Interview with Ingrid Weatherhead August 22, 1995
NOTE: This interview was conducted at Ingrid Weatherhead's home in Eugene, Oregon, in August 1995. I hadn't yet spent
much time with Ingrid and her husband, Kingsley. We soon became fast friends and Mitchell and I now treasure our
relationship with Ingrid and Kingsley. Ingrid's mother, Olga, was a sister to my grandmother, Gudrun. Kingsley passed away on 28 August 2011.
Words in brackets are comments or remarks made by me.
Gerald R. Lowell
March 3, 2009
[Looking at pictures taken by Mildred of all the places where the Nelson family lived.]
[This is 810 N. French.] Oh yes, I stayed up in the second floor. Oh, I remember. Is that house still standing? There
was a garage out back.
[Looking at a picture of Harold D. Nelson.]
Oh gosh, I was trying to see some family resemblance (looking at picture of the four Nelson siblings and Ingrid).
[I'm not a Lowell. I follow the Nelson side of the family.] Your eyes are like Grandma Nelson's.
Your grandfather was a lovely man. And you know, when I graduated from college, he suggested to Tante Gudrun that
they buy me a watch for graduation. They bought a lovely Elgin white gold watch and I still have it. It is a mechanical
watch. I'm trying to get a new inside for it but so far I haven't succeeded. Can you imagine the joy? I graduated in
1950 from the University of Puget Sound.
[How did your family let you come over here?] Well, it was kind of an interesting thing because I had finished
matriculation exams in Norway and was doing some work at the university--preparatory work and then I had taken another
branch in commercial subjects and got hooked up with a steamship company. And I did stenography and the funny part was
when I took a letter from a new young man who had just been hired in the extradition department... and lo and behold
there was a guy with whom I'd graduated and he was at the bottom of the class and I was at the top of the class. He
dictated this letter to me in German and he got stuck on some cases of grammar and he said, "Oh, Ingrid, you know more
about this stuff than I do, this is what I want to say." So I ended up composing the letter. His salary was quite a bit
higher than mine but you know something very funny, it never occurred to me at the time that I ought to be the one dictating
this letter to him. He was married and had a little daughter and had a family. But the fact that I had a disabled father,
he had had a stroke, and helped a great deal with my own household never entered my mind. I was not married and so
therefore it was okay. It was only in later years that I realized how strange it was when we looked at men's salaries and
women's salaries. Maybe it was not quite as much, but at least two-thirds but it was different.
So, anyway, I was working there half-time and going to school half-time in Bergen and I read this magazine about a
scholarship that was available for a student who wanted to go to the U.S.A. and it turned out that the guy who was
arranging this scholarship was a German professor at the University of Puget Sound and he was one of the first instructors
at the International Summer School in Oslo. It was called the American Summer School then and later became the
International Summer School. So, back at the University of Puget Sound he had been impressed with the Norwegian students
and decided to persuade the University President to make two or three scholarships available to Norwegians. So I saw an
advertisement for these scholarships and I applied for it. My father said, "Why do you want to do that. You don't pay
any tuition at the University of Bergen and here all they give you is the tuition?" And there were monetary restrictions
so you couldn't send any money because it was right after the war. It was possible for a student to work for his board
and room. And I said, "If you ever want to master a foreign language you need to go somewhere where they speak it." So
he said okay and so I applied for it. And lo and behold, I got it.
Then the question came, "How on earth was I going to get over there?" You know my father had a stroke and was not rich.
[Were your parents educated?] My father was well-trained. He had taken or gone through apprenticeship. [What did he do?]
He was a cabinet carpenter; however, he specialized in the piano business and later on he went into instrument making so
he was sort of a specialist and his salary was pretty good. He had six children and I was the youngest and so I sort of
got into school through scholarship.
[Did you know where this was? Were you aware of geography?] No, you see, it said "Tacoma, Washington" and even though my
parents had been in the U.S., I thought that "Washington" was Washington, D.C. and I thought that my task was trying to find
some way of getting over to Washington, D.C., not realizing that I had to cross the whole continent. You know, I don't know,
if I would have had the courage to accept if I had known where it was. [Were you the same age as incoming freshmen?] No,
I got two years college credit for my work in Norway so I started at the junior level.
