. In later years she visited extended family in Norway.
After Earl Ohmer’s death in 1955, Loyla married Eiler Wikan. They lived in a cottage at the end of what was called “Lutheran Hill” with a field of daffodils in the front yard. On Sunday’s after church they would make Swedish pancakes for the grandchildren. And in the winter they made potato balls for dinner, carrying on the Norwegian tradition they both loved. They had a cookie drawer, the special place for store-bought treats that the grandchildren loved to raid. And she still made Berliner Kranse.