Interview with Olaf Lien, Christmas 2004

NOTE: Transcription edited by Gerald Lowell. This interview occurred at Inger Lien Røe's home. Inger (Olaf Lien's daughter) translated for her father and sometimes added comments, which appear below in brackets "[ ]." Questions asked or comments made by Jerry appear in italics.

Table of Contents

Olaf’s Grandparents, Ingeborg and Anders

Olaf’s Parents, Olga and Andreas

Olaf’s Aunts and Uncles

Olaf’s Siblings

Olaf’s Life

Olaf’s Travel to Berlin Shortly Before WWII


Olaf’s Grandparents, Ingeborg and Anders

Did you ever remember seeing any pictures of your Grandpa Anders (Ingeborg's husband)?

No.

Do you think any of your siblings would have had any pictures of Ingeborg's husband? )?

No. I think there might be a picture of him at the Statsarchive. I believe so. There was agreement with the year of birth and the year of marriage. But, I'm not sure.

[He has been there and he has found his name and he thinks there is a picture there.]

Was he ever talked about?

I never heard him mentioned.

Ander's father was married twice. Did you know that?

I have heard about this.

And Ole Nilsen is the father of Lars Olsen and Lars Olsen is the father to Laurits Larsen.

Laurits Larsen emigrated to America and we never heard anything about him. Now, in the later years, I had been at Stord and we tracked down the relatives through the Salvation Army and we found these relatives in America. There is something to find there.

And Laurits, he was from the other wife, than was Anders. Anders was from one mother and Laurits was from the other mother. Ole's mother was Marte Johansdtr and Ander's mother was Anna Ellingsdtr.

Some years ago, when I had my holiday in Hallingdahl, I went to a special office in Ål where it was possible to get some news about how we were related to these people. I found the name of my grandfather, Anders, in that book and the name of my great grandfather. NOTE: During this part of the interview, Olaf got confused between Ingeborg's father, Helge, who was from Ål and Ander's father who was from Stord. Anders actually, Helge was a stoneworker when he was in Bergen. He went as an apprentice in the bakery in Bergen NOTE: this is correct for Anders. I have never found the name "Nils Kolbeinsen" NOTE: father to Anders.

Are any of these names familiar? I have listed as brothers and sisters of Anders the following people: Elling?

Yes. My mom talked about him.

Herman?

Might be.

Marte?

Yes.

Christian?

No.

Nils Andreas?

Yes. I believe that my information is correct.

Johannes Nilsen?

Yes.

Grete Nilsdatter?

No.

Inger?

I think I've heard of Inger.

All of these individuals are the children of this man named "Nils Kolbeinsen"

What were your first memories, Olaf, of Ingeborg?

She seemed to me to be very angry. I can't or don't know if it was my first memory but she wasn't loving. One time, my other grandmother stroked my cheek and I got a shillingsball with butter on it.

Was Ingeborg by herself when she died? Or was Anna with her still?

I don't think Anna was there. NOTE: Ingrid thinks that Olaf was wrong about this and that Anna was still at home with Ingeborg when Ingeborg died.

When did Ingeborg die?

April 4, 1937

[You were 18 at that time.]

But by that time I did not have much contact with her. I had work and I traveled a lot.

When did Anna die?

Feb. 9, 1944. It was at the end of the war. What about your mother's father, Anders? Did he die or were they divorced?

When did Anders die?

May 29, 1904. He died when Agnes was 10 years old.

So, I would never have seen him?

What did Ingeborg live on when Anders died?

They didn't have pensions then. Who knows? Ingeborg was a member of the Temperance Union (the non-drinking league). I think she may have had some support from that. She had something.

[The Temperance Union had some kind of support system within their membership.]

Do you know if Ingeborg had any contact with her sisters that went to America?

Yes. I believe she had contact with your grandmother, Gudrun [NOTE: Gudrun was Ingeborg's daughter and not her sister].

What about Ingeborg's sisters? Lina and Lena?

[Dad has a sister who is called Helene, so there were two Helene's in the family.]

Since I was here last time, I have now found the graves of both of Ingeborg's sisters.

[In the States?]

Olina Malena Helgesen was married to Olaf Pederson in America and they lived in Brooklyn where Mitchell grew up.

She must have been back to Norway because I remember her.

[You told me, I think I told Jerry, too, that summer in 1926 when Tante Lina came with caramels.]

I have her coming in 1921.

[Oh. She may have come more than once. He remembers when she came the second time, but he had met her in 1921.]

I was one when she was there the first time.

She had six children but only two children lived to adulthood: Walter and Orvin. They would have been Olga's cousins. And I have not been able to find more information on them because their names are so common.

[Orvin and Walter wouldn't be Olga's cousins, they would be nephews.]

