Hans Johan Fredrik Fahl Oral History Interview, 1983  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Fahl, Hans Johan Fredrik
1983 (inclusive)
3 file folders
1 photograph
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Hans Johan Fredrik Fahl, a Swedish immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
Access Restrictions

The oral history collection is open to all users.

Additional Reference Guides

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Hans Johan Fredrik Fahl was born on November 28, 1901 in Karlskrona, Sweden. His parents, Fredrik and Axelina Fahl, had three other children, Arthur, Lilly, and Svea. Hans spent much of his time on the water while he lived in the island city of Karlskrona, and he served in the Navy after attending grade school and high school. Karlskrona had a very close-knit community, so it was difficult for Hans to leave and move to the United States in 1923. However, he wanted to broaden his horizons and found that traveling to America would be the best way to do it. After taking the "Stockholm" and riding aboard a train for four days, Hans met his aunt and uncle who owned a fruit orchard in Selah, Washington, just north of Yakima. He liked the climate and the prospect of farming, so Hans settled there. Anxious to become a citizen, Hans filled out his citizenship papers only a few days after his arrival. He also immediately undertook teaching himself to speak English, despite the fact that there was such a large Swedish population in Selah that he could get by without English. Hans worked on his aunt and uncle's apple orchard and eventually took it over for them. During the 1940s, Hans met his wife Ruth Erikson, who was a widow with two children. Ruth and Hans have traveled to Sweden several times, and although they do not normally speak Swedish to each other, they do speak it when they travel. Hans has been quite involved with the Lutheran Church, serving as a delegate several times, and that has provided him with the opportunity to travel throughout the United States as well.


Full Name: Hans Johan Fredrik Fahl. Father: Fredrik Fahl. Mother: Axelina Karlsson Fahl. Paternal Grandfather: Johan Abrahamsson Fahl. Paternal Grandmother: Sofia Brunberg Fahl. Maternal Grandfather: Johan Peter Karlsson. Maternal Grandmother: Ida Mathilda Karlsson. Brothers and Sisters: Arthur Wilhelm Fahl, Lilly Dorothea Fahl Karlsson, Svea Mathilda Fahl Lech. Spouse: Ruth Erikson Johnson Fahl. Step-Children: Merlan Johnson, Audrey Hester.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Hans Fahl on June 17, 1983 at the Ola Vestad Home in Yakima, Washington. This interview contains information on personal background, immigration, settling in, farming, marriage, and trips to Sweden. Also available is a black and white photograph of Hans Fahl at the time of the interview. The interview was conducted in English. Also included is Hans Fahl's obituary from July 16, 1991.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
253, side 1 039: Hans Johan Fredrik Fahl
The name "Fahl" was given to Hans' grandfather who was a sailor. Grandfather's name was Abrahamsson originally.
253, side 1 078: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
One brother and two sisters. One of the sisters has visited Hans in Yakima, Washington several times. The brother has two sons who are doctors. One of the sons is married to a dentist. The brother has a daughter also. She is married to a brain specialist.
253, side 1 117:
Hans was born in Karlskrona, which is in the southeastern Swedish province of Blekinge. Born November 28, 1901.
253, side 1 155: PARENTS
Father worked as a controller in the Navy. The town of Karlskrona is a naval base. He was an office holder of some kind. His name was Fredrik Fahl. Mother's name was Axelina Karlsson Fahl. They were born in the 1870s in Karlskrona.
A city built on islands. Many bridges. A Mr. Andersson owned the original island of Karlskrona. King Karl XI established the city of Karlskrona. The name translates to "the crown of Karl." The king took over Andersson's island and put in a shipyard. He moved people onto the island in order to make a city. A high stonewall was built around the navy yard by Russian prisoners of war. As the city grew, they built churches. Because of an influx of Germans, a German Lutheran Church was built. The state church has taken over this church but it is still referred to as the German church.
253, side 1 284: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Wilhelm is a music director. He is presently the organist at the Cathedral of Linköping. He has visited Hans in the U.S. Svea lives in Malmö. The other sister's name is Lilly. She lives on a farm just north of Karlskrona, Hans was the oldest child. (see also I-078).
253, side 1 320: IMMIGRATION TO THE U.S.
Came to America sixty years ago. Arrived in Yakima, Washington in the spring. Thought it was wonderful. His mother's sister, whose married name was Fahlquist, lived in Yakima. She and her husband had a fruit orchard, which Hans eventually took over. Aunt came to U.S. around 1890.
