Marstrand, Part 5. The Food, Routines, and Life.

Part 5 of My Family Story in Marstrand, Sweden.
As the month of August, 1938, ended the warmth of Summer was over. Alma’s condition continued to worsen. Gunhild detected signs of stroke as Alma became more confused and forgetful. “Perhaps she was just holding on until she saw my mother again,” said Greta.

Gunhild arose early on mornings to light the old wood burning stove of August and Alma Palm’s large rustic kitchen to warm the house. “Mama cooked wonderful things on that old relic. She cooked in heavy copper pots and pans which had a lip that fit into various holes of the stove top. The rims kept the pots from falling through into the fire below.”

In addition to cooking August’s fish catch of the day, Gunhild made a curry sauce for shrimp. She also made a mustard sauce or mayonnaise dip for boiled shrimp. “Mama conjured up the most delectable dishes. Each one was wonderful.”

Greta discovered by going down to the wharf in late afternoon she could collect all the shrimp and small fish she could carry when the fisherman cleaned their nets. “They permitted me to take what had fallen out of their nets onto the ground.”

When August Palm came home in the afternoons he looked forward to Swedish pancakes with lingonberries dusted with powdered sugar. This was served with pea soup. Sometimes there was an oven pancake filled with sweet smoky bacon or ham. Other favorites on the Swedish menu included boiled fish eggs, fish eyes cooked in butter, escargot, caviar, and fish soup. There were pig’s blood pancakes. Perhaps because this delicacy looked like chocolate, children clamored and fought for the first one off the pan. Other occasions called for roast pig, goose, meatballs and sandwiches.

Ice Cream melting in a warm cloudberry sauce.

Gunhild made fruit soups. On that trail though the woods she collected wild rose hips. From this she made a creamy smooth light orange color soup. The blueberries and raspberries were rendered into luscious rich pies.

Four P.M. was a significant hour in Sweden. This is when people stopped to socialize. To go visiting or to have visitors. The coffee pot was the icon of this custom. In addition to serving coffee there was an array of pastries and coffee cakes. Gunhild made an especially good tan color, coffee and cream flavor Mocha Cake. Another favorite was Marzipan Cake. Her French style pastries won the admiration of everyone. Not a day passed in September without Gunhild and Greta visiting friends or neighbors at coffee time. They were particularly fond of a special rich golden apple bread one household offered them.

Lutheran Church, Marstrand’s only remaining structure from the middle ages. From the 13th Century when it was a Franciscan convent.

“On Sundays we usually went to church. One Sunday after church we took the little ferry across the bay and walked a long way. We stopped at Mama’s friend’s house for coffee and coffee bread, and lively conversation.

Gunhild (tallest) center, Greta right, and friends all dressed for Sunday.

“Mama’s friends always seemed so cheerful and happy. Like they had just received a very pleasant surprise by our visit. There are numerous islands scattered around Marstrand. It wasn’t unusual for people to get together for wonderful food and a picnic on one of the islands. Ladies attending these functions brought the most delectable dishes that they knew how to make. We carried a large copper pot of coffee with a potato jammed onto the spout to keep the coffee from spilling and to keep it hot. When everyone was assembled we climbed into a boat or two and headed off for an island.”

Alma held steady by a family friend. Laundry day.

“Monday was customarily wash day. Before it snowed and water froze, we took our laundry to a small nearby lake. We used ‘jellied’ soap, green or blue, bought by the pound at a little grocery store. We scrubbed the clothes on the rocks at lake’s edge. Sometimes Mama made a ‘brush’ by tying twigs together and scrubbed clothes with it. We rinsed out clothes in the lake. Then hung them to dry on bushes and rocks.

“In winter Mama heated water on the stove and we did our laundry in the large tub in the kitchen–the same one used for bathing. Then hung the clothes to dry.”

The structure in the foreground houses Marstrand’s History Museum. I noted the house in the background is the same house in the background of the previous photo. Alma and the laundry.

Temperatures dropped significantly in September. Two weeks of thunder and lightening finally yielded to a bit of sun. Gunhild and Greta took that as cue to go swimming. But the water was 5 degrees Celsius. “We thought it was most invigorating, and when I got out of the water my body was a rather lovely shade of blue.”

Alma had a birthday in September. She seemed to rally a bit. Greta thought it was because Gunhild was there and the summer guests had all left. One Sunday there was a party for Alma. Ladies gathered for coffee. And in the words of Gunhild, they ate “a lot of junk.” Almost every one of them ate 6 to 7 pieces of coffee bread, cookies and birthday cake.

