Jonas Walfred Norberg Oral History Interview, 1981  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Norberg, Jonas Walfred
1981 (inclusive)
3 file folders
10 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
Transcript of an oral history interview with Jonas Walfred Norberg, a Swedish 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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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Jonas Walfred Norberg, known as Walfred, was born on March 10, 1899 in Nybyn, Sweden. Walfred's father, Nils Norberg, was a farmer and owned a general store. Walfred was the oldest of four children in his family. He attended school for six years until he was 13 years old. After Maria Norberg, Walfred's mother, died in 1913, Nils Norberg remarried the mill owner's daughter and moved to America in 1915. Walfred found a job at the mill grinding seed, but in 1916, he decided to leave work and move to America. Most of Walfred's family, including his father and uncles and two young half siblings, lived in America. Walfred and his oldest sister Margreta left Sweden and traveled to Tacoma, Washington. Immediately, Walfred began working in the woods, as his father was doing. Logging was a dangerous job, though, and Nils Norberg died in a logging accident in 1919; one of Walfred's brothers was killed in the same manner. In 1925, Walfred met his Norwegian wife, Magda Jerstad, at a Scandinavian picnic; they married one year later on the same date. Walfred and Magda had one son named Jay in 1927. Walfred continued to work in Tacoma in a variety of positions, such as a lumber piler, a car loader, and a superintendent. The Norberg family lived in California from 1947 to 1952 while Walfred started a sawmill company. They returned to Tacoma, but Walfred wanted out of the lumber business due to the dangerous conditions. Walfred is involved in several organizations-Eagles, Valhalla, and Vasa. He returned to Sweden in 1969 and 1974. Walfred is proud of his Swedish heritage and can still speak the language. He maintains, though, that there are a lot of similarities between Sweden and America.


Full Name: Jonas Walfred Norberg. Father: Nils Norberg. Mother: Maria Sundberg. Paternal Grandfather: Jonas Olovson. Paternal Grandmother: Kristina Nilsdotter. Maternal Grandfather: Olof Sundberg. Maternal Grandmother: Sara Sundberg. Brothers and Sisters: Margreta Norberg, Christina Norberg, Erland Norberg, Annie Norberg, Patrick Norberg. Spouse: Magda Jerstad. Children: Jay Norberg.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Jonas Norberg on September 23, 1981 in Tacoma, Washington. This interview contains information on personal background, emigration, work, family, community life, and Swedish heritage. It also contains photographs of Walfred, the Norberg family in Sweden, Nybyn, Sweden (1899), the Norberg house/farm, the Norberg Brothers General Store in Grindnäset, Sweden, the house built by Nils Norberg in Nybyn (1904), Walfred at the Cascade Lumber Co. in Alder, Washington (1922), the Norberg family upon their return to Sweden, Walfred and Roy Waller piling lumber in Washington, and John Johnson and his family. The interview was conducted in English.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

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
88,side 1 008:
Jonas Walfred Norberg was born on March 10, 1899 in Nybyn, Sweden. This is in northern Sweden.
88,side 1 013: PARENTS
Nils and Maria Norberg. Father was a farmer and owner of a general store.
88,side 1 018:
Mother died in 1913 when Walfred was 14 years old. There were 4 children in the family. Father remarried and came to America in 1915.
88,side 1 028:
In 1916 Walfred and his oldest sister came to America. Walfred had been working in a flour mill until he came.
88,side 1 031:
Father died from injuries in the woods. Walfred was the oldest child.
88,side 1 035: GRANDPARENTS
Farmers. Maternal - Olof and Sara Sundberg. Paternal - Jonas Olovson and Kristina Nilsdotter. Walfred explains about the name Olovson and Norberg, how they changed.
They raised hay, beef, "little of everything." They raised things to live on, support themselves.
88,side 1 055: FATHER'S STORE:
Sold sugar, fabric and other staples that could not be grown on the farm.
88,side 1 066:
Norberg's home in Sweden was good sized. They first lived with grandparents and then father built a house.
88,side 1 080:
Mother was sick. Her parents helped them out. Lived in the store until they sold it when they came to America in 1913.
88,side 1 : 096
Walfred worked in the flour mill when his father immigrated, grinded seed to flour.
88,side 1 106:
Father married daughter of the owner of the mill. Berglund was her maiden name.
88,side 1 114:
On his trip to Sweden in 1969, the mill had been torn down.
88,side 1 116:
Christmas in Sweden no different from Christmas here. Presents, trees, went to church.
88,side 1 136: CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS:
Stories of trolls.
88,side 1 150:
Came to America in 1916.
88,side 1 153:
Reasons why his father had come to America. His brothers were here. They went to business school in Sweden, then came to the U.S.
88,side 1 178:
Father died in 1919. Walfred was left with the family, six younger brothers and sisters. All siblings were in the U.S. One brother killed in the woods.
88,side 1 192:
Walfred came to the U.S. because his family was here. Left the flour mill where he had been for 14 months.
88,side 1 197:
Went to the woods to work. Lived in a small cabin. Describes this. Paid 10 cents a log. Describes working in the woods.
88,side 1 220:
Moving logs in the winter. Floating logs in the spring. Sorting logs in the river.
88,side 1 240:
Trip over to America Aug. 9, 1916. Took a train to Trondheim, then to Oslo. Took boat Hellig Olaf to the U.S.
