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John Hedlund



This article was written in a mixture of Swedish and English. I have attempted to provide as clear an interpretation as possible. Some words are in Swedish which I could not decipher and some of the story is written with a Swedish slant. However, the basic story can be understood. John was born in 1910 and died in 1992. He tells us about his life in a text from ABF circle? in 1976 and it is archived in the Skelleftea Museum in Sweden. He writes about his time in Canada.



John Hedlund and his wife Ingrid in 1940.

John Hedlund and his wife Ingrid, 1940.

On March 23rd 1929, John Hedlund left Örviken and went from Gothenburg, Sweden to Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. Possibly he had been influenced by Albin Markstedt from Ersmark who travelled by ship and arrived in Halifax, Canada on March 1, a month earlier than John.

John returned to Ersmark, Sweden on September 23, 1936. He married Ingrid Hedstrom from Kusmark in 1941. They had no children of their own. He earned his living as workers and owners of small farms.

John Hedlund was the uncle of actor Roland Hedlund, wife Ingrid was the sister of the mothers of Berndt - Erik Gustafsson and the Tage? and Jan - Erik Bjursell.

On Jan 1, 1910, when according to legend, the thermometer showed -22 degrees and a blizzard was raging, born to Klara and Karl Hedlund, a little boy, the seventh and last of the siblings. He was named John Ossian.

After completing dental leap?, whooping cough, Spanish flu and the 6 years of school, he, at least in summer, wanted to do something so he could earn his livelihood at rovrensning (thinning vegetables in a garden), takspånplockning? and chip orientation?

So when you were confirmed and had long pants and heels, it was seeking a good servant spot. It was with the Parliamentary Ombudsman Bergmark in Ersmark I took employment and where I remained for three years as the little farmhand. There I was working in homespun rammer, in the press shop, where we pressed both homespun and lighter fabrics to smooth and fine fabrics. As mentioned Ombudsman also took apart, a Briscoe and a Model T-ford, so you had to with a great feeling to sit behind the wheel at some point.

So I ended up as a farmhand but continued as a day labourer for the same man. Now, with the difference that I lived at home with his father and mother. I worked then as a sawyer, partly on the frame saw and partly on the circular saw in the winter and on the planer some weeks in the summer. The payment was then 4 krona per day, which was considered a good wage.

In the winter of 1929, I took employment with two cousins of mine who ran a chain saw up in Nybäck. I worked there for three months and was very sore, so sore that I began to reflect on the meaning of life was just hard work. When I was home one weekend so I asked the father and mother that either allowed to go to Canada or go out on the lake to still get to see some of the rest of the world before they had worked themselves to death. The answer was "at sea, do not go, but you can arrange travel money to Canada you can get dangerous."


Map of John Hedlund trip to Canada and Big River.

Map of John Hedlund's journey to Canada and Big River, Saskatchewan.

Two weeks later, on April 4, I took leave of my parents, siblings and friends, and the journey began. The trip to Canada went well, one man got seasick. But I had to put on my thinking cap when the boat docked in Halifax on the evening of 15 April. It was dark and foggy, and on the quay ran white and black people alternately and spoke a language that for me was incomprehensible. I remember I thought, "how will you ever be able to turn to the tongue and talk like that (it took only 3 months).

They herded us from the boat and into railway cars for transportation to Winnipeg and employment there. There were not many jobs anywhere, only farm work. I went to work for a Swedish farmer on the prairies in a town named Mozart in Saskatchewan. He was the worst employer I ever had. I stayed there for two months and the working conditions were so bad there. Up at 4 am and worked until 9 or 10 pm and sometimes 11 pm.

But it was easy to get farm work, so I just went over to the next farm and got a job for 5 dollars more in salary and $35.00 a month room and board. I worked there until the autumn and was then offered a job to go and winter fish for a large fishing company, way up in Canada's lakes area about 150 Swedish miles north of the settlement. The terminal station of the railway was called big River, Saskatchewan. There we fished with nets under the ice, the fisheries policy was H Whitefish (whitefish), pickerel, pike, suckers and some trout.

There, I came in contact for the first with the Indians, that over time, I found to be one of the best races I've ever met. The indigenous people were of great stature and who lived for the day without thinking that there came a day, a week, or a year after this day.