“The price of fruit, vegetables and cheese is so high, they don’t eat properly,” she wrote to Keith. Shortages only worsened as time went on.

Post Card Gunhild sent to Bill, September 13, 1938. The single X marks the ferry from Koön, the neighboring Island, to Marstrand. The double X indicates Carlstens Fortress. Triple x is the ferry they rode from Göteborg to Marstrand. 1938 is the year a road from Göteborg to Koön was begun. Greta remembers the sound of dynamite used by the road builders.

The old style ferry boat–also shown in the post card–was retired and replaced by a larger modern vessel. The old one lives on today as a boat for hire. Tours and parties.

Modern Marstrand Ferry. The shoreline of neighboring Koön island in view. Today’s Marstrand is not only the historic small island but also includes Koön island and Marstrandsön island. There is still only one way to reach Marstrand island. By water. Swim, boat or ferry. The bay crossing by the one and only ferry between Koön island and Marstrand takes only a few minutes.

Town Hall dates from 1647, and is the oldest secular structure in the Bohuslän province. In the days of witch trials, the cellars held indivuduals awaiting execution. If the old poplar tree could talk, it might say it remembers all the times members of the Palm family had walked by. And when Greta ran errands. It was a younger smaller tree she saw on her way to the butcher or the baker.

It was while running an errand Greta was involved in a “freak accident,” by Marstrand standards.
No boats were involved. Not even the fierce lightning which grandfather August said often struck people “in these parts of the country.” She was struck, but it was by the only motorized vehicle on the island. “There I was lying flat in the street. I couldn’t move, not even to cry.”

The breadman was nearby and placed her into a large bread basket. They went to the nearest house while others ran to find and fetch Gunhild.

“According to Mama, I was black and blue and bumped and scratched all over. She patched me up. And within a week or so I was nearly back to normal. More or Less.”

Next: German soldiers, snow in Marstrand, and Christmas.

Marstrand, Pt. 4. Of Boats, Fish Tales, and Pigeons.

Part 4 of My Family Story in Marstrand, Sweden. A view of 1938 life in Marstrand.


The Beach at Marstrand doesn’t have a bed of sand. Just boulders; large flat sun warmed rocks to lay or walk upon. A wooden deck is provided. The beach is segregated. Men on one side of a fence; women on the other. The reason, nudity is permitted. There’s a small shelter for changing in and out of one’s clothing. Gunhild and Greta, though, opted for swim suits.

Greta at Marstrand beach in her stylish lobster motif swim suit. That’s the same wooden shelter for changing shown in the previous photo. Carlstens Fortress in the background.

Greta learned to swim here. She was in the water up to 3 hours. Even 5 hours. Initially her body experienced some shock doing this.

“I was really in for a big surprise. The water was so COLD!!!. We had a hard time getting used to it at first. There were several times my skin was blue and I shivered when I got out of the water. As time went on we got used to it and found it very invigorating.”

“‘All The Swedes in Marstrand love their boats,’ Mama always said. ‘They have at least one boat of some kind. Some have several. Even the poorest has a rowboat,'” quoted Greta. “Mama’s friends had some large grand boats, and took us sailing from time to time.”

A view while Crossing Marstrand Harbor in a small boat. Skippers Lena and Gunnar Danielsson, Inn Keepers of Korsgatan 5–excellent, highly recommended Marstrand accommodations (and extremely nice hosts as well!).

“Summer was a glorious time in Marstrand. How wonderful the breeze felt. Cool, yet warm blowing through my hair. And the sky–how blue it was. The water was crystal clear and I could see rocks at the bottom and fish swimming around.”

One of Greta’s cherished memories is when Grandfather August took her fishing. Gunhild packed a picnic lunch for them. Pork sandwiches with cheese and home churned butter on heavy brown bread. Coffee cake and wild pears for dessert. August Palm had a common row boat. He fished with only a simple baited line, or string, held by hand. There was a bit of ritual or method he taught Greta. After catching a fish, he instructed her to blow on its mouth before casting for the next. With the second fish she blew on the tail. With the third fish and all the following ones, this procedure progressed. One eye, then the other. One gill, the next. Top fin, bottom fin, and so forth.

“It was so amazing to me how when grandfather August told me to blow on a part of the fish that I would immediately catch another one.” Fishing was over for the day when there were no more parts to blow on.

