Muskoka To-DAILY

Little Norway book stories show how big, the effect the air force training centre had on Muskoka

Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAILY.com

GRAVENHURST — Little Norway wasn’t so small, after all.

Photographer Candace Jones, left, and author Andrea Baston sold and signed dozens of books at the recent launch.

Photographer Candis Jones, left, and author Andrea Baston sold and signed dozens of books at the recent launch, July 8.

Andrea Baston’s latest historical biography is proof.

At the book launch for Exile Air: World War II’s ‘Little Norway’ in Toronto and Muskoka, dozens of people bought the book and shared memories of the air training centre in Canada.

Many of them were firsthand  accounts from on the ground, as well as from the hindsight of 30,000 feet – and a ton of research by Baston and photo editor Candis Jones.

Stories like those of Barbara Chramer and Peter Hvidsten, who are in the book and were at the Gravenhurst Opera House July 8 for the launch.

Her husband and his dad, who had both been in the Norwegian army, escaped Norway with friends after the German invasion. They travelled around the world and eventually arrived in New York City after two months at sea on the Empress of Asia and made their way to Toronto in 1941.

Egil Chramer was a member of the dental corps and Per Hvidsten was an instructor.

Barbara Chramer lives in Caledon now, but was a Haileybury girl when she met her future husband at the Royal York in Toronto during the war when the Little Norway air force took flight at the Toronto Island Airport.

Little Norway's local connection is remembered with a beer by Gravenhurst craft brewer Sawdust City.

Little Norway’s local connection is remembered with a beer by Gravenhurst craft brewer Sawdust City.

He was from Fredrikstad and wanted to be a pilot — but so did everyone.

Per Hvidsten would have been his instructor.

But Chramer’s skills back home with a drill eventually landed him in Muskoka and “Vesle Skaugum,” the Norwegians’ co-training camp northeast of Huntsville. It was named in honour of the Crown Prince’s official residence near Oslo, which is called Skaugum, says Baston. Vesle means little and thus Little Skaugum.

“He enjoyed it,” Barbara said. “They were wonderful times.”

He particularly loved playing with “Fanny” the camp mascot bear that “bit him,” said Barbara, who has been in Gravenhurst before and is happy the book has come out and is looking forward to reading it.

She was here when King Harald laid the cornerstone for a new Muskoka Airport terminal a decade ago.

As a young prince, Harold had visited Gravenhurst during the war with his mother and father the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway.

She remembers a state dinner when the current king and queen came over.

“I had new shoes and blisters,” she says with a laugh now.

She has a great scrapbook from those times and now.

Several Norwegians were on hand for the book launch of Exile Air, including members of two families author Andrea Baston interviewed. Left, Anita Brown, Sharon Chramer, Karin Edson Barbara Chramer, whose husband was a dentist at Little Norway and is seen in the slide behind with her, Baston, John Edson, and Peter Hvidsten.

Several Norwegians were on hand for the book launch of Exile Air, including members of two families author Andrea Baston interviewed. Left, Sharon Brown, Anita Chramer, Karin Edson Barbara Chramer, whose husband was a dentist at Little Norway and is seen in the slide behind with her, Baston, John Edson, Peter Hvidsten and Candis Jones.

She and Egil married in December 1945 and moved back and forth between Norway and Canada a couple of times before settling here and raising their family, including Karin, who was born in Norway.

Egil died in 2012 and photos of him alone and with her during the war played in a slide show during the recent book launch.

Chramer, 95, was joined by two of her daughters, Anita Chramer and Karin Edson, along with Karin’s husband, John.

Also present was Sharon Brown, who is like a daughter to Chramer.

“Norway’s a beautiful country,” she said “if you ever have a chance to visit.”

Peter Hvidsten, a retired newspaper owner in Port Perry, says his dad travelled through the Suez Canal to join the freedom fighters who eventually formed three squadrons that joined the British RAF in the fight against the Nazis.

Peter Hvidsten points to a photo in Exile Air of his father, Per, and Egil Chramer who fled Norway together.

Peter Hvidsten points to a photo in Exile Air of his father, Per, and Egil Chramer who fled Norway together.

He was also once a newspaper reporter in Sarpsborg, Norway.

There’s a couple of great photos of the young Hvidsten and Chramer in the book, with part of an escape chapter talking about how they took the “Easy Way” out running and hiding in forests to begin their escape.

The “Hard Way” to get out was in small boats across the North Sea from Norway to the British Isles.

Those are just a couple of the stories of airmen from Little Norway chronicled in Baston’s great 240-page book (Old Stone Books Ltd., $28.95).

This is her second local book on Gravenhurst history. Her first book, Curing Tuberculosis in Muskoka: Canada’s First Sanatoria, and the Little Norway book are for sale across Muskoka.

You can purchase them at: the Muskoka Steamships ticket office, the Discovery Centre museum at the Muskoka Wharf and Muskoka Bay Clothing. In Bracebridge it’s at the Veranda; in Huntsville at Coles and Artisans of Muskoka; in Port Carling at the Muskoka Lakes Museum; and in Orillia at Manticore.

Photos from the book, including the cover top right, were on display at the launch.

Photos from the book, including the cover top right, were on display at the launch.

 

 

 

Short URL: http://www.muskokatodaily.com/?p=28281

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