Then in April, back to civilization again, and then there was, of course, no job other than farm work again.

But it was just for the summer. In the fall, I bought with a friend, Ragnar Westerlund from Kage Swamp, trapping equipment and went far into Canada's ancient forests by canoe and dogsled and searched for a spot where we could clear us a trapline and start to set out our traps. Together we built a cabin on Dore Lake and it became our main camp for four years. We then set out a trapline that took us 4 - 6 days to cover. Usually one of us went in one direction and the other in another, but always on a given day met in the main camp. If we were not there, something has gone wrong. Luckily, this did not happen.

What we had in the way of food was salt pork, a sack of flour, sugar, beans and peas, sometimes dry milk, lots of tea, 1 gallon (about 5 litres) of 96% alcohol and tincture of iodine. The last two things were, like matches, many times a condition of life.

Over the years, when we built ourselves more trapping shacks on the trapline so we could dogsled in winter and run up to a store. The first year we only had moonlight and the log fire for lights then we got a kerosene lamp. Most nights were spent under some spruce down an eiderdown sleeping bag around us and the dogs in a ring around.

The fur we caught was mostly cross fox (a variant of the red fox) and silver fox, coyotes, wolves, lynx, ermine and skunk. Even some bears for their meat and the skin we used for floor mats in the cabins. Also, we trapped muskrat and that was an important part of our income. But it was a very hard time during the two months it was legal to trap muskrats. In the two months, we did not sleep much, but you were well paid for your work in March.

Bait for the traps was ample when you needed meat, you just to took the Winchester and shot a moose or a deer. If you wanted fish you set a net in the lake and then had food both for yourself and the dogs plus bait the traps.

Sure, it was often a hard life with hardships and dangers, but oh so free and fresh it was and sure it happens that one longs to be there again. But one should be both young and healthy to think about this. Sure, it could be difficult at times, for you could go weeks, even months, without having met anyone other than your friend.

But it could also happen that a hunter with his dog team came by and stayed for a day or two. It could be a white man or an Indian or a half-breed. Half-Blood Indians, it was quite ample, but unfortunately, I cannot give them good marks, because they were both lazy and thieving and did not hesitate to empty your traps if there would be any animals in them.

In contrast, an Indian, if he saw that you had something in a trap, he took the animal and hung up in a tree next to the catch. You wanted a friend for life, you just offer them a cup of coffee and a pipeful of tobacco, if you had it. The contact may well be worse because many Indians didn't speak English, but only "Cree", their language.

Yes, very down would be to tell you, but really, so have I abandoned the subject, which of course applies to Swedish conditions.

A fisherman's day starts at 6 in the morning to cook for his gang. For the most part, the three teams in the same camp. A team consists of two men who have 15 to 20 nets, then 50, on 60 per camp. When you have eaten and fed the pony, which also belongs to the fishing crew, (sometimes used dog team rather than pony) so the loader man on his equipment, ice chisel, axe, shovel and fish hooks plus the nets. As you drive out on the lake that is completely covered with ice.

The chisel cuts to a hole two feet by two feet and you put jigger under the ice. The fisherman then pulls the rope that is attached to a lever with a sharp spike in one end, the jigger pulls forward under the ice for each move you make. If the ice is clear one can constantly see jigger, otherwise you have to hear where it goes. When you have run the jigger 50 or one hundred yards, you then cut to a new hole and catch the line with the wooden fish hook and then pull in the fishnet and continue until you have set out all their nets.

The nets are emptied every other day, quite hard work and cold, because the extreme cold and blizzard may at times occur. You could use up to 12 pairs of mitts per day depending on how wet they got and froze together into a lump of ice. The mitts must then be washed in the evening and hung to dry overnight. So you must own at least 24 pairs of mitts. In a good day, you could catch about 300 kgs of fish, but you could settle for 15 to 20 kg also.

An Indian family named Meresty was an old cosy Indian and was always happy to share their experience of hunting, fishing and their medical magic. I asked him about his family and was told that "I have three wives, but in different places, so when one starts to nag, I drive over to the next, and that way I have for the most part a good relationship with them all.