253, side 1 411: LEAVING SWEDEN
The aunt was the only one in her family to leave Sweden and Hans was the only one in his family to leave. Parents didn't want him to move so far away. Felt like he was at his own funeral when he left Karlskrona. They gave him lots of flowers at the train station to wish him bon voyage. It was hard to leave. He had a lot of friends in Karlskrona.
253, side 1 448: TRIP TO AMERICA
Difficult to come to a country whose language you don't know. Knew only a few phrases. Came on the "Stockholm." They came to the place where the "Titanic" sunk on the 11th anniversary of its sinking. The "Stockholm" stayed at this place for twenty minutes and a memorial service was conducted. Hans remembers seeing an iceberg on the trip. He traveled by himself.
Wanted to see the other side of the horizon. Came with the intention of settling here. Went to Yakima, Washington first. Was impressed with the climate so he stayed there. Filled out his first papers for U.S. citizenship a few days after he arrived in Yakima.
253, side 1 540: CHILDHOOD
Went to grade school, high school, and then joined the Navy. Was stationed in Karlskrona. Served as a torpedo man. Hans' father was in the church choir for fifty years. When Hans was young he'd go with his father to the concerts. He would always sell tickets. Hans grew up in the church this way. He went to church with his father every Sunday. He was involved in the young people's group at church. They gave him a party before he left Sweden. Presented him with a Swedish flag on a silver pole. He still has this flag. The original flag faded so a cousin who was a flag maker in the Navy gave him a replacement when he went to Sweden.
253, side 1 628: KEEPSAKES FROM SWEDEN
Didn't bring much with him when he first came to the U.S. When he went back to Sweden, he got a full set of carpenter's tools that he had used while in the Navy. Brought these back to the U.S.
253, side 1 659: ARRIVAL TO U.S.
Landed in Castle Garden, New York. They were placed in alphabetical order in a large building. Passports were checked. Checked to see if they had any money. Hans had $65 left after buying his ticket.
253, side 1 681: LEARNING ENGLISH
Didn't know any English. Copied phrases from a Swedish-English dictionary at a library. Learned quite well by writing down these phrases. Pronunciation was difficult. Kept a list of useful phrases for traveling.
253, side 1 708: TRAIN RIDE ACROSS U.S.
Sat up from New York to Chicago. Had a sleeper from Chicago to Yakima. Didn't have to say much when he ordered food. Used his list to say what he wanted.
253, side 1 732: ARRIVAL IN YAKIMA
Aunt and her husband met him at the train station. Took about four days to get from New York to Yakima.
immenseness of the country surprised him. Was traveling in the spring. The farther west they came the warmer it got. Remembers watching a well-dressed lady get off the train in a dusty little town in Montana. The place looked like cowboy country. This was in 1923.
253, side 1 790: CLIMATE IN YAKIMA
Suffered from the heat at times. Had dark eyebrows when he came to this country. For some reason he lost his eyebrows and hair. It grew back. In 1926 the summer was very hot. He was out haying then. There wasn't any shade. His eyebrows fell out. Doctor couldn't figure out why.
Things grew so fast. The vegetation is so good because of the volcanic ash.
253, side 1 844: AUNT AND UNCLE'S ORCHARD
Had 23 acres. Grew mostly apples. Hans planted pear trees while aunt and uncle were still living. When the apple trees got to a certain age, Hans took them out and replanted. He hasn't increased his acreage at all but the plating they do now is tighter so that more fruit can be grown per acre.
253, side 1 868: THE APPLE HARVEST
Apples were harvested in just about the same way as they are now. They are picked and put in boxes. When he first came, 40-pound boxes had to be lifted by hand. Machines do this now.
253, side 1 891: KARLSKRONA
The farm work Hans did in Yakima was much different than what he'd done in Sweden. Karlskrona is a city comparable to Bremerton. Hans grew up on the sea and served in the Navy. Karlskrona's population was about 25,000 when Hans lived there. It has grown to about to about 40,000 people.
253, side 1 909: LIFE ON THE WATER
Missed life on the water but liked the warm comfortable climate of Yakima. Sometimes he'd take a trip to Seattle. Made him feel like he was coming home. Places like Ballard (in Seattle) made him feel at home.
253, side 1 926: SELAH, WASHINGTON
Aunt and uncle settled there. (See also I-320, I-732, I-844) Anton was born in Hammerdal in northern Sweden (north of Östersund). Kristine was born in Karlskrona. They settled in Selah, Washington just north of Yakima, Washington. Many Swedes lived in Selah at one time. A minister in St. Paul, Minnesota heard about land for sale in Selah. Hans' aunt and uncle were part of this group, which belonged to the Covenant Church in Selah. Hans was about the only Lutheran. When Hans came to Selah in 1923, he could easily get by speaking Swedish. Church services were in Swedish. One could use Swedish when shopping. More than 100 Swedes came from Minnesota to settle in Selah.
