Sooner or later you will visit Portland in beautiful Oregon. Take time to see
the best bookstores and cafs on the continent and dont miss the Saturday
market. And dont be surprised if you run in to Swedish Americans. Oregon has
attracted more than 130 000 Swedes through the years and more are surely on the
way. Here are some of the things Swedish in Oregon (that Swedish Press noted
in February 2002) that would interest a visitor.
A Swedish language and culture camp was the dream child of educator Ross
Fogelquist who wanted to involve children in his quest to keep Swedish culture,
traditions and language alive in the Portland area. Thanks to enthusiastic help
from many volunteers, the first Trollbacken camp could open at the Anderson
Lodge in Washington State in 1994. The first 22 campers came from as far away as
Utah and British Columbia, and from Seattle and Spokane in Washington State
and from Portland, Astoria and Salem in Oregon. The camp was such a success that
many of the same children have returned year after year.
One of the first things camp leader Elisabeth Wallberg does when the campers
arrive is to exchange their money (maxi-mum $15) into Swedish currency so that
they can shop in the Trollbacken kiosk each day after lunch. Thanks to camp cook
Elisabeth Mendenhall, the Swedish food is one of the most popular features of
Trollbacken. Most campers do not speak any Swedish so the operational language
is English but kids are given an hour-long lesson in Swedish each day. There are
a lot of crafts on the program, for example flower wreaths that the campers wear
for a midsummer celebration. In the afternoon there is time for a swim and in
the evening everybody gathers around the campfire for music, song and hot dogs.
One night there is always a talent show and by then the whole group has really
become one big family.
The Anderson Lodge, with its log cabins situated at a lake and decorated with
many Swedish touches, has been the obvious choice for Trollbacken. Now, when
there are more than 80 campers, Trollbacken will try out the Menuca Retreat,
less Swedish but more luxurious accommodation. The theme for this year has not
been determined as yet but everybody is going to be able to write their names on
runes and have a lot of fun. (Contact Elisabeth Wallberg at 503-524-7236 if you
are interested). Trollbacken has been so successful that a similar camp is being
planned in California.
(at 327 NW 10th, 503-321-5275) is so much more than an attractive clothing store
and mail order operation for newborns, toddlers, kids and adults. Kids love the
bright colours and comfy feeling of the hannas and parents love the way the 100%
cotton clothes look a hundred washes down the line. What they might not know is
how much Sweden has had to do with the development of this almost 20-year old
corporation that now mails out 14 million catalogues every year.
Hanna Andersson was the grandmother of Swedish-born Gun Denhart that started
the company with her husband after being frustrated at not finding the soft 100%
cotton clothing that she was accustomed to from Sweden, when her children were
growing up. Hanna was a much more appropriate name for a childrens clothing
retailer than Gun and grandmother Hannas common sense approach with the
waste is sin mentality has played a big role in the success story that is
The company buys back hannadowns for 20% of their original price and
donates them to charities. Community involvement is more than a buzzword and
Hanna Andersson donates 5% of its pre-tax profits to groups helping women and
children from a soon formed foundation. The company matches its 300 employees
payments into retirement funds and charitable contributions.
The company started on a more humble note. Gun, with a background as a
financial manager in the EFF language schools, and her husband Tom, with a
background in advertising, left their hectic New York life in 1983 for a big
house in Portland and money to spare for an initial run of 75 000 catalogues.
The first catalogue took 14 days to produce and it was mailed in February 1984.
To demonstrate the quality of the cotton, Gun and Tom cut 1x1 inch swatches of
fabric and glued them onto each catalogue - a tedious three-day process which
Gun looks back on with humour.
I remember looking up at Tom in the middle of all this cutting and gluing,
we both had the same thought: What on earth are we doing?
