25 March 2009

Tuning into the AYPE with Lorraine McConaghy

Last night, my husband and I were sitting with the television tuned to a popular Seattle KING-5 program, Evening Magazine, when I heard a familiar but unexpected voice suddenly coming into my family room. It was Nearby Norwegians' friend and mentor, Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, lead historian of the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Evening Magazine arranged to interview Lorraine about the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909. This year marks the centennial of the "AYPE"--an event of critical importance in the history of Seattle. The television video includes many archival photographs of the AYPE, and even a motion picture excerpt from "Norway Day." You can view the video and watch as 1909 Vikings disembark at the fair grounds: Seattle's first world's fair. In any case, it's always a pleasure for us to hear Lorraine again--a lady of many talents who is passionate about history, and has enabled that passion in so many others.


Chery Kinnick

Norwegian Cultural & Heritage Day

This coming Saturday, March 28, there is a very special happening at the Leif Erikson Lodge 2-001, Sons of Norway, at 2245 NW 57th Street in the Ballard district of Seattle. The lodge is hosting its annual Norwegian Cultural and Heritage Day from 10:00 a.m - 4:00 p.m. Admission is free and events are open to the public. There will be demonstrations of traditional Norwegian handicrafts, music, dance, song, food preparation, and presentations throughout the day.

Events include tours of the Nordic Spirit boat at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.!

See the colorful event flyer

Velkommen og vaer saa god!

Welcome to our home and table!

24 March 2009

Genealogy: Contagions and Collaborations

We'd be the first to admit that the pursuit of genealogy and family history is downright catchy. As Nearby Norwegians, we are usually on the lookout for materials and bits of information that may be helpful to others who are also history-minded (afflicted?).... and that is why our mission statement includes "giving back."

Genealogy does not involve a contest to see who can "bag" the longest list of names or the greatest number of dates. Oh, and it certainly is not meant to be like the seventh grade history class that nearly turned you OFF to any further consideration of history--family-related, or not. Instead, the pursuit of genealogy and family history is an enjoyable detective game where everyone stands to benefit by satisfying collaborations. "You watch mine and I'll watch yours" is the order of the day, since the collection and interpretation of historical facts and artifacts is not easily done alone.

Genealogy is contagious, but seldom fatal

Recently, in the spirit of collaboration, our very own Cathy Lykes was able to help out a dear friend of the Nearby Norwegians, the illustrious and ever-stylish footnoteMaven. "Maven," who is often referred to simply as "fM" because of the fondness she inspires, gave special thanks to Cathy for her sharing spirit... and more, in a recent blog entry.

Cathy is an extremely talented photographer, a great writer, and a wonderful friend. She can be found hanging out with a few of my other real life, geneablogger, Nearby History friends at Nearby Norwegians, a great must read blog.

What did Cathy do that was so appreciated by footnoteMaven?

Who IS footnoteMaven, anyway?

Read her blog entry: Tea With Me, But Who Am I? It will give you a look-see at the reasons behind what genealogists and family historians just do for one another as second nature.

...And thanks for the vote of confidence in the Nearby Norwegians, fM!


Chery Kinnick

15 March 2009

A "Nod and a Wink" to Our Irish Ancestry

As Nearby Norwegians, we tend to focus on Nordic culture and traditions. But, we find we cannot ignore the siren call of the shamrock on St. Patty's Day each March 17th. That should not be terribly surprising, because even St. Patrick himself was not Irish, but a Roman-Briton born Christian missionary who became a patron saint of Ireland. Truth be told, more than one of our group members claim some Irish ancestry in addition to their Norwegian heritage. [1]

Perhaps there is additional motivation to celebrate St. Patrick's Day for people like me who were born with an uncertain mix of Scandinavian and Celtic DNA: a sense of duty even, or... is it a sense of appeasement? After all, those Viking seafarers were mighty attracted to the comely lasses along the Irish coast. Recent DNA research has shown that a large portion of Icelanders are in large part Irish, resulting from all the "Maggie Reds" who were courted, convinced, or outright abducted, and then found themselves serving up grog and cod to their Viking mates on a foreign shore. Then, oh dear, there is the incident concerning some modern-day "Vikings" who sailed into Dublin Harbor during the summer of 2007, boldly intent on apologizing to the Irish for their bad behavior of over ten centuries ago. Better late than never, I suppose. [2] [3]

I went for a walk along the quays, along the quays, along the quays
Diggers and shovels and J.C.B.'s were digging up the Vikings