At evening time August Palm liked to regale family and guests with fishing tales. Gunhild noted he added to the stories each time he told them. Sometimes he enjoyed a glass of schnapps. The stories became wilder and wilder. The fish got bigger as well.

On summer evenings with a full moon, the nights appeared almost as day. Neighborhood ladies gathered at the Palm residence. They “talked and talked and talked” about old times. August Palm conveniently disappeared from the “hen party,” and kept company with a radio in his room.

Marstrand wharf and Harbor, circa 1938/39
Fish was plentiful and Swedes ate a lot of it. Most food in 1938 Sweden was expensive and often scarce.
Much of this had to do with trade arrangements Sweden had with Germany. For instance, every week a German ship came to dock at Marstrand’s wharf. Crates of butter were loaded on board. Gunhild wrote there were 23 tons of butter loaded up every year and sent off to Germany. The ship remained docked for a week before rotating out for another to take its place. Aboard each ship were thirty five to forty German soldiers that made their presence known.
Hotels and restaurants had priority to meat, produce and other goods not shipped to Germany. Gunhild was perhaps mindful of that when she observed German soldiers at Marstrand hotels living it up. “They ate like horses,” she said.

Meanwhile butter in Sweden was expensive. So was milk. There were very few vegetables. Gunhild wrote that fruit was hard to get and “nearly the price of gold.” Meat of any kind was hard to obtain. Once she went to the butcher shop for calves liver, but had to order it. Two weeks passed before delivery.

Sweden had to placate an aggressive German war lord and to remain as neutral as possible during his rein of conquest. By the Summer of ’38 Hitler had taken Austria without resistance. Czechoslovakia was his next target. It appears whatever hardships Swedes were asked to endure during these years–there were many– it was considered a better option than to infuriate der Führer and to suffer bloodshed, bombs and stripped sovereignty.

Critics contend Sweden was an armed camp for Hitler. However it is certain Sweden aggressively bolstered its defense budget, mobilized forces, called up reserves, and educated citizens on what to do in the event of hostile invasion. In the words of one government official “to make ourselves as indigestible as possible.” Sweden intended to go down swinging if the bully came looking to fight. In Marstrand that thought appeared to be on everyone’s mind. And as Gunhild noted, “Swedes vowed to fight to the last man.” Even Greta’s young playmate and best friend Gunnar wanted to fight as well.

The Meat Market and Bakery once occupied the nearest two storefronts of this photo.

Gunnar’s father owned a meat market. When Gunhild sent Greta to pick up some meat, Gunnar’s dad handed over some salami or bologna with some cheese and crackers for Greta to much on for her walk home. At the bakery they surprised her with miniature bread loaves suitable for doll’s tea parties. Even the pastry shop provided doll size pastries for the young American girl who quickly learned Swedish.

The hardware store also provided treats. Here Gunhild, Greta and the Mayor’s children use complementary bird seeds to excite Marstrand pigeons.
Not only was her quick learning of Swedish helpful at making friends, but so was her possession of gum sticks Keith enclosed in every letter. “I shared with my new friends who thought American gum was the most wonderful in the world.”

Next Chapter: Routines, Daily Life and Social Customs in Marstrand

Marstrand Continuum, Pt 3. Journey, Arrival, Settling In

Part 3 of My Family Story, Marstrand, Sweden. Gunild returns home to Marstrand. Her Mother is ailing.
The journey began somewhere around the first week of May 1938. The first leg was a Greyhound bus trip from Los Angeles to New York City.

“I don’t remember much about the trip on the bus, except my mother’s ankles were swollen, and I was sort of bored. Mother tried to keep me occupied and still by reading stories to me. I made faces at the passengers,” recalls Greta.

1938 Vintage Greyhound Buses and the common Post Houses and Stations
“The food at the places we stopped to eat was not very good. We were on a budget so my mother didn’t buy very much to eat for herself.”

“We finally reached the Swedish American Line, the ship, M.S. Gripsholm. I spent the first few days exploring the ship and engaging the captain and passengers.”
Gripsholm lifeboat drill.
“During the trip there were lots of seasick people, but we were fine.”

Gripsholm sales brochure–the First Class view. Gunhild and Greta had Economy Class, but still enjoyed pleasant accommodation.
“Life at sea seemed to agree with us. We never missed a meal and the food was quite good. Lots of ice cream. There was a large padded play area. All closed in and ‘safe.’ There were swings and slides and games to play. I remember playing here with children my age while my mother visited with new friends she made.

“There were also concerts and shows every day. Puppet shows and dances.”

