The history of a Vasa Lodge Lindbergh #494, Los Altos, CA
I joined my local Vasa lodge a few years ago, in the hopes of furthering my Swedish cultural knowledge. My father came from Hälsingland in the 1960s, but he did not place his heritage very high on our family's priority list. Only a few traditions were practiced over the years, such as birthday celebrations and Lucia when my sister and I were small. I really didn’t anticipate the void that would be left after he passed away in 1996, as I discovered I knew very little of this heritage to pass on to my children.
So I signed up for Swedish language lessons with Gun McCuen and began to fill in some of the cultural holes with her lessons. She not only taught me to speak Swedish, but most of her lessons focused on teaching the culture, history and traditions of Sweden. She eventually suggested I join Vasa, where people of similar interests gathered monthly to share this rich heritage.
I grew curious about how Vasa began, and especially how my lodge had been formed. I found that Vasa was an organization which fostered Scandinavian immigrants’ needs here in America by providing a supportive community of immigrants from the same area. They helped each other assimilate to American society and took care of each other. It was a way for members to preserve their way of life from their homeland, while learning American history, culture and customs.
I looked through some old reports submitted by our lodge’s historians and the following is a synopsis of how we came to be.
Birth of a lodge
Vasa Order of America’s Lindbergh Lodge #494, in Los Altos, California, was organized by District 12 Master Allan Johnson on July 23, 1927. It was named after Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974), the famous Swedish-American aviator who made the first solo, nonstop, transatlantic flight just two months before the lodge was founded.
The first meeting was held in the hall of the Native Sons of the Golden West in Palo Alto. Forty-four charter members were enrolled, with 38 in attendance on the day they were inducted in a formal ceremony led by district officers, assisted by the Fylgia Drillteam.
The monthly meetings took place in various locations in Palo Alto, until the lodge began to meet at the American Legion Hall #558 in Los Altos in 1988, where it continues to meet today.
The charter members came from all walks of life—they were farmers, carpenters, plasterers, builders, teamsters, seamen and cabinet makers. They mostly came from northwest Skåne around Bastad and Angelholm. Some came from Småland, Stockholm and Norrland. Some came from other Vasa lodges to start Lindbergh Lodge.
An historic event took place on December 14, 1946, when Lindbergh Lodge, with permission from District Lodge #12, started to conduct their meetings in the English language.
Lindbergh hosts District 12
There are more than one hundred and fifty local lodges in the Vasa Order of America, governed by 18 District Lodges in the United States, Sweden and Canada. Vasa Districts have annual conventions where local organizational guidelines are reviewed and changed if needed, and scholarships are awarded, and other celebrations are held for members to reconnect.
Lindbergh has hosted and co-hosted several Disctrict 12 annual conventions over the years. The first was in 1929, just two years after it was formed, and another in 1959, where 459 persons attended. In 1974, 375 people attended, and in 1991 there were 215 persons in attendance. The most recent convention was in 2010, a joint effort with Fylgia Lodge #119 in San Francisco. Nearly 150 members attended. Although the theme of the convention was the arts, one of the hot topics of discussion was waning membership.
Founder Allan Johnson celebrates 100
In 1982, Allan Johnson attended Lindbergh’s 55th anniversary dinner. Although he was residing in Salem Lutheran Home in Oakland, he wanted to continue as an active member of the lodge. In May 1986 he received a special honor from Lindbergh members, presented on the date of his 100th birthday! Allan passed away just six months later.
In 1987, Lindbergh secretary Rolf Neuman wrote:
“During my last year as District Deputy to the Linne Lodge #437, I saw the attendance dropping down. The people were getting older, no new members; the stairs up to the second floor where the meeting hall was located were getting steeper all the time.
Finally the members decided something had to be done. Letters were written to all members, meetings were held, and the decision was made to merge with Lindbergh Lodge #494. This was not an easy task for people that had belonged to Linne Lodge for many, many years. The members that lived around San Mateo decided they would like to merge with Lindbergh Lodge. All in all, twenty members were willing to join with Lindbergh.”
On Feb. 27, 1987 the two lodges merged.
Today, Lindbergh has a membership of more than 100 people. We see attrition each year due to people's moves or deaths, but we are an exceptional group of people who delight in bringing our friends and acquaintances to meetings with us, and so new member initiations are a regular occurrence.
Over the years our members have served extensively in elected leadership roles in Vasa’s Golden Gate District 12, and we are proud to have members who represent us on the international level as well. We meet every second Friday, and enjoy reconnecting with each other to celebrate most of the Scandinavian holidays and traditions. Our Midsommar celebrations are especially festive, and we celebrate Easter (Påsk) with birch twigs adorned with feathers, little paper witches and Easter bonnets. The most attended event of the year is our Lucia procession and dancing around the Christmas tree (Julgran). Santa (Tomten) comes and hands out gifts to all the good children, and Glögg (mulled, spiced red wine) is enjoyed. We also have an annual wine-bottling event at Tomas Kruse winery just south of San Jose.
I am proud to say that both my sons are growing up attending these monthly meetings, where they play with their friends, but also learn about our heritage through the cultural presentations. I took my older son to Sweden when he turned 13, and will take my younger son there when he turns 13 this coming summer. Thanks to the family of Lindbergh Lodge members, my boys are accustomed to the Swedish language, food and traditions.
But the one thing I keep a secret until they experience it themselves is opening a can of surströmming on the deck of our summer house (sommarstuga) on Lake Långbo.
Membership in Vasa is open to everyone, age 14 or older, interested in Nordic culture. Please visit www.vasaorder.com for more information about membership and to find a lodge in your area. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, please visit our District 12 website at www.vasadistrict12.org.
By Ann Marie Richardson