Digging it up and pulling it down
Pulling it down, pulling it down
Digging it up and pulling it down, poor old Dublin town

A Viking came to Dublin town, Dublin town, Dublin town
Took one look and he turned around and sailed back home again

They were ripping it up and tearing down
Tearing down, tearing down
They were ripping it up and tearing down [4]

Luci's papa claims to be a "Heinz 57" variety, but will say he is Irish when pushed. She has documented her father's roots back to Ireland, where his fifth great-grandfather came from Stweartwtwon in Tryoe County. After the age of five, Luci grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Irish are known to have played an itegral part in the city's founding and growth. St. Paul held Minnesota's first St. Patrick's Day parade in 1851--an impromptu event with participants partaking in flag-raising, speeches, and a fired salute. The Irish were every bit as attached to their homeland as the Norwegians, it seems, but a bit more demonstrative about it. [5]

My mother, who was born in Minnesota, but whose family is full-blooded Norwegian on both her mother's and father's side, celebrates her birthday on St. Patrick's Day. For as long as I can remember, her birthday cards and gift wrapping have not reflected her Scandinavian background, but were more likely to have been studded with clover leaves, leprechauns, and green, green, and more green. As for me, my non-Norwegian side leans more toward Scotland, as far as I can tell, but since I am not really certain what my ancestors have been up to, I always play it safe and participate in the "wearing of the green" each March 17th.

To quote an Irish toast:

If you’re enough lucky to be Irish...
You’re lucky enough!

[1] The story of St. Patrick
[2] Largest to Date Genetic Snapshot of Iceland 1,000 Years Ago Completed
[3] Viking Apology 1,000 Years in the Making
[4] Lyrics excerpt: Lynch, Bob. From the Land of the Carolan, CBS, 84268, LP (1980)
[5] Wikipedia: The History of the Irish in St. Paul

Image sources: Vintage Holiday Crafts and Karen's Whimsy


Chery Kinnick

22 February 2009

Seattleite With Norwegian Roots Writes About Seattle: Now, Then, and in the Future

He goes by the name "Knute Berger," or possibly "Mossback," or even "Skip." He responds to all three names. However, truth be told, he could have a fourth name, the name he used in autographing my recent purchase of his book: "Pugetopolis." The name scrawled across the cover page is "Knute Olsson." He is a Seattle ‘boy’ who has Norwegian roots. His Norwegian grandfather, Knute Berger, changed his name from Olsson to Berger so as not be thought of as a "dumb Swede." Like many Norwegians, he didn’t much like the Swedes.

Knute is the third of four Knutes and third of five generations of Bergers who have grown up in Seattle. He describes himself on his blog as:

“…a Seattle-based writer and commentator with a new book, "Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice" (Sasquatch Books). I also write the "Mossback" column for Crosscut.com, a Northwest news and analysis website and serve as Editor-at-Large of Seattle magazine where I write the monthly "Gray Matters" column. On Fridays at 10 am I'm a regular media roundtable guest on "Weekday," KUOW-FM (94.9), Seattle's NPR station. I also write a political column for Washington Law & Politics magazine.”

Read Knute's blog at www.pugetopolis.blogspot.com/

On Friday, February 20th I left my home in Ballard to attend a function at the Swedish Cultural Center on on the east slope of Queen Anne Hill. Knute read from his book "Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Whimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice," a collection of Berger’s columns filled with anecdotes where he deciphers Seattle’s myths from reality. He opened the gathering with an oral history of his Norwegian ancestry and talked about growing up in Seattle. He shared a tale about his father’s memories of being terrified by bedtime stories of terrible trolls read to him by his own father. This resulted in Knute's father being frightened to hike up the Queen Anne Hill greenbelt to school, for fear of being attacked by a giant walrus. It’s the Norse way to terrorize children at bedtime to instill in them the idea that life is precious and fleeting.

Knute then went on to read three of the nearly 75 columns previously published in the "Seattle Weekly," "Seattle" magazine, "Eastsideweek," Crosscut.com, and other local publications. He shared with us – a standing room only crowd – his perceptions of the myth of Seattle Nice; what he learned as a boy scout and while growing up in Seattle. He had the room in stitches when he read from his book: “… Mossback doesn’t like the way things are going. Too much growth, too much change, too many outsiders trying to grow palm trees—or skyscrapers—in our backyards. I think the only way to turn this thing around is to adopt measures that will turn newcomers off, yet reinforce local values:

• Hire consultants—from North Dakota
• Recycle or you die!
• Outlaw designer pets
• Weather restoration act
And my favorite…
• Mandatory lutefisk