No, these are the children of Ingeborg's sisters. The other sister went to Minneapolis, Marthe Helene Helgesen.

I have heard her name. Very little talked about though.

She died in 1904, she died very early. And she was married to Nils Espen. But you may not have heard of them because they died very early.

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Olaf’s Parents, Olga and Andreas

What did your father do?

Olga and Andreas Lien

He did different things. He was a carpenter, educated as a carpenter. They emigrated to America in, I think, 1907. He got malaria in North Carolina. So they went home and then they found out that they didn't want to go back in case they would get it again. They decided to settle down in Norway.

I had understood that they had gone to America because of the death of Astrid?

Who is Astrid?

She was your oldest sister who died as a little baby in Norway before your parents went to America.

I think that it was rather modern to go to the States at that time and they thought that they would get better there. My father was brought up, after all, he grew up in Hillistad, one of 8 children.

[I thought that it was 10 children.]

Did your Mom talk about America?

Yes. I can remember that when I was very little Mom called his Dad "Andrew".

What was your father like? Do you remember him?

Oh yeah. He was a very nice man but he had a temper. So, if he got mad at someone, he would hit them. So, he didn't get along with Ovard, Alice's husband. In 1934, when I had been at a boy scout camp, when I came back home from that camp, I understood that there had been a fight between Dad and Ovard. In the beginning I didn't get any answer when I asked what it was that caused this. But then I found out the reason for this. Ingrid was 9 years old at the time. She had done something so Ingrid got a slap in the face [NOTE: Ingrid thinks she got spanked on the butt] from her dad and Ovard got so mad that he pushed him away. It was very tense. It was nice of Ovard.

Mom was very kind. She ran errands for the neighbors that were unable to go to the fish market to buy fish. A lady living in an older house in the neighborhood, she wanted to be a little bit above everyone else. She said that she was too good to go to the poor people's office to get welfare support. So she asked Mom if it was possible for her to go to the office for the people to get money and Mom said yes she would go. I became so furious, Mom had never seen me so angry, so I told her that you are not going to do that any longer. Go to Mrs. Gunderson and say that you are not to do this anymore and that you are not allowed by your children to do this and that she should be doing this herself. A couple years after my confirmation, when it was a Sunday and I wanted to get a little dressed up, I put my jacket on and it smelled under the arms. And I asked Mom what had happened and asked about this smell. She said that she had to lend it to Mrs. Gunderson's son; he was going to a funeral and he didn't have anything to wear. I told her that I would have it cleaned but that she was never to lend it to anyone again.

[I remember Olga. She was a little too kind in a way. She went to the fish market for everybody. During the War, the Germans took everything so she got up early to wait in line to purchase things.]

Was your father the religious one and Methodist?

They were both active with their Methodism. My father played the organ and he was very interested in the work of a special organization that helped homeless people and alcoholic people. They served soup to these people on Saturdays. So he played at this place every Saturday. And then it was a similar sort of work in the Methodist church and they had an organization called the Brotherhood Circle. They also worked with this group on Saturdays in the Methodist church. In 1934, an American evangelist, Henry B. Roller came, and in a period of 14 days there were over 20,000 people who came inside the doors of the Methodist Church in Bergen. I have the bulletin from that visit. So in 1934, after this, there was a membership ceremony with 28 persons at one time and among them four couples, including my parents, who joined the Methodist Church.

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Olaf’s Aunts and Uncles

Talk a little bit about Helga and her husband, Randolph, and what Helga was like.

She was a very kind lady and she didn't have any children. Randolph worked on the Coastal Steamer with the motor/machinery. Since she didn't have any children herself, she had a great passion and she cared a lot for the other children in the family. Without exception, every Christmas she invited all her nieces and nephews together with Randolph's family for a common Christmas party at their house on Camilla Collet's Rd., #10. It's called something else now. I think they have changed the name of the street. It is a street crossing Ibsensgaaten.

Did Helga ever work?

In the beginning she was a cleaning lady at the high school/college. I considered her to be one of the brightest of my aunts, she was above average. She made progress in her positions in this college so as the years went by she got the responsibility of being the housewife in the dormitory and then she also hired cleaners. She was very strict on everything she did. She expected things to be proper and clean and in order, and she had a high temperature for everything (got mad if things weren't done right).

What was Tante Anna like?

She was quite another type. She was more solemn-minded. So when she got older she became a patient at the psychiatric hospital here (Sandvikens Sykeaus).

Is that where she lived when she died?

Yes.

Did you ever hear anything about Anton, the boy who died? There was a brother who died at age 14. He died in 1901.

Sometimes I would hear about him.

Did you ever know what he died from?

No. I haven't heard anything about it. My mother was only 16 when Anton died.

Let's talk about Tante Oluffa and her husband, Karl Olsen. What was Tante Oluffa like?

