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Swedish lodge to celebrate 90 years in Turlock

POSTED September 7, 2010 11:40 p.m.

On Sept. 18 1920, when the City of Turlock was barely 12 years old, a group of Swedish immigrants banded together to form the Jenny Lind Lodge of the Vasa Order of America.

At 1 p.m. on Friday, the Lodge will celebrate 90 years spent preserving and sharing Swedish culture with a special public event at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce, including a presentation by Ruberth “Swede” Englund on Swedish copper.

Turlock owes much of its history to the Swedes drawn here by the promise of cheap, fertile farmland. These early settlers led a hard life, but found success growing wheat, melons, alfalfa and corn.

“The Swedish immigrants were a very important part of the early settlement of Turlock and the establishment of the Turlock community,” Jenny Lind Lodge Chairman Paul Jevert said. “A lot of Swedes were pioneers who worked very hard to build Turlock.”

The Jenny Lind Lodge, named for the famous “Swedish Nightingale” soprano and organized by Bay Area resident Peter Tengvall, provided a place for those early Swedish immigrants to socialize in their native tongue. The impact of Jenny Lind Lodge members – and the Swedish community at large – can be seen even today in street names like “Thor,” “Soderquist,” and “Christoffersen,” references to early Swedish settlers and Viking mythology.

Today, members of the Jenny Lind Lodge don’t have to be of Swedish descent. English is the preferred language for communication. But the lodge remains devoted to the preservation of Scandinavian culture and heritage, true to its mission for 90 years.

At monthly meetings the Jenny Lind Lodge always includes a cultural segment, with presentations about Swedish culture both today and yesterday. The topics vary from the day’s news in Sweden to customs of the country, going back to the Nordic Viking days when explorers spread Swedish culture throughout Europe, Iceland and Greenland.

“They were seamen and they had the nerve to go out and explore, long before Columbus,” Jevert said.

In the transition from an agrarian society to an industrial one, Swedish citizens began mining ore from their native land. Copper was chief among those natural resources, becoming a de facto currency as expert Swedish coppersmiths worked the pristine metal from the mines of Falun, Sweden into water pitchers, cooking kettles, utensils, and just about everything else the society needed.

 In sharing this bit of history with Turlockers on Friday, Englund will continue the Jenny Lind Lodge’s mission of spreading Swedish culture with the community.

Collecting Swedish copper has long been a pastime of the Englund family, dating back generations to the family’s days in Sweden. Englund will bring a number of artifacts with him to Friday’s meeting, which is open to anyone interested to hearing a bit of Swedish history from an expert in the field.

 “He’s quite an amateur authority on Swedish copper,” Jevert said.

The program, which includes refreshments, will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday in the Turlock Chamber of Commerce building, at 113 S. Golden State Blvd. For more information, call 634-4313.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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