A 'Swenglish' journey through family photos, notes and postcards
from the early 20th century.


Conscription (2) - Sepia Saturday 646

In last week's post,  I mentioned that I thought my grandmother's brother Nils probably did his military service in Borås. This week, I happened to find a postcard that Nils wrote to his mother in 1923, which proves me wrong about that. Instead, he was stationed at the Swedish Army Infantry regiment I-in Skövde - a smaller town some 110 km NE of Borås/Fristad. I thought I might as well include the proof here, and get my facts straight! ;-)

Sköfde, Soldathemmet I 9. 

Soldathem  (Soldiers' Home) is not where soldiers live, but a building usually situated close to their barracks, where they can hang out in their free time. These soldiers' homes are usually run by local societies. There may be a café, and various organised activities, like sports and study circles etc. The first society of this kind was formed in Stockholm in 1876. (Source: Swedish Wikipedia article).

Domestic postage in 1923 was 10 öre.
In 2022, it's 13 kr (SEK) = 1300 öre...

To: Mrs Selma Emanuelsson, Storegården, Fristad
From: Nils (Skövde, 26.3.1923)

Skövde den 26/3 1923
Kära Mor! Jag skriver nu som jag lovade att göra, jag är här igen nu. Tåget var 20 min försenat, men det gick ju bra ändå. Skriv snart så är mamma snäll. Kära hälsningar, Nils

Dear Mother, I'm writing now as I promised to. I'm here again now. The train was 20 minutes late, but otherwise everything went well. Please write soon. Love, Nils


Comparing photo of Nils (left) (also included in last week's post) with a group photo of soldiers from I-9, downloaded from Armémuseum.

Having sorted that out, let's get back to 1925, and the correspondence between my grandparents-to-be. In the previous post, we had a letter written 22 March by Nils and Sally to Gustaf, shortly after he had left their village to start his military service at an artillery regiment at Kviberg in Gothenburg. The next letter is written by Sally, less than a week later. There are a lot of names mentioned, so I've decided to put comments directly below each paragraph this time, rather than gathering them all at the end.

Storegården, Fristad, 27 March 1925

Dear Gustaf,

Many thanks for your letter, which I received yesterday. I'm sorry to hear that you are not well, but I hope you'll soon get better, and that it's nothing serious. Probably you've just caught a cold, which is easily done, and especially when forced to do hard work, like you are now. So you should take good care of yourself and look after your health. 

So, you didn't believe that we almost shed tears because of you leaving? To tell the truth, though, it wasn't far from. We thought it got so empty after you left, and Mum cried and felt sorry for you. Especially on Sundays we miss you a lot, as you then used to pop in to see us at least for a while. 

On Wednesday [the Feast of the Annunciation / 'Lady Day' - 25 March], we had a few people over in the afternoon. [Olle] Hellsten, Hildur from Länghem, and Gustav came home for a while as well. We made waffles and ate here – if you had been home, you'd have been welcome, too. 
Eating waffles for the Feast of the Annunciation is (still) a tradition in Sweden.
Olle Hellsten was a friend who later became Sally's brother-in-law, when he married her sister Hildur. Judging by more letters to come, in 1925 Hildur and Olle weren't really a couple yet - but Hildur was clearly hoping for them to be!
"Hildur from Länghem" has the same first name as Sally's sister, but is a different person - a neighbour from another farm in the village
"Gustav came home for a while as well" - this refers to Sally's older half-brother, who emigrated to America in 1902, but returned to Sweden in 1911. In 1925, it seems that he was temporarily staying at the vicarage in the same village, working for the vicar.

This photo may be from a few years later, but it includes some of the people mentioned in this post: Olle Hellsten; Hildur, Nils, Sally and their mother Selma; and Gustav (Sally's and Nils' half-brother - not my grandfather). 

