A Tribute to the Swedish American Line
The White Viking Fleet - 100 Year Anniversary 2015
19 Years on the Internet

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About Us
The Hemingstam Family


Johan, Lars, and Anders Hemingstam, mid 1990's.

These 250 pages, in tribute of the Swedish American Line, have since 1998 been created and maintained by me, Lars Hemingstam, and my sons, those uncouth seamen Johan (now 30), and Anders (28). The maintenance is hopefully secured for the next 70 years or so.

Please help us make this site better by mailing us exterior and interior photos of the ships of the SAL fleet, photos and lists of passengers and crew, objects, menues, folders, and so on. Our goal is to have a photo from every Atlantic crossing and every cruise. You can easily figure out that this may take 70 years to accomplish. And please, sign our guestbook and tell us what you think of the site.

There are quite a few connections between our family and the Swedish American Line. Several of my mother's relatives from Söderhamn, Sweden, emigrated to the USA in the early 1900's, some of them before 1915, when the Swedish American Line was founded. Later, in the 1920's, three of my grandmother's cousins followed their relatives, sailing to New York on SAL's SS Stockholm and the SS Kungsholm, settling in Chicago, IL, and Barron, WI.

My father, the Rev. Tage Hemingstam, was a member of a Swedish male choir, which, under the name The Singing Ministers, made a tour of the U.S. in 1954. He made the westbound Atlantic crossing on the Gripsholm (#1), at that time recently sold to the German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd, and made the eastbound crossing on the Kungsholm of 1953.


Consert in the auditorium


The Singing Ministers
Singing "Sverige, Sverige, Fosterland... (Sweden, Sweden, Homeland...)"
on deck as the Gripsholm leaves Gothenburg on August 25, 1954.

Read more about the choir's USA tour in 1954 here.


Farewell Dinner.
Tage Hemingstam with colleague
in their Tourist Class cabin.


Sun-basking on the Atlantic

Shuffleboard anyone?

Arrival
Arrival

A long wait to go ashore

For many, a life-changing voyage.

Photos by Tage Hemingstam


Approaching Manhattan, September 5, 1954.


In 1957 Tage Hemingstam, his wife Ruth, and their children Gun, Runa, and Lars, applied for immigrant visas, and traveled to the USA to work and study for three years. Tage Hemingstam left Gothenburg on the Gripsholm's maiden voyage, and held the first Sunday Worship Service on board. Tage was born and raised in Jonsered, a suburb of Gothenburg, and like most inhabitants of Gothenburg he knew people who had served on board the SAL ships, and felt proud of the company and its new flagship, the Gripsholm.

Read his letter from the maiden voyage here.


Tage Hemingstam surrounded by fellow
passengers in the Gripsholm's Main Lounge, May 1957.


Officers on the crossing from New York on June 28, 1957,
voyage number 2, eastbound. Most likely the same
as on the maiden voyage, and on the westbound
voyage in August.

The rest of the family followed on the Gripsholm's departure from Gothenburg on July 31, 1957, arriving in New York as bona fide immigrants.


Price list 1957
Click to enlarge

Sailing list 1957
Click to enlarge


 

A letter from Ruth Hemingstam, published in
the weekly magazine ICA-Kuriren in October 1957


The voyage of a dream! What I have dreamed about for years has become a reality. Imagine - nine days on board a floating hotel. Wonderful days of rest, fun, sunshine and salty winds.

The departure ceremony at Betongskjulet in Gothenburg is overwhelming and exciting. The moorings are hauled on board, a giant crane removes the gangway, thousands of paper serpentines in the air. The ship's orchestra starts to play the Swedish national anthem. Our relatives on the quay are waving and cheering. The Gripsholm slowly glides out.

We have soon passed all the small islands and can see the Vinga lighthouse disappear from sight. About 800 passengers walk around and are trying to acquaint themselves with the ship. A couple of hours later we are assigned our table in the beautiful dining room. It's a fiest for a housewife to sit down in the dining room and be served by a pleasant waiter!

We get to know the passengers around us. The sheep farmer from Illinois at the table next to ours, left Sweden when he was 19 and had returned to visit his elderly mother, 33 years later. "I cried like a child when I came home!"

He didn't have to say more. We all knew how he had felt.


Runa and Ruth Hemingstam on the Gripsholm,
halfway to America, August 1957.

We are taking in the sunshine in the deck chairs, the children play ping-pong on Verandah Deck or go for a swim in the pool, filled with water from the Atlantic. Now and then we stand in line to the ironing room. Everyone wants to be well-pressed for dinner.