For two years Hanna was run at the Denhart home, gaining a larger clientele
with every mailing. However, 20 extra people and thousands of baby clothes made
their home seem too small. Even the sauna was filled with turtlenecks. Now the
company is downtown in two large buildings.
and Health Center was founded in 1912 by Reverend Carl Renherd of the Immanuel
Lutheran Church. He was born in Smland and came to the United States at the
age of ten. He was an idealist but not a very good business manager so the
operation of the hospital was soon taken over by Reverend A.M.Green. Carl
Renherd started off his American life as a dishwasher in a hotel in Tacoma. The
hard-working Swede advanced to the job of waiter and eventually manager but said
no thanks to an offer to become a partner because he was set on the ministry
where he used his organization talent to start a hospital that that every
Swedish American can be proud of.
is one of those Swedish multinational companies that seems to crop up
everywhere. Founded in 1873, the company, that is controlled by the Wallenberg
sphere, has subsidiaries that specialize in developing and distributing mining
equipment, rock drilling tools, air and gas compressors and power tools, in 50
countries. One of Atlas Copco's largest manufacturing plants since 1981 is the
Wagner Mining and Construction Equipment Co in Portland that manufactures such
legends as the Scooptram loader and the Fullback dump truck.
These are not your everyday products. The diesel or electric Scooptrams used
in underground mines have a bucket capacity of almost 12 cubic meters or 20 000
kilos (45 000 lbs). When you stand in front of this monster all you see is the
loader bucket. One such Wagner load-haul-dump unit mucked nine million tonnes of
lead-zinc for nineteen continuous years in an Australian mine. Thats two years
of production singlehandedly! When mine conditions get dangerous you can even
operate these giant machines by radio remote. When it comes to pick-ups, Wagner
has built the worlds largest capacity articulated dump truck in production
today. The Full-back 645, is equipped with six-wheel full-time drive and a
45-ton capacity dump box.
Mining equipment and trucks will never become as well-known as the Tetra Pak
containers manufactured across the Columbia River in Vancouver, Washington, but
for local Swedes they should be as much of a source of pride.
Portland is a city of bridges. The Ross Island, St. Johns and Burnside bridges
in Portland were built by local swedish contractors employing Swedish laborers.
So were other bridges along the Oregon coastal highway. The beautiful Heceta
Head Lighthouse on US Highway 101 was also built by a crew of Swedish carpenters
between the years of 1892 and 1894. Swedes operated and maintained this
lighthouse as well as most of the other picturesque lighthouses along the Oregon
is one of Swedens most important authors and the winner of the Nobel Prize in
Literature. Most Swedish school children have read When the Nettles Bloom that
describes Harrys terrible childhood, when as an orphan, he was auctioned off
to a variety of foster parents. Harrys father died when he was five and his
mother Betty Olofsson left her seven children to fend for herself, and emigrated
to Portland. Nobody will ever know my mothers innermost feelings, wrote
Harry Martinsson about this drastic decision by a mother.
Betty Larsdotter was a beautiful eighteen-year old chicken coop girl from the
Mjns estate when she met the self-proclaimed globetrotter Martin Sterling
from Sidney and Nyteboda on a boat criss-crossing Lake Immeln. It was love at
first sight for Martin and within a few minutes of his encounter with Betty on
the boat he let her know you are going to be mine.
I am emigrating to America, she said But if you want me, Ill stay
Under the staring gazes of the other passengers, Betty and Martin left the
boat together. On the pier waited Martins common-law wife Anna. Martin told
her to go home to her parents. This girl. he said turning to Betty stays
In the beginning the store Martin had started up with money he had saved up in
Australia did well, thanks to Bettys talented salesmanship. She opened a
bakery, arranged local dances and at the same time managed to take care of six
children. Martin was increasingly relegated to buying for the store and going
fishing, since he developed a talent for rubbing people the wrong way.
Betty and Martin were a handsome couple. Betty, with her pleasant nature, was
very much liked by the local people while they were fearful of Martin who was
extremely strong, and his fights, that were generally ignited by alcohol and
jealousy, soon became a legend. Thrice he went to jail for beating up hecklers
or other people who bothered him.