Only Mossback could spew such an eloquent description of this “…grotesque, gelatinous fish dish from Scandinavia." Mossback had to choke down a pile every Christmas Eve to get his presents. That’s Calvinism on a plate! Served properly, this steaming pile of lye-soaked, boiled cod takes on the consistency of sperm and exudes a fishy odor.”[1] He takes this a step farther, saying, “The legislature should pass a law: once a week, everyone has to eat a plate—or maybe a barrel—of lutefisk. Lutefisk testing stations at the state border can pass out samples, giving immigrants a chance to turn around before it’s too late.” It may hold off the Californians, but the Minnesota immigrants might see this as a plus!

I’ve only just begun reading the book, but what I’ve read is great. I recommend it to anyone who is curious about Seattle: past, present and future – through the eyes of a fellow Norwegian-American.

As for the Q & A session that followed his book reading, below is a list of the questions that were asked and answered:

1. Seattle’s tendency between tolerance and prudishness.
2. What about historic preservation (by inclination); i.e. the Denny’s in Ballard.
3. What does Seattle look like in 20 years?
4. (Comment on) The Role of Bicyclists, Motorists and Pedestrians in Seattle.
5. (Comment on) Transportation and the Light Rail.
6. (Comment on) The Initiative Process in Washington.
7. (Comment on) Bookish City in jeopardy of loosing both daily newspapers.
8. (Comment on) The Denny’s teardown and what REALLY happened behind closed doors.
9. (Comment on) The digital age transforming our cultural interactions.
10. (Comment on) The cross purpose of the rising cost of living in Seattle: poverty vs.prosperity.
11. (Comment on) The demise of bowling allies in Seattle (vs. Tacoma).
12. Dick’s Drive-In … if we loose Dick's it time to leave town.
13. If you could re-write the Seattle Landmarks Ordinance… what would it look like?
14. What is the proper role of nostalgia vs. significance?
15. Andy’s Diner vs. Denny’s, why was there a difference in the community uprise?

He addressed each question with genuine insight, a thoughtful response, and a touch of humor. If you would like to hear his responses to these or other questions, come see him on Wednesday, February 25th at Town Hall Seattle with Timothy Egan, or check out his blog for future book readings.

[1] Knute Berger. "Pugetopolis: A Mossback Takes on Growth Addicts, Weather Wimps, and the Myth of Seattle Nice." Sasquatch Books: Seattle, 2009, p.258.

Luci Baker Johnson

16 February 2009

Bring Ethnic Culture Home to the Table

One of the best ways to ensure the continuation of ethnic culture is to EAT IT!

Pictured is the entrance to Olsen's Scandinavian Foods at 2248 NW Market Street in Seattle.

I sometimes attend events at the Sons of Norway Lodge in Ballard, which is an area of Seattle known for its prominent Scandinavian community dating back to the 1880s. During one visit in early February, I remembered that a Scandinavian foods shop sat only a block away, on NW Market Street. I decided there was no better Valentines Day gift for my mother than a taste of her childhood.

Walking in the door of Olsen's Scandinavian Foods, I was immediately taken by the warm, sugary smell of freshly baked krumkake--waffle cookies rolled into a cone and usually served stuffed with whipped cream. Krumkake are made fresh right in the store.

There are also plenty of award-winning selections of pickled herring, fishcakes, meatballs, cold smoked salmon, lutefisk, and other food selections sure to please those palate memories from the Old Country, whether that be Norway, Sweden, Denmark, or Finland. In particular, I was drawn to the shelves containing the goat cheeses, chocolates, and jams.

For my mother, who grew up on a Norwegian-American farm in rural Minnesota, I came away with a big box of Mor's flatbread, two packages of lefse, some Gjende cookies, and a jar of lingonberry jam. Okay, so it wasn't all just for Mom... My own favorites are the prettily packaged blocks of sweet and creamy Norwegian goat cheese. When I have some Ekte Geitost around, I can practically live on it. I love it for breakfast or lunch along with a few gluten free crackers, sweet Mango chutney, and a big cup of tea with milk. Oh, yum!

I had previously been buying my goat cheese at a local natural foods market. But, it occurred to me that without adequate support, neighborhood ethnic stores like Olsen's might quickly become a thing of the past, especially as the older generation diminishes. From now on, I plan to buy my goat cheese, lefse, and other traditional foods from Olsen's and other stores like it. I hope my ancestors will forgive me if I pass on the lutefisk, though. It's a taste I (gulp) never quite acquired.

