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Oh, I guess it was about like this...
Brita Dagny Follin

"The finest sections of Malmö were on the west side and it was on the east side that we lived. We lived there when I was born. Conditions there were modest. We lived in a place called "Passagen." Between Östra Förstadsgatan street and Parallelgatan street there were two long buildings with a cement court with grassy areas between them. We had an apartment with one room and a kitchen in one of those buildings. All the windows in those buildings opened out onto the court.

"My father was a very cheerful and pleasant man. He was from Halmstad. I don't know so much about his youth. I was young and not curious about such things. And he didn't say so much about it. He went swimming a lot there in Söndrum, I know that. I remember him saying that they swam under the ships in the harbor. That was a dangerous thing to do. He became an ornamental sculptor. He must have learned the trade in Söndrum, at the stone quarry there. He probably left Söndrum and moved to Malmö sometime around 1914-1915. It was hard to get work then.

Well, he was an ornamental sculptor. He carved decorations on buildings, gravestones and things. He liked the work. He was very, very careful and precise in his work. But it was hard for him to get work in Malmö, too. He had one employer, two actually, that couldn't pay him any money. He ended up loaning them money, instead.

Then he got a job in Copenhagen. He got work at the Jewish Cemetery, carving gravestones and mausoleums. There were people there that could afford to pay for such fine and detailed work. He must have worked there a couple of years. This was partly before I was born and it was during this period that I was conceived during one of his trips back to Malmö. He sent postcards to my mother, which I still have, and I was able to read this between the lines. It was easy to back and forth between Malmö and Copenhagen and he did it for a couple years, at least. But how it was in Copenhagen, how he lived and things like that, the living conditions, I don't know - I never asked and he never told me. (photo - summer trip to Copenhagen)

Then he started to work in Malmö, at another place owned by a man named Persson. This Persson had a son that wanted to be a sculptor, too. Persson owned a stone quarry. And that was where papa worked and maybe another man, too. I used to go there, walk there, because it was just below Porslinsgatan street when we lived on Östra Förstadsgatan street, so you could walk there in just a few minutes. Well, anyway, I think that there was another man working there, too. And Persson's son was there. I think his name was "Tove", or something like that. He had sort of set his mind on becoming an artisan, not just a regular stone mason. So my father became sort of a teacher for him.

I remember that he made, this guy Tove that is, made a, I guess it was a tiger or something like it, a lion, I think it was a tiger, that was clinging to a big stone, almost natural size. But after that, I never saw his name anywhere, the son's, or heard him mentioned. So I don't know what became of him. I don't know if he lived, or if he's still alive. This must have been about 1927, 28, 29, 30.

What did my father do? He worked a lot. He liked to do carpentry work, too. I remember that he made a bed. And down in the court yard he built a kind of a warehouse, a storeroom, I don't know what to call it, so that we would have more room. He bought some kind of ready-made roof, or half ready-made that you could raise up and nail together. He made a storeroom out of it. In one part, sort of in the bottom, there was place for his tools. And there was another part that had a window and you could sit there near the window, in the light. I did sit there and imagined sitting there writing a book... becoming an author - but nothing came of it.

He liked to drink on Friday evenings and Saturday evenings, too. But not a lot. He was never drunk.

He got beat up in a fight one time. He had rented part of the storeroom to a shoemaker and he told the shoemaker he wanted to be paid, and then they started to fight and the shoemaker hit him in the head.

I think we always had cats. We had some dwarf chickens, too, that we kept down in that storeroom down in the court. I like cats. They do as they wish. I think that until I was 8 or 9 we had just one cat. It's name was "Mrs Svenson"(Fru Svensson). But Mrs Svenson got pregnant. When the kittens were born I tried to hide them in different places, down in the storeroom and other places, but my father found them. My father said I could keep just one of them. The others he put into a sack and he tied the sack onto the end of a long pole with a kind of a little spade or shovel on the end. He used that thing to clean out the sewers. Then he used that pole to push the sack down deep into the sewer so that it wouldn't float up. That was the kindest thing you could do if they did to be put to death. It was necessary. We couldn't have cats all over the place. I had to accept that. The cat that I keep we call "Mr Svenson" (Herr Svensson). Then we had one black and one white cat. I like cats. They do what they want.

My father was the kind of person, as I still am, that doesn't have the sense to go to bed early. He often woke up late and on Sunday mornings he ate breakfast in bed.