Eventually everything turned sour. The store went into bankruptcy and
Martins longing to get away from Sweden always nagged at him. He even left the
family once for a stint as a sailor on the Atlantic. Betty fought on in the face
of great difficulties, but when her husband died in 1910, she gave up. Still
beautiful at thirty-three years of age, she left her six children to fend for
themselves. She gave birth to a seventh child in Gteborg (born out of wedlock)
and abandoned that child too. Then she left for a future in Portland.
Today we know that Betty opened a cafe in Portland that was frequented by a
lot of Scandinavians and that she eventually got married again. Before World War
I broke out she kept in touch with friends in Sweden and that is how her
daughters Clara and Vera (originally Blenda) found their mother and moved to
Portland. When Betty died in 1946 her two daughters inherited her, but $10 was
left for each of her children in Sweden. It is said that Nobel laureate Harry
Martinsson never got over this.
is a Swedish tradition with a special significance in Portland. Especially for
Gun Blodgett of Lake Oswego who was Swedens Lucia in 1961 and who met her
husband Jim when she visited Portland as part of the festivities. For Gun it all
started with a friend who was a photographer and who sent her picture to
Stockholms Tidningen that organized the Swedish Lucia celebration for many
Gun was interviewed together with 70 other hopefuls, at Hotel Anglais in
Stockholm, by director Gran Gentele and actors Christina Schollin and Jarl
Kulle. Gun was chosen as one of the ten finalists and was voted Lucia by the
readers of the paper. She was crowned by the Nobel Prize winner in Literature,
Ivo Andric, who was assisted by Shirley Maclaine after which she was paraded on
floats drawn by trams all around Stockholm. Lucia and her maids were accompanied
by Lucias from Norway, Belgium, Luxemburg, France (seventeen of them!) and
Portland, Oregon. The Lucia celebration was a big affair at that time.
After doing some charity work, Gun went to London and in the following summer
she helped at the Swedish pavilion at the Worlds Fair in Seattle. In
connection with this she also took part in the Portland Rose Festival parade and
was the main attraction on one of the floats. She stayed with the Portland Lucia
who talked her into spending a few more weeks in Oregon.
In Portland lived Jim Blodgett who had managed to make various excuses to his
mother who had been insisting that he take the visiting Swedish girl out for
some water skiing. However as fate would have it, he met the Swedish girl by
chance and it was love at first sight. Jim even sold his car to travel to Sweden
to woo Gun over to Oregon. Now they live happily in Portland where Gun has been
running a pre-school and where they now have two grown-up children and a
In the Swedes of Oregon that was published in 1946, William Carlson Smith
comments that Swedes are noted for their love of singing. It seems that
wherever Swedes settled in Oregon there eventually would be a Swedish chorus. So
it is only appropriate that the President of the American Union of Swedish
Singers, Judy Jones is from Portland. She leads what the AUSS likes to call
the most illustrious organization ever founded by Swedish immigrants in the
United States. Her father used to take Judy along when he went for his
practices and soon choir singing became an important part of her life. Now she
is busy preparing for a regional meeting in Seattle this summer, and recruiting
new choruses to join (www.auss.com).
The house is Falu red, but apart from that there are not too many visible
signs at the Epyllion Vineyard of a Swedish connection. But this is the home of
author and translator Lars Nordstrm. He has received the prestigious Oregon
Book Award for his poignantly-titled Making it Home in which he muses about his
transplantation from Sweden onto US soil.
The book is a collection of thoughts that erupt during a year of wine-making,
interspersed with the story of how Lars met Cynthia from California when he was
a night clerk at a hotel in Stockholm and how they eventually chose Beavercreek
for their future life.
Lars writes books and translates texts in his attic office when he is not
helping Cynthia who is the full-time farmer in the family. Apart from producing
their robust private label wine, and grapes for other vintners, they grow all
our own potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, corn and peas. They also have an
orchard with apples, pears, plums, cherries, almonds and beautiful flowers on
their 8-acre farm.
The Nordstrms practice a type of farming known as low impact sustained
agriculture on their eight acres, which, for instance, means that instead of
spraying, their ducks, geese and chickens eat the grass under the wine stocks.
