If you were at the Spooner railroad depot on Sunday evening, June 18, 1939, you might have joined about 50 of your fellow citizens in meeting Norwegian royalty. Crown Prince Olaf and his wife Crown Princess Märtha, on their way from Superior to Eau Claire on the 7:15 p.m. train, stepped onto the platform to visit with the assembled crowd.
“They shook hands with many, and impressed all with their cordial and democratic action.”
Swedish-born Stephen Johnson spoke in Swedish to the princess, as both had been born in Sweden, and described his visit to Sweden several years earlier.
The royal couple remained with the crowd on the platform until the train began to move, then re-boarded to continue their journey, reported the June 22, 1939, Advocate.
On the previous Friday, June 16, the Spooner High School band had passed in review before the royal couple at Superior, “thus helping to put Spooner on the map,” reported the June 15, 1939, Advocate.
Frank Sauer, the railroad operator at Wascott, found the royal visit a bit shocking. He was about to send cablegrams to Oslo, Norway, for the crown prince and princess, when lightning struck the depot, causing considerable damage. All wires were disconnected and “Mr. Sauer barely escaped with his life,” noted the June 29, 1939, Advocate.
Olav had been born “Alexander” in England on July 2, 1903, the only child of Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud of Wales; his mother was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. When his father was elected king of Norway in 1905, Alexander’s name was changed to Olav.
In 1929, Olav won a gold medal in sailing at the 1928 Olympics; the next year, he married his cousin Märtha. She died in 1954 before Olaf took the throne as Olav V on September 21, 1957. Olaf proved to be immensely popular, and was known as “the people’s king.” He liked to drive around Norway in his own car, but during the 1973 energy crisis, when driving was restricted, he loaded his skis on his shoulder and took public transportation to the slopes, saying he didn’t need bodyguards as he had four million of them – the Norwegian people. When Olav died on January 17, 1991, he was succeeded by his son, Harald V.
Marilyn Gahm has been reading all the “Spooner Advocate” newspapers since it began publishing in 1901, and she has found many treasures in those pages. History, she says, should never be dull.
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