Sunday, September 14, 2008

Road trip: Kingsburg, California - updated

As readers here know, Kingsburg, California, is my father's home town.

This water tower, decorated to suggested a Swedish coffee pot, is a landmark for spotting Kingsburg when driving by on Highway 99. I am old enough to remember when it was just a water tower, still a landmark but not tarted up.

Here you can see Swedish and American flags flying side by side. According to Wikipedia: In 1921, ninety-four percent of the population within a three-mile radius of Kingsburg was Swedish-American, giving the community the nickname of "Little Sweden."

That dropped to 8.6% in the 2000 census.

Uncle Charlie (Karl) moved to Kingsburg first and married Aunt Sophie. Other siblings followed, the last being my grandfather, Victor, and his mother Annie (Anna). This side of the family came from mining country and a couple of grandfather's brothers had lost their lives in the mines.

Great-grandmother Annie's remains are beneath a tree in an unmarked grave in the Kingsburg cemetery, though most of the family have grave markers. Annie never learned English so my father and his siblings all spoke Swedish as their first language, then learned English from playmates and at school.

In later years Dad railed against people who come to the United States and don't learn English. I invariably reminded him that his grandmother never did and second generations always do. He ignored my comments as though I had not even spoken.

I took a drive around town with Dad many years ago and had him point out to me where folks lived. I remember him showing me Uncle Charlie's house and the farmhouse in which Dad was born (about to be torn down at that point).

A Swedish design on a wood panel decorating a wall.

Karl Ludwig Moberg came to Kingsburg from Stockholm with his third wife, Maria Augusta Westin. Family legend has it that the Westins are descended from a son of Axel Oxenstierna who killed someone and fled, changing his name. Who knows? Seems like a rather mixed claim to fame if you ask me.

The Moberg's daughter, Maria Katerina (anglicized to Marie Katherine) met Victor Strid and married. And here is their grandson:

Me posing next to an oversized Dala horse. I asked Bill to shoot me from the chest up but you get my ice cream belly in spite of those clear instructions.

A mural showing a Viking ship with a Swedish flag for a sail. I know there is a drug problem in Central California but not sure which psychotropic substance led to this fantasy. It's pretty, though.

The building currently occupied by BofA is a nice piece of neo-classical architecture (to which I am drawn like a moth to a flame, no?).

The number is the address, clearly not the date of construction. Nice pediment on the doorway.

The arms of the various provinces of Sweden are used decoratively throughout the village.

Looking up the street toward the tower of the Baptist Church (which was a Swedish Baptist Church with services in Swedish many years ago). This was how my family, from the [Lutheran] Church of Sweden wound up as Baptists in the New World.

Kingsburg had just over 9000 residents in the 2000 census, making it larger than Wasilla, Alaska. This gives me a sense of how big a deal Wasilla is, or is not. I am trying to wrap my mind around a mayor who would come into office in Kingsburg and leave the town with $22 million in debt. Hmmm.

The official city site is here.

And that is an expansion of one stop on the road trip (for which there was no time while traveling).

Update: more nostalgia in the comments.
--the BB


susan s. said...

Aw, that's a cute icecream belly. I am still trying to figure out where my husband's came from. It ain't beer or icecream!

FranIAm said...

Always such lovely photos and commentary about your family, your history, the history of a place and more.

Brilliant. Thank you.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, what a nice travelogue for Kingsburg. It makes me want to go there. And more lovely architectural highlights. You should do a picture book.

And then you had to reference Palin. It's much too early in the day for her.

Do you know that MadPriest has your picture up for a caption contest? He wants ugly, vicious captions, so I won't play.

Paul said...

I don't know about brilliant, Fran, but thank you kindly. Will you write my obituary?

Paul said...

Josh Smith, thanks for the kind words at your Kingsburgbuzz blog. Welcome to all Kingsburgers!

I was never a resident there, though Dad was born there and my aunts and uncles all lived there much of their lives. It was always a treat to visit in Kingburg. As a child I joined my cousins in rolling raisins in the family vineyard. Farfar dressed up as Santa on at least one Christmas Eve. Farmor used to bake wonderful cakes, breads, cookies, and skorpor.

Dad graduated from Kingsburg High in 1927.

Ickdemideka Oddikazoddika boomdeshay!
Kingsburg! Kingsburg! Owoooo! Hooray!

There is a vintage cheer for you. While I can recite the Swedish cheer I dare not spell it so will refrain. The translation: Hardtack and rye, say what you will; who's the best? We're the best. Yes!

I hope that adds to the nostalgia for all who stop by here.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, LOL. No offense to you or to any Kingsburger, but that cheer is lame, really lame. HOWEVER, in its favor, I don't believe I ever heard a cheer that wasn't lame.

Paul said...

I am a Fresburger, myself, hailing from Fresno, but you, dear Grandmère, are simply too young to appreciate what zinging cheers those were back in their day. I am afraid this modern world has jaded you. (Grandmothers with tattoos indeed.) LOL

Paul said...


The second line should read:
Owooo! Owoooo! Kingsburg! Hooray!

[My senile fingers mistyped it the first time around.]