Katarina Elevator

Ulf Wolf
4 min readAug 6, 2019

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.

© Wolfstuff



Ulf Wolf

Raised by trolls in northern Sweden, now settled on the California coast a stone’s throw south of the Oregon border. Here I meditate and write. Wolfstuff.com.