Vasa’s Nordic Lodge No. 708, Atlanta, GA, celebrated its 40th anniversary on August 23. The celebration was combined with a crawfish party. (Some say “crawfish,” others say “crayfish.” I prefer “crawfish,” which is what they say in Louisiana where they probably eat more of this red arthropod than in any other state.)

The event was located around a swimming pool in the backyard of Mona and Mason Brown’s beautiful residence in northwest Atlanta. In honor of the day, we were visited by Vasa’s new Grand Master Tore Kellgren and First Wife Birgitta, who had traveled all the way from San Jose, California to celebrate with us. It was Tore’s first official assignment and visit to a Vasa Lodge as Grand Master, except for the two lodges in California of which he and Birgitta are members.
The Honorary Consul of Georgia Mikael Norin and his wife Soledad Mancheno Norin did us the honor of attending as well.

After a month of rainy afternoons and evenings in Atlanta, we did not get one single drop of rain. Were we lucky? Well, with temperatures in the 90s, everyone was sweating. However, schnapps and a lot of crawfish kept people happy and we forgot about the heat. Soon the singing of nubbevisor (schnapps songs) nearly brought the sky down.

But first, Vasa Drängar’s mens choir started the program with Bellman’s “Vila vid denna källa.” Chairman Ed From declared the meeting opened. What? People wondered if we going to have a meeting, but Grand Master Tore Kellgren immediately proposed a motion: “Let’s postpone this meeting till September.” YES! Motion passed, meeting closed.

The Grand Master did speak about Vasa. By 1928 membership had grown to 72,000. The decrease started in 1929 with the Great Depression and has continued to drop by 4 percent each year since then. Today there are only 12,000 Vasa members, including Sweden and Canada. Tore Kellgren has many ideas of how to stop this trend. For instance, if we could cut in half the number of people who drop out every year, the membership would be kept intact. But increasing membership would take work to make meetings more attractive and fun for everyone. Programs mustn't necessarily be about Sweden and Scandinavia. And we need to include the kids - bring them, let someone’s leadership guide them in activities such as painting, playing games etc.

40 years of accomplishments
Nordic Lodge’s historian Laurie Fulton talked about all the amazing things the lodge has accomplished during its 40 year history, from dining with King Carl XVI Gustaf, to driving Olympic athletes to different venues during the Olympic Games of Atlanta in 1996 to arranging schnapps song contests.

Then it started! The crawfish party, that is, which burst into an unlimited consumption of crawfish from IKEA, beer and wine (which was included in the fee). In spite of this generous offer no one tumbled into the swimming pool. The only thing floating in the water was a bunch of plastic crawfish. Vasa Drängar lead the singing of schnapps songs and even serenaded the tables. The YellowBlue duo (accordion and bass) played Evert Taube favorites. For dessert we had a large cake, decorated with the Swedish flag and Vasa Order logo.

It's been 20 since Nordic Lodge No. 708 was visited by its Grand Master. That was in 1994, and his name was George Nord. The 20th Anniversary Celebration took place at Marriott Hotel Perimeter in Atlanta. It was black tie, very formal. This time, we were not that formal - quite appropriate because we would have drowned from sweat outside in formal attire. Instead, we celebrated our 40th Anniversary in shorts and T-shirts. In fact, at our regular lodge meetings most people are quite free and easy.

When I think of it, much of life here in the south is similar to what we have in the province of Skåne in the Swedish south (where I lived for 10 years) – compared to more northern parts of America and Sweden. For instance, the south has a much more relaxed style of living. Of course we have a special, very pronounced dialect. The climate is warmer (in Skåne it's perhaps "less chilly") and there is more sugar in the local food.

To sum it up, the Nordic Lodge No. 708 of Atlanta celebrated its 40th Anniversary in a great and memorable way. Satisfied and with quenched thirst, the attendees pulled away happy in the somewhat cooler night and no longer dripping with perspiration.
By Göran Rygert