Please support your local ethnic stores and delis--especially now, when a difficult economic climate makes it particularly challenging for small businesses to stay afloat.

Keep your family's ancestral culture on the table!

(This is a reprint of a 11 Feb 2008 entry from my other blog: http://nordicblue.blogspot.com.)

Chery Kinnick

15 February 2009

Why Norway Has Two Written Languages

In the Middle Ages, Norway had its own written language, Old Norwegian. When Norway came under Danish rule in 1380, a union that lasted until 1814, Old Norwegian was eventually replaced by Danish as the country’s written language and the language of the Church, State, and belles letters [1]. Throughout this period, the Norwegian language in the form of the different dialects remained the spoken language of the common people.

In 1814, Norway got its own constitution and became an independent nation. The question of nationality became prominent in many areas of society. One important issue was the establishment of an official Norwegian language. There was an upper-class spoken language that was actually Danish as pronounced by member of this class in the nation’s capital, whose corresponding written standard was official Danish. For the majority of the people though, and especially in rural areas, different local dialects were spoken which had a lower- social status and no corresponding written form

Two ways of solving the language problem of the new national were proposed. Linguist Knud Knudsen used the upper-class spoken language and the written Danish as points of departure to create a national language. This was the foundation of riksmål, since 1929 called bokmål, which is today the majority written language, used by over 80% of Norwegians. Ivar Aasen’s landsmål, since 1929 called nynorsk, is used less than 20% of Norwegians. There have since been several reforms pertaining to both standards. Today’s language situation with two different versions of Norwegian, is thus a result of our history. (Editor, Johan Fr. Heyerdal.)

[1] Belles-letters are essays, particularly of literary and artistic criticism, written and read primarily for their aesthetic effect.

Source: The Norseman, Special Issue No.4/5 September 1996, Vol.36, p.9.

Luci Baker Johnson

13 February 2009

Nearby Norwegians in Print - Chery Kinnick

"The Naturalist and His Camera," an article by Chery Kinnick, is in the current issue of Old News (Spring 2009, vol.9, no.1), a quarterly publication of Seattle's Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). Chery is currently working on a biography of the "naturalist": Lawrence Denny Lindsley (1878-1975), a Washington State photographer and explorer.

To sign up for a subscription to Old News, visit the website, http://www.seattlehistory.org/ for information on membership and all museum events. To subscribe to MOHAI's e-newsletter, please send your e-mail address to Mercedes Lawry at mercedes.lawry@seattlehistory.org with a message asking to subscribe to e-NOW@MOHAI.


Chery Kinnick

29 January 2009

Love That Lutefisk!

L U T E F I S K (pronounced [lʉːtəfɪsk], an eight letter word that, when uttered aloud in my childhood home in St. Paul, Minnesota, sent my brothers and I running the opposite way with our fingers holding our noses. Lutefisk is literally 'lye fish', as posted in Wikipedia.com , because it is made using caustic lye soda derived from potash minerals. My 87 year old father LOVES lutefisk. He claims to be Norwegian by marriage and has grown to love "the stuff." Each fall he dusts off his lutefisk apron and is one of the many servers at his (Lutheran) church's annual Lutefisk Dinner, serving over 800 people in one evening.

It's a Scandinavian delicacy that has to be seen to believe. I found a video on Youtube.com that does an excellent job of telling the story of lutefisk. To get to the bit on lutefisk, fast forward to 2:00 where the narrator talks with Warren Dahl, the co-owner of Ingebretsen's in Minneapolis.

What really caught my attention was an article that appeared in the Minneapolis - St. Paul StarTribune.com on December 20, 2008. Reporter Curt Brown interviewed my families friends, Dick Sundberg and Dennis Slattengren, at the St. Paul Corner Drug store just three blocks from my childhood home, where my octogenarian parents have lived for nearly 50 years. My folks are regulars for the nickel cup of coffee. "Lutefisk: A Holiday stinker (but a Minnesota keeper)" takes the viewer on a journey in pursuit of LUTEFISK and other Scandinavian delicacies.

For even more information on lutefisk, check out Gary Legwold's book, "Last Word on Lutefisk," a comprehensive collection of facts, fiction and folklore surrounding this simple fish with the unforgettable scent.
And to close this blog entry, which reeks of a tantalizing aroma ...a cheer from Pacific Lutheran University located just south of Seattle near Tacoma:

"Lutefisk, Lutefisk, Lefse, Lefse, We're the mighty Lutherans, Ya sure, you betcha."