Likely not as many white coats, as seen here, for celebrations in Economy Class. All photos, 1938 Gripsholm.
“When we crossed the International Date Line there was a huge celebration.”

“There were 274 passengers on board this trip. When we reached Halifax we had fog for four days and four nights. The fog horn blew every 30 seconds. It sounded sort of spooky and lonely.”

Gripsholm Skipper

“Our skillful Captain didn’t leave the bridge day or night as we had to travel very slowly. We didn’t see land or even another boat for seven days. When we came near Scotland we had 24 hours of wind. It wasn’t until we sighted Norway that we saw the sun for the first time that whole day. We saw at least four ice burgs which they said made the weather so cold.

“I can’t remember how long the trip took, but I know we arrived at Goteborg, Sweden at eleven P.M. July 10, 1938. We were told we could disembark or remain on board for the night. We decided to sleep on board and have breakfast in the morning before disembarking to connect with our ferry to Marstrand. We arrived there at One P.M., July 11, 1938. We were very tired from the long journey.”

Marstrand, 1938 Postcard

As Greta looked around to take in the unfamiliar sights, she suddenly found herself lifted into the air and looking down into the blue eyes of a smiling handsome older gentleman. She thought he looked a lot like Bill.

“This is your grandfather,” said Gunhild. They looked around. “Where is grandmother?”

Alma came along the wharf slowly and appeared frail. So many years had passed; she was slow to recognize Gunhild. Once the reality of reunion set in, it was a most happy occasion. They looked for a horse and wagon that was arranged for. Alma tired easily, though. During the wait she closed her eyes.

Gunhild explained to Greta how sick Alma had been. And how the death of Alma’s son–Gunhild’s brother, Algot–was a wound in her heart she never recovered from.

“Uncle Algot”
Algot Fredrik Palm was a career sea captain. An accident at sea claimed his ship. He managed to pull everyone off the sinking vessel. But was unable to save himself. This tragic event left Alma with a sadness in her eyes. An oldness in her face. A smile that was never seen again.

As Gunhild, Greta, August and Alma rode the horse drawn wagon to the walkway of the house, Alma began a narrative that would take hours and days to complete. All the news of the past 15 years on Marstrand.

Some men unloaded and carried the trunk up the winding pathway to the house. The family followed. Alma breathing heavily with each step to the top.

Gunhild, at the window center. Greta, far right

The 1938 August Palm residence had the highest perch of any house on the island. The house was encircled by a gravel walkway. The stairs, as seen here, lead to a large porch or veranda. Highly ornate “gingerbread” cut outs were above and to the side of the veranda.

The house retains a spectacular total peripheral view of Marstrand’s northern harbor entrance and bay.

Marstrand Flowers
A flower garden was to the side and to the back. Large multi color poppies. Lilacs with an intoxicating aroma. White, lavender, and purple blossoms hung down from an overhead lattice.

Gunhild utilized a productive herb garden for her kitchen genius. Parsley, chives, rosemary, dill and basil. A gooseberry bush was used by her to render delicious puddings and pies. The same was true of the rhubarb patch.



The above advertisement boasts 15 years of developing and selling refrigerators. These units were common place in Los Angeles homes well before 1938. But Marstrand was still catching up.

“We didn’t have a refrigerator, so cold stuffs had to be kept in the cellar below the house through a door from the back porch off the kitchen. It was carved out of the rock under the house and resembled a cave.

“There was no indoor plumbing to speak of. On the left side of the house, from the front, was the ‘outhouse.’ It wasn’t really ‘out,’ it was located on the side slightly under the house. When it snowed, or was too cold to go outside, we used the old fashioned chamber pots.

“Bathing in the winter consisted of heating water and filling a large metal tub in the kitchen. Thus we did not fully bathe every day. We took sponge baths.

“In each bedroom there was a stand which contained a bowl and pitcher on top and a chamber pot below. I admired the pretty flowers and designs which decorated the porcelain.

“Everyday, while we were there, my mother filled all the pitchers on the washstands with water so that we could wash our hands and face in the morning and whenever I got dirty. We poured water in the large basin and after washing we could brush our teeth. Soft water came from a rain barrel positioned under a rain spout from the roof. This was used for washing hair–it seemed to make it soft and silky. All this was certainly very different from back home, but I thought of it as a great adventure.

Back View, August Palm Residence. Unidentified guest or friend.
“There were many rooms in this large house and in the summer they were rented out to tourists. When we arrived that July, 1938 the house was full. Mother and I shared a room.”

