A Tribute to the Swedish American Line
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The Entertainers

Hanna Owen
Hanna Owen
See several photos contributed by Hanna Owen,
singer on Gripsholm and Kungsholm 1973-75.

Entertaining at a Farewell Dinner
on the Kungsholm, 1954 (names to be added).

Violinist and orchestra leader Franz Racz, here at
the SAL reunion 2000, made 26 cruises around the world.

Focusing on entertainment on board, the members of the ship's orchestra certainly come into mind first.

Charlie Norman, the man who brought boogie-woogie to Sweden, made a World Cruise on the Kungsholm during the 1950’s.

Famous Danish violinist Svend Asmussen performed on the Kungsholm in 1954 and 1955, on a World Cruise and an Around South America cruise along with guitarist Jörgen Ingman and violinist Knud Möller. Möller played classical pieces, while Svend played dance music. Svend Asmussen sent a greeting to the SAL reunion in Stockholm 2000, regretting he couldn't attend for family reasons.

Cheif Purser Curt Dawe and Svend Asmussen, in striped jacket, with passengers.
From the Dawe collection.

Diane Moss has sent us this photo taken of the musicians on a July 1957 trip from New York on the Kungsholm .
The violinist resembles a young Svend Asmussen.

Violinist Knud Möller marching in with the folkdancers on the Gripsholm at Midsummer 1966.
Photo contributed by Ken Sandholm.

Several Swedes, such as Sone Banger, Peo Jönis, Leif Uvemark, Rolf Sternlöf, and Stellan Ljung, are all well-known musicians who have performed on the SAL fleet. The photo below from a crew's party has been contributed by Danish musician Bent A Warburg.


Quite extraordinary demands of versatility fell upon the musicians. After brunch music at pool-side, they could be scheduled to play folk music during the Folk Dance Team’s performance on deck, switch to jazz or classical music for a concert in the main lounge, and then change pace for a slow-fox or Latin rythms after dinner.

In addition to the orchestra, entertainers on board the SAL ships fell into other categories, very much depending on how you define the phrase ”to entertain”.

In 1941, the position of entertainment director for the M.S, Kungsholm of 1928 was held by J. D. Salinger. Mr. Salinger would go on to become a world-renown author with the publication of "The Catcher in the Rye" in 1952. Undoubtedly the Kungsholm's most famous crew member. Salinger was writing at the time that he served on the Kungsholm. No doubt he used this experience when writing his short story "Teddy" (republished in his collection Nine Stories) which takes place on an ocean liner. Furthermore, his short story "A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All" has direct references to Kungsholm. Many thanks to the webmaster of deadcaulfields.com for this information.

The Commander, the First Officer, the Chief Purser and the Ship’s Doctor had, in addition to their professional duties, the benefit of mingling and entertaining the cruise members and first class passengers at dinners, cocktail parties, in the lounges, and on the dance floor. These were also the main duties of the Cruise Manager and Social Directress, and other members of the Cruise Staff, who were employed by, or otherwise engaged through the SAL Office in New York.

The ship’s dance instructors, who could be a married couple, while working hard giving waltz and cha-cha lessons in the day time, also gave dance performances in the Main Lounge, a few times during each cruise. Marlene and Michael Pekala are well-known to thousands of cruise passengers.

There would most certainly also be a singer on board, mastering a typical evergreen and Broadway musical repertoire. Hanna Owen and Gerrit van Triest are well-known representatives of this line of talented entertainers.

Gerrit van Triest.

Then, of course, there was the the Folk Dance Team - made up of members of the crew.

On most cruises, there would also be a lecturer giving lectures in the ship's auditorium.

Lectures by Col. J Wickersham Kirk.

Information Officer Lars-Erik Jansson, passenger, Lecturer Derek J Swinnerton
and Purser's Office Clerk J Wiklund at the North Cape, on July 7, 1968.
Derek J Swinnerton was a former high ranking submarine officer in the Royal Navy.
In addition to holding travel lectures in the auditorium, he had a morning
radio show on board the Kungsholm called "Greet the Day with Derek J".

When the ship passed through the Panama Canal, Swinnerton would hold
an impressive and detailed guidance during the entire passage, from the bridge
over the ship's PA system, not using a manuscript.


"Auf Wiedersehen"
Franz Racz on the Kungsholm's last voyage from
New York after being sold to Flagship Cruises in 1975.
(From a photo copy)


Gripsholm musicians on deck arriving in Rio de Janero.
From left: Orchestra leader George Nistor, Rune Stålspets, Sven Sjöholm, Erik Sjöholm, Christian with camera.
On the far right: Erik Lihm, on his left
Gunnar (last name to be added).

The Cruise Staff, dressed to entertain.
Bill Klingener, Shore Trip Staff member, has contributed the following information, from left to right:
Fred Fields, Ralph Magelsen, Ron Anderson, Bill Klingener, Phillip Panettiere, Herb Colcard Cruise Manager,
Jean Kerr Social Directress, Gordon Meyers, Ralph Alfaro “Cookie” Shore Trip Manager, Alfred Gilbert,
William Knowlton, Philip Hanie, and David Croft – Bridge Instructor.

Bill Klingener worked on both the Kungsholm and Gripsholm for several years and continued after the Kungsholm was sold to Flagship Cruises.

Bill remembers: Most of the staff were hired by “ Ollie “ in the New York office at Rockefeller Plaza - You had to be recommended by either  a Cruise Manager, Social Directress, Tours Ashore Manager or prior staff - You began as a member of the social staff and you were required to have a college degree, well spoken, able and willing to dance and fill in whenever and wherever needed with different duties on board. Run ping pong, shuffleboard tournaments, produce and deliver Daily newspaper to all passengers, host a table at meal times assist with tours ashore, entertain with programs devised by the singers and dancers. Dance with the single ladies every evening at sea. Assist with fire drills,decorations,attend special cocktail parties, after proving yourself with the social functions you could apply for the tours ashore office which set up and sold tours ashore, escorted them and arranged for private cars, hotels, meals, tickets to events etc. or any other travel arrangements that the passengers wanted. We also assisted with any of the prior duties of the social staff accept not being required to dance every evening while at sea. That picture that you had was of the Staff on the World Cruise on The Kungsholm sailing Jan. 18th 1974. Mrs. Jean Kerr had to borrow the feather boa from a passenger to make the photo more dramatic - the picture was taken early the 2nd day of the cruise. The staff got together and purchased Jean her own Feather Boa at our first stop in Port Everglades, that way she could make a dramatic statement anytime she chose.

(If you have photos or information about the entertainers, please email us.)



Oct 15
Kjell Smitterberg

Claes Feder
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