Violet Linden

Violet Linden
Recalls 100 years in Silverhill

Town to celebrate annual Heritage Day Festival
Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011

     Violet Linden has lived in Silverhill all of her life, all 100 years of it. While she might not remember as much as she used to, she still recalls quite a bit when interviewed at the home on Fourth Avenue where she and her husband Bob spent most of their 64-year marriage and raised their four children.

     The youngest of six children, Linden’s parents, John and Emma Gustafson, were raised in Sweden and moved to Silverhill from Chicago in 1904. Her father was a skilled cabinet maker and worked for the railroad building railroad cars. The family moved to Silverhill because of his failing health, she said. “Doctors told him he needed to move to a warmer climate,” she said. “At the time the Swedish magazines were advertising Silverhill.”

     The Gustafsons and their young children moved to South Alabama, purchasing 80 acres of land two miles outside of town. In addition to his work with the railroad, Linden said, her family also raised animals and tended a small farm, which was something they had not previously done in Chicago.

     “They definitely had a lot to learn,” she said.

     By the time the Gustafsons moved to Silverhill in the early 1900s, the town had already been established eight years earlier and had three churches, Baptist, Covenant and Lutheran, along with a general store and post office. “They had everything they needed, I guess,” she said.

     The Gustafson family were members of the Baptist Church, but the three churches often shared services, especially during the holidays, Linden recalls. “(At Christmas) they would each have their own service, but the services were scheduled at different times so that everybody could go to each service if they wanted,” she said.

     Linden also recalls hearing stories about the hurricane of 1906. “It was really hard because they didn’t know it was coming,” she said.

     Linden was born nearly seven years after her family moved to Silverhill, celebrating her 100th birthday in February of this year. Aside from a short period of study at business school in Chicago, Linden said, she lived her entire life in the Silverhill area.

     She recalls growing up in Silverhill, having picnics in what is now known as Oscar Johnson Park and being able to go with her father across on the ferry to Mobile. “We went to Daphne earlier, then later we would go to Fairhope too,” she said. “Father would take the ferry over to Mobile to buy goods and the children would go along. That was a big event. Back then it would take all day.”

Women in Swedish costumes, left to right: Violet Gustafson (Linden), Evelyn Linden (Rundquist), Evelyn Ledeen, Ruby Ledeen, Unknown, Unknown, Elsie Chandler. This was probably taken before Violet married in Aug. 1934.

     When she got older, Linden recalls being able to drive. When asked about her first car she said, “It was probably a Ford. I drove from the time I was big enough to drive.”

     Her family also participated in the Baldwin County Fair, which was held in Silverhill when she was growing up. “We had a big auditorium where all the public meetings were and the fair would be held their every year,” she said. “I guess it was the county fair. It was the only one. People came from all over.”

     She also recalls her family taking cream to the Silverhill Creamery, which would then be taken to Pensacola.

     In her younger years, Linden also participated in the Baldwin County Orchestra, playing violin during and right after her high school days, she said.

     She married Robert “Bob” Linden in 1934. Linden’s parents, N.P. and Tilda Linden, were also of Swedish decent and farmed in the area. In the early 1940s, they would move with their two young children to the house on Fourth Avenue, which is just down the street from Silverhill School.

     Two more children would be born after the Linden’s moved into town and it was there that they raised their four children, sharing the home together until Bob Linden’s death in 1998.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert "Bob" Linden.

     Life in town wasn’t that much different from life outside of town, she said. “We were only two miles outside of town, so it really wasn’t that much different,” she said. “Then when Robertsdale came along, that was only about another mile, so we pretty much had everything we needed.”

Town of Silverhill Council banquet, left to right: Mr. and Mrs. From, Violet Linden, Robert Linden, Evelyn Rundquist, Axel Rundquist, Alice Johnson, Emery Johnson, Elsie Chandler, Les Chandler, Louise Lundberg, George Lundberg, Mrs. Ed Havel, Ed Havel. This was taken probably before 1960 at Johnnie Mae's a Robertsdale restaurant.

     Linden will play an integral part in Silverhill’s 28th Annual Heritage Day Festival on Saturday, Sept. 17. Festivities begin at 9 a.m. with opening ceremonies. Linden will then be featured as the Grand Marshall in the Heritage Day Parade at 10 a.m. and will participate in the “Memory Lane” presentation at 2 p.m. at the Baptist Church.

     The Festival will also include live entertainment throughout the day and will end with the Little Miss Silverhill Pageant in the Silverhill Elementary School gym.

     Attendees will enjoy various arts/crafts booths, antique tractors and a small classic car exhibition. A children’s area will feature the ‘train,’ petting zoo and other activities. Entertainment will include Gospel music, bands, dance troops and other special music.

     “This year, we are excited about two new features added to the Heritage Festival – historic walking tours and the ‘Memory Lane’ presentation,” said Bert Jones, festival Chairman. “Our committee has been working hard to create excitement about the town’s interesting history.”

     A historic walking tour has been created and will feature two tours at 11 and 11:30 a.m. There will be eight locations visited with a different presenter to focus on the history of those buildings. “Our tour guides will be in costume representing the Swedish and Czechoslovakian heritage and sharing other historical points during the tour, “ Jones said.

     The ‘Memory Lane’ presentation will feature representatives from several founding families of Silverhill. Each presenter will tell interesting tales of life in Silverhill over the last 125 years and will be facilitated by Carl Johnson. The presentation will begin at 2 p.m. and will be held in the sanctuary of Silverhill First Baptist Church. Attendees of all ages are encouraged to attend.

     “We appreciate the many sponsors who are also excited about the potential growth of our festival as we celebrate the unique history of Silverhill and share it with other citizens of Baldwin County,” said Jones. “We hope that everyone will bring their families and enjoy the day with us.”

     When asked if she was looking forward to being part of the facilities, Linden wasn’t too sure. “I don’t know,” she said. “It sounds like a lot of work. I’d rather not work too much.” At this stage in her life, she’s earned it.

Printed in The Independent Newspaper
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
By John Underwood -
Click here to read the Independent News article.