Karl Nilsson, Edvin Eriksson and Nils went to visit Klas [Olofsson] in the afternoon, and it seems they had a good time. Nils was back home at 10 pm, so it didn't get quite as late as last time, if you remember – Boxing Day, when we went to Sparsör.
The name Edvin Eriksson doesn't mean anything to me. Karl Nilsson and Klas Olofsson were both friends who inspired my grandfather to pursue his longing to be a writer and journalist. (Both of them also mentioned in the previous post/letter.)
Tuesday evening we were down to Karlsboda to watch Ella Johansson and 'Kalle the Smith', they got married then. And yesterday evening, Hildur and I went to Länghem for coffee and had ”sort of” a good time. 
The couple that got married I know nothing about.  I'm getting the impression that Sally and her sister may have been just "sort of" friends with the other Hildur, though! 
Today we are baking and washing here, but not preparing for weaving  – that we did yesterday, and we're not done with that yet, but I guess we'll get there eventually. 
"Preparing for weaving"  - Sally uses some words here that are unfamiliar not only to me, but also to Google. But from more letters to follow it becomes clear that it has to do with preparing a loom for weaving. (Sally, Hildur and their mother were probably all three involved in that project. I don't know what they intended to weave, though.)
Tomorrow and on Sunday we're having a big [church/chapel] district meeting at Komlösa. There will be many speakers there, Reverend Hasselroth among them. If you'd been home, I suppose you'd have gone there to write a report [for the newspaper].

Well, now I've been writing about this and that, but I will have to stop now, as it's time to go and drink coffee. Sending you best wishes from all of us here. 

I can also add that we saw your grandfather yesterday, he was going to the shop and didn't stop by here, but at least we know he is up and about. Mum often goes out to check if she can see smoke coming from his chimney – we can see that from here. 

Please let us know how you are.
Nils is waiting for a letter from you. 
Best wishes from your friend Sally

[PS] Please excuse all the blotches from my pen - it looks awful, but I can't help it.

Linking to Sepia Saturday 646

You don't necessarily have to go way up in the mountains to have coffee! ;-)


Förra veckan nämnde jag att jag trodde att Nils gjort sin militärtjänst (1923) i Borås. Under veckan som gått hittade jag ett vykort från Nils till Selma som visar att jag hade fel i fråga om det: Tydligen var han stationerad vid infanteri-regimentet I9 i Skövde. (Vykortet visar soldathemmet där; och jag hittade också ett gruppfoto online med soldater i samma uniform som Nils bar på ett foto som även var med i förra veckans inlägg.)

Efter att ha klarat upp den saken, så fortsätter vi nu med nästa brev från Sally till Gustaf (skrivet knappt en vecka efter brevet i förra veckans inlägg): 

Storegården, Fristad, d. 27/3 1925

Bäste vän Gustaf!

Tusen tack skall du ha för brevet, som jag fick igår. Det var tråkigt att du blivit sjuk, men hoppas att du kryar på dig igen, så att det ej blir något allvarsamt. Troligen har du väl förkylt dig, vilket är ganska lätt gjort och i synnerhet när man, som du nu, fått ett sådant knog o dyl. Därför gäller det för dig att nu vara aktsam om dig, och rätt om din hälsa.

Jaså, du trodde inte vi togo till ”lipen” för att du hade rest. Jo, det skall jag säga dig att det var inte långt borta. Vi tyckte det blev så tomt efter dig, och mamma grät och tyckte det var så synd om dig. I all synnerhet på söndagarna sakna vi dig mycket, emedan du då brukade åtminstone någon stund titta in till oss.

I onsdags (Marie Bebådelsed.) var det några stycken här på eftermiddagen. Hellsten, Hildur på Länghem och så var Gustav hemma en stund också. Vi bakade våfflor och åto här, hade du varit hemma hade du också fått smaka dem. 

Karl Nilsson, Edvin Eriksson och Nils var hos Klas [Olofsson] en god stund på eftermiddagen, och hade visst mycke trevligt. Nils var hemma igen kl. 10 på kvällen, så det blev ju ej så sent som förra gången, om du minns, det var annandag jul, när vi voro i Sparsör.

I tisdags kväll voro vi nere på Karlsboda och titta på Ella Johansson och ”Kalle Smen”, de gifte sig då. Igår kväll voro Hildur och jag på Länghem och drucko kaffe och hade trevligt ”i viss mån”.

Idag bakar och bryggar vi här, men inte tvinnar ”återgångar”, det gjorde vi igår, vi har ju ej färdigt det ännu, men det skall väl gå så småningom. I morgon och på söndag har vi stort s.k. ”kretsmöte” i Komlösa. Det skall bli många talare där, bl.a. Kyrkoherde Hasselroth. Hade du varit hemma nu hade du väl gått dit och refererat.

Ja, nu har jag talat om lite av varje och nu tror jag visst jag får sluta min skrivning, jag skall gå och dricka kaffe nu. Hjärtliga hälsningar till dig från oss alla här. Vill också nämna att vi såg Thulin i går, han gick till boden, men var ej inne här, så vi vet ändå att han är på benen. Mamma brukar ofta gå ut och se efter om det ryker ur skorstenen, det syns hit.