The funny part is how I got over there. This is where my steamship company job comes in. I remember the boss calling me
in to take some letters and I told him about this scholarship and that I had received it but that I wasn't sure how I was
going to get over there. So, he just sort of nodded and didn't say much so nothing more was said about that and the next
morning when I went in to take down some letters, he said, "Well, Miss Lien, I talked to the board yesterday about your
scholarship and I decided that the typewriter is not for you and that you should definitely take this and we have a ship
that goes to Antwerp. You can go there first class and transfer to one of the liberty boats that we have going between
Canada and Bergen and you are very welcome to go free of charge on this boat." Can you imagine this? [Your jaws must have
dropped] Then I thought, "Oh Dear. What do I do in Montreal?" Well, my mother met a woman when she was shopping and she
was talking about this scholarship saying that I had to get to Montreal and mentioning that I had to go across the whole
United States and then we heard about the Greyhound bus so my friend's mother and my mother decided that that would be the
thing to do to go across by bus. [Did you know how long it would take you?] I had no idea that it was going to take a
whole week and that I was going to have to sleep on the bus.
Well, this friend of ours, the interesting part of it, was her mother said, "Oh Sigrun lives in Montreal and has a pretty
good sized flat and she can pick her up in Montreal. So this friend was right there and picked me up in Montreal. But I
am even skipping one adventurous part of it because I had not very much money to buy food to cross the country and who
should be the captain of this ship --none other than a father of another friend of mine. And he said, "Now, how much money
do you need?" I can give you the dollars and then your dad can pay me when I get back to Bergen. So I was able to get the
money through this guy and then my dad paid him back. Since there was no way to transfer the money. So I had enough money
to save and buy food. And, I don't remember, yes I do, my first real stop was in South Dakota. And this is when I
arrived -- I had eight pieces of luggage. I was 23.
I wasn't a kid but still. [You hadn't been in the States before?] I had never been in the states or in an English speaking
country before. I realized when I came to college that I was alright in the classroom, reading Oliver Cromwell and the
Ironsides and I was fine--I understood everything. But when it came to having to order a little bit of food in the
restaurant--oh, I remember one time it was so funny, I had trouble trying to decide what to eat and it took so long and
I had grown up during the war and had very little food and all of a sudden I got this platter of food--enough for an
entire family so I decided that this was not the way to do it. So I saw what I thought were three school teachers on
holiday sitting in the front of the bus--so I decided to follow them and see what they do. And when they sat down and
ordered "a grilled cheese on rye" and finally I just ended up having grilled cheese on rye the whole way across the country.
No one asked "Where are you from" because I could say it. [Do you still eat grilled cheese on rye?] Actually, it tastes
pretty good now. But there was a time when I couldn't look at a grilled cheese sandwich.
[So you get to Sioux Falls.] Yes, your parents treated me like royalty. [My grandparents you mean] Yeah, your
grandparents. I remember your father as such a young man. [You were one of the first visitors from grandma's family,
right?] Absolutely. So, this was September 1948. And it was so nice to see the family resemblance. To see Tante
Gudrun and to see the family resemblance. [Could you tell that she and your mother were sisters?] It was not so much
my mother as much as my two aunts--Tante Anna and Tante Agnes.
Well, I had such a good time. [How long did you stay there?] Oh, goodness, I can't remember how long I stayed, but I
had a great time. They were so nice to me. And this was the visit and I must have bought that dress also in Sioux Falls.
Which leads me to that lovely story.
[Tell it again since I have the tape going.]
Well, after we had this wonderful time and Mildred gave me this shower, this hanky shower so that I would have twenty
different beautifully embroidered handkerchiefs for gifts you know when I got back, and then I decided to go downtown
with either Lil or Alice, I can't remember, it might have been Lil because Alice doesn't remember this story, although
she may, but anyway we went to this store downtown in Sioux Falls, looking for a present for my Mom, and as we were
looking around I saw this tennis outfit, beautiful, 3-piece, shorts, blouse, and a wrap-around skirt. So, sorely
wanting to buy this instead of a gift, but I decided that I had to have a gift for my mom so I put it out of my mind.
So we went around and window shopped, having a good time. Even in '48, the stores in Norway weren't anywhere near
normal so as we left the store, the manager of the store, the owner for that matter, had a beautifully wrapped parcel
in which he had put this tennis outfit and said "With greetings and memory of Sioux Falls". I have several pictures
somewhere wearing that tennis outfit. It lasted for ages.
[Now in '48, was everyone still at home? Was Lil married?] Yes, Lil was married. Now when were you born? 
Harold had just come back from Guam and Millie was married and Wes and Lil were married and as a matter of fact, they
hadn't bought that house on 18th yet. I had been visiting several times after that. [Looking at the picture of the
four Nelson siblings and Ingrid.] But see how dressed up we were? I wonder if we had been somewhere. [This looks like
there must have some been some occasion of some type.] Yes, but I just can't remember. That was 1948 on my way.