When asked how many children he fathered, I received a reply with a twinkle in his corner of the eye, 64 children that I know of but probably there are many more and they are all happy when we meet.

I was even offered to choose me a companion of one of his daughters, but as I saw and knew that most of the time a mix between white and native was unfortunate.

I knew the world was small When I was travelling home from Canada, so I decided to go down to the United States in transit, and to do this I required a permit. So I went into Swedish Consulate in Winnipeg to obtain the permit. I told them what I wanted and waited until my papers were ready as the Vice-Consul watched. Then he looked at me and said: "Do you know Klockhoff - Andersson Watchmaking he asked, I answered that I heard much about him. "Yes, that's my uncle and Dan Andersson is my brother, Furthermore, I know your father, uncle and brother who I worked with in Örviken."

Needless to say that there were some Skellef tea hours together before my bus went down to the states and New York. The most powerful impression from this trip was Niagara Falls, a memory for life.

In June 1936, I came home to Ersmark again after seven years' residence in Canada. I never regret that I travelled. Partly because the times were so bad in Sweden when I left, and secondly, you had to, of course, learn a lot in those years to fend for yourself. Besides, I made a sum of approximately $3000.00, which is certainly not done in Sweden in the early '30s.

Trade union in 1937 was a breakthrough year for the labour movement in Ersmark. Then was formed the Dept. of Forestry. Its first chairman was A. Westerlund. Well, we were 10-12% from the beginning, but several were added. That it aroused indignation in some people who controlled the village was of course completely understandable. We were threatened that we would be without a job was quite natural.

But we fought on and, after a few years I got a confession by one who from the beginning was among those who threatened us most, "for us it was happy a union was formed, there was more order of work and pricing." That was a statement that must rejoice a working heart.

Since founded Dept. 555 of the Factory Workers' Union in 1942. I was its secretary for several years. I sat on the board since 1948, a few years as well as the safety council. Furthermore, the creation of a department Ersmarks Arbetarekommun during the 1950s that now is amalgamated law to Ersmark-Kusmarks Arbetarekommun. A voluntary health insurance fund was in Ersmark-Kusmark where I worked both the son of a member recruiters and health visitors.

As recruiters were most often heard "I'm so rarely sick" and that was my argument "yes, but then you can of course when you get healthy, go into the merits always add your sickness benefit and if you then get sick, you have always a little sickness to fall back on," and it won me many members.

The meetings in the 50s and early 60's quite lively, thanks to Alex Westerlund, who had several cooperative courses. But we also had several reading groups where we read Swedish as well as foreign authors. We had no rooms so we commuted between home one evening a week. These study evenings I remember with joy, for it was always a good atmosphere with historical attractions and byskval - smiles.

A people pleasure was when someone got married in the fall or winter, to go and "coke" on brudpa - year. I remember once when a wealthy farmer's daughter married a farmer's son ditto, half the village was invited as guests and the rest of us, we were "koxare". We had called the bridal couple on the bridge and how-conditioned for them and when it was done, there was a loud male voice sing a song for the couple where each verse ended with: "the morning when they woke up, then the flower out of fair virgin lady's cheek, ow, ow.

Another memory was when the ice was frozen on Bunny Iron and someone suggested that we talk to Volle Kalberg about to take his two-row accordion and play up to dance. We danced on the ice where we arranged with fire for both heat and light. Then it was quite common that we shovelled the snow up on either the lake or the river, and danced to the tune of "Volles" accordion or Karl-Ottos gramophone.

In the summer when we had a dance floor on the west side of Bovägen which was frequently used, and where many during inmundigandet by Brat Tens drops tested their strength among themselves.

So it was the Michaelmas, Easter and Pentecost weekends, when all the youth would go down to Bonnstan and rejoice in hope of a night together with any unknown lass or guy, Boxing Day and fettisdagskväll then it was to leave the "Gothic Ro" in Kage and compulsory dance. Easter and Midsummer, then it was Näsudden one focused on. Furthermore, we used to go on winter evenings together, young people of both sexes, and meet in one chamber or bakery. There, we passed the time with games and stories. A cheap and innocent amusement that could lead to lifelong friendships.



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