She was the most popular Aunt that I had. Lively, singing, playing the piano. She also was very interested in her nephews and nieces.

Was she artistic?

Yes, in a way. She was very interested in art and culture and she was really at the top of all the aunts, personality-wise.

What was Karl like?

He was lovely and very nice to me.

What did he do?

He was a chauffeur at the coffee company in Bergen called Olaf Bjoerneset. This was before Freia and they had cheaper coffee.

Did Oluffa work?

Karl was clever so he earned enough so that Oluffa didn't have to work.

Let's talk about Agnes.

The Helgesen Siblings
Helga, Oluffa, Olga, (Andreas), and Agnes

She was unmarried and had two children without marriage. But, the two children were very nice and role models for other children.

Did Irene marry?

Yes, she married but her husband died and then she became a widow. His name was Kasper or Anskar. I can't remember his last name.

Did Irene have any children?

Yes, she had two children, a boy and a girl who were both well-behaved and became good citizens. Egil died during the War. I've made some investigations about if he died on a boat and, which boat, during the war but I haven't succeeded yet. His last name was Dahl. We were together in a way, down at Stord. He lived at Haga and I stayed at Presthaug when we were boys. He was one year older than me.

Going back to Agnes, who was Harald Rygh? Do you remember that name?

I don't remember that name--maybe he was one of the fathers to her children? We never talked about this in the family.

Later on, did Agnes also become mentally unstable?

Yes. Her last years were at the mental hospital in Bergen where she also died--the same place as Anna.

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Olaf’s Siblings

And Alice and Ruth were born there NOTE: in the U.S and they came back to Norway. And Astrid was born in Bergen, correct?

Yes.

What was Alice like?

She was my dear heart.

Did she die very early? Did she have cancer?

Yes.

What did her husband, Ovard, do?

Originally he was a sailor and he sailed with the famous Shetlands Larsen and they were best friends. I asked my Dad why Ovard stopped sailing and he thinks that Alice wanted to have him in town so he started being a mason carrying bricks for construction.

Did Ruth always have mental problems?

She didn't do well at school. She wasn't very intelligent and she was a little retarded. My dad knew about that but he was anxious that she learn a trade or how to do something. He wanted to provide something for her so he went to three sisters in Bergen who ran a sewing studio called Maimedal and asked if it was possible to let his daughter do some training there because he thought that maybe she could make a living doing this. They said okay and that she could stay here as a testing time of 3 months. And then my father bought a sewing machine for her. So she started making dresses with simple patterns and that really worked. The remarkable part of this was that she became so good at this she could make dresses without patterns. She sewed for people.

Did you know Anton Grimstad?

[He doesn't want to talk about him. He was talking "big in words". Andreas, Dad's father, played the organ and when Dad mentioned a very Christian hymn, Anton sang and my father melted when he sang this specific hymn.

But, he NOTE: Ovard was a drinker. And sometimes I had to be the mediator between Alice and Ovard. Alice wanted to get a divorce and Alice came to our house and talked to me; I was alone because Sigrun was at work. So I told her if she wanted, I could talk to Ovard to get him on better footing to stop this. And then I went to Ovard and asked him if it was possible to talk a little serious with him. And he came back to where we lived in Svaneviks Veien. I told him that I had on my own taken this initiative. So I told him that his drinking problem was so serious that it would be difficult to keep the family together. They had two children.

About what time was this? What year?

[During the war?]

I think the mid-40s, but I'm not quite certain. Ovard got cancer and he got the message from the doctor that he was going to have to quit smoking. So he stopped drinking and smoking. I have to state here that I admired him, for in the course of two days, he was completely free from smoking.

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Olaf’s Life

What did you and your family do when you were little for Christmas?

We were always at home Christmas Eve and then, as I told you, we went to Helga's on Christmas Day with all of the other family. Helga's Christmas Day was the "star" event. Randolph's family and our family would be together. You should see that house. It is still there.

What address is it?

It has changed name now, but the house is still there. It was quite a fairytale house and large. They had the whole first floor. They were well off.

When did you go down to Stord to Prestaug and Haga? Was this for summer for vacations or did you work there?

In the early 20s, 1921, was my first visit but I don't remember it (I was two years old). And then we were there in 1926 when Ingrid was one year old.

Who were you visiting when you went to Stord when you were two years old?

Presthaug Farm, Stord

Lars Presthaug, who was my mother's cousin. Is that relationship correct?

Yes, it is.

Lars had twin sisters: Marte and Jannike.

So your family kept contact with Lars Olsen's family?

Oh yes, yes. I was 12 years old in 1931 when I started to go on my own to Stord on vacation. It took six hours in a boat from Bergen to get there.

Lars' father was no longer living?

Correct.

We didn't talk about Ole, son of Lars Prestaug. Sara is still alive.

