Thorvald Andreas Kofoed Oral History Interview, 1983  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Kofoed, Thorvald Andreas
1983 (inclusive)
3 file folders
4 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Thorvald Andreas Kofoed, a Danish immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
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Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Thorvald (Ted) Kofoed was born on August 18, 1907 in Allinge, Bornholm, Denmark to Hans Julius Kofoed and Juliane Elise Hansen. Ted had three older siblings, and his father died when Ted was only two years old. The family had a small farm, but it was not enough to support the family, and Ted's mother had to start working outside of the house. Before Ted was confirmed, he worked in bakeries and cabinet shops after school, but his mother could not afford an apprenticeship for him, so he had to go out and work when he turned fourteen. He began farming and learned to milk cows, harness horses, plow, and anything else that went along with the business. Ted's mother passed away on May 17, 1926, and when Ted's uncle came to visit from America, Ted began to consider immigrating as well. He left Denmark in 1930, settling at his uncle's house in Shevlin, Minnesota. Ted stayed with his uncle for three months and then became a hired hand at a local farm. He worked at the farm for several months, but when he found an ad in "The Pioneer," the Danish newspaper, asking for a hired hand on the West Coast, Ted decided to move west. He worked on a farm in Sequim, Washington for three months and then went to Seattle, where he was employed at a dairy farm for four years. In 1936, he spent the summer digging for gold in Alaska but then came back to Seattle and became doing carpentry work. In 1942, Ted joined the U.S. Army and served for three years. He did his basic training for the military police, but when his battalion reactivated, he was transferred to quartermaster. When he finished his commitment to the Army, Ted returned to Seattle and became a carpenter at Frederick and Nelson. He also met his wife, Virginia Carol, and was married in 1949. They had one son, Hans Frederick. Through the years, Ted has been active in Crown Lutheran Church, where he has served as Treasurer, Deacon, and on the council. He is also a member of the American Legion and the Danish Brotherhood. In 1976, when Ted was President of his lodge, he became the editor of their Danish newsletter. Ted's only trip back to Denmark was in 1972, during which the visit to Bornholm was the most meaningful portion of the trip.


Full Name: Thorvald Andreas Kofoed. Father: Hans Julius Kofoed. Mother: Juliane Elise Hansen. Paternal Grandfather: Thor Hansen. Brothers and Sisters: Hansine Kofoed, Ingeborg Kofoed, Hans Peter Kofoed. Spouse: Virginia Kofoed. Children: Hans Frederick Kofoed.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Thorvald Kofoed on April 22, 1983 in Seattle, Washington. It provides information on family background, employment, emigration, marriage and family, community activities, and Danish heritage. The interview also includes the announcement of Thorvald's 75th birthday in Bien, the text of several speeches given by Thorvald, a Danish Brotherhood newsletter, and photocopies of photographs of Thorvald's school, church, and home in Denmark and he and his wife in 1982. In addition, actual photographs of Thorvald when he was fifteen, Thorvald on a boat, and Thorvald at the time of interview are available. The interview was conducted in English.

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Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
243, side 1 022: Thorvald Andreas Kofoed
Born on August 18, 1907 in Allinge (Isle of Bornholm), Denmark. Bornholm is located in the Baltic Sea, southeast of Sweden. An historical island. Strategically in WWII. Occupied by the Germans. They were to surrender after the armistice but the German commander on Bornholm refused. Bornholm was far enough east that the Russians wanted to take over. The Germans refused to surrender to the Russians. The Russians bombed a couple of towns on the island. The Russians occupied the island for some time after the armistice.
243, side 1 152: PARENTS
Hans Julius Kofoed and Juliane Elise Hansen. Father died when Ted was 2 years old. He had a small farm. It wasn't big enough to support the family. Had to find other jobs too. This put an extra burden on Ted's mother. She was bringing up four children and had to look after the animals. Had to tend to the four or five cows during the summer. Their home was in town. Farmland was out of town. After his father died, his mother sold some of the land and animals. Rented out some of the property. Mother had to start working. His older sisters were taken in by other families. Brother moved in with cousins who lived on a farm when he was 8 years old. Ted was the only one left at home. His mother did some weaving in her younger days. Kept hose and did farm work too.
243, side 1 284: GRANDPARENTS
Maternal grandfather - Thor Hansen. He was a farmer. Didn't know is maternal grandmother or paternal grandparents. He did meet his father's brother who lived in Minnesota. His name was Andreas Kofoed. Tells about how his maternal grandfather would fix his wooden shoes when he was young.
