Working Summers in Sweden, 1947 & 1948

Note from Editor/Daughter: This story, dating back to after World War 2, is from my dad’s journal of memories. 

There are two special mountains near Venersborg, Sweden.

They are like islands on a flat prairie, rising steeply several hundred feet with vertical walls all around. There were two roads that led up to the largest mountain Trollhaettan, and one road up to the smaller Haeckaberga.

Trollhaettan had large deep peat bogs, forests and streams with small lakes between them, a paradise for moose and deer.

A mining company had the license for mining peat for fuel for industry as war-ravaged Poland was not yet able to ship coal.

There was no permanent housing on the mountain as it was crown land and a hunting ground for the Swedish King who came up once a year for the hunt.

We mined the peat which was dug up using large buckets thrown out into the bog and then pulled back out. The contents were dumped into a grinder and the ground peat pressed out into 8-foot-long boards.Digging peat in Trollhaettan, Sweden summers of 1947 and 1948The work paid double what a lot of other work paid but it was heavy and dirty. One of my friends was another Dane, a seaman who had jumped ship during the war, Angelo Larsen. He drove the digging machine and was an avid motorcycle racer. A very strong fellow, the only one other could match him in the camp was a Swedish electrician.

When Polish coal was again being imported, and peat no longer economical, Angelo went to work in an airplane factory in Vanersborg and got married. One older man who worked at the Pit mine was keen on me to meet his daughter but I did not take the hook as I had no intension of settling in Sweden.

The winter of 1947 Dad worked by himself logging an isolated forest in Sweden.

The next summer in 1948 was not as hot as in 1947 and I went back to digging peat at Trollhaettan. When the peat season ended I took my Harley bike and drove to a construction camp that was building a cement factory at Viken, Nynaeshamn.

I got a job on the spot when they heard I had machinery experience and initially worked as a helper in the machine shop. Many parts were made for the cement plant there although 95% of the huge machinery installed in the plant came in on flatbed trailers.

I was often sent to help the millwrights from the suppliers install the machinery in the buildings there, covering maybe one hundred acres.

One storage shed was 150 feet high, 1000 feet long and more than 200 feet wide, with two cranes running on rails on top of the walls. I worked with a riveter from Stockholm, finishing crane no. 2 and putting in the overhead electrical wiring along the top of the walls, not a job for anyone afraid of heights.Sweden high-walking DadThe plant had been stockpiling limestone but once we had put up the huge rock grinder they began grinding down the rock before blending it with clays. Later it was dried and pulverized in huge rotating ovens 12 feet in diameter and a couple hundred feet long.

I worked with welders, riveters, engineers and millwrights and as the production came further along I was offered a free millwrights course by the company. I believe I was considered a sort of apprentice by the shop foreman but I did not fancy a lifetime job in a cement plant especially when I saw the dust belching out of the plant, dust known to cause silicosis.

The military was also highly interested in the plant and there were rumours that the rock also contained uranium.

The only highlight at the site was the sauna at the fjord. It was fun to get steamed up and run out on the nearby wharf and dive in among the ice floes, coming back up it was like a thousand needles pricking your skin.

From there I went back to Denmark and got a job managing a farm where the owner had died, and that was my last job in Denmark before migrating to Canada.

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