His Mysterious Ways by A. Samuel Mattson
Jobs were hard to find in New York City in 1930. Just 19, I was fresh off the boat from Sweden and didn’t speak any English.
When I'd boarded the train in my hometown of Karlskrona, Sweden, a woman next to me had asked, "Where are you going?"
“America,” I said. “To make a new start.”
My cousin Lars works in New York City, she informed me. At the Steinway piano factory. “Look him up when you get there.” She wrote on a piece of paper, handed it to me and said, “God be with you.”
It was a sweltering New York day when I set out in search of the factory. I had no idea where it was. I wandered the city for hours, showing people that scrap of paper, which bore four words: Lars Olsen-Steinway Piano. Nobody was able to help me.
I was disappointed, and so tired. When I saw a parked car I opened the door and slid into the front seat. Where I was from anyone could rest in someone else’s wagon or cart. I hoped the same was true here.
I soon fell asleep, but was jolted awake by the blast of a whistle. Workmen streamed out of a nearby building. One of them yelled at me, in English. What is he so upset about? I answered instinctively in Swedish that I was sorry. Amazingly, he responded in Swedish, “What are you doing in my car?” I explained, then showed him that piece of paper. The man smiled. He said the whistle I had heard announced the end of the workday at Steinway & Sons. Then he walked me around the corner and introduced me to someone who got me a job as a painter.
By now you’ve probably guessed. The man who owned the car was Lars Olsen.