He, my father, died in 1932 when I was 15. He had a heart attack on the way to... He had been home and ate lunch at 12 o'clock, and then as he walked down that little distance on Porslinsgatan street between Östra Förstadsgatan street and his work, then he had... It was right then and there that he had such a heart attack that he died. It happened right on the street. There were some others with him from the quarry when he died. At first they thought he was doing some kind of a trick, or joking like he often did, but it was his heart... They took him down to the morgue on Sörkyrksgatan street, and then when I came home - I had been down swimming - then when I came home, I had to go down to that morgue and identify his body. That wasn't easy. I loved him very much. I was only 15."

Not too long after my father died I entered the gymnasium (high school). I graduated from the gymnasium in 1937. That seems so terribly long ago now. After I left the gymnasium I took a couple of courses so that I was able to get a temporary assignment as a junior secretary at the Customs Office in Trelleborg. I took a liking to it. I imaged that if I got a permanent position as a government clerk (kamarskrivare) with the Customs Office then I would be able to see everything that Sweden imported and exported - that I would see all this passing before me. I would know everything that Swedes bought and sold. This was kind of a romantic fantasy that I had.

Shipping continued between Trelleborg (Sweden) and Sassnitz (Germany) during the first two years of the war so I was able to keep my temporary position. But when the shipping stopped towards the middle of the war I lost the job. I applied for jobs at Kockums, Sockerbolaget and Sydsvenskan. At all three of these places I told them that I intended to try to return to the Customs Office, so I didn't get any of the jobs.

Finally I got a job at a local branch of the Bureau of Agriculture (Statens Växtskyddsanstalt) in Åkarp. Twice I applied to get into introductory courses at the Customs Office, but I didn't get in. Finally, I spoke with someone in the personnel department and was told that they had no use for female clerks. They preferred male clerks. He told me that I already had a good job with a future at the Bureau of Agriculture, that I should stay with that. In 1945 I started to study biology at the University of Lund. I lived in Malmö, worked in Åkarp and the train cost me almost nothing so I could get to the University and do my studies on the train.

At the Bureau of Agriculture's Åkarp office there was a man named Olle Rydberg. Olle Rydberg was a professor at the School of Agriculture at Alnarp, but worked extra at the Bureau of Agriculture, going to Malmö, Trelleborg and Hälsingborg to check imported plants to see if they were infected or healthy, he approved their import. He was very knowledgeable about plant diseases. His nickname was "Flea-Ollie"(Lopp-Olle). That was kind of a disparaging name because he was a Doctor of Biology, but he said himself that he kind of liked the name. He had done his Ph.D. work on the parasites found on bats. When he was out travelling around, holding lectures and stuff, he had his beloved bats with him in a suitcase and he let them out at night in hotel rooms to feed them. He had them with him when he was out holding lectures. Among other things he had studied the fleas and lice that lived on them and that was why he got the name "Flea-Ollie"(Lopp-Olle). He was somewhat odd, but he had a wonderful sense of humor. Flea-Ollie had a student at Alnarp named Karl Follin who sometimes filled in for him and who took over after him when he quit. That's how I met Karl Follin who later became my husband.

By 1952 I had finished my university studies and I got a better position at the main office of the Bureau of Agriculture in Solna, near Stockholm. A year or two later, Karl was able to transfer to the Solna office, too.

Flea-Ollie sometimes worked there in Solna, too, in the Information section. People sent in infected plants and wanted to know what was wrong with them. Before he sent them answers he got the eggs to hatch or let the larvae pupate. Then he would be able to tell them the exact latin names for the problem. But gardeners and farmers didn't want to know such details. I guess he didn't really fit into a practical place like the Bureau of Agriculture. It was better that he remained a teacher or researcher.

Until about 1995 I wrote a question-and-answer column in a magazine, "ICA Kuriren." People sent in questions about plant diseases, parasites on plants, both decorative plants and agricultural plants. I got paid by the month according to the number of letters. I made two copies of my answers, one I sent to the reader who sent in the question and the other I sent in to the magazine. Some were published, sometimes shortened down. But my name was never attached to the answers. I was retired and didn't dare write my name because I thought that you couldn't work if you were drawing your pension. But it turned out OK."

Brita Dagny Follin, Danderyd, Sweden, 1999



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