Although I did visit them in '51, by which time you were born. [Do you suppose it was '51 when this picture was taken?]
Do you know when I am looking at this dress I wonder if it would be '51 because I wouldn't have had a dress like that in
'48. I must have gotten that on my way back, so this could be '51. [So, you've been here ever since? Did you go back
to Norway?] I stayed here as a student from '48 to '51 and when I matriculated then I had a scholarship to do my Masters'
degree. I had a scholarship for two years but I finished it in a year and a half and then I went back to Norway for one
year, having met Kingsley in the meantime who was supposedly over just to be an instructor for one year. And we met and
we kept our correspondence going and then he came back to England in '51 or was it '52? No, we got married in '52 so he
came back to Norway to see me in the early part of '52 and then we got married in August '52 and flew back to Boston and
then we bought a car and drove across the country. It was a 1946 blue Plymouth. It was fun.
[Now what brought your mother and father here earlier on? When were they here?] My parents' first child died in a
crib death. It was very, very sad and my mother became very nervous after this. The first child was named Astrid;
later, they had another girl called Astrid. She was born, I think, in 1907 and lived only 4 months. They still don't
know what causes these deaths. So, I think that, having lost a child, they got married in 1906 and had their first
child in 1907, and having lost their child was so devastating for them. So I think my Dad went to the United States as a
break. They had a sister who had preceded them in the States, so he had a contact there. So he went to Raleigh, North
Carolina, and set up a studio, repairing and building violins with a German partner. And then my mother joined him later
and she went to the US, without a word of English. She told me she went via England on a boat and I could just kick myself
for not having her write down her tale. She said there was one guy who was after her who wanted to marry her on the way
over and she said that she was already married. [How long was she here? Did they stay in North Carolina the whole time?]
They stayed in North Carolina (you know my oldest sister Alice, I have three sisters, was born in 1910 and then Ruth was
born in 1912. So, when Ruth was 7 months old, my father got a touch of malaria and also a very bad case of typhoid fever.
[In North Carolina?] In North Carolina. You know, North Carolina was in those days, my dad said, was just a swamp with
mosquitoes. And he was telling me the interesting way they treated him and we thought it was rather barbaric but later on
I realized that scientists nowadays would think it reasonable. They put him on ice to reduce the fever. He said he was
iced. So he was very weak and of course he couldn't move west and found the kind of the climate that was suitable to him,
but with two little children it wasn't easy.
And my grandfather had a job in a piano factory waiting for him, so they returned to Norway in 1913. [So this is your
father's father, your paternal grandfather?] Yes, my paternal grandfather had a job waiting for him. [Were your mother
and Gudrun close or not?] You know, my mother was very fond of her but I cannot remember her saying anything about her,
except that she was very beautiful and my mother was a kind of person who got along with everybody so I could imagine that
there was very good vibes between those two sisters. Because, you know, my mom, everybody liked her. She really was
quite a remarkable woman.
[What do you remember of Ingeborg?] Oh, Ingeborg. Well, Ingeborg. [Let's see, how old were you when she died?] She died
in 1937. I was—in '37 I would have been 7 years old. Wait a minute. I was born in '25. I was older then—12 years old.
You know, I always thought I was younger than that when she died. But I must have been 12. You know, I went to her funeral.
She was very severe, but I think she was a kind woman in many ways, very righteous, she knew right and wrong and had rules
and my cousin Irene and also my cousin Egil, who were the children of Agnes, lived with Grandma Ingeborg and Tante Anna in
a rather small apartment out at Nordnes and they had running water, toilet, nice entry hall, I remember always scrubbed
white. How they could keep the floor that white is beyond me. They must have been on their knees and so when we came
there we had to take our shoes off. [How often did you visit there?] We visited every Saturday and evidently Ingeborg,
Grandma Ingeborg, who was born by the way on April 26 because I remember that her birthday was one week after mine. [I
have that she was born on April 25th] Was it the 25th? Well, maybe she was more than a week. I was born on April 18th
but I may be wrong. Could be the 25th. But anyway, when I first remembered her she must have been quite an old woman
because I was only 12 when she died. So my earliest memories... I must have gone there every Saturday since I was born and
I remember back to maybe six years old and as long as I remembered she must have been suffering from arthritis, 'cause she
could not walk without aid and when she walked around the table she had to support herself.
