Sven Fredrickson Oral History Interview, 1981  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Fredrickson, Sven Fredrick
1981 (inclusive)
3 file folders
6 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Sven Fredrickson, 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
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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Sven Fredrickson was born on February 24, 1907 in Kolsebro, Sweden. One of ten children, Sven grew up working on the family farm and attending school during the summers. Sven loved the Swedish Christmas traditions as a child, including selecting a tree, decorating the house, eating the traditional food, and going to church. Sven worked in a variety of ways as an adolescent; he helped fuel the trains during World War I, aided a blacksmith in town, and laid cement for a new dam. Still, Sven thought there would be more work in the United States, so he moved there with his uncle's sponsorship in 1923. Sven found work in lumber camps and in a molding business. He went to school to learn English and picked it up quickly. In 1928, Sven returned to Sweden to celebrate his father's birthday. When the Depression hit, Sven moved to Oklahoma to find work. He had a carpentry job and also worked in the oil fields. Sven moved around for different jobs, working in Oklahoma City, College Station, Denver, Corpus Christi, and Arkansas. While living in Denver, Sven met his wife, and they married in 1940. Soon after, Sven received orders to join the Army. As a Master Sergeant, Sven oversaw the building of bridges and roads. He traveled to such places as New Zealand, Australia, India, Iran, and Russia. When Sven returned from the war in 1945, he invested in Puget Sound Plywood with his brother Hans. Sven built houses and did some contracting. He had two children, Cynthia and Robert, but tragically his wife died of cancer. At the Vasa Lodge, Sven met Edith Carlson, whom he married after his first wife's death. Besides being a member of the Vasa Lodge, Sven participates in the Masons and Valhalla Lodge; he has served as president at Valhalla Lodge four times. Sven returned to Sweden in 1956, 1964, and 1977. He sees that many changes have taken place, but Sven still tries to retain Swedish traditions in America.


Father: Fredrick Anderson. Mother: Emilia Olson. Maternal Grandfather: Olof Jonsson. Maternal Grandmother: Kristina Jonsson. Brothers and Sisters: Lydia Ingeborg Fredricksson, Ingrid Fredricksson, Signe Agusta Fredricksson, Carl Edvin Fredricksson, Hans Fredricksson, Magda Linnea Fredricksson, Otto Valfred Fredricksson, Seth Geron Fredricksson, Allice Fredricksson, Tore Fredricksson, Hildegard Fredricksson, Spouse: Edith June Fredricksson. Children: Cynthia Ethel Fredricksson, Robert Sven Fredricksson.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Sven Fredrickson on November 30, 1981 in Tacoma, Washington. This interview contains information on personal history, employment, emigration, family, the Army, church and community life, and Swedish heritage. It also provides photographs of the house where Sven was born, Sven and his family, Sven and an Iranian mountaineer, Sven building a courthouse in Oklahoma City, and Sven at the time of the interview. The interview was conducted in English. Also see Hans Fredrickson.

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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
119, side 1 020: PERSONAL
Sven Fredrick Fredrickson. Father was Fredrick Anderson. Sven was born in Kolsebro, Sweden, close to the Baltic Sea.
119, side 1 064:
Father was a farmer, had 30 acres, 8-10 cows, pair of oxen. Raised potatoes, sold milk, wheat, and rye. Used rye for bread.
119, side 1 101: PARENTS
Fredrick and Omelia Anderson. Mother's maiden name Olson. 10 children in the family, five girls and five boys. Two girls died very young.
119, side 1 133: BROTHERS & SISTERS
Ingrid and Signe are the two that died. Oldest sister Lydia Ingeborg lives in Milton, WA. She married Andrew Olson.
119, side 1 154:
Carl Edvin retired now. He was a seaman finisher. Worked at Plywood Plant. Hans lives in Tacoma. Magda lives in Sweden, married to a Pederson. Otto Valfred has dad's farm now and is retired.
119, side 1 202:
Seth Geron works for the government in Sweden, drives trucks, does road work. Allice, she worked in a country store in Sweden with her husband. Tore works at Puget Sound Plywood. Hildegard born 1924, lives on a farm in Sweden.
119, side 1 240: GRANDPARENTS
Maternal - Father was a carpenter, built the church in town, Olaf Olson. Mother also baked bread, made cheese. Nice lady. They lived close to the family. Sven does not remember his paternal grandparents.
119, side 1 290:
Had timber on their farm. Cut this and sold it. Children were well fed. Plenty of oatmeal and eggs. Had a garden with vegetables. Made pea soup.
