Katarina Elevator

The most famous elevator in all of Sweden was—and as far as I know, still is—the Katarina Elevator by Slussen in Stockholm. Google it, and you’ll find plenty of images.

This is now the summer of 1965 (June, I believe) and I have just spent all spring and early summer working in my dad’s factory up north after my very embarrassing Technical Gymnasium fiasco which saw me dropping out mid-January or thereabouts.

No, I did not like working for my dad. Not a bit. Yes, he paid me decently enough, but one of my best friends made a lot more from his (very well-off, to be sure) parents without having to lift a finger, so my work arrangement seemed a little unfair. That, and I always sported dirty fingernails; there was nothing for it with all that oil and dust and grease and yes, dirt, that went along with a factory like my dad’s—while my friends fingernails remained pristine.

At this point there was still talk about me returning to (starting over) Technical Gymnasium in the fall and I think this was still my somewhat nebulous plan at this time.

However, by now I needed a summer break and I think it was my mom who suggested that I go visit the Hellströms, former neighbors who now lived in Stockholm, or just to the north of the city in Ulriksdal, one of Stockholm’s many suburbs. I believe Mom called her still friend and ex-neighbor Valborg and arranged the whole thing and sometime mid-June I found myself moved in and installed on the second bed in my friend Åke’s bedroom, looking forward to a month or two of Capital visit and kicking back.

My friend worked the early mornings for the Swedish Post Office and after a couple of weeks of hanging about his mom (that would be Valborg) hinted, or a little more than hinted, that perhaps I, too, should look for something useful to do, at least part-time. Well, thought I, not a bad idea, so I started scouring the papers for wanted ads.

Found one. The Cooperative Federation (Kooperativa Förbundet—KF, for short), who owned the thing, was looking for an operator for the Katarina Elevator. Man, what a cool job, methought, and took the next bus into town for an interview.

Well, by the time I arrived the position had already been filled, so with dashed hopes I made my way back to Ulriksdal and my friend’s bedroom and another magazine or book or whatever I was reading at the time.

The following morning, however, I had a little brainstorm: A company the size of KF (and it was huge by Swedish standards) was bound to have something for a bright young lad like me (I was sixteen at the time) to do, no? So, with a pretty good serving of hutzpah swallowed whole, I got on the bus again and walked in to the same Personnel Director’s office who looked a little bemused: what was I doing back here? (How I got past his secretary I am not entirely sure).

Well, I said, surely in a company this size there has to be something for a guy like me to do over the summer. Surely.

He took a long hard look at me over his glasses, and I believe that he liked what he saw, the initiative if nothing else—the flirting with effrontery of showing up again, the nerve, I guess, for then he said, Okay, let’s see.

He turned to a filing cabinet and rummaged through some files (this was before Personal Computers, way) and pulled one out: Mail-Order Shipping. You’ll be packing mail orders. Sound okay?

Yes, very.

And that is how I landed my first real (as in non-dad’s factory) job.

As it happened, I never returned to Technical Gymnasium; in fact, I never returned up north (home) after that. Instead I stayed at Mail-Order for a few months before my boss—who could not believe my ninth grade grades and wondered why on earth was I not back in school—got me a job at an ancillary service to the IBM punch card department (part of their computer central) from where I eventually was promoted to punch card operator and from there to computer operator (a Bull/GE 301 mainframe), though that’s another story slash fragment.

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