We begin in 1920 at Umea, Sweden, a small riverside town high on the west coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. They are near the southern limits of the territory across which the meandering Laplanders, the last of mankind’s race of hunter-gatherers, have traveled since the last ice age. Olga and Axel Olsson have four boys, closely spaced in age, to raise in this rugged environment. They were well equipped to do so, with a father who was living on a military pension for an accidental injury sustained while serving as a sergeant in the Swedish military. Correspondingly, Olga was a government-trained midwife, delivering babies from all sectors of society.
The firstborn was the trailblazer and left home to find his way when he graduated with a very fine education from the gymnasium at sixteen, but he could not gain entrance to the state university system due to no fault of his own. Consequently, he went to sea on a great sailing ship and found his way on a globe-girdling trip into the future, in the world depression, between the two great world wars. His mother was sent to school to be a midwife by Max von Planck. He recruited her as a very bright sixteen-year-old high school senior to babysit his three youngsters while he had his family on a summer vacation in Sweden in 1901. This renowned professor was showing his appreciation for her fine service to his three children during this summer interlude.
Swede, as he was sometimes called, was swept into the US peacetime Army for a three-year stint from 1928 through 1930. His entire enlistment was served at Fort Hoyle, Aberdeen, Maryland, concurrently with two officers who were destined for the history books, Major George S. Patton Jr. and First Lieutenant A. C. McAuliffe. Swede was honorably discharged and made a place for himself in Baltimore during the prohibition years. He married a Virginia farm girl who had moved to the big city to escape the rigors of the farm. Swede struggled to acquire a trade and landed a position with an airplane builder in the Baltimore area.
His gymnasium education and familiarity with the metric system helped him gain entry into a highly skilled trade as a machinist/toolmaker building bombers for the French and British at Martin in 1939 and 1940. After twenty-five years at Martin, he retired to ownership of a small boatyard and to see his two sons marry and have families, with six grandchildren. He quietly passed away in 1981, handsomely eulogized by his best friend’s son while living on his property at Bodkins Creek, Maryland.
Meanwhile, the sixty years of handwritten letters to Grandma, in her treasured America’s box, found their way to the USA, where they were translated into English and found their way into our story.
The whole bachelors
On the east