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TIMELINE  1905-1919
September, 1905

Baby Greta

September 18, Monday evening at 7:30 PM in Stockholm/Sweden. Greta Lovisa Gustafsson was born at the Södra Maternity Hospital.

Baby Greta was 52 centimeters long and weighted 3.5 kilograms. The day after she was born, Pastor Hildebrand christened the little girl.

Greta's Family

Greta's parents were Karl Alfred (Kalle) and Anna Lovisa Gustafsson. She was their third child. Her brother was Sven Alfred, born July 26, 1898. Her sister was Alva Maria, born September 20, 1903.

             Karl Alfred                      Anna Lovisa            Sven Alfred        Alva Maria

The family was very poor The family had many financial problems. They lived in a very small three-room apartment in Blekingegatan 32 (Södermalm).

Södermalm is a quarter of Stockholm. Karl Alfred worked as a butcher's assistant. He also worked as a landscaper taking care of trees and streets for the city.

Blekingegatan 32


Kalle's employer knew that the family was very poor. One day he offered Kalle to adopt the baby but both parents declined.

Another sources wrote that his brother, David, also offered an adoption. Little Greta was nicknamed “Kata” and was very close to her mother. Years later, Greta said that her mother was the center of her life.

Greta's father worked as a butcher.

August, 1912

Greta in School

Greta was seven when she enrolled at Katarina Södra Folkskola. This was the local school in Södermalm. Her least favorite subjects were geography and mathematics.

Her favorite subject was history. She often day-dreamed about fantastic adventures in class while reading her text books.

Greta with 9 years old


Greta sings

The First World War in 1914 broke out. Little Greta was singing in the choir at “Sofia kyrka”. This was the local church in Södermalm.

She and a very good friend earned herself a krona, for singing. Greta had a lovely contralto voice. Greta also was part in theatrical neighborhood shows. Those were formed for Salvation Army storefronts.

Greta with 11 years old

Her first “Job”

With six years old, she had her first “Job” as a newspaper seller. She sold the “Stridsropet”, the Salvation Army newspaper. Greta spend her first money to go to the movies theatres.


Greta's Teenager idol

Danish performer Carl Brisson was Greta's first teenager idol. One day, the former boxer was in Södermalm with his revue. Greta went to see him live on stage. She had a crush on him. Greta waited backstage and handed him a bunch of violets.

Brisson signed her an autograph. He also gave her a card that would allow her to see any performance. One night he was throwing the spotlight on her. He offered her to sing the next chorus of his song. Greta was shy and blushed but sang the song. From this moment on, after Carl asked the audience: “Who will sing a song with me?", Greta said “I will”.

Greta with 16 or 17

Greta plays Theatre

Greta loved the theatre and wanted to be an actress. She and her friends played theatre whenever they had a chance. With 13 when she formed her own theatrical company. It was called The Attic Theatre. She arranged her friends to bring old furniture from their homes to serve as props and for costumes they used anything they could find.

Their first show was a musical revue. Greta portrayed everything from the Goddess of Peace to a Three-year-old.

Summer 1919

Greta finished school

Greta graduated from public school in on June 14, 1919. It was normal for a Swedish girl, not to pursue any further education. All her life, Greta had a complex because she had so little schooling. She always thought she wasn't enough educated.

Greta 1919

Brother Sven started a family

Sven had several low-playing jobs after military service. He also earned some money at the local bakery. There he met a young girl called Elsa Hägerman. They fell in love and soon began a family.

Else gave birth to her first child – a boy. After the birth of Svens first child, Else became ill. Sven moved home to his family. There were now seven people in the three room-apartment in Södermalm.

Winter 1919

Illness and Financial Problems

In late winter 1919, Spanish flu had spread throughout Stockholm. Greta's father lost his job and even went ill. The family soon had financial problems again. Anna Lovisa searched for work and found it at a jam factory.

Greta had to look at her father who was at home. Once a week, Greta brought her father to a public clinic. Alva studied shorthand while working in an insurance office as a stenographer.

Alva Gustafsson

Local barber shop

Greta also had her first real job in a local barber shop. She was working as a tvålflicka (a soap girl).

A soap girl had to lather men's faces before they were shaved. Greta was very proud about her first job and took her work very serious.

One of the Barbershopd were Greta worked.


Greta Garbo: A Life Apart – by Karen Swenson
(A Lisa Drew Book/Scrbner, New York 1997)
This is the best and most accurate book
about Garbos-Life
TIMELINE  1905-1919
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