A backhoe is poised for re sculpting the back yard. Construction matter occupies the former herb and flower garden. Only ghost rhubarb and gooseberry plants remain. I wonder if the breeze ever echoes phantom huffs of Greta’s friend, the wily bull. (read below).
Greta helped with water pump duty. The only plumbing in the house was an old metal water pump attached to a wooden kitchen sink.

“Sometimes I helped out when the guests were there. When Mama cooked in the kitchen, and busy preparing food at the sink, guests frequently ran out of water for the pitchers on the washstands. Since mama worked by the pump I didn’t want to disturb her. So I surprised her by running over to the back of nearby Carlstens Fortress with a bucket to fetch water. This pump was hard for me to operate, but eventually I was able to fill a bucket with the cool fresh water it produced.

“Unfortunately there was a large angry bull who hung out thereabouts and hated me with a vengeance. He often saw me walking with a full bucket and charged at me like a locomotive. I ran for my life and spilled the bucket’s contents as I ran. I learned to watch for him and bide my time until he was fast asleep standing in the warm sun–he slept very well on his feet. Sometimes when I ran from him, I slipped on a ‘cow paddie.’ I fell flat on my face and got manure in my hair and on my clothes. My how that stuff was slippery! He never quite reached me, though. I managed to elude him every time. I wonder now if it was only a game with him. That he didn’t really want to catch me, but only terrify me. I’m sure he could have trampled me if he wanted to. I was certain he smiled wickedly at me every time I came into his sight.”

Next Chapter: Of Boats, Fish Tales, and Pigeons.

Marstrand, Pt. 2. A life in Los Angeles.

Part Two of My Family Story. The Swedish immigrants become Americans in Los Angeles. They receive bad news from back home in Marstrand, Sweden.

Bill Soderberg, late 1920’s, at Mrs. Burbidge’s Boarding House, Los Angeles
A date wasn’t given to this story. But it was at Mrs. Burbidge’s Boarding House on Ingraham Street and Union Avenue, Los Angeles. Late 1920’s Early 30’s.

Thanksgiving Day. The mouth watering aromas emanating from the kitchen were typical when Gunhild set to work with pots and pans. One may well suppose she already had a stint as an assistant boarding house cook in her mom’s kitchen back home in Marstrand, Sweden. One thing was for sure, when she worked her magic with a stove the results were delicious. Those who saw Gunhild cook say the process was seemingly chaotic. She moved in several directions simultaneously. In a Dervish Whirl she ruled with disorganized order.

That Thanksgiving there must have been numerous tasks she attended to as the turkey sat cooling on the open oven door. She failed to notice one hungry member of the house trot his way into the kitchen. Pointed his snout at the turkey and latched onto it with his jaws. This was a dog, a collie, named Buck. The canine heaved himself with the bird out the back door and beyond.
Upon her discovery of the theft, “Vat da HELL!”

Gunhild tore after that dog with vengeance. The cursing, yelping, rustling and commotion that was heard beyond the kitchen door was followed by her appearance at the threshold, fowl in tote. She wiped, cleaned, patched and massaged that bruised bird back into presentable condition. Upon placing it on a platter, best side showing, she told Bill not to say a word about this to anyone. All was successful. She had a talent for “making do,” and in this case snatched success from the canine jaws of disaster. “Vhere dere is a vill dere is a vay!” One of her sayings in a thick Swedish accent.

Bill began a working life at a young age. His friend from boyhood is Bob Beattie, age 87, recently told me “Bill sold newspapers on the corner of 7th and Union. His mother then worked at the Commodore Hotel, also on 7th and tried to keep an eye out for Bill.”

He learned the hard way to properly count money and make change. People took advantage of the young immigrant by taking from him more change than they paid. Then he had to fight other kids to keep his corner. Bullies that either stole his papers or his money. Or both.

One had to toughen up quickly to turn a profit with newspapers selling for a penny a piece. On a good day a cleared profit was 5 cents. During the leanest times of The Depression bean sandwiches were a common lunch. There’s probably very few Baby Boomers that haven’t heard the stories of this era. “Waste not, want not,” “Finish your plate, ” “You think you have it so tough…” etc.
“Bill and I met at the Cambria Street School. It was an old fashioned wooden school house. That was either in second or third grade, I don’t remember which. But I do remember Mrs. Finch held Bill back one grade because he still didn’t speak English very well. The kids really teased him about that especially when they heard him talk with his mother,” recalled Beattie.