243, side 1 377: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Hans Peter Kofoed lives in the old home where Ted grew up. Hansine spent most of her life working in Copenhagen. Never married. Ingeborg stayed on Bornholm. Did housework. Never married. Brother married. Has a nice wife. Worked on farms. Became a stonecutter.
243, side 1 421: CHILDHOOD
Mother passed away on May 17, 1926, Norway's constitution day. Has a different meaning for Ted. In town, they had a good-sized house. Had a kitchen, a dining room, a sitting room, a big room converted to bedrooms. House was divided so that it had an apartment, which was rented out. After Ted's brother took over the house, his sister moved into the apartment. They had a little bit of land and a barn in town as well as the house.
243, side 1 474: SCHOOL
Went to school in town, six days a week. In the upper grades they went to school four days a week from 8:00 am - 3:00 pm. On Fridays they went from 8:00-2:00. On Saturdays, they went from 8:00-12:00.
243, side 1 492: CHURCH
Was across street from school. One of the teachers at the school was also a deacon at the church. Church had an old organ with pedals that hod to be pumped to get air into it. Two big bells in the belltower. Rang the biggest bell early on Sunday morning. Half an hour later, rang the smaller one. 15 minutes before church was to being, they rang the two bells together. The man who rang the bells had to pump the organ pedals too.
243, side 1 562: CHRISTMAS
Beautiful in Denmark. Remembers looking at displays in store windows. Could get cold and frosty. Sometimes snowed. On Christmas Eve, the town turned dark by 4:00 except for people's homes. The bell ringer had a way of making the church bell chime at Christmas. Went to church at 5:00 on Christmas Eve. Lit the Christmas tree after church. Can't get used to putting up the trees weeks before Christmas. Also, Christmas isn't over for him after December 25th. For Christmas Eve dinner they'd have klipfisk (lutefisk). The fish came from the Færo Islands. Lutefisk is salted down in a barrel. Klipfisk is the same except it is split and dried on flat rocks on the islands. Had rice pudding with a non-alcoholic Christmas beer. Had pudding with butter, nutmeg, and sugar. Got presents. Went to church Christmas day. Danes don't' "break their necks" to celebrate Christmas.
Had a big Christmas tree at school during Christmas week. His mother always provided him with a lace handkerchief for the school Christmas party for two reasons. He was to use it as a bib so he wouldn't get food on his good clothes and when the party was over he was to use it to take home extra food that was left on the tree. The party took place in the mission house. The children were served sandwiches and non-alcoholic beer. There was an old parlour organ in the house. A man would play it and they'd sing old Danish Christmas songs. They'd walk around the Christmas tree. Before the party was over, the teachers would bring out a stepladder. The parents and teachers had made heart shaped Christmas baskets filled with candy, fruit, and nuts.
243, side 1 791: WORK IN DENMARK
Did farm work. Before he was confirmed, he worked in bakeries and cabinet shops after school. His mother couldn't afford to send him to a school for special training. Couldn't afford an apprenticeship. Had to go to work when he turned 14. Learned to milk cows, harness horses, plow, everything that goes along with farming. After his mother passed away, moved back into town. Worked in a stone quarry. An uncle from America came home to visit in 1926, two days after Ted's mother had died. Uncle hadn't been home for 30 years. Wanted to surprise Ted's mother and his own mother. He hadn't contacted anybody before this.
243, side 1 841: LEAVING DENMARK
Ted talked to his uncle about going to America. Went to America in 1930. Times were hard everywhere. Thought there'd be better opportunities for him in a bigger country. He had no problems getting a visa. Went to the consulate in Copenhagen. Had a physical in Copenhagen.
243, side 1 870: TRIP TO AMERICA
Came in the Helling Olaf of the Scandinavian-American Line. Sailed from Copenhagen to Oslo, and then to New York. Arrived in Oslo early in the morning before breakfast was served. He and some other guys got off the boat. This was in August. They walked up Karl Johans Gate. Walked around Akershus Fortress. Guard said it was closed. Got back on the boat. Went across the North Sea and the Atlantic. Ran into a bad storm. Was playing whist in another guy's cabin. One by one everybody got sick. Ted was the last to get sick. He was 23 years old at this time. Had to stop in Halifax to let off passengers. Headed towards New York. Had heard that the first thing one sees as one approached New York Harbor was the Statue of Liberty. The first thing Ted saw was a neon sign, which said "Wrigley's Chewing Gum." He knew he was in America then.