Twice daily movies are shown in Cinemascope in the Auditorium. We listen to music and have coffee in the Main Lounge. That's also where the games and dancing take place. On the Sunday afternoon, the Auditorium is fully seated for the two sermons, one in English and one in Swedish. There is always one or two pastors among the passengers.

Outside our cabin porthole there is nothing but the ocean and the sky as far as we can see. The view is the same every day, but the colors are constantly changing. Sometimes we see large fish jumping above the waves, and a whale came up to the surface to remind us of the secrets of the deep sea.

MS Gripsholm, August 1957
Ruth Hemingstam


Runa, Gun, Ruth, and Lars Hemingstam
outside the SAL office in New York City, August 1957

We lived in Collinsville IL, Chicago IL, and Long Beach CA, about one year in each city.

In August 1960, Ruth tragically passed away, and we immediately returned to Sweden by air from Los Angeles.


SAS DC-6 Polar System
fold out route map, 1960

In 1968 I was employed on the MS Kungsholm of 1966 for 6 months as a junior purser (in Swedish 3:e kontorist, i.e.3rd clerk), and made four Atlantic crossings, a Cruise Around South America, a Fall Cruise of Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as a Christmas and New Year’s Cruise of Northern Africa, the Canary Islands, and Madeira. Read about my life as a crew member further down on this page.

I was born in a small town called Hjo in Sweden in November, 1946, just a few days before a little girl named Ann-Margret Olsson, then 5 years old, danced over the gangway to embark on the MS Gripsholm to go to USA with her mother, most certainly not aware that she would become one of the world’s most famous entertainers. At the time of the collision between the MS Stockholm and the Italian ship Andrea Doria in 1956, the world press was represented by an editor of Hjo Tidning, the local newspaper in Hjo. The editor was a passenger on the Stockholm and made the scoop of a lifetime.

Kathryn and Lars Hemingstam
at Bretton Woods, NH, USA, in 2006.



Lars and Kathryn Hemingstam
at Plymouth Rock, MA, USA, in 2012,
with the Mayflower II in the background.

I am a semi-retired IT consultant, dividing my time between Internet projects, writing, and acting. I was married to Kathryn, and we had homes in Sweden and New Hampshire, USA, when she passed away in March of 2015.


 

Life as a Crew Member

On board the Kungsholm, Autumn of '68 
By Lars Hemingstam



The MS Kungsholm sailed from Göteborg, Sweden, bound for New York on Friday, August 30, 1968, on the same day that The Beatles' single Hey Jude was released. I was newly employed as a junior purser (in Swedish 3:e kontorist, i.e. 3rd clerk), and it was with mixed feelings of anticipation and concern that I left Sweden. The Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia just ten days earlier, and no one could know for sure what was going to happen next in Europe. I remember staring a long time at the lighthouse on the island of Vinga, an image I had grown up with at home, as my mother had made an oil painting of the island thirty years earlier.

I had sent a letter to SAL with a job application and was offered a career as a dish washer. At that time I was a technology student in Stockholm (KTH) and Captain Torkel Tistrand at the SAL personnel office assured me that I would be in good company as there were several civil engineers and Ph.D.'s working in the galley. I declined the offer. Then Captain Tistrand called back a few days later and asked if I could type. I sadly replied noooo, and he said I had a week to learn. They needed a clerk on the Kungsholm that was to sail for New York about ten days later.

I stayed on the Kungsholm for six months, and made four Atlantic crossings, a Cruise Around South America, a Fall Cruise of Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as a Christmas and New Year’s Cruise of Northern Africa, the Canary Islands, and Madeira.

My place of work was the purser’s office, midship on Upper Deck. We were four young men, all under 30, working in the office; in order of rank: the Cashier, the Information Officer, a 2nd clerk and myself, the 3rd clerk. We worked next door to the Chief Purser’s reception room.

We had different tasks, but a common concern for the office staff was to prepare the passenger manifests for the ports of call. Every port had its own form for the manifests, demanding information of every passenger’s full name, passport number, date of issue, occupation, home address and in some instances, mother’s maiden name. There were about 450 passengers and we used electric typewriters. The forms were supplied in advance by the SAL local agents in the ports. If there were any mistakes in the passenger lists, there would be trouble with customs and immigration authorities, and the passengers could be delayed going ashore. This had to be avoided, as the passengers had a tight schedule with shore excursions and were eager to leave the ship as soon as the gangway was secured. On one Atlantic crossing we had to retype the passenger manifest 3 times, as we discovered that we had got the alphabetical order mixed up.

My salary was SEK 1,400 (Swedish crowns) per month, with a uniform supplement of SEK 4,20 per day. This pay was very low, even for 1968, but as the crew worked every day of the week (Sundays and holidays included), a substantial amount of compensation (vederlag) accumulated during the time at sea. This compensation could be obtained in cash or used as shore leave when the ship returned to Sweden, making it possible for the crew to take long periods of leave and spend months with their families at home.