253, side 1 1034: SWEDISH NEWSPAPERS
Hans subscribed to the Swedish newspaper from Chicago. It came out once a week and told about what was happening in Sweden and the U.S.
253, side 1 1051: TRAVEL IN AMERICA
His involvement in the Lutheran Church has given him many opportunities to travel. He has served as a delegate many times. Has traveled as far as North Carolina.
253, side 1 1072: AUNT AND UNCLE
(See also I-320, I-732, I-844, I-926) They didn't have any children. That was why they wanted Hans to come. He became a part of their family.
253, side 1 1079: MEETING SPOUSE
Met her about forty years ago. She was married when he met her. After her husband passed away, he married her. Her maiden name was Ruth Erickson. Her first husband's name was Johnson. She was born in Wisconsin. Her parents were from Sweden. Hans took his wife to Sweden a few years ago. They met some of Ruth's relatives from her father's side. They didn't think Ruth would be able to speak Swedish, but she got along just fine. They met some of her mother's family in Östersund. Some of the cousins remembered her mother.
253, side 2 069:
Tells about a church in Östersund that as built before the Reformation. The church is called Hackås Church.
253, side 2 128: SWEDISH IN THE HOME
They don't speak Swedish with each other.
253, side 2 137: STEP-CHILDREN
Ruth has two children by her first marriage. Her son, Merlan Johnson, is vice-president of a Seattle First National Bank. Her daughter's name is Audrey Hester. She is married to a retired Navy officer and they live in Seattle. They were married and had children when Hans and Ruth got married. They've been married for 23 years.
253, side 2 197: CITIZENSHIP
(See also I-501) Became a citizen as quickly as he could. Coolidge was President then.
Food prices low, wages low. Didn't earn much. Remembers in March 1933 when Roosevelt froze everything. There was one day when the bank in Selah closed during the morning. It opened that same afternoon and business was as usual.
Active in the Masonic Lodge.
253, side 2 338: TRIPS TO SWEDEN
(See also I-1079, II-069) Went to Sweden for Christmas in 1936. Traveled on a Polish ship. Gone for three months. Took his wife to Sweden in 1965. They flew. It took eleven hours to fly from Seattle. It took eleven days to travel by boat. Celebrated Christmas in Sweden. They like to go to Sweden in the winter because people are at home then. Everybody's on vacation in the summer. They like the Christmas celebration in Sweden. They like the Christmas decorations you can get in Swedish stores during the Christmas season. Tree decorations, little flags, Advent stars with a light inside to hang in front of a window. They also had a man make them an "old time Christmas tree" that was used in Sweden in the Middle Ages before the tradition of a green Christmas tree was introduced. Hans puts it together each Christmas.
253, side 2 460: SWEDISH
(See also II-128) They speak English with each other, but they use Swedish when they travel.
"I'm just an immigrant, that's all."
253, side 2 483: SPEAKS SWEDISH
253, side 2 519:
Tells about the first time he went to an American bank. He took off his hat when he went in because that was the custom in Sweden. He was going to cash a check. He put his hat on the counter and the teller said to him. "It's high to the ceiling in here. Keep your hat on." Hans has never figured out what he meant.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Church attendance -- Sweden
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family -- Sweden
  • Freemasonry
  • Naturalization
  • Sweden -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Swedish-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Swedish-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Personal Names :
  • Erikson, Ruth
  • Fahl, Hans Johan Fredrik--Interviews (creator)
  • Fahl, Johan
  • Fahl, Ruth Eriksson Johnson
  • Fahl, Sofia Brunberg
  • Hester, Andre
  • Fahl, Axelina Karlsson
  • Fahl, Fredrik
  • Johnson, Merlin
  • Karlsson, Ida Mathilda
  • Karlsson, Johan Peter
  • Corporate Names :
  • Central Lutheran Church (Yakima, Wash.)
  • Stockholm (Steamship)
  • Titanic (Steamship)
  • Family Names :
  • Abrahamsson family
  • Brunberg family
  • Eriksson family
  • Fahl family
  • Karlsson family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Blekinge Län (Sweden)
  • Karlskrona (Sweden)
  • Selah (Wash.)
  • Yakima (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Farmers