Jon Stolpe Stretched

What's S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me now?

Salvation Army Foundation

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I learned some interesting details about my family. My great grandfather, Grandpa Erikson, who I never met, has an interesting connection with the Salvation Army. The retelling of this story by my dad was an eye opener for me. I’m sure I’ve been told details of this story before, but it was really neat to hear my dad tell the story to my son Isaac after we had passed one of the Salvation Army holiday donation collectors during our visit to the mall. Well, here’s the story as best I can remember…

Apparently, my great grandfather was quite a wild young man. He traveled by boat from Sweden and some how ended up in California. From what I understand, he got into trouble with the law and had quite a taste for alcohol. Somehow, he showed up one Sunday morning at the Salvation Army church looking to cause problems in his drunken stupor. While he was at the service, he never had the chance to make any trouble as he was too plastered. There happened to be a young lady at the service who had pity on my great grandfather. Eventually, she married him and he cleaned up his life and committed his life to Christ. As time went on, she had a son. When he was six (or so), they both died of some sort of illness. The story doesn’t end here.

Grandpa Erikson later met another lady who he married. They had a daughter who became my grandmother. When my dad was younger, Grandpa Erikson passed away, and Grandma Erikson moved in with this family. For several years, Grandma Erikson would take my dad and my Aunt Elaine to downtown Oakland to put money in one of the red Salvation Army pots. They would take the bus downtown and put the money that she had set aside for this purpose. She told my dad that this was a way to show her gratitude for Grandpa Erikson’s first wife who had been so instrumental in introducing him to Christ. As Grandma Erikson grew older and she couldn’t make the bus trip any longer, she would send my dad by himself downtown with her money to deposit in the Salvation Army’s donation pot. This became an annual tradition.

Since then, my dad has made a point every year to empty his pockets of any loose change into a Salvation Army pot. Dad has also been involved with the Salvation Army on and off throughout his career. A big reason for this is that he wants to continue the tradition by remembering the role that the Salvation Army has had it setting a Christian foundation for his family.

I’m sure that Dad told this story because he’s great at telling stories; however, I’m know that the real reason was to pass along this tradition to my son and me. I am honored.

Until the next post, take a second look when you hear that hand bell ringing…

December 17, 2007 - Posted by | family


  1. Hello Stolpes! We received your Christmas card the other day and I decided to check out your blog tonight. Immediately there was a neat connection because we ‘rang the bell’ this afternoon as a family!! A family in our church is very involved with the Salvation Army and were looking for volunteers. Morgan heard about it and urged us to do it. She was all smiles, even sang some Christmas carols, and made us proud.
    Merry Christmas!! Steve & Cheryl

    Comment by Anonymous | December 21, 2007 | Reply

  2. Dear Jon,

    As I was browsing through your blog, I saw the Salvation Army logo and story about Grandpa Erikson. Just a couple of details you might want to sharpen in the story.

    Grandpa Erikson left home in Marstrand, Sweden (a small island with a fishing village) at 16 to take a job on a sailing ship (he would not have said “boat.”). I don’t know all of the places he went, but he saw a lot of the world. When in port in San Francisco Bay (perhaps at the docks in Oakland), he jumped ship. Just never went back.

    I don’t know that he was in trouble with the law (except that he was an illegal alien, probably until he got married), but he did live a rough, hard drinking life.

    My understanding is that it was a Salvation Army tent (revival) meeting, not a Sunday morning worship service, where he went with some friends to heckle.

    Grandpa was cared for (coffee, food, etc.) by the Salvation Army people who were doing the tent meeting, among whom was the young woman who became he wife. I gather it was like ministering to those who responded to the invitation after the meeting.

    His first wife and son died in an influenza epidemic.

    After their deaths, Grandpa was in transition again, and came to Lakeside Baptist Church (then known as the First Swedish Baptist Church of Oakland, CA) which is where he met Grandma, whose mother had recently died. She had cared for her “invalid” mother for a number of years, thus not marrying.

    Thanks for posting this story. It warmed my heart.


    Comment by Anonymous | December 27, 2007 | Reply

  3. Dad,

    Thanks for the clarification. In many respects, I wish I had started something like this sooner, so I could capture more of the stories that make up my family heritage.


    Comment by Jon Stolpe | December 27, 2007 | Reply

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