And she had one finger that was withered. And that was always hanging down sort of loose when she knitted. She knitted
constantly, I never saw her without her knitting. So she knitted stockings for all of us and they were these thick woolen
stockings and in my generation they were just starting going over to bought stockings and homemade stockings really weren't
in. But I had to wear them every Saturday suffering the scratching because Grandma Ingeborg expected us to wear what she
knitted. I had I don't know how many pairs of these stockings and we all had to wear them.
[What did you call her?] Bestemor på Nordnes. [And what does that mean?] "Nordnes" was the area where they lived and
Grandmother was "Bestemor". My other Bestemor was called Bestemor på Kaien. Kaien was a sort of a wharf area. There is
no longer any wharf. In the old Bergen there was a lot of landfill and before there really had been a wharf. So my
paternal Grandmother was Bestemor på Kaien and my maternal Grandmother was Bestemor på Nordnes. [So you called her
Bestemor på Nordnes?] No, just Bestemor. But if somebody said to me, "Where are you going Ingrid?" I would say "To
Bestemor på Nordnes."
[Did you interact with her as a grandma? Did she play with you?] No, she sat there knitting. The only time I remember
really having a conversation with her was (twice, actually) having to do with food. For some reason, I got the idea that
I didn't like tomatoes and she served tomatoes and I said, "No, I don't like tomatoes." And I have to say this in Norwegian,
"Have you ever tasted tomatoes?" I had to admit that I never had. Well then she said, "How do you know that you don't
like tomatoes if you never tasted them?" So I had to taste them and you know, I had to admit that I liked them and I've
been eating tomatoes ever since.
And then, in Norway, I wonder why, we always had tea on Saturday night. It was Saturday night when we went there.
[Was it just your family who went there?] Only my family, 'cause we were a lot of us, although I was so much younger
than the rest, by the time I went, it was my brother, Olaf, and me.
Tante Anna was a fantastic baker. [Did she learn that from her father?] I don't know. I never had the wisdom to ask these
people about my grandfather except that I knew he was a baker. But Tante Anna very well might have learned to bake from him
or it was genetic aptitude to her, baking. But nobody could beat her chocolate cake. And then she made a frosting. [You
know, it's interesting because Gudrun made angel food cakes for the church from scratch]. I loved going out there, except
for those scratchy stockings.
[What type of class were they--poor, lower middle class...?] My maternal grandparents? I would say lower middle class.
They were never on welfare or any such thing. They were very hard working people. Everybody had a job but they were not
rich. But they never accumulated any debt; they never lived beyond their means, and they were law abiding citizens, living
by the rules.
Grandma Ingeborg was a devout teetotaler. They belonged to a temperance lodge and Tante Agnes and the whole family,
including my family, were teetotalers. Never anything. You couldn't even put two tablespoons of wine in a recipe, even
if we told them that the alcohol evaporated. It just didn't work.
[Were they religious?] No, well they were religious enough so that when Grandma Ingeborg got sick, I remember the minister
came and administered last rites but I can't remember that she went to church regularly because she couldn't get around.
I suppose the pastor might have come and called on her. They were what you would call nominal Christians. I remember going to her funeral. As a matter of fact, in those days they often had an open casket in the home and I sort of admire the way I grew up with death as being part of life. I could go back a bit because you might be interested in this. When I was six years old (and Grandma, of course, she died when I was twelve) so Grandma wasn't the first dead body I've seen, because when I was six we were a bunch of kids in the street wondering what a dead person would look like. There was a guy down the street called Mr. Gunderson who had just died. I was sort of a leader type and said to these kids, "Let's go and ask Mrs. Gunderson if we can please see Mr. Gunderson." And you know, my attitude toward death could have been completely changed or different if it hadn't been for the way Mrs. Gunderson responded to these four or five little girls with bows in their hair and curtseying, and asking if we could please see the corpse. So she let us in and took this white cloth away from his face and there was a smell of juniper bushes because they always had these white-washed floors with juniper bushes so now when I smell juniper I always think of corpses lying there. So we got to see him and say goodbye. He was lying there with a smile looking perfectly natural. So I said, "Thank you Mrs. Gunderson." So when Grandma Ingeborg died, it was quite natural for me to go and see her when she was lying in the home. And I remember touching her hand and how cold it was. So she was buried. [Was there a service in the church?] There was a service. They had these funeral parlors so we went there and had a nice formal service. [Did she live in Nordnes?] Yes, as long as I knew her. [Did you have her address in Nordnes?] That I don't have. As long as I remember. I was born in '25 so the last part of the '20's and all her time in the '30's she lived out in Nordnes.