119, side 1 336:
Mother milked the cows, did baking and cooking. Kids helped with the chores, all kept very busy.
119, side 1 366:
Grandfather built the log house they lived in. Fireplace was only source of heat. Wood stove used to cook on. Did some cooking on the open fire. Had 2 bedrooms, 2 beds in the living room.
119, side 1 428: BIRTHDATE
February 24, 1907
119, side 1 432: SCHOOL
Walked 10 blocks. Went to school in the summer, closed in the winter. Went through the 6th grade, then an additional 6 weeks each winter for 2 years. Like junior high.
119, side 1 484: CONFIRMATION
Took 8-9 months. 9 miles to church. The minister took care of the 'church book.' Kept track of births and deaths. Went to church on holidays mostly. Christmas morning at 5:00 A.M. Sunday school closer to home in a little chapel. Anyone could come.
119, side 1 560:
Had bazaars to raise money for the church. Sold cookies, coffee. Mother went to church more than father did.
119, side 1 590:
Minister came to the house to question people on what they knew about the Bible.
119, side 1 615: CHRISTMAS
During the summer picked out a tree on the farm. The Sunday before Christmas they went to cut it down.
119, side 1 637: CHRISTMAS EVE
Presents. Decorated the tree, used candles because there was no electricity. Had ham and rice pudding.
119, side 1 653: CHRISMAS MORNING
Up at 2 A.M. to go to church. Horses and sleigh outside waking people up. Rice pudding for breakfast.
119, side 1 684:
Christmas Eve for breakfast had lutfisk and potatoes.
119, side 1 726:
Kept tree up for 13 days. Had kids over. Took candy and apples off the tree.
119, side 1 771: TROLLS
Father always told stories.
119, side 1 780: WORK
During WWII age 12, used peat to burn instead of coal on the locomotives. Young people stacked this peat up. He lived with his Uncle.
119, side 1 818:
Built a dam. They wanted young people to help with the cement. Sven was also a Blacksmith's helper. He gave money to his father.
119, side 1 854:
Worked in the winter also putting tar around turbines.
119, side 1 871: CAME TO THE U.S.
Wrote Uncle, Mr. Pearson, to sponsor him. Sven had heard of America, it sounded good. More work than in Sweden.
119, side 1 909:
Uncle sponsored him to come over. Sister Lydia also wanted to come.
119, side 1 924: TRIP OVER
Left Sweden the 28th of April 1923. Took the Swedish-America ship "Drottningholm."
119, side 1 931: ELLIS ISLAND
Took 1 day. Checked health. Needed railway ticket and money to get through.
119, side 1 938: BOAT TRIP
Nice boat, little seasick. Went 3rd class like most of the immigrants. Took 8-9 days. Entertainment and church services.
119, side 1 968: TRAIN TRIP
From N.Y. to Chicago a special train for the immigrants. Chicago to West coast took Northern Pacific.
119, side 1 973: LANGUAGE
Did not know any English when he came. Managed to get by. Learned about money quickly.
119, side 1 986:
Trip over cost him $317.00, from Sweden to Tacoma.
119, side 1 991:
Met at the train by Alva Pearson and her husband. Alva had a half-brother who came over the same time that Sven did.
119, side 1 1010:
First time he had ever seen a banana was in N.Y. Also the first time he saw a tomato was here. Many different nationalities here.
"You're young and the whole world plays in front of your eyes." Sven was never homesick.
119, side 1 1055: FIRST IMPRESSION OF U.S.
Could not see much of N.Y.
Not many. Went to night school at Central School taught by Miss McDonald. Describes school in some detail.
119, side 1 1084:
Lived with Alva when he came for 10 years. She was like a second mother.
119, side 2 039:
Laid off at Shops. Got a job making boards for boxes, separating boards and loading them on a truck. Worked 8 hours a day.
119, side 2 080:
Used to walk on the logs in the water for fun. Fell in once in the cold winter.
119, side 2 110:
Got another job running a molding machine for $3.35 a day, 6 days a week. Easy work. Learned to sharpen knives and put them up. Foreman was good to him. Worked in the woods as a second loader.
119, side 2 177:
Worked at St. Regis doing cement work. Got 50 cents an hour for 9 hours. Used scaffolds when building.
119, side 2 222: LUMBER CAMPS
Fine. Had barracks. Cot to sleep on. Good food.
119, side 2 247: TRIP TO SWEDEN
Stayed 3 months in 1928. Celebrated his father's birthday.
119, side 2 294: DEPRESSION
Hard to get a job. Did some work laying steel in logging camps, on the railroads. Good pay, hard work.