Gunhild and Keith Teter on the Mount Lowe funicular car.

A happy change in their life came when a boarder named Keith Teter checked in at Mrs. Burbidge’s. Keith was an officer with L.A.P.D.
He began his career pounding a beat. When assigned to a squad car an ironic fact came to bear. He never had a driver’s license. His first time out, it was his trustee–the prisoner–that drove. It was the prisoner who taught him to drive.

Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric Railway operated two well known funicular rail cars. One was Angel’s Flight in downtown Los Angeles. The other is the Mount Lowe Car starting in Altadena is pictured here. (Gunhild and Keith, left side. Next row from the top)

Keith was honest, without fail. After shopping if he discovered too much change was given–even if the amount was only a few cents–he turned around and brought the money back, no matter the inconvenience.
He was the cop that criminals trusted to leave their belongings with after being booked. Their goods would be intact after release.
He never accepted gratuities or freebies. In his day he saw his fair share of calls for help from members of the Hollywood elite. One in particular was Judy Garland. She wanted to thank Keith once by giving him a horse. He declined.
Keith detested violence and bullying. He sought to impart gentleness and kindness in the world. He was careful not to hurt even the smallest of insects.

 Keith and Gunhild at Ingraham Street and Union Avenue. Note the tiny street sign.

Keith said about Gunhild, “I looked into those blue eyes and knew I had to marry this woman.” He lavished her with flower boxes and arrangements. He always included a card with a sweet sentiment written by hand.
They married on Saint Valentines day, 1933. He was 40 years old and had not married before. The couple moved into their own home on nearby Shatto Street.

Gunhild with beach ball; Keith and Bill. They’re enjoying recreation at Anaheim Landing. Today it is called Seal Beach.

A sister for Bill, Greta Louise Teter, entered the world in 1934.
“I was a little premature and nearly delivered in the elevator of the hospital,” Says Greta, “The doctor was Dr. Ross of Ross–Loos Medical, a once well known facility.”

Gunhild’s note in Swedish. Keith holding baby Greta. Bill seated right.
Gunhild loved camping and back country excursions. She brought along her kitchen wizardry as part of the experience. On an old camp stove she could make puddings, cakes and biscuits to go along with shish-ka-bobs cooked over the campfire. S’mores over the campfire.

Bill, Keith and Greta.

She cooked roasts, chops, meatballs, etc. When she wanted ham she’d wrap one in butcher paper, put it into the coals from the previous night’s campfire. Potatoes were also thrown in. When the crew came in from a long day of hiking or swimming the feast awaited.

Bob Beattie remembered how most people were trying to work through The Depression. Events in Europe weren’t too much on people’s minds. “It was so far away. The politicians, of course, were following what was going on.”

From the very year The Soderbergs immigrated from Sweden, 1923, Adolf Hitler decided he was destined to run Germany. Through ten years of turbulent political struggle and power building , Hitler became chancellor in 1933. After German President von Hindenburg died, 1934, Hitler declared himself Fuhrer of the Third Reich.

Perhaps the first close look Americans had of Hitler was with the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. The year of Jesse Owens and his inspirational performance.

Gunhild loved the football games. She was an enthusiastic spectator.
“Bill and I lost track of each other for awhile. We met up again in 1937 when we found ourselves at the same high school. University High School in West L.A. He was in tenth grade; I was in eleventh; a year apart thanks to old Mrs. Finch back at Cambria School. Bill was a letterman in football, track–the high jump and shot-put. He set school records in many of his events. By then his family was living in a house in Cheviot Hills.”
I asked Bob Beattie if he also remembered, as Bill once described, Olympic Boulevard being waist high in weeds growing through cracks in the pavement.

“Oh my, yes! The west side was nothing but open fields and weeds back in those days. They took one of those fields on Pico and made a drive in movie theater. There was a hole dug out under the fence. Bill and I used lay there to watch movies. You’d run over and turn on a microphone (speaker) to hear the movie. That is until the guard came over with his flashlight.

“That is about the time your dad first met your mother, there around ’37, at the beach in Santa Monica where we all used to go and hang out.”

Bill and Greta (right), 1937. Icon of L.A. Collesium frames the photo.
Though thoroughly absorbed with raising a young daughter, seeing her son through high school, running the household of their new home in Cheviot Hills, Gunhild did not forget she had another family living half a world away in Sweden. The news she heard was not good. For some time her mother Alma was in declining health. News only got worse. Gunhild felt she had to do something. The options and choices couldn’t have been easy. But she traveled across the Atlantic once before with a young child under far more difficult circumstances and conditions. She could certainly do this again.