[Was anything talked about your grandfather?] My maternal grandfather? Never. [He died very young.] Except that he was
a baker. [I was able to trace Gudrun's baptism and smallpox vaccination certificate, and could see when he was an apprentice
baker, then full journey man, then full baker because his title in the different documents changed.] Baker, Bakersven, or
[Do you remember the word "Tysse"? Was that ever used?] Tysse. (Note: pronounced Tee-se). No, there were some relatives
Tysse. [Anders had one brother, Herman Tysse.] Yeah, I remember the name but I couldn't give you anything more.
But you asked if they were educated. My mother only had seven years of education, but they learned much more in those
seven years and then she became a seamstress and she went to a sewing mill. But I wonder what Gudrun did after the war.
It was just amazing how articulate the women were with only those 7 years of schooling.
[Did you remember Gudrun in Bergen?] No, because Gudrun left before I was born. [That's right]. The other sisters
(you know Ruth and Alice are both dead now) they might have remembered Gudrun. [Was Gudrun talked about as being in the States?
Do you remember?] Um, my mother never talked much about Gudrun. How she'd married a nice man and how beautiful she was--I do
remember that. This was pointed out. [Did they talk about how she got over here?] No, do you know? [All I've been told,
evidently Lina sent a message that she wanted someone to come work for her and Gudrun wanted to go.] How old was Gudrun by
then? [She would have been 28]. Yes, she was older than I was.
[In fact, were any of the other relatives talked about? Ingeborg had two brothers (did you know that?)--Edward and Olaf.]
Never heard of them. I knew that she had a brother because my mother didn't like her middle name because my mother's
middle name was Edvarda, after him. [Did they live in Norway or did they come to the states? Edvard and Olaf?] I didn't
know. [She also had sisters, Katrina Antonette Helgesen, who drowned; and then there was a Lena Helgesen Espen who lived
in Minneapolis] Katrina, that's interesting because my oldest sisters' middle name is Catherine [and then Lina who had
two sons. I never was able to track these people down. My mother remembers going to Minneapolis to see them. Emma,
Olga, and Henry were the children.] Oh , Tante Lina, I remember her. [She had two sons Walter and Orvin. I've got to
try and track them down. So these people were never mentioned?] No. [It's interesting, what's talked about and what's
Gosh, oh I remember getting, of course, I remember Tante Gudrun in Sioux Falls, I remember getting a beautiful picture of
Mildred when she was in high school and I was still in Norway then. So yes, my mother was very much aware of her. Whether
they corresponded or not... [I don't know if there was that much correspondence with Olga. I know my grandma corresponded
with Oluffa and Tante Anna. My mother has silver, not sterling but silverplate that she originally received from Bergen.
She had gotten everything but the teaspoons, Then my mom wrote back to the company in Bergen for the teaspoons and of course,
they sent European-style teaspoons, the smaller ones, and then my mother wrote back and got the larger, American style
[And then one of the sisters sent a rug to Gudrun and my grandmother wasn't able to pay the customs and my grandma had said
whoever wants this can pay the customs, which my mother did, so I have this very folk-oriented rug probably about 4'-5', it
has black thread and red thread,] Is it like an afghan? [No, it's very, very heavy...it looks very American Indian, very
geometrical designs. ] My mother made a lot of those afghans, made them in squares and then sewed them together. [No this
is very heavy. Very thick. ] I wonder who could have woven that? [And I have that and when I was growing up we used it
when were sick. It got vomited on.]
[Do you remember when your aunts died? Do you remember when Helga died?] Do you have a suggested date that I could verify?
[No, I don't have any at all. I only have that Helga was born in 1878, Anna was born in 1882, and Olga in 1885.] I think
Helga died in Domkirken. Domkirken is one of the churches in Bergen. [When did your mother die?] My mother died August 25,
1960. The reason I can remember is that it was the day we left New Orleans by car and a trailer and 3 little kids to come to
Oregon. So I didn't know that she had died until after she was buried. And there was a letter waiting for me here but my
brother with whom I am very close knew what I would have wanted so he bought a lovely wreath and a bow with greetings from
my family so that I was able to pay him back, so I was represented.
[I can remember when Grandma got the letter informing her that her last sister had died and that's the only time I saw tears
in her eyes.] Was that my mother then, was she the last one to die? Or was that Agnes? [I don't think it was Olga;
I think it was Agnes.]
You see, my mother died in '60 so Agnes must have survived her.
[I think it was both Olga and Agnes whose deaths I remember. I remember though that my grandma was so struck by the fact
that she was now alone.]
