OId Photo: A Latvian Reunion?

This is an old photo that belonged to my grandmother Rasma. There is no information anywhere on the back of it. I believe it was taken in Canada, judging by the look of age of my grandfather Arvids Akerfelds. These men are all Latvians… Arvids is 2nd from the left, top row. The 2nd from the left in the bottom row is a man named Zigurds Melderis, who I would eventually get to know much better than my own grandfather.

Back row: unknown, Arvids Akerfelds, Alfreds Taube, Antons Pizans, unknown, unknown, Mr. Karnupis, unknown, Peteris Skrastins, unknown, unknown, Janis Ozols

Front row: unknown (Melderis?), Zigurds Melderis, Niks Beinarovics, Ansis Berzins, Alfons Preiss

1st My best guess is this is some kind of ex Labor Service Co. get-together? What are the guns all about? Was this possibly taken at a Latvian club such as Sidrabene, which my grandparents used to attend?

I’d love to know what this photo was all about, or who all the people in it are!

Sidrabene:

http://www.standrewslatvian.org/sidrabene/

***UPDATE***

According to my great-aunt, the local Latvians would have a yearly competition, sort of like track-and-field but involving marksmanship, and her guess is that this photo was taken at one such competition.

Family Recipe Friday : Ķīsēlis

Ķīsēlis, (or as we Canadians of Latvian descent unknowingly called it until now: Cheesaline) is a traditional Latvian fruit dessert, served as a hot or cold soup, or a jelly. These are popular in other Eastern European countries as well(generically known as Kissels)
My mother makes cranberry ķīsēlis around Thanksgiving or Christmas, and we eat it as cold soup. It’s delicious!

 

Ķīsēlis

Ingredients:

1/2 lb cranberries
1 quart water
sugar (to taste)
2 tablespoons potato flour

Directions:
1. Rinse cranberries and put to boil in water.
2. When all the berries have burst, strain and force through a sieve.
3. Retain the liquid and pulp; discard the skins.
4. Reheat the juice while mixing in the sugar to taste.
5. Slowly stir in potato flour until consistency is almost like syrup.
6. Cover and cool.

Gemütlichkeit!

I have often wondered what exactly brought my Latvian ancestors to settle in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. The first of my Latvians to settle here was Fricis Vinakmens with his family. I am not sure if Kitchener was their original destination or not, nor do I know the entire story of his immigration (maybe one day I will find out!), but Karlis Vinakmens joined him here in 1956 with his family. Maybe Fricis helped him to secure a job here? Again, not sure! Arvids Akerfelds followed suit in 1957, to be reunited with his future wife.
In any case, whatever brought them, probably to their surprise they settled in a city with a very strong German heritage, home of North America’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations. Kitchener was settled by German mennonites, and originally named Berlin, but the name fell out of fashion quickly during WWI, and was changed to Kitchener in honor of British Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the 1st Earl Kitchener who died the same year as the re-naming. The festival has been officially running only since the late 1960’s, understandably since a festival with such roots would probably have been frowned upon in the WWII era.
Celebrations in Kitchener kick-off on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and typically include a parade, a Miss Oktoberfest pageant, polka music, traditional German dress (lederhosen and dirndl), a free-for-all pancake breakfast, an official keg-tapping ceremony at city hall, a barrel- or keg-rolling race, schnitzel and Oktoberfest sausage with sauerkraut, and of course, beer. Festhallen and biergartens are run by local German clubs (the Concordia club, Shwaben club, etc). The festival’s mascots are Onkel Hans and Tante Frieda, two roly-poly orange-skinned characters in traditional German garb.
Imagine the Latvians’ surprise when they came to Canada only to meet people with German surnames of German descent and watched Kitchener transform into a Bavarian festival for nine days each October! Or, was the prevalence of German-speakers part of the reason why Kitchener was chosen as a new home?

 

Ship: SS Zuiderkruis

The SS Zuiderkruis is the ship that carried Karlis Vinakmens and his family to Canada. Originally named the “SS Cranston Victory”, it was built by the Oregon Shipbuilding Yard in Portland, Oregon, USA and launched on May 5, 1944. It was first used as a troop transport ship, but was soon sold to the Dutch government for use as an immigrant transport ship. The SS Cranston Victory was renamed SS Zuiderkruis by the Dutch. She was out of commission by 1969 and destroyed.

Lockheed Super Constellation DALID

 

The plane on which Arvids travelled to Canada was a Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation called D-ALID. Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft (Lufthansa – still a large European company today) flight no. 420/25 departed Frankfurt, Germany on January 25, 1957, crossed the Atlantic and landed in New York (LaGuardia?) How was he able to take a plane? Surely this was not typical of DP’s at the time. I’d really like to find out how and why this came to be at some point.
 
Here is the Passenger List, found with Ancestry.com
“TRWOV” means “Transfer without VISA”. “YUL” is the Montreal airport code. He is the only person on a relatively small passenger list bound for Montreal. His connecting flight from New York to Montreal appears to have been flight 323/26.