The newly renovated Swedish American Hall was revitalized on January 30 when 120 dear friends (with many more on the waiting list) celebrated the 90th birthday of Lisa Wiborg at a reception in her honor. Arranged by Inger and Björn Skogström, Nina Webber and their team, the banquet tables were beautifully decorated by Charlotte Ferrey and the program, slides and graphics were created by Britta Swartz. The party was made possible with support of Barbro Osher, the Church of Sweden SF, the Young Scandinavians Club and the Swedish Club.
Lisa Wiborg is honored and decorated both here and in Sweden. She is the founder and first woman president of the Young Scandinavians Club — with almost a thousand members, one of the most active clubs here. She inaugurated the club’s annual Lucia pageant at the Hall in 1957, the longest running of all such programs here and in the U.S. Under Barbro Osher she helped found the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of SWEA, the largest and very active chapter of this essential organization in the world.

Lady of a thousand hats
Lisa is so venerable that she seems to have arrived in the U.S. fully made for her role. Born in Örebro, Sweden, Lisa Gustafsson longed for more adventure and came to the U.S. in 1954 — first to Rochester, NY, and shortly thereafter to San Francisco. Here she married Christian Frederik Wiborg in 1964, and together they often sailed with Norway’s King Olaf and Crown Prince Harald. So, quite naturally, her second home is at the beautiful Norwegian Seamen’s Church overlooking the Bay beside the cable cars on Russian Hill. There she attends both the Norwegian services under Pastor Gisle Meling and the Swedish ones under Pastor Staffan Eklund, both of whom spoke during the evening.
Lisa's reputation as the Lady of a Thousand Hats is well earned, and at the celebration her successor as president of the YSC wore one of his special hats at her command as he addressed the guests. The evening began with tributes by her many admirers. A most special treat was that the beautiful and gifted mezzo soprano, Ann Assarsson, formerly from San Francisco but now of Boston, flew in to serenade Lisa. She was accompanied at the piano by Maestro Ragnar Bohlin, director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. When Ann began, she wore a colorful feather boa, later bestowing it upon Lisa, the ultimate showgirl. Ann first sang a medley of songs and later in an encore performance she led the guests in a delightful rendition of “Vill vi se en stjärna?” [Do we wish to see a star]!

The hall revives its grand banquets
The occasion was not merely a celebration of Lisa’s 90 youthful years, but it also set a precedent. After the Swedish American Hall was first built and dedicated in 1907, it hosted many banquets and festivities for the surrounding Scandinavian community. This reception and banquet demonstrated that the new hall retains that same magic to host special occasions for the whole community. Indeed as host Inger Skogström joked, a second seating for those on the waiting list could fill the balcony of Freja Hall with a dozen more tables.
This was an opportunity for the Swedish Society and its new president, Nina Webber, to reintroduce this new capacity and capability of the renovated hall. Sitting in attendance were immediate Past President Bengt Sandberg and Vice President Fred Bianucci, the two men most responsible for assuring and supervising the entire renovation. They made sure the hall was ready to host all the guests for this special occasion. And, suitably, all the guests marveled at the remarkable achievement of the space and how it complemented the camaraderie of the evening.
But the Swedish Society was not alone in its demonstration of quality. Enrique Landa, managing partner of the hall’s master tenant, Upper Market Vikings, together with David White, partner of NeTeimeas Restaurant Group, who have made the Swedish American Hall such a nightspot in the city, and Chef Ryan Pollenow of the popular Aatxe Restaurant on the ground floor, displayed their notable artisanship with a truly memorable menu.
The evening began with a reception at the Freja bar followed by abundant wines at dinner tables. After delightful Swedish delicacies for appetizers and a delicious pea soup with rutabaga and chive fritters, the mouth-watering entrées of slow-baked local halibut with chard, fennel kraut and meyer lemon beurre blanc or glögg-braised beef short ribs with pearl onions and carrots served with scalloped potatoes stilled the table conversations as everyone savored his dish. Dinner concluded with Princess Cake and coffee.

Entertainment: Lisa and her guests
During the dinner Lennart Swartz interviewed Lisa on her eventful life. Among the many fond memories she shared was one from 1976 when Hugo Olson was publisher of Vestkusten and a leader in the community. Hugo recognized in Lisa even 40 years ago that she was becoming the Grande Dame of Swedes here. So, he chose her to represent the local Swedish community in presenting to King Carl Gustav XVI an engagement gift for him and his queen when he visited San Francisco.
While there had already been many skåls to Lisa, it remained for Consul General Barbro Osher, after reflecting upon seeking Lisa’s advice in founding SWEA here, to lead us all in “Ja, må hon leva,” concluding with a hearty four-fold "hurrah."
Later in the evening Lisa was serenaded with musical show tunes by Paul Vida with John Houghton at the piano. And toward the end of the program, a number of women entered to music shaking their feather boas as they filled the stage to serenade Lisa. In a moment of laughter, they realized Lisa was not where they thought she was, but soon she was joining them in a jolly song, swaying to the beat wrapped in her own boa.

Memories are made of this
It was a delightful evening. Lisa has been a dear friend of my folks, my sister and our family for well more than half a century. Indeed she holds a special place in my heart for she was responsible for my greatest gift and treasure: When I was finally able to live and work in San Francisco, I visited YSC’s summer cabin at Clear Lake — it was there I met my wife, Astrid. We married and raised our family, and we are both grateful to Lisa for being such a guiding spirit for YSC, where we met and fell in love.
I believe Lisa’s salient characteristic is her zest for life. She has always been the life of the party and has blessed all of us with the joy of living a full life. She is my exemplar in that and in taking an active role in all local Swedish and Scandinavian activities. If there ever was a song made for this lively lady, it must be transcribed as:

“Hello, Lisa, well, hello, Lisa!
It's so nice to have you back where you belong.”
(here at the Swedish American Hall among all your friends.)
You’re lookin’ swell, Lisa. We can tell, Lisa:
You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’, you're still goin’ strong!

By Ted Olsson
San Francisco