I was so fond of your grandparents. They were so good to me. I mean they could not have been better parents than they were
aunts and uncles.
[Did they call you or write to you?] They called me on the phone and sometimes I would get letters. Your grandma would
stick in 2 or 3 dollars sometimes 5, and that would go a long way in those days.
Gosh, I remember I was going to go to a dance and I did not have a formal so your grandmother sent me a formal, that I
think either Alice or Lil had had for a prom and it fit me to a tee. We were all pretty slim in those days and so I went
to my dance with a formal that your Grandmother sent me.
[break in interview]
Tante Oluffa had diabetes in her 40s. She was about 45. I remember seeing her in the hospital in good spirits and
things. Her type was bad enough for her to have insulin. I had forgotten all about Tante Oluffa and her diabetes until
Hans's wife called me from Norway saying that Hans had collapsed on a street in Miami and she thinking it was a heart attack
or something. So they rushed to the hospital and fortunately they had a very good doctor there who diagnosed him as having
had a diabetic attack. It turned out that he had a diabetic shock and he now takes insulin and is still taking insulin and
is fine except for his mind.
[I think Gudrun had old age diabetes which sounded different from Oluffa's.]
This time when I was in Norway, my nephew, Otto, (my older sister, Alice, had two children, Otto and Grethe) had dinner at
our house and he is diabetic. So I told our daughter Andrea not to gain weight because that is bad since you can prevent
this kind of diabetes if you can keep your weight down. So I thought that since I had news about the family like this, I
would pass it on.
[How old is Otto?] He's over 60. You see, I became an aunt when I was less than 8 years old.
He and I were very good friends, Otto. I babysat him a lot. If he did not get his way he'd say to me that he would call me
"aunt" in front of his friends. He's a nice man. He lives in Bergen.
Otto is one of these guys that is good at everything. He was a ham operator. [He is your oldest sister's son?] My sister
was quite young when she had him. There are 15 years between my oldest sister and me. So you see how easily I could be an
aunt. He is a trained optician but he does things other than making glasses. At one time, he helped develop a blood pressure
measure that the patient wears 24 hours. He had also been an apprentice in watch-making. So he developed something where
time was recorded and then what the patient had to do was to record what activity he was doing, like walking upstairs.
I don't know what ever happened to that.
[Which of your family are you still close to? Do you still see only some of them or do you see all of them? I assume you
don't see much of Ruth's family.]
No. Ruth just died. I'm almost afraid of going back to Norway now because last year my sister, Astrid, died when I was
there and this year, Ruth. Her boys came for the funeral--two out of 4 of her boys came for the funeral. But I see a
lot of my brother, Olaf, and his family, because I am very close to them. He and I have been very good friends all our
[How is his health?] Very good. He was born in 1919 and is now 76. He still looks like 60--trim, tall, still drives
his car. I don't drive in Norway. Well, I might drive...
[How large is Bergen now?]
225,000. Not an enormous city but by Norway it is large. It is the next to the largest. Oslo has almost half a million.
[We talk about taking Mom to Norway.]
You know, my sister, Astrid, would have liked visiting with Alice. I think she had some correspondence with Alice about
coming here. My sister went down so quickly. She got osteoporosis and then all of a sudden her mind started going.
[Did Astrid have children?] Yes, two very nice children, especially the boy who I like very much. We see a lot of him.
He is a banker. He's got this big office with all of these windows. His name is Eyvind.
[break in taping]
[Talking about old pictures and letters addressed to Grandma Nelson that I had translated, one of which said "Greetings
from Lars, Jannike, and Else."]
Lars and Else lived in Stord. Lars was the father and Jannike, I never knew her as Jannike. [Was Jannike the mother of
Else?] No, they were sisters. And so I recognized the name, Else, because she was almost like an aunt to me. She gave me a
pin for my national costume which had been in her family, so it must be over 150 years old.
[How was your mother related to Else?] Well, I think she was my mother's cousin somehow. I remember Lars was a very old man
and they had a little place on Stord up in the mountains about 6 km from Lervik. They had a couple of animals. They had
some cows and a little farm.
[This card was written on a picture and on the front my grandmother had written "My father's birthplace". And that's where
Gudrun's father is from. So your grandpa is from Stord.]
So, I bet that Lars and Gudrun's father were brothers and Janne married somebody called Martin but I never knew her as
Jannike. And that that's why she was always Tante Janne.
[Lars would have been Gudrun's uncle.]
