Edith Anderson 1891-1986
This material is based upon notes made in 1977 and 1978 by Edith Anderson together with her son, Roland. The notes were retyped and assembled in chronological order by Edith's grandson, in 1997. Multiple reminiscences of the same event were rewritten in unity and a few sections were rewritten slightly to improve continuity. A few explanatory comments were also added.
I was born in the morning on 14 june 1891. My mother and father had had two boys before me. I have been told that I learned to walk when I was ten months old and that I learned to talk very early too. I had nimble fingers and learned to crochet and knit before the age of seven. I did not do well in school because my health was not so good due to a sort of recurring headache that I had inherited from my mother and I had to stay home quite often. When I was thirteen I had completed the education that was available to me. My father liked to read and often went to a nearby library and borrowed books. He liked to follow what was going on in the world. I recall that once when I was about ten years old I heard my father and another man talk about a war that the English people were waging against the Boers in southern Africa. On another occasion a speech was held in a local schoolhouse about a man named "Thomas Edison" who had invented a machine that showed "living pictures". It was at this time, or shortly thereafter that my father saw "living pictures" for the first time himself - he saw something called "Fifi takes a bath" (Fifi badar").
At midnight on the evening of December 31, 1899 all the church bells in the whole country were going to ring and I did not want to miss that. My mother and father had gone to the next door neighbors for a "New Century Celebration" and I was not allowed to get out of bed because I was sick. Directly across the room from where I was lying in bed was a door. The door was facing the church. So I asked my younger sister, Hilda, who was then six years old, to open the door when the bells began to ring. She did, and we both got a memory for life.
I was ten years old when King Oscar II of Sweden came to visit the stone quarry in Söndrum where our father worked. Many people were curious to see the king and we all watch as he wrote his name on a red granite stele that had been raised in honor of his visit. This stele stands in the same place today.
One winter when I was about 12 years old we had a boarder, a man who was a farmer's son. One evening he told my father that he wanted to marry me when I got older. I think my father had had a few drinks and he told him, "sure you can."
I was confirmed in 1905. I think the picture of our confirmation class was the first picture that was ever taken of me.
When I was almost seventeen years old I met a woman who suggested that I become a dairy worker and told me about a school in Skåne called Svalöv and I applied for an apprenticeship there.
Before I was to leave for Svalöf to learn to be a dairy worker I was working in Halmstad as a maid and I had a room there where I worked. One Sunday afternoon my sister Hilda was visiting me then who should turn up but that same man. He had gotten my brother Fredrik to show him the way. He was dressed in a coat with a Persian lamb collar and a hat made of Persian lamb, too. He had been in America working as a woodcutter. I didn't like him. He had a false smile. The man asked Hilda and I to go a place nearby to see a film, which was something very rare in those days. Hilda and I went in first and when into far into the room where they were showing the film hoping that he wouldn't find us, but he did find us after awhile. When we came back to where I worked, where I had my room, the man told Hilda that now it was time for small kids to go home. I remember that I whispered to her not to leave me and I told him that he had to go.
He came back next morning and gave me a card with something written on it. I did not read it and I never saw him again. Later on, my brother Fredrik told me that that man had told him that he had 20,000 crowns in the bank which was a lot of money at the time.
Svalöv was a small town with a population of about 500 and nearby there was a large farm with the same name. Svalöv was both an agricultural school and horticultural institute with horses, cows, and pigs. There was also large scale butter and cheese production. This farm required a lot of labor and took on many young people as students or apprentices. Many boys worked there in the summer and during the winter months there were mostly girls there.
This was a very lively place with mostly young and active people. Everyone had to work extremely hard. We began work at six o'clock in the morning, had breakfast at eight, always the same menu - hot coffee and sandwiches. Dinner was at one o'clock. Not much variation in the menu, but the food was always very plentiful.
There were about eight apprentices in our department, six girls and two or three boys. The other personnel there were master creamery workers, who acted as teachers for the apprentices. There was also one machinist working there, August Andersson. He was about twenty seven and took care of the boiler and all the machinery that it powered such as churns and separators. (August and his family) He was in charge of the equipment we all needed. August had gone to trade school and at that time powered machinery was just being introduced and machinist was somewhat of a high status job. I do not remember where I first saw him. It was probably in the dining hall where we all ate. I did not like him much at first, he was always sooty because the boiler that kept the machinery going was fueled with soft coal. Not only that, but I thought he was too old for me, too, so I avoided him for months. He did not smoke or drink, did not even swear, this made an impression on me. Although I did not like him much at first, I felt flattered by his interest. I remember we had to take a big wheel barrow to a nearby icehouse and load it full with big chunks of ice and then take the ice back to the creamery, balancing it on a narrow wooden boardwalk. August began to help me do this and little by little we became close. We began to take walks together during the summer. In the fall of that year August had an argument with the manager and quit. He went to Malmö, moved in with his brother Olof, and got a job working in the Linen department at the Hotel Kramer, the finest hotel in the city.