Greta remembers how her mother explained the situation:
“First, Sweden is my old home where I was born and my mother, your grandmother, is old and not well. I have not seen her for a long time and I feel that I should be with her now. Sweden is far away over the ocean and we will travel on a big ship and we will be gone for a couple of months or so. Daddy needs to stay here because of his work and your brother, Bill, needs to stay in school and study hard.”

Next, Part 3, Gunhild’s return to Sweden; Greta meets her Swedish relatives in Marstrand. War in Europe.

Marstrand Continuum, Part I

Part One Of My Family Story. Marstrand, Sweden. The Soderbergs immigrate to Los Angeles, California from Sweden.
It is a rock. It is an island. Pre-historic man established abode here. Viking Age seafarers found the dual entrance deep harbor

much to their liking. The waters were rich with herring; and the herring made this Swedish west coast island rich. In

1658 Carlsten fortress was built atop the rock to protect the assets. Before yielding prominence to the towns of Kunglav

and Goteborg, Marstrand was the hub of trade and commerce.

Then change. The Herring population declined. Modern roads, rails and communications largely by passed Marstrand. She had to reinvent herself.

Marstrand’s Varmbadhus Båtellett. 1856 began a new direction for Marstrand. People came to relax and enjoy the theraputic warm water baths. The Island’s ion rich air and water were also highly touted for health benefits.

In 1887 Societetshuset was built. An invitation was extended to King Oscar II to visit and enjoy this beautiful social hall. To come and spend a summer in Marstrand. To bring his yacht. The King fell in love with Marstrand, as anyone might. He made it his annual summer destination.

King Oscar (that’s his bust atop the post) brought with him a flush of new activity. Dances, receptions, concerts and evening entertainment became standard fare.

Cold water baths became part of the Marstrand “therapy.” Swimming, sunbathing, and hiking are also part of the resume. However its most famous attraction is sailing. During the summertime national and international sailing championships, as well as regattas, are held.

The city plot or grid dates back to medieval times. A fire or two rolled through from century to century. But the charming architecture seen today is largely from the late 19th and early 20th century. Quaint houses and beautiful structures line the narrow cobblestone streets. No cars or traffic here. It is pedestrian heaven. Grand Hotel is on the left. City Hall is straight ahead at the top of the street.

The Island is one mile in diameter. You arrive via ferry; the ride lasts only a couple of minutes. An array of fine shops and eateries are immediately accessible.

The western two thirds of the island is undeveloped. Tucked between the large smooth rocks and in all the cracks are beautiful rare maritime plants. The ocean and archipelago views are magnificent.

Each entrance to the harbor saw a fortified outpost (the structure on the left and the wall). The vault of that structure was used in 1780 as a synagogue. The first in Scandinavia.

It was in 1783 that the first-ever revolving lighthouse light was erected at Marstrand.

There is another first to mention. Marstrand Electric was Sweden’s first municipal electric company.

My great grandfather, (My father’s side of the family), August Palm–seated right–had lived in Malmo as an electrical engineer at a prominent hotel.

Apparently a fully wired Marstrand presented opportunity for August and his wife Alma (seated middle). He went to work for the electric company and bought a large two story house in Marstrand.
That’s my great great grandmother, seated left. But I’m not sure if she belongs to August or Alma. (I think she’s Alma’s Mom) The girl is Margit, daughter of August and Alma. And my grandmother’s sister.

The house not only served as their residence, but as a functioning element of Marstrand’s tourist economy. What we call today a “bed and breakfast.”

The former Palm residence today. Undergoing remodel work. As I captured this image a gentleman named Oskar asked about my interest in the house. I mentioned the name Palm, and that my grandmother Gunhild lived here as a teenager. Oskar moved to Marstrand in 1972. He said, “I once knew an owner of that house. I have been to many a party there. Some I remember. Some I never remembered, beginning next day.”
I mentioned Gunhild in her teens was known to have played tennis with The King, Gustav V, up at Carlsten’s Fortress.

“The king was a bit famous for that,” he said. “Young was his preference. Maybe check; you might have Royal Blood!”

As Gunhild may have appeared after tennis with The King. As a child her nickname was Gulli, meaning gold, for her hair. This photo was taken Midsommer, 1918

Gustav Söderberg, 1918. He’s standing a top a WWI Submarine. He served in the Swedish Navy.
Both Gustav Söderberg and Gunhild Palm were born in Malmo, Sweden. It is not known when or where they met.