I was thinking that she (Else) was in service in Bergen and almost at the end of the city at that time but now the city
has grown that it is almost halfway downtown. Else was a sort of a lady's companion to a very rich woman and she and her
boss lady, I guess, lived in an enormous villa outside Bergen for years and years and she had a very high standard of living.
She's dead--never married. But Janne was married to a guy called Martin. Nice couple--real sweet.
Janne was so nice. Fancy her name was really Jannike. I never knew that. My brother was very fond of Janne and Martin.
They were so nice to him.
And I am very close to Henning and Henning said, "Oh, if you had invited my Dad for your 70th birthday I would have
accompanied him." Well, I said that I didn't think that you would come. But I don't know for sure if he really would
have come. Henning just thought that he would come.
[We're working through official census documents and having Ingrid do translation of things]
[Talking about Hans]
He was 80 yrs. old on the 11th of July of this year. I was in Bergen and sent him a little present but I didn't have my
address book with me so I wrote the address out of my head. So, I wanted to be sure that he had gotten the present so I
called him anyway on his birthday to say "Happy Birthday" and he recognized me right away, which I thought was nice,
because the year before, last year, he had a little trouble recognizing me right away but that's probably because we
came in the fall when he didn't expect us. But when I said to him, "Oh, Hans, did you get my little package" because he
didn't say "thank you" right away, not that I expected him to thank me but frankly I just wanted to be sure that I had
gotten the address right, and he said, "Eva, did I get a present from Ingrid yesterday?" And she said, "Yes, don't you
remember that nice white sweater?" And he said, "Oh yes, thank you." So he's a little bit fuzzy but Eva is very,
very with it. He was born in 1915. But he is in his late 70's.
[GRL talking about going to Norway to visit.]
Henning is almost like a son to me. He is married to a nurse. He is a psychiatrist. He was a general physician first and
then he became a specialist. He is a highly regarded psychiatrist and they have 6 children--3 girls and 3 boys and he is
very very much a family person. [So Henning is your nephew?] Yes. And these are my grandnieces and nephews. The oldest
one I think is going to be a teenager in September and the youngest is about 2 yrs. old. A wonderful family.
[Now Inger is the one that Mildred corresponds with, correct?] Oh yes, she is a great person. They have a lovely house in
Bergen. They are both teachers and they work very hard and they have 3 children. She has been of course in the U.S. a
couple of times and I took them down to see Mildred and one time she went with some friends of ours. Her husband was so
much fun and I had made a deal with them, saying, "Well, why don't you just decide to come when Inger is 50 in five years and
I'm 75 the same year. And, we thought that this was a great goal, or a reachable goal. But I think it's too far ahead, but
you know they have obligations, the kid's education, and this lovely house that they have to keep up.
[So, all of your relatives are in Bergen now?] All except Hans, who is in Oslo.
You know there's only Olaf, Hans, and me left now. Ruth just died. And it's sorta sad because Olaf and I, when I first
came in the beginning of July he said we must get together and go up and see Ruth. And I said that would be lovely. The
public transport up there was very difficult. I could have, of course, taken a taxi but it would have been very expensive.
But I would have, if I'd known she was going to die because she had been in this condition now for a couple of years. So
he didn't think, when he went off on a vacation, that she was going to die when he was gone. So, he said, "I'm going out
to the cabin for 10 days or a week or so, and first thing when I come back, we'll go up and see Ruth. Well, two days before
he came home, one of Ruth's sons, Jann, called and said that his mother had died. They had tried to call my brother, but
they didn't have a phone. So Jann arranged for the funeral. And I was quite upset that I hadn't gotten to her. If I only
knew; I didn't know how much Ruth was with it although my brother said that she had become a little forgetful. I just hoped
that she didn't think that we didn't want and come to see her. But then Olaf said to me that I would be better off with the
memory I had of her when I saw her last year. Because, she used to play the mandolin and she had a mandolin there and she
hadn't played it for years and I got it out and I played a little and she said, "Oh, I used to play" and she played and we
had such a great time and this is the memory I have of her and Olaf said that she'd lost so much weight and she was sick.
And he said, Oh I feel better of you having that memory."
She was always sweet, always good. I've never had any arguments with Ruth. She was very kind to me as a kid. She was 13
years older than me. She was born in 1912 and I was born in 1925. I was her bridesmaid when she got married in 1939. I
was fourteen then.
[GRL conveying about being home at Christmas seeing Grandma and not going back in February and Mom saying not to come then
but to remember Grandma as we had. We talked about Grandma and her death and the upcoming need to move her into a nursing
The last time I talked to her was on her birthday the fourth of October--I used to call her on her birthday, and I think
it was her 80th birthday. We had to kind of talk loud but that's the last time I talked to her.
