Dagne Krekorian’s Sterling Court home makes an immediate impression on its visitors. When I arrive to interview her, I am seated next to two remarkable collections – one of hats, displayed on shelves in her living room, and the second of vintage cigarette holders, pressed on velvet beneath the glass top of her coffee table.
I ask about her collections and learn just how representative of her life story they are. She begins, “I was born in beautiful downtown Eveleth, Minnesota. In 1939 we went to California for the World’s Fair, and in 1940 we moved to San Francisco because my older sisters, Viola and Aune, were both living there by then. They are 16 and 19 years older than me. I’m an afterthought,” she chuckles.
“In San Francisco, everything was bigger,” she tells me. “I was from a very small town in Minnesota, practically everyone there was a Finlander. It was very different, but I didn’t have any trouble mixing in.”
It was perhaps this dramatic shift that sparked Dagne’s love affair with seeing other cultures. “When I was 18 years old, I got on an airplane with my mother and we went to Hawaii. I was sitting there, and I thought, ‘There’s a job here I can do myself – the stewardess job.’ So, I lied about my age and got a job with United Airlines. You were supposed to be 21, and I was only 20 when I did that, but I got away with it!” she laughs.
“When I applied to United, I decided I would look ever so much older with a cigarette. So, I started with the cigarette holders. My friend and I went off to Asia and I bought my first one – this carved white one,” she points to one of the many intricately designed objects.
“United was also how I met my husband, Chuck,” she tells me. “He worked as a flight June 2018 engineer at the time and was on one of my flights. One day on a layover we went off and got married!”
The couple made their home in the Bay Area and raised two daughters, Lisa and Sarah. With young children, their travel remained within the U.S.
“The world traveling started up after the girls were grown,” she tells me. “When United merged with other airlines, we could travel globally. My idea of traveling wasn’t just to go to Europe. I wanted to see places where people didn’t do things the way we did them,” she muses. “Asia, the Middle East, everywhere. For some reason or other, I decided that I would get a hat from each place. They’re from all over – Tibet, and other farflung spots,” she gestures to the artfully arranged collection on the shelf above us.
This prompts me to ask Dagne about her favorite spot to visit.
“Oh, I couldn’t pick,” she says, earnestly. “I loved them all. They are each so different. We traveled a lot, saw a lot,” she recollects. “I had a wonderful time.”
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