Nestled deep in Uvas Canyon
Midst the redwoods, straight and tall
Lies a bit of nature’s loveliness
Known simply as “Sveadal.”

Long ago the Indians lived here —
Knew the charm and felt the spell
That it weaves around each one who
Comes to know and love it well.

Dear Sveadal! God grant that never
May your beauty be destroyed.
May we find it waiting for us
Year by year, to be enjoyed!

- Jerry Kramer, August 1961

Jerry Kramer was a friend of Alma Johnson and her daughters, Karin and Marva. Jerry visited them in Sveadal several times and wrote this poem. Astrid Olsson found it published in Vestkusten (online), a good example of how seeing through other’s eyes can offer a new appreciation of something cherished.

Gathering for a big celebration
People began arriving on Friday, and by late afternoon the pool was almost as packed as it would become on Saturday. The weather had cooled into the lower 90s, and as the sun set in the west along the top of the mountain range near the infamous Loma Prieta (source of the 1989 earthquake), dusk was smudged a light orange. The crowd was gathering to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Sveadal, the Swedish cultural heritage retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains.
California, of course, has been suffering for years from the symptoms of climate change, with years of drought and an increase in wildfires due to dense underbrush. On this weekend on the other side of the mountain, the Soberanes Fire was burning through Monterey County. It had begun on July 22 in Garrapata State Park north of Big Sur and Carmel and had already consumed 40,000 acres, forced 350 residents to evacuate, a contracted bulldozer operator fighting the fire was killed, and 57 homes we destroyed. The fire was only 15 percent contained, and because of the rugged terrain in the mountains, it was not expected to be extinguished before the end of August. More than 5,300 firefighters from throughout the state were battling the fire, which threatened another 2,000 homes.
At least for the time, Sveadal was protected, though the box canyon has experienced its share of fires (fortunately when people were not present). Everyone enjoying the anniversary weekend was oblivious and carefree, basking on the deck or lawn, soaking and swimming in the pool, drinking and conversing with old friends.
That evening Karin Sayegh called for the first rehearsal of the Sveadal kids, who would star in the historical program the next evening. She had written the script and was teaching its dramatization to her acting troupe. With experience she had assigned the older kids to read the narration, while the younger ones acted out the story.
The program showed the history of Sveadal through the decades. At first some of the kids were shy, embarrassed or reluctant to get into costumes or express emotion, but with the patience and enthusiasm of an early-primary school teacher, Karin prepared them well.
Cleverly, Linnea Chapman had created a simple but evocative backdrop of Sveadal’s entry gate. This was hung in one corner of the clubhouse and dance floor, and the audience sat on benches in an arc around this set with the evening sun illuminating the production. Behind the backdrop, each decade’s actors assembled, performing while passing in front of it. Linnea was also the artist who designed the invitation and the table tents for the banquet, indicating the delicious menu everyone would enjoy.

The program
By the time of the performance, Karin and her team had heroically motivated the kids not merely to get into the spirit of the performance, but to also enjoy their roles in celebrating this historic occasion. Swedish American Patriotic League (SAPL) President Conor Massey welcomed community members and guests and about 100 people assembled for the program. During the performance the kids stole the show as they taught the adults the history of Sveadal. We learned about every decade of Sveadal's life as a park, each decade concluding with the refrain “… and still they built, and still they painted, and still they improved their beloved Sveadal.”
1920s: The founders discovered and bought the site; the Swedish royal couple (Crown Prince Gustav and Princess Louise) dedicated Sveadal in 1926; by 1928 Sveadal had a dance floor beneath redwoods, a new pool and annual Labor Day swim races.
1930s: All rentals got plumbing; Mr. Celander created Mimers Kella from the natural spring at the base of the redwoods beside the creek; mail delivery and the first telephone party line connected us to the world.
1940s: Electricity reached Sveadal; the famous Swedish woodcarver Emil Janel chiseled “Tomtegubben” with a hand axe into a redwood stump; the Labor Day aquacade began; and young married couples founded the Sveadal Club.
1950s: The first annual Sveadal Day had a western theme; the flag boards and routine were added to the swimming races; and two huge, used water tanks were installed which served the community for the next 60 years.
1960s: Celander’s cabin was destroyed by a landslide and the rental duplex was burned down; Wednesday nights were dedicated to community dinners prepared by volunteers from the renters or private cabin owners; and SAPL’s longest running Swedish Midsummer was relocated to Sveadal.
1970s: New sports facilities were constructed and Muriel Beroza published her first book, Sveadal, recording the history of the community; but the decade ended with the loss of the original clubhouse to fire.
1980s: A new and improved clubhouse was built; it was dedicated by Swedish Princess Christina (King Carl XVI Gustaf's sister) during New Sweden ’88.
1990s: SAPL celebrated the centennial of its Midsummer festival, but the great 400-year-old Olsson Oak, a centerpiece on the semicircular lawn in front of the clubhouse, which had been the site of so many weddings, after being singed by fire and damaged by disease, had to be felled.
2000s: Sveadal narrowly escaped destruction by a fire descending the mountain from illegal activity; and a new dance floor was built abutting the clubhouse.
2010s: Four new large water tanks were installed for drinking and for the fire system; a new deck replaced the original one for this second clubhouse; the tableau concluded with a new refrain: “And from now on the kids still will build, and still they will paint, and still they will improve their beloved Sveadal.”