Du låter väl höra av dig, så vi få veta hur det är med dig. Nils väntar på brev från dig.
Hälsningar till dig fr. vännen Sally

Du får vara snäll och ursäkta mig för att jag plumpat, det ser fasligt illa ut, men jag rår inte för det.


"Hildur på Länghem" var en granne, och ska inte förväxlas med Sallys syster med samma namn.

(Olle) Hellsten var en vän, som senare gifte sig med Sallys syster Hildur. 1925 var de nog ännu inte ett par - men av andra brev framgår att Hildur hoppades på det. (Hildur och Olle gifte sig samma år som Sally och Gustaf, 1930). 

Gustav (Samuelsson) * var Sallys äldre halvbror som 1902 utvandrat till Amerika, men återvände till Sverige 1910/11. (Han bodde sedan också ett antal år uppe i Värmland och Dalsland.) 1925 tycks han en tid tillfälligt ha bott på prostgården i Fristad, medan han också arbetade för prosten. 

Gustav, liksom tre av hans syskon - Oscar, Ester och Gerda - tog sig kring sekelskiftet efternamnet Ekman. Under åren i Amerika gick han under namnet Gustaf - ofta avkortat till 'Gust' - Ekman. Ekman tycks han också ha behållit under de första åren efter hemkomsten, och medan han bodde uppe i Värmland och Dalsland. När  han  sedan flyttade tillbaka (permanent) till Fristad verkar han först ha kallat sig Emanuelsson - i likhet med syskonen på gården (Carl, Sally och Nils, och styvmodern Selma). Men sedan ändrade han tydligen tillbaka till det efternamn under vilket han blivit inskriven i kyrkboken vid födseln - Samuelsson. (Fadern hette Samuel Emanuelsson.) Han verkar då också ha ändrat stavningen av sitt förnamn från Gustaf till Gustav.

Karl Nilsson och Klas Olofsson var båda inspirationskällor och 'mentorer' till min farfar (Gustaf T.) när det gällde hans beslut att satsa på skrivande och journalistik. (Jmf föregående inlägg.)

Uttrycket "tvinna återgångar" har jag inte lyckats finna någonstans. Av kommande brev från Sally framgår dock att det ingick i förberedelser för att sätta upp en väv, ett projekt som nog involverade alla tre kvinnorna på gården: Sally och Hildur och deras mor Selma. 


  1. What an enjoyable letter from Sally to "her friend?" I can just imagine her writing the same way she spoke.

    1. Thanks Barbara. Yes, writing letters seems to have come natural to her. From some old postcards in her brother Gustav's collection too, I got the impression that already in her teens, Sally seemed to be the one taking on the role as "main correspondent" on the farm, when it came to keeping in touch with other members of the extended family :)

  2. Like Barb said, Sally's writing (even in translation :–) really gives her a personal voice in your series. It's fun to imagine what people were doing back in old times. It happens that this week I have been struggling to get rid of thousands and thousands of inherited photos and ephemera. Yesterday I tried dealing with decades of letters sent to my grandmother, most from my mother. By complete chance I found one dated 58 years ago that tells my grandmother about the new French horn my mother bought for me for my birthday. It's the same instrument that now hangs on the wall of my studio. Not only does she give the price paid for the instrument but I discovered that she chose the more expensive "best" quality one. Needless to say I've saved her letter and all the rest too. At least until I can read them and "hear" my mother's voice again.

    1. Mike, I have lots more old letters and cards and photos saved as well, and am struggling to reduce the amount of them... I'm focusing mostly on those inherited from my paternal grandparents, as some of those (perhaps together with my own summaries) may be worth passing on to the local history society in the village where they lived.

  3. Sally's letter and Mikes comment about old letters reminded me of something my mother did for me years ago which I happily turned around later when she was older. Back when I was newly married and raising children, we did not have computers and email. My mother never did, actually. So I would write my Mom - who lived 400 miles away - long letters about what I was doing and how the children were growing up, etc. And bless her heart, she saved them all and later on, returned them to me. What a wonderful thing as I had forgotten things here and there and reading my letters to her brought back those memories. I still go back and read them again as I've never tossed them out. In turn, as Mom got older, I began to save her letters - not to return to her, but to have and reread after she was gone. :)

    1. La N, I too have some letters from myself to my Mom that she saved. :)