However, writing on the back of the above photo indicates it was taken in Marstrand. In any event, they married and in 1920 were parents of Bill Söderberg. The name Bill was chosen after she read a novel with a character named Bill. William was not the name chosen.

Bill in Marstrand. Gunhild, Alma and Bill’s great grandma.

Economic Times, worldwide–the 1920’s were difficult. Agriculture, coal mining, textiles, shoes, shipbuilding and railroads were all in decline. One factor in Sweden, among others then, it had an agrarian economy in the midst of a strong population growth. With so much of the country made of solid rock, agriculture was hard to expand. Young healthy Swede’s immigrated. In the later 19th and early 20th century 1.9 million Swedes immigrated to the U.S.

Swedes kept together upon moving to the U.S. Western Illinois, Iowa, central Texas, southern Minnesota, and western Wisconsin all sprouted sizable enclaves of Swedes. Some filtered to southern California.

We can only speculate why Gustav and Gunhild Söderberg chose Los Angeles. As a carpenter and house builder, perhaps he had read about the housing boom in Los Angeles. Perhaps her experience in Sweden with some musicals and stage productions, Gunhild may have felt the draw of Hollywood.


The choice may have simply been connected with where Gustav’s port of entry to the U.S. was. He came through San Pedro in Los Angeles on September 2, 1921. We knew Gustav came in advance of Gunhild and Bill. And it was assumed he came through Ellis Island, as the two had on done later on March 6, 1923. But where was the record? Swedish family member Nicklas Rydberg provided the missing document above.

Bill wrote: “We were pushed onto the streets of New York City, unable to speak the language. And no idea of where to catch the Greyhound Bus to Hollywood, California.

“My Dad had made the trip a year earlier to build a house for us to live in. When we arrived the framing of the house was up and I think it was ready for the roof. But we had to live in a tent, cook over a camp fire, and make do with an out-house.”

Read more “Marstrand Continuum, Part I”

Emerging From Construction Dust




The month of March has a familiar theme this year. Last March I concluded renovation of my home. This year I completed remodeling the upstairs rental apartment behind the house.









My Autumn Garden

Cosmos are exhausting themselves for one last explosion of blooms.

All but two pumpkins are harvested. The remaining couple are still green but will probably turn orange for Thanksgiving. (The orange pumpkin vine started later than these white ones).

Dichondra is happy here. It embraces the landscape river rocks and paving stones.

There isn’t a true Autumn in San Diego. Leaves do fall; more yellow, orange and brown abounds. But weather-wise this is merely a cooler version of summer with shorter days.

Then winter brings another look. Another garden emerges.

Immigrant Soderbergs

On Sunday I drove to Aunt Greta’s to do some background gathering for the upcoming trip to Sweden. She provided me with a copy of her journal of the time she spent in Sweden from 1938 to 1940. A lot of this trip will be to retrace some of those steps of that by gone time. To see the homeland of my Dad and Grandparents.

Seeing Greta’s scrap book made me regret not bringing a scanner a long on this visit. But when I got home I located one of Dad’s scrapbooks. I just finished scanning it and here’s one from the batch.


That’s Gunhild, Bill and Gustov Soderberg taking in Big Bear Lake. This was clearly a favorite recreational destination for the young family. Greta says Gunhild was an earthy woman who liked to get outside. Didn’t mind getting a little dirty along the way or roughing it. She eventually went by Margaret in the U.S.A.
Lack of jobs in the building trade and unpaid bills promted Gustav to immigrate once more. Gunhild chose not to go. “It was too hard the first time,” she said. He moved on, leaving behind his family, to live in Australia. There he became a member of the Communist Party and started another Soderberg family, unknown to us here. UPDATE: It is true Gustav was a Communist and started another family, but not in Australia – he returned to Sweden. More about this to come.

Starting A Blog

All major projects on the house are complete. Now I’m looking to more pleasurable pursuits. Eleven days from today a trip to Europe for six weeks. The focus is Scandinavia. Sweden; Stockholm, Goteborg, Marstrand. Norway; Oslo, Bergen, The Fjords and Glaciers.

This idea behind this particular blog is to document the journey. I don’t expect this will be the blog format I’ll settle on. However, its a start.

Some pix here of the handy work from the past two years.
4450 Kitchen 2006


4450 House Living Room 2006_0005




Fence63   Gateside62


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Frntbdrm3 copy  windowandclosetdoorwindowandlight  kitch35