A commitment to the future
Throughout the pageant, where the same cast of kids took on roles for every decade, they were appreciatively applauded with each appearance. For now it was realized that not merely had the kids reminded the adults of the community’s history, but in the process the kids had themselves experienced it, in a way committing also to its future.
Karin and her stage crew (Twinkle Peterson, Mary Ann Nichelini, Linda Zalko, Linnea Chapman, Carol Anderson, Linda and Paul Beroza, Astrid and Ted Olsson) recapitulated our history quite memorably. Many in the audience had lived through much of it and offered a warm standing ovation at the end. As a special treat Karin and Twinkle led the audience in a rendition of “Sveadal” (to the tune of “Edelweiss”), the new lyrics of which Karin and her dear friend, the late Charlotte Weissenborn, had composed more than a quarter-century earlier for a similar celebration.

(Karin & Charlotte)

Sveadal, Sveadal
Every summer we greet thee,
Warm and bright, our heart’s delight
Greet our friends and fam’ly.

Oaks and redwoods, they gently sway,
Uvas sparkles forever.
Sveadal, Sveadal,
Blest be our haven forever.

Swedes, Americans, come as one
Sharing customs together,
Sveadal, Sveadal,
Blest be our haven forever.

After the performance, champagne was passed out and a toast to Sveadal was offered — its future soon in the hands of these kids. The drink was accompanied by copious plates of herring, sliced eggs and potatoes.

The banquet
This celebration was the first in a series of planned anniversaries, each leading to Sveadal’s centennial a decade from now. The second surprise highlight of the evening awaited as people drifted into the banquet hall of the clubhouse and Twinkle Peterson projected a slideshow of Sveadal’s history, the photos for which had been thoughtfully composed by Kathleen (“Poonie”) Erickson.
The banquet that followed was a sumptuous affair for the fortunate 10 dozen people who reserved for this special occasion. The menu (see attached photo) was simply mouth watering. For this special anniversary, the dinner was prepared by chef Emily Hansen. She is a local hero, having grown up in Sveadal to become a distinguished private chef, living in San Francisco and serving clients throughout the Bay Area and beyond. From the first taste to the memory of the last lingering bite, the meal was a special treat to conclude a most auspicious anniversary. Emily also used the occasion to teach the kids who served the meal about presentation and protocol for serving such works of art. A couple lucky adults even got to experience a professional cooking lesson from the great chef by assisting her.
The salad was delicious, tastefully presented with several rye croutons lending a contrast to the delicious gravad lax in a delightful dressing. But even that could not prepare us for the entrée: The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked, spiced and presented. The sauces were distinctive, dramatically accentuating the succulent meat. The asparagus was crisp and crusted. The Hasselback potatoes were both generous and well seasoned. Remarkably, everyone was offered seconds, which many gladly accepted. The dessert was prepared as individual rhubarb and strawberry pies with a flavorful distinctively stiff dollop of whipped cream. This was paired with the chef’s own rhubarb-infused aquavit served in tall Swedish snaps glasses. Bottles of white and red wine complimented each table and coffee helped to finish the meal.
President Massey welcomed everyone to the banquet, extending a special welcome to all the Vasa members, whose Bay Area lodges in District 12 comprise half the members of the league. He particularly invited all attending this banquet to support Svea Lodge VOA#343 as they would celebrate their centennial on August 20th at Hult Restaurant in Los Gatos. Chef Alex Hult had again been one of the judges at the district’s annual Akvavit Championships on Sweden Day at Sveadal.
Once again Massey thanked all who dramatically retold our history in the program. And then the whole room stood for an anniversary skål (“Ja, må hon leva”) to Sveadal that it might reach its centennial a decade hence and yet an additional century thereafter. This was followed by a hearty four-fold Hurrah! which made the room echo back each thunderclap.
After the dessert the chef was called from her kitchen, everyone acknowledging that this had been the best dinner ever to grace the clubhouse tables in Sveadal. Everyone stood in wild applause for her tasteful artistry and hailed her with “Helan Går” by saluting her with her own aquavit. This was truly one for the books.

Rena Mattman was also recognized for her birthday and our honorable historian of Sveadal, Muriel Beroza, was again recognized for her 90th birthday this year, coinciding with the age of Sveadal itself. Additionally the president introduced and thanked Commander Edgar Orre, CalFire’s local division chief headquartered in Morgan Hill. As a Norwegian and fellow Scandinavian, he was warmly welcomed as the president’s guest at the head table. His presence reminded us of our need for communal vigilance, how important our safety is, and of how precious Sveadal’s existence is.
The evening concluded with a brisk business at the bar as everyone remained behind to soak up the conviviality of the occasion. Out on the dance floor Paul Beroza was playing a medley of “Dances through the Decades,” which attracted couples and youth alike to display their skills at traditional Swedish folk dances or contemporary dance hits that had accompanied Sveadal and its community throughout the years. Only reluctantly did the guests gradually leave, but the memories of this 90th anniversary set the standard until we celebrate the centennial of Sveadal in 2026. Then a new cast of characters will be entrusted with the care of this Swedish heartland.
Ted Olsson