243, side 1 973: CUSTOMS
Had to open his wooden trunk for the customs officials. A Swedish pastor was helping people get from Ellis Island to the mainland. Had to take a ferry. Brought Ted to the train station. He bought Ted a bag of doughnuts
243, side 1 996: TRAIN RIDE
A little perplexed. Everything was new to him. There were many colored people getting on and off the train. The black women had big hats and loud colored clothes. He felt like they were looking at him all of the time. Got off the train in Chicago. Met a guy he had met on the boat. He was on his way to St. Paul and then to Portland, Oregon. Ted was just going to Minnesota. They got off in St. Paul. Went into a restaurant. Ted's companion ordered pie. Ted had him buy him a piece. He didn't like it.
243, side 1 1050: TRAVELING IN MINNESOTA:
Went on the "Galloping Ghost" (small motor cars used on rails) to Shevlin, Minnesota. Nobody was there to meet him. Met a lot of Norwegians there. Met a Norwegian who was a blacksmith and a preacher. He drove Ted up to his uncle's. Uncle lived in a little one-room shack with a kitchen and lean-to. Had a log stable for his cows. Had a building for his machinery. Had about 120 acres. Had some woods that hadn't been cleared. This was the 2nd place he had homesteaded. Had been married but his wife had died. Ted wasn't used to his uncle's kind of farming. Stayed for three months.TAPE ENDS ABRUPTLY
243, side 2 037: THE DEPRESSION
Hard to find work. Met a Swede at a tire shop. Said he knew a farmer near Crookston, MN who might need help for the winter. It was about a four-mile walk. There had been a big sleet storm. Wires and telephone poles were down. Impossible to drive through. He got to the farm. Owned by some Swedes, the Anderson's. They said they needed a man but they'd already hired one. They invited Ted to stay for a couple of days. This was just before Thanksgiving. He had Thanksgiving dinner with them. The Anderson's found another Swedish family by the name of Olson who Ted could work for over the winter.Made $10 a month. Ted stayed through the next summer. Earned $30 a month during the summer. Fall of 1931 awful. Many dust storms. No money. In North Dakota, many families loaded up their trucks and a team of horses and left their farms. Many young men roaming around looking for a place where they could at least get room and board. Jake (man Ted worked for) asked Ted to stay for the winter. Paid him $5 a month. Had met on old Dane in town. He was Crookston's police-judge. Ted would meet him in town at the pool hall on Sundays sometimes. He'd ask Ted if he'd like to go to his office to read the Sunday paper. The entire courtroom was his office.
243, side 2 262: SEQUIM, WASH.
This Dane had a subscription to the Danish newspaper "The Pioneer." Ted found an ad in the paper asking for a hired man on the West Coast. Ted decided he didn't want to freeze for $5 a month. He ended up working for German in Sequim, Washington. Didn't get along with the German. He stayed for three months. Neighbors told him that the longest period of time of that any hired man had worked there.
243, side 2 294: LEARNING ENGLISH
Was speaking English pretty well by this time.
243, side 2 329: DAIRY FARMING
Got work at a dairy farm just below 8th Ave. Worked there for four years. Started in 1932.
Joined the Danish Brotherhood in 1932, Got his fifty-year pin in 1982.
243, side 2 347: ALASKA
By 1936, was tired of working on the farm. Some guys talked him into going to Alaska. Took a passenger boat to Seward, Alaska. Took the train to Fairbanks. No dinner on the train. Stopped in a town along the way. Everybody sat around a long table. Ate meat "that was blacker than the ace of spades." Train stopped at Mt. McKinley. No sleeping cars on the train. Had to find a place at a hotel or dormitory. Ted and his companions couldn't afford to stay in a hotel. Cost $3-4 a night. Found a dormitory that cot $1 a night. Ted tells about the problems he and his two friends had getting beds in the same room. Was in Fairbanks for a month. Hadn't found any work. One of his friends had worked in Nome, Alaska before. Could only get there by plane or by dogsled. Ted's two friends flew there. Ted was low on money. Told his friends to write and to tell him if there were many people there. The less people the better chance for finding work. The man that flew Ted to Nome said Ted could pay him later. Describes the flight to Nome.Got a job digging gold for the summer. The ground was frozen down to bedrock. The shaft went down 85 feet. Halfway down the shaft was a 12-foot glacier. Tells about an ivory piece he found down in the shaft. Worked in the mine until it started freezing. A ship by the name of "Victoria" let passengers off in Nome and left winter supplies. The water there is too shallow for the boat to come in. Had to go out to the boat in tugboats. Ted took the boat back to Seattle. Took ten days. Traveled steerage. Rats on the ship. They say that if rats are on the ship the ship is safe. If there aren't any rats, then the ship is sinking.