Highest in rank on the ship were the ship's officers on the bridge and the other merchant marine officers who had a formal education giving them authority to run a passenger ship on ocean trade; the Commander, the Chief Officer, the Chief Engineer, the First Radio Operator, and so on. The Chief Purser, the Ship’s Doctor and the Ship’s Chaplain also belonged to this category, giving them the right to dine and mingle with the cruise passengers and the first class passengers on the Atlantic crossings. They dined in the passengers’ dining room. Of course the most prominent passengers were seated at the Captain’s table. Seating the passengers correctly in the dining room was a tricky business, entrusted only to the most experienced head steward and the SAL cruise management staff from the New York office.

The category second in rank were the Deck officers, also with formal navy education, who had their meals in the officers’ mess.

Invitation to officers' party, 1968

In the next category, to which I belonged, were what we could call the "hotel management staff", such as the head stewards, the staff of the purser’s office, the nurses, the hair dressers, the gift shop's attendants, the ship’s photographers, the musicians, having our meals in our own mess (intendenturmässen).

Then we have the rest of the crew, the hard working professional seamen, the engineers, the cabin stewards and stewardesses, the dining room stewards and the deck stewards, and the galley crew, the carpenter, the tailor, the laundry workers, who all had their meals in the crew’s mess.

There was very little fraternizing between the different categories on board. This was not questioned in public, it was the way that such things always had been at sea.

The members of the staff of the Purser’s Office lived in outward single cabins on B-deck, separated from the passenger area, only accessible via a "crew only" stairway from A-deck. Our cabins were equipped with a berth, a sofa with a table and a writing desk with a chair, a small wash basin and a wardrobe. Showers and toilets were at the end of the corridor.

The Deck officers and the staff of the purser’s office had the right to socialize with the tourist class passengers on the Atlantic crossings, and we had our meals in the tourist class dining room. We were not allowed to be in the passenger area on the cruises, nor the first class area during the crossings. However we had the privilege to join the passengers’ shore excursions when the ship was in a port, if there were empty seats on the buses. This way I went on excursions in Lima, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Bridgetown, Casablanca, Nice, Monte Carlo and the island of Capri.

We had a lot of time off in all the ports, as the purser’s office was closed until about an hour before the ship’s departure. When at sea, we worked every day, Christmas and New Year included.

I crossed the equator on the 29th of October, being splashed with food colors, having to kiss the foot of King Neptune’s Mistress, the Queen of the Seas, (one of the cabin stewardesses), and thrown into the crews’ pool. When I had showered, put on dry clothes, and joined my colleagues for a drink in one of the cabins, a hunting party of crew members ran into our corridor, and were, of course, told by my friends that I hadn’t been dipped. Fortunately we met friendly people along the way as I was being dragged back to the pool, and I was saved by an inch from having another set of clothes ruined.
The second day of the Kungsholm's stay in Rio de Janeiro, we woke up and saw another ship with the Swedish flag next to us. It was Lion Ferry's Prins Hamlet, on charter for cruises in this part of the world. The Kungsholm's cashier persuaded the Brazilian customs officials to lend him a cap, and joined the authorities when they boarded the other ship. He behaved like a fool, demanding to be served whisky at 9.00 am, which was illegal, as the liquor stores always should be sealed in port. Before his real identity was revealed, he had instructed the Information Officer on Prins Hamlet to order the Captain to hoist the quarantine flag.

Another memorable event occurred in the South Atlantic when the fire alarm went off, fortunately being a false alarm. While the elderly passengers were gathering anxiously at their life boat stations, convinced that the ship was about to sink, the ship’s photographer ran from one passenger to the next, begging them to settle their accounts with him.

At sea, I had only a fragmentary insight into the daily lives of the cruise passengers, the bridge games in the card room, the lectures, the cha-cha lessons, and - the cocktail parties being arranged with the assistance of the cruise staff - to which the passengers invited each other and sent invitations in return in an intricate social web. The cruise around South America offered 44 days of life in luxury, and the cruise to Europe and the Mediterranean was for 40 days. The average age of the passengers was about 65. I remember one first class passenger saying on an Atlantic crossing, that the best way to travel was to have a first class stateroom, and go to the tourist class lounge in the evenings to have fun. On the cruises, the majority of the passengers were very well to do, and there were "repeaters" treated like royalty, but some were very ordinary senior citizens who had saved money for many years to spend the vacation of their lives on the Kungsholm, "the happy ship with a happy crew".

 



A Surprise Gift


Lars-Erik Jansson has an impressive collection
of SAL documents.
Webmaster Lars Hemingstam.

