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

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