88,side 1 251: BOAT TRIP:
Sick much of the time. Plenty of food available. It was a nice passenger boat. Rough seas. Took 9 to 10 days.
88,side 1 263: ELLIS ISLAND:
They okayed the papers. Sister had trouble because she was 15. Walfred was 17. Sent a telegram to their father in Alder, WA. Ellis Island was crowded, plenty of accommodations. Some people stayed for months. Some sent back to their country.
88,side 1 295: TRAIN TRIP:
Stopped twice to change trains. 5 days.
Could not understand English.
88,side 1 310:
Arrived in Tacoma very hungry. Had not eaten much on the train. Met someone who spoke Swedish and did some translating.
88,side 1 338:
Nobody to meet them when they arrived in Tacoma. Looked at the railway map to find out where Morton and Alder were. This is where their father lived. Bought tickets at the train station.
88,side 1 367:
Met father and family. Went to work right away in the woods. Began learning English.
88,side 1 375:
Comparing work between Sweden and the U.S.
88,side 1 383:
Dangers of working in the woods. Uncle and father were both killed from logging accidents.
88,side 1 403: SCHOOLING:
6 years in Sweden. Finished at age 13.
88,side 1 409: WORKING:
Began at age 12, hauling freight for his father's store.
88,side 1 414:
Describes hauling by horse and wagon. The difficulties, loading the wagon, what was hauled.
88,side 1 454:
Women did not work as early as the men in Sweden. They began working at the age of 16 or 17. Helped around the house, hired out to others.
88,side 1 474:
Life is comfortable in America. Think more of memories when you get older.
88,side 1 485:
Contact with many minorities in the woods. Many Austrians and Scandinavians.
Age 30 or so. Took a test. Two witnesses testified. Did not get citizenship the first time he tried. Got his citizenship the second time he tried.
88,side 1 537:
Met his wife at a Scandinavian picnic in 1925. They were married a year later on the same date.
88,side 1 581:
Walfred and wife have one son, born 1927 named Jay. He works for the government and has 2 children. Talks about great grandchildren.
88,side 1 632: WORK IN TACOMA:
Several different jobs. Lumber piler, car loader and a Superintendent.
88,side 1 645:
Went to California from 1947 to '52. Others were also going. Started a saw mill company.
88,side 1 673:
Working for St. Paul and St. Regis in Tacoma. Working days about 10 hours, 2 dollars a day. The same as in Sweden.
88,side 2 001:
Life in the lumber camps, bunkhouses and other conditions.
88, side 2 015:
Quit lumber work because it was too dangerous, rough conditions.
Safety conditions improved. Less dangerous now than it was before. New ways to transport logs.
88, side2 044: CHANGES IN TACOMA:
More crime. Children have idle time, are running around.
88,side 2 064: CHURCH ACTIVITY:
None in Tacoma. In Sweden went to church on Sundays only. Bible was at home to read.
88,side 2 075: ORGANIZATIONS:
Eagles and Swedish Order of Valhalla and Vasa. He was on the Eagles drill team and attended meetings.
88,side 2 116:
Trip back to Sweden 1969 and 1974. Changes about the same as in the U.S. wages higher and good living. Farming changes in Sweden are as they are in the U.S. Can't make a living on the farm. Big machinery.
Proud of Swedish heritage.
88,side 2 162:
Much family here, they gather for family reunions. Over 100 used to get together. Now about 60.
88,side 2 180: SPEAKING SWEDISH:
Still speaks it.
88,side 2 197:
I mentioned before that while working in the woods, I guess I did everything there was to do in the woods, except cook and donkey locomotive engineer, reason being, when not donkey engineer, I had a job called "handy man." When a worker quit, was fired, or got injured, the handy man was put in his place until a new man was hired through an employment office in the city. This took a matter of 2 or 3 days.
88,side 2 205:
1924: When I quit the woods and came in to the city, I got a job on the then being built Washington Building. I got a job as loadman on the concrete crew. I mixed all concrete for the Washington Building from the 4th to the 17th floor.
88, side 2 211:
1932: Hart Construction. Got a job building the river road to Puyallup on the south side of the river. My job then was shift foreman. We used material for the road dug from the river bottom.
88, side 2 215:
After this job was finished, I went back to the sawmills again, having worked there a few years, before the depression struck, as a lumber piler, car loader, carpenter, leadman, and two times as superintendent.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Education -- Sweden
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family -- Sweden
  • Naturalization
  • Ocean travel
  • Sweden -- Economic conditions
  • Sweden -- Social conditions -- 1945
  • Swedish-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Swedish-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Personal Names :
  • Jerstad, Magda
  • Nilsdotter, Kristina
  • Norberg, Jay
  • Norberg, Jonas Walfred--Interviews (creator)
  • Olovson, Jonas
  • Norberg, Magda
  • Norberg, Nils
  • Sundberg, Maria
  • Sundberg, Olof
  • Sundberg, Sara
  • Corporate Names :
  • Hellig Olaf (Steamship)
  • St. Regis Paper Company
  • Swedish Order of Valhalla (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Vasa Order of America. Lodge Number 233 (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Family Names :
  • Jerstad family
  • Norberg family
  • Olovson family
  • Sundberg family
  • Geographical Names :
  • California
  • Nybyn (Sweden)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Farmers
  • Logg'ers
  • Sawmill workers