Härnösand — The town I grew up in

«Describe the town where you grew up» … that was the topic in the WP-challenge, and one that I’ll love to write about. I’m immensely proud of Härnösand, and it’s the most beautiful little town in the whole world, if you ask me! 

Härnösand was founded 1585. It’s located on an island, but nowadays it has spread to the mainland. There were several little islands actually, but due to the isostatic uplift, it’s all mainland now.

It has a deep, natural harbour and shipping and ship building was always an important part of life. The harbour used to be a lively place. Not so much now.

1650 Härnösand got its first hospital and 1680 its first highschool.  I’m not going to write up the history of Hernö Sand in this little blog. That has already been done in three, very thick, volumes.

I wasn’t born there, to be honest … I was born in Kristinehamn, Värmland, where my father was from, but we moved to Härnösand when I wasn’t even one year old, so I consider myself a native 🙂 My Mother was from there, her brother — my uncle — had just built a house with two apartments so we moved. Perhaps she was homesick. My Father died shortly afterwards … when I was two.

My brother, who is ten years older, and I grew up on the mainland … a little bit south of the city centre. As our Father was dead, and Mum working nights in the hospital, my brother had to look after me a lot! Imagine that … a fifteen year old boy, having to look after his little sister every night. He often  took me to the movies. The first movie I can remember ever seeing in the cinema was Cat Ballou.

My first, six years of schooling took place in a really small school in a more rural area. All of us in school knew one another, our parents knew both us and the other parents … if they didn’t know them personally, they at least knew of them. Our neighbors had only sons, so I grew up playing with boys all the time and didn’t have a ‘best girl friend’ until I was almost twelve. She lived quite far from our place so we sure did a lot of bicycling. Anywhere we wanted to go … going swimming or so, we biked.

I was born 1955 and I still remember what Härnösand looked like in my childhood … before they tore down parts of the old in the 60’s. I remember many buildings, streets that are no more … all the little stores, before the supermarkets came into play… little cafés. The coffee shop where you bought ground coffee, that smelled so good, the fish store that didn’t smell so good 🙂 There were butcher shops, shops for fruit, a rather big department store … they’re all gone.

Every Saturday people went into town … to do their shopping, but also to have coffee with friends in one of the numerous cafés. I always went with Mum, you got served at the table, the waitress came around with a big tray filled with oodles of delicious pastries. How I wish I’d had a photo of it. I have no photos.

Back in those days … I could go into town on my own when I was about twelve … you knew or recognized almost everyone in town. Even more so when I started grade 7, because that was a different school and it was in town (Franzén skolan). I don’t think it exists any more.

Photo: Henrik Sendelbach

The Cathedral has a central place in Härnösand, and this is where I was confirmed 1968. Church of Sweden is Lutheran and up to 1999 church and state were together. It was almost like you were born into the church but Sweden is a very secularized country.


Around that time, they had started to build a plant in Härnösand … out in a place called Murbergsviken. That used to be a little beach and many people were upset that this place was being ‘destroyed’ by an industry. It was a small beach and only frequented by the people living nearby … it was strange because there never seemed to be any sunshine — it was always shady. I never went there to swim — there were so many other places.

If my memory serves me right, that plant was taken into operation in 1969. 1970/71 I went to school in another town in southern Sweden and when I got back, I got a job at that company, which was American by the way. I worked there for twelve years. About three hundred people worked there, which was a lot, considering how small a town Härnösand is. It’s kind of sad that I worked there for twelve years and don’t have one, single photo from that time. Great Lakes Carbon Corp. was the name of it.

This turned out to be the most difficult post to write, even though I was so looking forward to it. Difficult, in the way of keeping the thread … I wanted to write about the town but my own growing up there go so intertwined so I had a hart time keeping my thoughts apart. I’ve been at it for two hours now 🙂 I wanted to write a post that made people want to go there. I haven’t been there myself for seven years.

At least I have this picture of our home …an that’s one that I’ve taken myself.

My brother still lives there … and I just can’t finish off this post without a picture of my favourite place … Notsand, a stony beach 






15 thoughts on “Härnösand — The town I grew up in”

  1. Great post!! nice to know about where you are from and a bit about your life. I never got that far north but maybe someday!

  2. I stopped myself from clicking the link to see what country the town was in. I kept saying to myself – wait, it'll be here – and that made it even more interesting. Wonderful piece.

  3. What a marvelous post! I have never been to Sweden but would love to go and now after this post I would really like to go to your home town. It looks absolutely beautiful and sounds like an ideal place to have spent your "growing up" years.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Linda,
      Thank you 🙂 When I don't right a post straight … in one fell swoop, but start to make changes and move stuff around, then it takes ages. I so wanted this to come out good.
      It's a beautiful place, and back then it was definitely a good place growing up.

  4. Fascinating. A small-town Sweden that in some ways has vanished and in some ways is still there — probably true for many people’s childhood town. True of mine, and that was a big city, Brooklyn, New York, a borough of New York City. And the Great Neck, Long Island I grew up in seems like a fairy story, or a tale from long ago, compared to today’s reality.
    It’s always so interesting to hear other people’s memories, other people’s stories. The differences, the similarities. Thanks for the post.

    1. Judith,
      Yeah, Brooklyn is certainly a different world from Härnösand 🙂 But even if you're only away for a few years, so much changes. My town is definitely still there, but unfortunately not so lively anymore … there are many empty store fronts as big malls have grown up outside. The next town is much larger and the hospital has been moved there and so on…

  5. Rebekah, this is a wonderful post, written from the heart – and I can see why you struggled with it (I struggled with mine too – it took me hours)!
    You have described it so well and I could feel myself there – going into town on Saturdays along with everyone else (all familiar faces), being with your mum and sitting at a table waiting to be served by a waitress! Those are some of the memories that will stay with us always.
    I would love to visit there someday and walk in your footsteps.

    1. Thank you, Barb … heart-warming 🙂
      I'm so looking forward to reading both about that twist you mentioned, but also your visit back home after twenty five years. That must really be something!!! I have an almost daily contact with people there, and I can go in and look at the webcam … that way it doesn't feel all that long. I read the local newspaper and so on …

      1. I speak to my brother and his wife a couple of times a week on the webcam, and my nieces, but I would have no idea of any changes in town since the last time I was there. I believe there are still no traffic lights in the town! Can you imagine that? I honestly don't think the place has changed much in all those years! I'm so looking forward to visiting.

  6. Hi, I've always wanted to go to Sweden but we live in America…I guess you get the picture…I heard about Harnosand and I have been doing tons of research on it…I want to go there so badly, and then it happened. My father said that we can go to Sweden either this summer or next summer….they will probably want to stay there if I bring them XD small chance…but when I grow up I want to go to the Harnosand University of Sweden….with good grades and a positive mind, maybe I can get there…wish me luck 😀

    1. Well, first off: «Good luck!» This is really interesting… how come you got interested in Härnösand, of all places?! Are you already there? I looked at your Facebook page, and it says that you live there!

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