JUNE 12, 1950
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Sunday—It is interesting to find an editorial in a Swedish paper about the primaries in California, with particular stress on my son, James's Democratic nomination in that state. Somehow one hardly expects to find in Sweden much interest in state politics at home. I can only pick out words here and there in the Swedish paper, and those only when they are connected with an English or German word. If not for our daily wireless bulletin, I am afraid I would not really know what is the gist of the news.
The dinner given by the Charge d'Affaires and Mrs. Cumming at the American Embassy Friday night was very pleasant. During the evening, guitar playing by a delightful Swedish architect, Bo Sundblad, who sang a number of Swedish folk songs, and by an American artist, Josh White, who had given successful concerts in Oslo and here, was enthusiastically received. Everyone seemed to enjoy our Negro spiritual, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," and in many of Mr. White's songs the Americans present joined in the singing.
Early Sunday morning the whole family went out to the Nordiska Kompaniet, where the store manager had collected a small exhibition for us of typically Swedish work. From there we all drove into the country to see a typical Swedish farm. The average Swedish farm has only ten acres of farm land, with 50 acres of woodland. But the 50 acres of woodland may be off a great distance, and in winter when the men are working in the woods they may be away from home for long periods. Wood-cutting and reforesting is carefully controlled by law. But during the wartime shortages of coal and fuel oil they used more of their wood for heating purposes, and now it will take them many years to reestablish their carefully worked out forestry system.
The farm we visited was a very large one where 120 acres were under cultivation and 200 acres of woodland lay not too far away. The owner and his son-in-law live in a new house where the mother and daughter do the usual work of Swedish farm women. They have one helper who lives in the old house which was the original farm owner's home. Electricity was in both houses and barns, with a telephone. A curious mixture of the old and the new appeared in the kitchen. There was the old-fashioned wood stove where cooking is done, and on the shelf an electric mixer and an electric iron. What impressed me most is the fact that on these farms they grow flax. In the winter months they spin the linen thread and weave the linen.
Two large cupboards held the most beautiful linen belonging to mother and daughter, with drawn work and embroidery which would delight any feminine soul. Every curtain in the house was home woven; the rugs, even the dish towels were woven by hand and marked in cross stitch. They gave us coffee and wonderful pastry before we left, and I think I enjoyed seeing this family life as much as anything I have done.
On the way back we saw a lovely old 12th century church where the closing school exercises for the year were being held. After attending a lunch given by the Foreign Minister, who lives in a charming government house, I was taken to see a variety of the newest housing enterprises, built by both private funds and cooperatives. The government will lend up to 100 percent for private building and subsidize the lower income families by paying part of their rent. Finally I spent a half hour in Skansen Park. I was only able to see one old-time farm building and one old-time manor house, but Elliott and the children saw glass-blowing and other interesting things.
We leave today at noon for Finnish Lapland. There are many other things here I would like to see, but this has been just a kaleidoscope effort to get an impression of the life of the people. Sweden managed to remain neutral in the war, but she nevertheless was deeply affected by it. Her geographical position meant she was cut off from those areas of the world with which she ordinarily exchanged goods. Traditionally the Swedish Red Cross has always carried a big share of the work, and I think now that there is a very great feeling of responsibility here for using all the influence Sweden can to establish peace in the world.
Although the Swedish people tell me they are usually a stiff and cold people, I have found them warm and welcoming. I have great respect for the Scandinavian people as a whole, and it has been increased by my travels among them thus far.