Sweden in the thirties ?

publié le 15/04/2007, mis à jour le 07/05/2007,
par  Laima HAMBERG

A survey of the 1930s in Sweden focusing on teenage life, carried out by 7A, Skiftingehus School, Eskilstuna during 2006-2007

The class selected for this work was a year seven at Skiftingehus School in Eskilstuna. The class consists of 11 boys and 11 girls in the age of 13-14. The pupils worked in pairs and carried out 22 interviews, two in each pair. The people they interviewed are all between 80 and 92 years old and the interviews were carried out either at school or in the homes of the interviewees.

School

Most* people who were young during the 30s learned about Europe in school. They learned names of countries and cities. In some schools they also learned about countries outside Europe. A few interviewees only learned about Sweden. (*21 interviewees)

According to the answers, they learned something about Europe during the 1930s. But not so much as we learn today. A comment from one of the interviewees : “Anyway, we knew that there were other countries.”
“We only learned skånska in school (a Swedish dialect).

One interviewee remembered a German person in his school. According to the interviews (21 of 22 people) it was not common at all to have people from other countries in your class or school. Nowadays it’s very common with class mates from foreign countries in Sweden. A comment from one interviewee : “There was a girl from Stockholm (the capital of Sweden) and no one understood what she said because she talked “stockholmska” (a dialect people talk in Stockholm).

They started school when they were 7 and school lasted for 6 years. A few interviewees talked about a “continuing school” which lasted 2 years.
School started between 8 and 9 am. There was no canteen in school. The pupils brought sandwiches and milk and ate their lunch outside or in the changing-rooms. The ones who lived close to school went home to have lunch. School ended between 2 and 4 pm.

In the 30s in Sweden it was very few that learned any other language than Swedish, according to the people we interviewed. The few who learned a second language learned : German, Finish and English and they were lucky since they got some education in a foreign language. Some tried to learn a second language on their own.

The majority of the interviewees said that they did not remember many foreign words but common phrases were : “I love you” and “Ich liebe dich”. 15 of 22 interviewees said they did not learn any other language than Swedish.

Some people lived at the school and they even spent Christmas there. The school was like a second home to them. The teachers were very strict and sometimes they hit the children. Sometimes even the innocent got punished. A few of the interviewees said they went to school only every second day.

School started between 8 and 9 am. There was no canteen in school. The pupils brought sandwiches and milk and ate their lunch outside or in the changing-rooms. The ones who lived close to school went home to have lunch. School ended between 2 and 4 pm.

In the 30s in Sweden it was very few that learned any other language than Swedish, according to the people we interviewed. The few who learned a second language learned : German, Finish and English and they were lucky since they got some education in a foreign language. Some tried to learn a second language on their own.

The majority of the interviewees said that they did not remember many foreign words but common phrases were : “I love you” and “Ich liebe dich”. 15 of 22 interviewees said they did not learn any other language than Swedish.

Some people lived at the school and they even spent Christmas there. The school was like a second home to them. The teachers were very strict and sometimes they hit the children. Sometimes even the innocent got punished. A few of the interviewees said they went to school only every second day.

Daily life

Usually people got up early in the morning. Most of them walked to school and for the ones who lived on the countryside, school could be rather far away. After school many teenagers had to help at home. During the 30s it was common that young people started working early, in the age of 13-14.

Young people who lived on the countryside and whose parents were farmers had to help at the farm or by taking care of siblings. Grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking were other jobs they had to do.

One woman remembered that she washed herself in warm water.
One man remembered that he had goat milk for breakfast.

None of the interviewees had parents who had colleagues from foreign countries at their work. One third, 7 people had relatives or knew someone who had moved to America.

Foreign food and beverages

Restaurants that served foreign food were not common in Sweden during the 30s. None of the interviewees knew about restaurants that had foreign food on the menu.

Restaurant food was like homemade food but it was something special to have a meal in a restaurant.

The typical “Swedish” food was farming food for example : meat, home-made sausages, porridge and cheese.

The only foreign food the interviewees remembered was oranges and 3 persons mentioned that they had oranges for Christmas. One said they drank wine at special occasions. One person mentioned coffee but it was considered Swedish.

Spare Time

When the interviewees talked about spare time activities they mentioned a lot of outdoor activities and sport. There were no computers or TV games in these days so young people had to do other things like playing football, rounders and table tennis.

People played cards, hide and seek, hopscotch, they wrestled, swam, and spent time with friends in their spare time.

Some people talked about that they had to help at home, for example look after siblings. Cultural things like reading books and playing an instrument were also mentioned.

People mostly travelled in Sweden and the most common way to travel was by bike.

It was unusual to have foreign contacts. There were few people who visited Sweden and it was rare to go abroad. One person knew about a person from Italy and a little girl from Holland.

Sports

During wintertime in the 30s it was common to skate and ski. 7 out of 20 were busy with some kind of winter sport.

During summer people played football and a few mentioned athletics too. 7 people played football and 2 were engaged in athletics.

Handball, swimming, bandy and ice hockey were not as popular as they are today. Only 2 people talked about one of these sports.

One person mentioned fishing. Salmon trout, salmon and pike were the most common fish.

When Swedes were competing abroad, people back home in Sweden could get information about how it went through radio and newspapers. 8 of 20 said that they followed all the sports news on the radio or read about it in newspapers.

Many of the interviewees took part in various sports but they did not compete as much as teenagers do today. They did it mostly for fun.

Culture

17 of 22 persons that we interviewed read books, newspapers and series. The books were usually borrowed from the library.

9 of 22 didn’t listen to music at all and the reason for this was that they didn’t have a radio. Three of them who listened, just listened to Swedish music. The others listened to foreign and Swedish music, often classical music.

Ulla Petterson 85 years old : “I mostly listened to the radio, there was one hour with a classical music programme and then I listened to dance music”.

It was common to go to the cinema. Most people we asked saw Swedish movies but there were some people who also went to foreign movies.

Inga-Lisa Eidenvik 82 years old : “Well, when you got money you went to the cinema”.

Media

17 of 20 read the newspaper or listened to the radio to find out the news. Seven of them read the newspaper, five of them listened to the radio and five read the paper and listened to the radio.

Most of the news they found was about Sweden, for example when Queen Astrid died in 1935.
Some of them also mentioned that they heard Hitler scream on the radio.


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