[Where was Ingeborg born?] I don't know but she had a Bergen accent. You can always tell if somebody wasn't born there
even if they moved there later in life. Like my Dad was born in Hyllestad in Sogn, outside Bergen, which is one of the
seaside fjords on the coast and he moved to Bergen as a young man of 17 but he always had a little west accent in his
speech. But Grandma Ingeborg didn't have any accent, so I would guess that she was born in Bergen. But then again...
[Looking at pictures and how Lillian and Grandma now look so much alike.]
You know, Lillian, Alice, and their two spouses, Kingsley and I had a lovely dinner together. It was so funny because we
traveled in October and it's amazing what kind of accommodations you can get. We went to this motel--I don't know what it
was called, but a decent motel--and we wanted a non-smoking room and they said, "Oh, sorry, we don't have non-smoking; oh
well, you can have this suite." So, they gave us this suite, two rooms, living room, bedroom, two bathrooms, and three
phones for $45. So I called. I didn't know we'd have such a swanky place to stay. The night before, I called Alice, and
I said that I'd love to get together with the cousins but I don't want any of you to have any fuss. Could you find a place
that we could all meet for dinner? And she thought of a place and so then since we had this great motel room, so after
we had had dinner we went to our place. I have a picture somewhere.
[Looking at a picture of Alice.]
Did your mom tell you about when they took me bowling--I had never seen a bowling ball in my life. You should get Mildred
to tell the story because they took me bowling. This was in '48 when I arrived with my violin and they were very good
bowlers. And they said, "Won't you try?" And I said that I'd never bowled before. And I went and knocked all of the pins
down! And I had never done anything like before or since.
[Showing Ingred the picture of Grandma given to me by Mildred, showing Grandma in her first American dress] Oh, I've seen
this. My mother had this. Yes. In Norway. I wonder what happened to that. One of my sisters must have had an album
because there is a picture of my mother, too, with an American hat, it looked like there were was a garden growing on her
hat--flowers were all around. Yes, my Mom had a picture of that.
[Another picture showing Grandma later in life] Oh, yes, that's how I remember her. She was very good about writing to
me. You know, I had more letters from Aunt Gudrun than from my own mother. I wonder if I saved some of those letters.
If I run across any of them, I'll let you know.
[gap in interview]
We're talking about Jann Grimstad. You know, he was born Jann Hansen. But, there was a time when it was nice to be called
a name that didn't end in "sen". It was a sort of snobbish kind of thing. So his father took the farm name "Grimstad."
So all of the boys then had their names changed and I guess now the younger brother, Sven, has gone back to the name that
was on his birth certificate, Hansen. So he is now Hansen.
[So Ruth's married name was originally Hansen?] It was Hansen and then after she got divorced she went back to her maiden
name, Lien. So the obituary in the Bergen paper the other day well, some six months ago, read Ruth Lien. They just had
that she was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and it mentioned their names and it didn't mention anything about the fact
that she had a surviving sister and two brothers. So Olaf and I thought that we would put in our own obituary with our
names but we decided that there were so few people left in her generation that it wasn't necessary, so we just left
[We picked out from Ingrid's stack of saved letters the ones written by Grandma.]
[GRL continued talking about how private Grandma was.] She was so proper. Whenever I sent her just a little [money] because
I knew that she liked to go to the beauty parlor, she always thanked me right away.
[Continued our discussion about a letter that Ingrid had sent a young student commending him on his theatric performance.]
[Talked about the fact that GRL had saved all of his letters from Grandma and how because of those letters, he was able to
list out all of the addresses where he had lived during his college and adult life.]
Well, anyway, I felt such indebtedness to her because she made my stay in the States.
[Read letter from Hans to Ingrid commenting on Grandma's death: "We really got feelings of sorrow... We became very fond
of Tante Gudrun because she was a real lady. We have nice memories from her especially when we were together in the church
she used to visit. When in the church, she became a little bit proud of introducing her Norwegian relatives to the minister.
She was happy and grateful. Another memory is more like fun. When we were out with Alice and Jim one afternoon, all of
the women went to the shopping center. I heard them come back and some minutes later I went into the kitchen. Tante Gudrun
had opened a bottle of cocoa or something and when seeing me she lifted the bottle in real Bergen manner [in Norwegian]
"Do you want a slurp? Well, we were very happy time with her in Sioux Falls. Some time, if possible, we would like to
see the place where she is buried and place a circle of flowers on her grave. From us she will be remembered with just
She was much loved. She really was.