Luci Baker Johnson

28 January 2009

Nearby History Enters a New Era

All five members of the Nearby Norwegians have been involved with Nearby History writing, research, and oral history seminars, held in Seattle at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI). The seminars are what inspired the name of our writing group, in fact. Each year, the autumn research seminar ends with an evening event when participants make short presentations about their projects. On January 14th, Chery Kinnick and Cathy Lykes were among the historians who presented to a group that included friends, family, history enthuasists, and interested members of the public.

Pictured at Nearby History Presents on January 14, 2009 are (l to r): Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, Luci Baker Johnson, Chery Kinnick, Cathy Lykes, Barbara Sullivan, and Carolyn Merritt.

Over the past 10 years, the program has grown and reached out to hundreds of local writers and researchers engaged in various types of projects. Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, Nearby History's program creator, facilitator, and instructor, has indicated that although not all of the writing projects deal with locations near to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, they are all "near to the heart."

Lorraine McConaghy plans to retire from her position as MOHAI's lead historian within a few years, in conjunction with the Museum's upcoming move to Lake Union Park in 2012. McConaghy is handing off the coordination and teaching with Nearby History to co-worker and writer, Helen Divjak, in the hope that it will continue to thrive and grow as a community outreach program. You can read an article by Helen Divjak detailing the background of Nearby History: "Nearby History Celebrates Ten Years."

Beginning this year, in coordination with the centennial celebration of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Nearby History seminars will focus on a selected topic each year. It is a different model from past years when participants could chose their own topics. We look forward to seeing Nearby History continue to inspire writers and researchers for many years to come. The program has been largely responsible for our growth as writers and researchers, and we owe many thanks to Dr. McConaghy, our mentor and friend, and to MOHAI.


Chery Kinnick

Get Original at Footnote

A good part of a genealogist's research includes locating original documents that can provide facts that are so critical to telling the stories of our ancestors. Footnote.com, a database of documents and images, seeks to enable researchers in that quest.

Founded in 1997 as iArchives, Inc., Footnote is a subscription based web site that features searchable original documents that provide users with an unaltered view of the events , places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At Footnote.com all are invited to come to share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit www.footnote.com.

Read the original press release for the launching of Footnote.com.

I heard about Footnote.com at a genealogy conference this past fall and was told that NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) had a free copy for researchers to use since they contributed a lot of their documents to be scanned. So, I tried it out and found documents I had not found for my research subject in other ways, including items from several vintage newspapers, and naturalization and passport applications from 1899.

I did other searches and did not have good results, since the scanned newspaper articles would pick up the first name (but it would be someone else) or the last name, but not always the two together. I didn't read the instruction for Boolean searches. I found that the first two or three hits were the best.

The Footnote.com results page gives you a quick glance at the first bit of the article or document so you can decide if it is the one you want. The results page looks a lot like the wonderful and valuable Brooklyn Eagle historic newspaper pages. Also, you can print free at NARA for a donation (or not). Try it out at a NARA branch to see if you can find what you're looking for, or subscribe to Footnote.com via the website.


Barbara Holz Sullivan

27 January 2009

What About That Viking Ship I've Heard So Much About...?

Research is underway to actuately chronicle the life of the viking boat that sailed from Kirkland to Seattle for Norway Day, August 31, 1909. Olaf Kvamme, a local historian and long time member of the Nordic Heritage Museum, has been conducting this research which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Museum's Nordic Journal. You can see a short clip of a film taken in 1909 when the boat arrived at the AYP landing.

The actual viking boat is 'no longer around' but the Nordic Spirit is a Norwegian fishing boat constructed 150 to 200 years ago does exist. It was donated to the Nordic Heritage Museum in the 1980s, it sat unused until 2008, when museum supporters set out to refurbish it for the 100th anniversary of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 2009. Read more about the ship at The Nordic Spirit blog.

"The Nordic Spirit is a late 18th- or 19th-century fishing boat from the northern fjords of Norway. It was given to the Nordic Heritage Museum by Volvo-Penta of America in 1980, after serving as an outreach tool for the Swedish company. In the early 1960s Volvo reimagined the vessel and outfitted it with Viking-style embellishments.

Today, the Nordic Heritage Museum believes that the next life of the Nordic Spirit should begin in the spring of 2009, with its display at such events as the celebration of Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17), the Northwest Folklife festival, and the Ballard Seafood Festival, culminating with the centennial celebration of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYP), to occur late in the
summer of 2009. The restored Nordic Spirit will reenact the sailing of the Viking, which opened Norway Day at the AYP Exposition in 1909. The celebration of Nordic participation will be a major component of next year’s centennial retrospective. Held on the University of Washington campus, the 1909 AYP attracted 3.7 million visitors to Seattle's first World's Fair and showcased
Washington State as an international city.