In April 2013, I made a social visit to Lars-Erik Jansson in Malmö. Lars-Erik is a former Information Officer on the Kungsholm and the Gripsholm. Imagine my surprise when Lars-Erik, in addition to being a perfect host, presented me with several Chief Purser reports from Kungsholm and Gripsholm. Among them were reports that I had taken part in writing when I worked in the Purser's Office on the Kungsholm during the fall of1968, The Fall Cruise of Scandinavia, Europe and the Mediterranean, and The Around South America Cruise. More about this will be posted later. Read more about Information Officer Lars-Erik Jansson here.



Chief Purser's reports. Cruise folders.
Hemingstam collection.




 

Other sites with information about SAL:s ships

This site is not about refurbishings, altered doorways, or funnel colors. The purpose of the site is primarily to describe the life and people on board the "White Viking Fleet" - the emigrants, the tourists, and the business passengers who crossed the stormy North Atlantic to reach America, - and the cruise members, sailing smoothly from port to port in a world of luxury, many of them coming back for a new cruise, time and time again. And, of course the crew, who worked and lived on the ships for months and years - in some cases decades - regarding them as their homes.

For a more detailed technical description of the ships, however, we recommend the following fine sites:
Kommandobryggan, which also features a fleetlist, and photos of SAL's freighters,
Fakta om fartyg
and The Great Ocean Liners.




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Kjell Smitterberg
Commander

Claes Feder
Architect &
Ship Designer

C-O Claesson
On the Bridge
1923-55
Maurits and Anna-Greta Lindblad
Ship's Doctor and Nurse
Lars Helmer
Second Engineer
Göran Forsén
3rd Engineer
Leif Vickberg Officer's Apprentice
About SAL
& SAL Timeline
About Us
Life as a Crew Member
Torsten Torstensson's webpage about the Swedish American Line   Exchange and
Repatriation Voyages
During WWII
Rune Dahlstrand
Gripsholm Barber
During WWII

Torkel Tistrand
Sea Personnel Manager
Bridge & Crew Page Reunions
Curt Dawe
Chief Purser
Carl-Gustav Kruse
Chief Purser
Hugo Bilén
Chief Purser
Evert Eriksson
Chief Purser
Poul V Lange
Chief Purser
Lennart Angelmo
Second Purser
Jörgen Areskough
Second Purser
Ingvar Torstensson
Second Purser
T Odenlund Cashier L-E Jansson
Information Officer
Asko Salkola
Purser's Office
Stigbergskajen
Göteborg
Pier 97,
New York
The SAL Office in New York The SAL Office in
Chicago
David Chisling
Cruise Staff
Hanna Owen
Singer
Anita Poli Olsson
NK Shop
Anthony Bloomfield
Photographer
The Entertainers
Dining Room Menues     Gerhard Kummer
Chief Steward
C-G Quant
Chief Steward
Volker Roloff
Chief Steward
Ingwar Gemzell & Rolf Mayer

 

Karl-Gunnar Johansson
"Kalle-Kli"
Bartender

Karl-Gösta Ekblad
”Kalle Tårta”Baker,
Col Buffet Manager

 
 
Franz Havranek
Wine Steward
Juan Martinez
Waiter
Patrick Zeller
Waiter
Gustav Weber Petterson
Waiter

Otto Friedrich, Cabin Steward

Lars Warlin
Assistant Waiter
Tommy Stark
Deck Waiter
Hans "Hasse" Gustafsson
Deck Waiter
C-G Edhardt
Assistant
Deck Steward
Johan Jarekull
Hyttnisse, Assistant Deck Steward
Björn Wallde
Crew member
B-G Nilson
and the
SAL Freighters
  Anna Karin
Lundström
Nurse


Berit Jacobsson (Svensson)
"Babs"
Beautician

Lene Mikkelsen
Beautician
The Women of SAL Lois MacNeil
Stewardess
Lis Brokmose
Stewardess
     
The Tenders SAL Ads SAL Trivia
FAQ News
Archive
        SAL Literature Home          
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The Passenger Area
    The Hemingstam
Family, Gripsholm and Kungsholm
The Lindholm Family,
Stockholm
The McDonough Family,
Kungsholm
The Neilson
Family, Gripsholm and
Kungsholm
The Sandholm Family,
Gripsholm
The Storck-Petersen Family,
Gripsholm and
Kungsholm

Clive Harvey,
Passenger in the Post-SAL Era
Passenger
Database
 
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More than 250 web pages developed and maintained by Lars Hemingstam ©1998-2017

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The New SAL Guestbook

Since the new guestbook can take some time loading, it has been move to a separate page, and is not being displayed at the bottom of every page.

Read the new guestbook here.