Apart from fresh meat, their sheep provide wool that Cynthia cards, spins and
knits into beautiful sweaters and socks. The occasional stray deer also provides
festive meals that go well with their wine.
There are now also three other Swedish-owned vineyards in Oregon.
THE PITTOCK MANSION
One of Portlands major attractions is the Pittock Mansion (3229 NW Pittock
drive, ph.: 503-823-3623) and 46-acre estate that offers spectacular views of
the city of Portland and surrounding areas. The elegantly designed structure,
dating back to 1914, is on the National Historic Register, It was built by Henry
Pittock, founder of The Oregonian, Portlands major daily newspaper.
Interestingly the Mansion is a showcase of Swedish craftsmanship. In the first
floor library there is an intricately detailed wood carving above the fireplace,
depicting the family crest, hand executed by William G. Lingenberg, one of
Portlands Swedish leading craftsmen. On the second floor you will find ornate
hand-carved Victorian walnut furniture made in the 1880s by Daniel Wennerberg,
a prominent Swedish cabinetmaker.
The best source of knowledge about the early Swedes is Ernst Skarstedts book
Oregon and its Swedish population published in 1911. The author who had written
similar books about California and Washington state complained that in Oregon
the cooperation of his countrymen had been lukewarm at best. Skarstedt was
one of the most interesting newspaper men Swedish America has had. His father
was a Lutheran minister and professor in theology. Ernst dropped out of
university in Sweden and emigrated to America with plans to become a farmer and
philosopher. Instead he ended up working for one Swedish-language publication
after another from Lindsborg in Kansas to New York and Chicago. He was for a
time part owner of Vestkusten in San Francisco but eventually he retired in
Friday Harbour on San Juan Island. Just like his other newspaper colleagues, he
also had to moonlight as a farmer, shipyard worker, music teacher, photographer
and chorus conductor.
He was one of the most colourful and gifted of the hundreds of Swedes in
America who became journalists and writers in their mother tongue. His three
books about Oregon, Washington and their Swedish populations as well as numerous
newspaper and magazine articles helped attract many Swedes to the Pacific
Today you can read excerpts from his Oregon and its Swedish population in
English. The translation by Lars Nordstrm is published by Swedish Roots in
Oregon (32461 SW Lake Drive, Wilsonville, Or 97070 www.sundvall.nu) that carries
out research on the Swedish emigrants who settled in Oregon. Swedish Roots is a
non-profit organization founded in 1999 to conduct research on Swedish
immigrants who settled in the state. The result of this research is currently
being compiled in a computer data base so that it is readily avail-able to
interested genealogists, historians or individuals. The organization has until
now also published Vi Gale: The Immigrant Story behind the Poetry. A
Conversation with Lars Nordstrm, October 1992 in Portland, Oregon and The
Swedes of Oregon by William Carlson Smith, originally published in 1946.
is the name of a beautiful log structure constructed between 1938 and 1940 by
one of the chief carpenters of the historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. It
was a Swedish couple, Mr and Mrs Oscar Olson who had the house built and they
sold it in 1952 to Charles and Jessie Fogelquist and their son Ross who further
swedified the house and grounds. Today Ross opens his home with its
beautiful grounds for all sorts of Scandinavian activities.
Foreign diplomats, nobility, concert artists, musicians, scientists,
writers, composers, folk dancers, exchange students, choirs, educators, plus
many ethnic groups have been guests of the Fogelquist family. Ross Fogelquist
is the Vice Consul for Sweden and has received the Royal Order of the Polar Star
the Royal Order of the Polar Star by the Swedish King for his
untiring efforts to further the cause of the Swedish and Scandinavian
communities. At present he is the driving force behind a Scandinavian
American Cultural Center on the grounds adja-cent to Fogelbo. The
monumental fundraising for the project is carried out by the
Scandinavian Heritage Foundation (Portland State University, Mail-room
SHF, P.O.Box 751, Port-land, Or 97207-0751, 503-635-2542). Major
fundraising events are the ScanFest Christmas Fair and annual Scan-Feast
gala event with a silent auction.