243, side 2 655: SEATTLE
(see also II-300) Things still tough in 1936. Got work in a sawmill. Did some carpenter work. Had that kind of experience from work he'd done in Denmark.
Got a job as a custodian. Studied to get a (tape unclear) engineer's license.
243, side 2 680: US CITIZENSHIP
Had to study for it. Went to school.
243, side 2 686: SERVING IN THE ARMY
Joined the US Army in 1942. Was 35 years old when he went in. Served for 3 years. Did his basic training for the military police. A year after he joined his battalion deactivated. He requested a transfer to quartermaster. Never got to go overseas. Was quartermaster sergeant (tape unclear) General Hospital in California. Serving in the army helped Ted to find himself. Used to be intimidated by men with white collars and ties. After serving in the army he felt equal to other men.
Was going to work for the Seattle School District but decided not to. Was offered a job doing carpenter work at Frederick and Nelsons. Became interested in this trade. Took some classes at night school.
243, side 2 750: MEETING SPOUSE
Started going out with Virginia Carol. Met her when dancing. Used to dance a lot at Danish organizations and at the Swedish Club. She pushed him into taking the civil service test for the city. Worked for City Light as a carpenter up on the Skagit Valley. In 1948, he was injured there. Had to spend time in the hospital over Christmas. Virginia visited him while he was in the hospital. Ted decided to buy her a ring. They got engaged and in the fall they got married.
243, side 2 819: WEDDING
Married in 1949. Had a fairly big wedding. Got married in Denny Lutheran Church. Ted and Virginia threw their own party. Had a nice get-together. Went on a honeymoon. Had a '36 Chevy. Drove around the Olympic Peninsula.
243, side 2 847: WORK
Went to work for City Light (see also II-750) Was only a temporary job. Found other jobs. Worked for a man named Gorman on pier 81. In '52, the Republicans got back into power. More people laid off. Ted had a son by this time. Had to work. Got work in Bremerton. Had to take the ferry there every day for 3-4 years. Was a carpenter.WORK: Transferred to Port ? Mistake. They closed and everyone lost their jobs. Got work from civil service in public health hospital. Worked in the Marine Hospital (which is no longer public health). A carpenter was sick. Ted was working temporarily but after a few weeks they decided they'd like to keep him. He worked there for 16 years.
243, side 2 901: CHILDREN
One son, Hans Fredrick. Is a truck driver. Is married.
243, side 2 910: CHURCH
Used to go to St. John's Lutheran. Goes to Crown Lutheran now. Served on the council for several years. Was treasurer for a couple of terms. Was deacon. From time to time they've asked him to give speeches on the 4th of July and Memorial Day. They've asked him because he's a veteran of WWII and a member of the American Legion. Is past commander of his post in the American Legion. Was state chaplain for the state of Washington. He has had to officiate at funerals too.
243, side 2 945: DANISH NEWSLETTER
Ted became the editor in 1976 when he was president of his lodge. He does the writing and his wife does the typing. The two of them put out a good newsletter.
243, side 2 965: TRIPS TO DENMARK
1972. Flew Canadian Air from Vancouver, BC. They had a special charter flight to Copenhagen but in order to go, you had to belong to a soccer club in Vancouver. Ted hadn't played for 30 years but he joined a club. He and his wife got on the charter flight. Son drove them to Vancouver. Flew for $260 each. Many changes. Landmarks still the same. Tells about Grundtvig Church named after a well-known composer of hymns. It is located in Copenhagen. Visit to Bornholm was the most meaningful part of the trip.
Wife isn't Danish. Hasn't cooked Danish food. Ted still speaks Danish. Says that Danes are proud of their background. Danes have the oldest kingdom in Europe. Has the oldest national flag in the world. Has always been the same, red with a white cross.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Danes -- Ethnic identity
  • Danish-Americans--Interviews
  • Danish-Americans--Northwest,Pacific--Social life and customs
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Railroad travel
  • World War, 1939-1945
  • Personal Names :
  • Kofoed, Thorvald Andreas--Interviews (creator)
  • Hansen, Juliane Elise
  • Kofoed, Hans Frederick
  • Kofoed, Virginia Carol
  • Kofoed, Hans Julius
  • Corporate Names :
  • American Legion (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Crown Lutheran Church (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Danish Brotherhood in America. Lodge 29 (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Hellig Olaf (Steamship)
  • Family Names :
  • Hansen Family
  • Kofoed Family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Bornholm (Denmark)
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Sequim (Wash.)
  • Shevlin (Minn.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Carpenters
  • Farmers
  • Miners