[Did I tell you about that, Jerry? When Ellen and Steinar, Jan Olaf, Dad, and me went to London, in April/May this spring, we drove down to take a plane from Haugesund to take a plane from Karmøy to London and on the way down Dad wanted to drive up to Presthaug, because we drove through Stord. We went up there. He rang the bell, knocked on the door, and we have wonderful pictures of Sara and Olaf. She was 90 in August of this year. She was married to Ole.

It was so touching. She is still living in the house. They have a daughter named Anna Marie and she is married to one of those boat boys.

[I have some pictures I took for you.]


Do you know what Anna Marie's husband's first name is?

They have a boat factory at Os. I saw just now last week, that they have millions of crowns of orders from Europe. They have so much orders that people have to wait for three to four years to get their boat. They got an order for a boat over the telephone that cost from 1-2 million crowns.


Because Sara got married, a second marriage with a guy with a family name of Tyse so Anna Maria has a half brother.

Tyse was the family farm name for Anders. She was actually related to my mother through Tyse.

[Sara's name is Sara Tyse Presthaug today.]

Was she married to Presthaug first or Tyse first?

Presthaug first. And then they got Anna Maria. And then she married Tyse and then got Karsten.

[So my Dad tells me that this Anna Marie she is the oldest one of Sara's two children but she has told her younger half brother Karsten I don't need anything from Presthaug (because she was rich) so she gave Presthaug to him.

Do you know his name?

Karsten Tyse. In as much as the mother lived at Presthaug and she kept the name even though she was married to Tyse.

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Olaf’s Travel to Berlin Shortly Before WWII

NOTE: During this part of the interview, the tape had run out and I hadn't noticed it for a few minutes. While the tape wasn’t recording, Olaf was describing how Tante Oluffa used to have coffee in the afternoon downtown where a band would play before WWII. She became friends with the band leader and his wife, who were German.

I had a friend and he was a little bit older than me. Perhaps 7-8 yrs older than me. He said, "Why don't we go to Copenhagen for a holiday some time?" And just before World War II, we went to Copenhagen. And then we started discussing things and I had investigated that it would only cost 10 kroners each to go on to Berlin. So,we went to Berlin. I had the address to a lady called Bechtholzt (or Bechtholst) in Berlin.

So you got the address from Tante Oluffa?

[Because he had got the address to that lady from Tante Luffa, because it was she who had been with her husband in Bergen and played there. This leader of the band and his singing wife were German, they lived in Berlin, Tante Luffa gave Olaf their address in Berlin, so he went to Berlin and had said hello from Oluffa. This was at just the end of August 1939.

Yes. So we went to a travel bureau and then we went to Stettin, Germany. When we got to Stettin we looked at the map and then we found out that we could take a trip to Berlin. We were running out of money and we asked if we could borrow some money and they would guarantee that it would be repaid. I can recognize good person when I see them. You can borrow the money only if you pay up a dept for me in Oslo because I am not allowed to take the money out of the country. So we got to borrow all the money we needed to get to Berlin. We stayed in a hotel.

Did you find this lady?

Oh yes and she lived on the third floor and then it was the younger one of the sisters who had been with her husband in Bergen.

[He thinks that he has seen Hitler.]

And there were two sisters living in Berlin and the youngest one said that I have to call up my husband, he has to meet you. And then this man comes and says "Heil Hitler" and he was wearing an arm band with the Nazi insignia. He was a cultural attache. She knew a little bit Norwegian. We managed to communicate even though we didn't know German. And then this Nazi guy asked my friend and I how are you talking about the Germans in Norway? We said that we have always had a good relationship with our neighbor countries south and west and east.

Have you heard about Martin Niemoller, he was captured by the Nazis before the War and was a Christian opposition person against Hitler and was captured in 1933 in Germany. I had read about him, I had a book about him. I asked where is Martin Niemoller's house. We had a map and we asked people how to get to the house. "What track do we take to get there?" And then we went to this attache's house and borrowed money and they were so kind to us. We had a wonderful time. They were very nice. We met a couple who were so nice to us. It was as though they could understand Norwegian. They came with us and took a picture of us on the doorstep of Martin Niemoller's house.

But then one day the sirens sounded for an air raid and we had to run to the closest bomb shelter as if there were a war on. It was so crowded when we came out of this cellar, full of people, we couldn't see the end of them and we couldn't' cross the street because of the number of people and we heard Hitler speaking.

[When was this?]

One or two weeks before the war broke out.

Were Oluffa's friends from the orchestra Nazi sympathizers?

Yeah, her husband, the leader of the band was. I don't think that he was a real Nazi but he had to play along to keep the position he had reached.

Have you ever gone back to Germany?

Oh yeah, in 1959, it was a great event. I was the only kid in the neighborhood that attended. Fortunately, there are nice people in Germany too.

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