I stayed in Svalöv for a year and then I got another job at Alnarp near Malmö, the same city where August was working. I had never worked or lived in a big city before and was extremely curious to see what life there was like. So I went to Alnarp in 1910. August had a sister in Malmö named Hilda who worked as a housekeeper for a family that had some kind of a general store. Hilda was three years older than I. Through August I came to know her and she and I became good friends. One day when he had been asked to sweep the sidewalk outside the hotel, August quit his job at the Hotel Kramer. Not long afterwards August came to see me and said that he and his brother Olof had decided to go to the United States. His decision had come so suddenly I was astonished. We went for a walk in a nearby park and sat down on a bench. He talked very little, but gave me a beautiful watch, the kind ladies wore at that time. I thought I would never see him again.
August had just quit his job and Olof was also in some kind of trouble so there was nothing holding them down. The main reason for their decision to emigrate was probably that they both came from a poor family and emigration was commonly thought of as the way to a better future. Some of their family had already emigrated years before. August's brothers, Otto and Anton had been there several years. Anton had gone to agricultural school and had then decided to avoid military service so he bought a false passport in Copenhagen and went to America. Norway had wanted to put an end to its union with Sweden and many had been anxious about the situation.
August and Olof landed at Boston on June 16, 1910 on the Saxonia where they were met by their oldest brother, Otto and his wife Anna, who had been in America for about 10 years. Otto helped his younger brothers get jobs at Norton Company, a factory where they made grind stones and grinding wheels. The Norton Company was founded by two men, one named Norton, who provided the financing, and another man named John Jeppson. Jeppson had come from Höganäs in the southern part of Sweden. In Sweden he had learned to make ceramics. By added emery to the ceramics he learned how to make grind stones and grinding wheels. Because of Jeppson's Swedish background, the Norton Company favored Swedish employees. After working at Norton a while, August got another job at the Morgan Spring Company. Shortly thereafter he began to go to evening school to learn English. Olof and August both lived at a Swedish boarding house.
A year passed while I continued to work in Alnarp. I went to a nearby evening school to better my education. It would have been possible for me to become a teacher but I didn't have the money. I saw August's sister occasionally and through her I heard about August. Except for a postcard which he sent me directly after his arrival in America, he never sent me a letter. I quit my job in Alnarp and got a job in a place named Hunneberga. It was way out in the country and the pay was very low. Just across a nearby river from Hunneberga was a military base called Rävinge. Every once in a while soldiers came to the creamery when out marching to get a drink of buttermilk. They were always nice and playful and never got worse than you could shoe them away.
One day I read that the king of Sweden was coming to visit at Rävinge and, of course, we all went off to see him. He came riding on a big brown horse. He was pale and skinny, almost gray in his face, and he did not speak to anyone. and then he rode away. That was the king at always went to France and played tennis and did not care very much about politics.
Because of the low pay at Hunneberga, I contacted the manager at Svalöv and he found me a new job. So in 1911, at the age of twenty, I went to work at a place called Vanstads Andelsmejeri (Vanstads Cooperative Creamery) near Esperöd, not far from the city of Tomelilla. There I had charge of the butter department making three hundred kilos of butter a day.
The work at Vanstads Andelsmejeri was quite hard. There were about 300 members or owners, all delivering their milk to the cooperative for the production of butter and cheese. There were four young people working there, two boys and another girl, Signe. They were all nice young people and we got along fine. The boys were apprentices and did the churning. The girl was my helpmate in working the butter and packing it into containers. There was also one older man, a "machine-master" that took care of the equipment. We had to begin churning the butter at four in the morning in order to be ready to weigh the fresh milk when the farmers came in at six. We had nothing to eat before eight, but they were not stingy with food. The manager of the place was named Johansson and he and his wife had four children, all between the ages of six and twelve. One Sunday, after being at the creamery only a short time, Johansson and his wife went to some kind of a party and this Mrs. Johansson became very ill and could not move for two weeks. Signe, the girl that was supposed to be my helper, had to do the housework. Evidently Mrs Johansson had gotten used to having help because they continued to use Sonja, an employee of the cooperative, as a housemaid all summer. There were ten in the family so buying food and cooking were major tasks. Luckily Sonja was good at it, being from a large family herself. I recall the deliveries being late and without Sonja's help I had work the butter and pack it all by myself. I had not been given any more free time than Sunday afternoons that whole summer. They never did mention that we had to work hard that summer, never gave us any thanks at all. I mention this for this is the main reason I went to America. Years later, I learned that this man Johansson had been fired.
One day got a letter from August's sister Hilda in Malmö and she wrote that Esperöd was her home town and that her father still lived there. On a following Sunday, a sunny afternoon, I remember that, I decided to look up August's and Hilda's father, Anders Andersson, who lived in town on a little side street, a short distance from the creamery. When I arrived at the small white house, a tall man about fifty-five years of age answered the door. He was tall, dark-haired, and wore a beard. I Introduced myself and told him who I was, and that I knew his son August and his daughter Hilda. I remember him sitting by the window saying only "Jaså, jaså" in response to my attempts at conversation. He seemed so uninterested that I left after just a few minutes.
After three years I got a letter from August saying that his sister Hilda and his brother Anton's girlfriend, Hilma Brodin, were about to leave for America and if I still cared for him then I should come along at the same time. As I did not feel appreciated on my job, I decided to go with her. I quit the job in Esperöd and went to my home in Halmstad for awhile, hesitating because I had no money of my own to pay for the fare. Hilda had indicated that the fare was no problem as the brothers had put money into the bank in Malmö for us to use.