John Qualen

The current building at 823 Jackson Avenue was the second church to be built in that location. In 1893 a small one-storey church was built for the First Scandinavian Lutheran Church. City directories list the first pastor as Rev. C. J. Olsen from 1894 to 1897 followed by Rev. Peder Olaus Kvalen (later changed to Qualen) from 1898 to 1901 and again from 1906 to 1908. Peder Olaus Kvalen was born in Wisconsin on March 22, 1872. His wife, Anna Heggelund, was born in Norway. Prior to coming to Vancouver, Rev. Kvalen and his family had been living in Iowa where their first son Olai was born. Their first house in Vancouver was 404 Keefer, but they soon moved to 516 Prior Street.

On December 8, 1899, Rev. Kvalen’s wife Anna gave birth to their second son, Johan Mandt Kvalen (pictured), who became an actor under the name John Qualen.  John Qualen went into acting against his father’s wishes and eventually reaching Broadway, he gained his big break as the Swedish janitor in Elmer Rice’s Street Scene in 1931. His movie career began when he recreated the role in the film version. This was followed by his appearance in John Ford’s Arrowsmith (1931) which began a more than thirty year membership in John Ford’s “stock company”, with important supporting roles in The Searchers (1956), Two Rode Together (1961), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

Appearing in well over one hundred films, and acting extensively on television into the 1970s, Qualen performed many of his roles with various accents. Qualen assumed a Midwestern dialect as Muley, who recounts the destruction of his farm by the bank in Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940), as the confused killer Earl Williams in Howard Hawks’ classic comedy His Girl Friday (1940) and as Berger, the jewelry-selling Norwegian resistance member in Michael Curtiz’ Casablanca (1942).

Rev. Qualen and his family stayed in Vancouver until about late 1901 when Rev. Qualen was transferred to Chicago. There he looked after two congregations: Trinity Norwegian Lutheran Church in South Chicago and Nazareth Norwegian Lutheran Church in West Pullman, Chicago.  Rev. Qualen remained Pastor of both churches until 1906 when he was transferred back to Vancouver. After leaving Canada around 1909 Rev. Qualen and his wife Anna lived in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota before settling in Santa Monica, California.  Rev. Peder Olaus Qualen died in Los Angeles on March 12, 1964 and John Qualen died in Torrrance, California on September 12, 1987.