Sidewalk maker: Karl A. Johanson

Karl Arvid Johanson was born in Piteå, Norrbotten County, Sweden in 1884, where he apprenticed as a carpenter. His biography in F. C. Merritt’s History of Alameda County (1928) rather pointedly notes that “on the completion of his apprenticeship [he] was regarded as an expert workman, receiving a diploma as a journeyman carpenter.” He emigrated at age 19, arriving at Ellis Island from Liverpool on the S.S. Ivernia, and knocked around the Upper Midwest, where for the next three years he went from job to low-wage job in the lumber industry.

He finally put his talents to work in Seattle, where he got into the building business and stayed for 15 years. There he married Jenny Lundholm, a fellow Norrbottener, and there the couple had five children.

Finally, having made some money, he relocated to Oakland in 1920 and jumped into the postwar building boom and was “more than ordinarily successful, having built over three hundred houses in this district, one hundred and seven having been built by him in one year.”

His draft record notes, “third finger right hand off below second joint,” a common injury among carpenters and lumber workers. (Jerry Garcia suffered the same, from a childhood mishap.)

I have found only two of his sidewalk marks in Oakland, both from 1924. One is on 55th Avenue and the other is on 51st Avenue.

He died in 1962, survived by all his children, and is buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

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