-Alice B Johnson
1901 - 1972
Alice Bertha Lundström was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1901 to immigrant parents from Sweden, Nels Peter Lundström and Methilda Anderson. She had a brother John and a sister Hilma. Throughout her life, Alice's Swedish heritage would be a source of pride for her, and play a large role in the raising of her family. She studied music at Saint Agatha's Conservatory in St. Paul as a teen, but found love at a young age. In 1918, Alice married Albert M Johnson, a buyer for Montgomery Ward, whose parents were also immigrants, but from a different Scandinavian country, Norway. The couple had a large family of children: Arthur, Florence, Clarence and Alice. The family moved to Baltimore, Maryland in 1925 and lived many years in Baltimore.
Alice B Johnson
Swedish Christmas tradition
Alice Johnson loved to celebrate the holidays, especially Christmas, with her Swedish traditions, and her smorgasbords to entertain family and friends became legendary. She would spend weeks baking dozens of varieties of Scandinavian cookies for Christmas to present to friends, and box them up to go to hospitals. In this way, Alice shared her heritage with others, a dedication that prompted her to write a cookbook, The Complete Scandanivian Cookbook in 1964 which remains a standard in this culinary niche.
Alice also had articles on Scandinavian cooking published in several magazines and newspapers, including House and Garden magazine. Even her poetry was peppered with references to her Swedish traditions, particularly her poems about Christmas, which was by far her favorite holiday.
Alice published three books of poetry in addition to her highly regarded cookbook: Silver Threads in 1938 when she was 37 years old, followed by The Fruit Thereon in 1941 and Where Children Live in 1958. I have all three volumes in my collection.
Alice served as local and then state president of the National League of American Pen Women, and she was named Maryland's poet of the year in 1959.
Many thanks for her help with this page to Alice's great-granddaughter, Jody Costa, who is herself a fine poet and posts her great-grandmother's poetry along with her own on her enchanting blog, Press Send Poetry.
Alice died in September of 1972, age 71.
The author and her small daughter, Alice
From a painting by Martha M. Bilger
Silver Threads (1938)
by Alice B Johnson
The Fruit Thereon (1941)
by Alice B Johnson
Where Children Live
by Alice B Johnson
Beyond the Hills
Why grieve? What you mistook for love has fled
Like dew that settles on each opening flower
That lifts its face for but a fleeting hour
Up to the sun. Feed not the days ahead
With memories that rise among the dead
Of countless loves, though tortured ghosts, that tower
Above the wounded held in hunger's power,
Beg humbly for but half a loaf of bread.
Tread softly on the spot whereon you laid
Your heart to rest. New flowers will arise
Above the singing earth and, unafraid,
Will lift their petaled beauty to the skies--
Casting their fragrance to the winds that blow
Beyond the hills -- to verdant plains below.
(The Fruit Thereon)
What shall I plant
Against the garden wall?
Blue morning glories?
I know that they grow tall.
With the rising sun--
Awakening the dew-drenched earth
To each new day begun?
I'll plant extravagantly,
Reflecting all of heaven
As they smile at me.
(The Fruit Thereon) *morning glories are one of my
Still Autumn leaves
Upon the ground,
Withered, torn and
Poor wayward heart,
Ripe red berries
Dead leaves-- ashes--
Cover each heart
One night, high on a hill,
I saw a star,
When truant, erring feet
Had wandered far.
For many years I searched
On hilltops high
Just for that little star
To light my sky.
You see, I was so young
I didn't know
That even brightest stars
Will come-- and go.
The Yarn Spinner
A man may love
A woman to-day,
And ride away.
When a woman loves
She still remembers
When flames are ashes
And buried embers.
Intent on every word, the small boy hears
A story woven of an old man's years
That, with the telling, finds a space to grow
In splendor for a boy who wants it so,
And, as the truly wondrous tale unravels,
Along an old world trail a small boy travels--
A boy who hangs upon each chosen word,
As with the spinning yarn the air is stirred,
Until the hero-worshipper is led,
His hand held fast in grandfather's-- to bed.
(Where Children Live)