119, side 2 325:
Stayed at boarding house, 24 boarders. Did dishes in the evening and got a decrease in board. Regular $6.50 a week, Sven paid $2.50.
119, side 2 370:
Went to Oklahoma to look for work during the Depression. More jobs back east than in the west.
119, side 2 398:
Bohemians gave him a job as a carpenter. Got union wages. $1.00 an hour. More work in Oklahoma because the government was doing building - barracks, etc. Worked for Phillips Petroleum in Oklahoma City, he did work in the oil fields.
119, side 2 509:
Got a big job in Oklahoma City at the County City building in 1936. $1.5 million job.
119, side 2 520: NRA
National Recovery Act provided work for many during the Depression.
119, side 2 555:
Sven worked on State building in Oklahoma and got a job in College Station, Texas. Stayed here for 11 months. Worked in Arkansas with Manhattan Construction Company. Got job in Denver on airplane hanger. Worked in Corpus Christi, Texas on $200 million job.
119, side 2 625:
Met wife at Vasa Lodge in Denver, Colorado. She was also Swedish. Wedding was small, 1940. Left for Texas after they were married.
119, side 2 655:
Moved back to Denver as a carpentry foreman. Had learned carpentry from his Uncle in Sweden.
119, side 2 673: CHILDREN
Robert Sven is a commercial fisherman. Cynthia is married to Bill Frost. Has 2 children. Lives in Cle Elum, Washington.
119, side 2 699:
Sven had orders to go in the army when he was in Denver. Got job as a Master Sergeant. Bridge building construction for Special Service Engineers, 1942. Hard day leaving for the service, leaving the family behind.
119, side 2 730: ARMY
Training in Alexandria, Louisiana, then to California. Went to New Zealand, Australia, India, and Iran. Stayed in Iran for 2 years. They built roads for Russia; supplies were delivered on these roads. Special assignment was given to go through Siberia to China and deliver trucks. Russia would not let them go through. Put a bridge up over the Rhine and Danube Rivers. Got out of the service in 1945.
119, side 2 810:
Did not do any fighting in the army, but was trained to fight during his training. Received a Bronze Star Medal for fast, good work on the bridges. Sven was in charge of the company on the Danube. Inger reads the citation given to Sven during the war.
119, side 2 872:
Bought a share of Puget Sound Plywood. Wanted to move back to the West coast. Brother Hans already had shares in Puget Sound Plywood.
119, side 2 892:
Sven built some houses in Tacoma. Worked at Plywood Company. Did some contracting. Built his house.
119, side 2 934:
Wife died of cancer. Remarried to Edith Carlson. Sven had first met her when he came to the U.S. Met at Vasa Lodge.
Belongs to Masons, Vasa, and Valhalla Lodges. Has been President at Valhalla four different times. The lodges look out for people, visit sick people in the lodge.
119, side 2 975: TRIPS BACK TO SWEDEN
1956 - flew back by himself. 1964- daughter was picked to go to Sweden by Vasa Lodge. The whole family went with her for 6 weeks. 1977 - changes, biggest change is that everything is bought, no gardens, no baking. More cars.
119, side 2 1024:
Family house is still there. Brother lives there.
Family gets together in Tacoma every now and then.
119, side 2 1053:
Sven still speaks Swedish, speaks a few words.
119, side 2 1073:
Explains a bit in Swedish what it means to be a Swede. Good example of the language.
119, side 2 1094:
Story from the army, stationed on the Rhine River.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Confirmation
  • Depressions -- 1929
  • Emigration and immigration
  • School attendance -- Sweden
  • Swedish-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Inerviews
  • Swedish-Americans--Social life and customs
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Personal Names :
  • Fredrickson, Sven Fredrick--Interviews (creator)
  • Jonsson, Olof
  • Pearson, Alva
  • Andersson, Fredrick
  • Fredricksson, Cynthia Ethel
  • Fredricksson, Edith June
  • Fredricksson, Hans
  • Fredricksson, Robert Sven
  • Fredricksson, Sven Fredrick
  • Jonsson, Kristina
  • Olsson, Omilia
  • Corporate Names :
  • Drottningholm (Steamship)
  • Puget Sound Plywood Company (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Swedish Order of Valhalla (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Vasa Order of America. Lodge Number 233 (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Family Names :
  • Andersson Family
  • Fredricksson Family
  • Jonsson Family
  • Karlsson Family
  • Olsson Family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Kolsebro (Sweden)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Carpenters
  • Construction workers
  • Farmers
  • Loggers