The Nordic Heritage Museum recognizes the restoration of the Nordic Spirit as a way to both honor the past and inspire current and future generations. The restored Nordic Spirit will be a testament to the tradition of Scandinavian shipbuilding and adaptive reuse. The vessel has already had two lives: as a Norwegian coastal fishing boat in the late 18th or 19th century, and as an interpretive reproduction in the mid-20th century. Much-needed restoration of the vessel will enhance its current role as an educational object for the Museum’s ongoing cultural programs."

Local newspapers have published stories about the past, present and future life of the Nordic Spirit. Below are links to these stories:

The Seattle Times Local News, September 3, 2008, "All hands on deck to help Norwegian vessel ready for fair centennial."

Ballard News Tribune, December 9, 2008,
"Nordic Spirit Will Sail Again."

Luci Baker Johnson

26 January 2009

New Lands, New Lives

Looking for a great READ on Scandinavians in the Pacific Northwest?

We have just the publication for you!
New Land, New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest

by Janet E. Rasmussen

University Press of Washington 1993 0-295-97711-6 / 9780295977119 paperback 334 pages, 41 b&w photos, notes, bibliog New Land, New Lives captures the voices of Scandinavian men and women who crossed the Atlantic during the early decades of the 20th century and settled in the Pacific Northwest, after 1910. Based on oral history interviews with 45 Danes, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians, and Swedes-more than half of them women-the book is illustrated with family photographs and also includes background information on Scandinavian culture and immigration.

Murray Morgan, with the Tacoma News Tribune said "Rasmussen's selections capture the textures and tones of ordinary life. They show how the cultures the immigrants had known in the Old World influenced their reaction to the New World and the way they influenced life in the Pacific Northwest. As Rasmussen notes, the stories 'affirm human experience as the stuff of which the fabric of history and culture is woven.' This is a fascinating book."


Janet E. Rasmussen is now the pastor of First Mennonite Church in Urbana, Illinois. She accepted this position in May 2008 following the completion of her Master of Divinity degree in Theological Studies at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

Janet grew up in Paxton, IL and graduated from the University of Illinois. She earned her PhD. from Harvard University in Scandinavian Studies and was vice president for academic affairs and profession of modern languages at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln. She has published widely on Scandinavian women writers and immigrant women. Just prior to her seminary work she provided start-up leadership for The Want Center for International Programs at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA.


Luci Baker Johnson

06 January 2009

Vanishing Generation Interviews

The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle sponsored oral history interviews with elderly Scandinavians in the effort to collect and preserve the unique history of the Ballard community in Seattle. There are 19 interviews with Scandinavians of varying backgrounds posted on the HistoryLink.org website under the "People's Histories" category.

Lynn Moen interviewed and Morris Moen videotaped Arnold Reinholdtsen (b. 1928) on July 17, 2000 for the Nordic Heritage Museum Vanishing Generation Oral History Project. Arnold, of Norwegian heritage, is an impressive story-teller who describes his life in the fishing industry and recounts many humorous vignettes of Norwegian Ballard...
Read Reinholdtsen's interview at: HistoryLink.org, Essay 5759

In one story, Reinholdtsen tells of his father-in-law coming to Seattle with three other Norwegians in a Model T, and a claw-foot bathtub secured to the roof. When the brakes on the Model T went out, there was no money for repairs, so the three of them would get out at each hill and let the car down slowly with a rope.

In another, Reinholdtsen relates: "I remember when I was in the Sea Scouts, the skipper of the Sea Scout ship said that he was a Fuller Brush man. And he said that Ballard was the worst route in the city because those little Norwegian women wouldn’t buy anything unless they absolutely needed it."

Oral history provides irreplaceable personal insight to history, forever documenting details such as the saying Reinholdtsen indicates the "old timers" always used when they were out in the middle of the ocean: "Well, we’re here now, we might as well make the best of it."

The Vanishing Generation Interviews are a reminder of the preciousness of cultural experience that is acquired and stored slowly, one person at a time, and always best digested by the reader/listener with a healthy dose of humor, open-mindedness, and even skepticism. Wouldn't we all love to have such documentation from our own ancestors? Make your own elderly relatives a priority for oral history interviews in 2009!


Chery Kinnick