Olga Kristin Brodahl Hemmestad Oral History Interview, 1983  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Hemmestad, Olga Kristine Brodahl
1983 (inclusive)
2 file folders.
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Olga Kristine Brodahl Hemmestad, a Norwegian 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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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Olga Kristine (Brodahl) Hemmestad was born in Tretten, Gudbrandsdalen, Norway on March 5, 1893. She was the youngest of seven children by Frederik and Gina Brodahl, and she had a younger foster sister who was a second cousin. Her father ran a country store until Olga was little and had three small farms. She had a private tutor to teach her to read when she was young, but only completed her grade school education before the family emigrated. They left Norway on May 18, 1907, traveled through England, and arrived in Quebec, Canada. They visited a family friend who lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, but decided to move to Thief River Falls, Minnesota, where Olga's brother Albert was living. She was confirmed in a Thief River Falls church one month after arriving in the U.S., and the family moved to Kerkhoven, Minnesota after living in Thief River for a year. They rented a farm in Kerkhoven for three years, but grew tired of the weather and moved to Washington State. They visited friends in Everett, WA and Parkland, WA, where she saw Pacific Lutheran Academy, and settled in Ferndale, WA. Her father died in 1912, and in 1918, her mother sold the farm and moved to Bellingham, WA, where Olga obtained her citizenship.

Olga met her husband, Ole Hemmestad, in Bellingham, and they were married in 1920. The sale of the Ferndale farm fell though and her mother got it back; Olga moved there to take care of her while Ole fished in Alaska in the summer. Olga and Ole took a trip to Norway in 1960, and he died in 1964. She stayed in Ferndale almost a year after his death, then sold the farm and moved back to Bellingham. She attends Central Lutheran Church.


Full Name: Olga Kristine Brodahl Hemmestad. Maiden Name: Olga Kristine Brodahl. Father: Fredrick Pederson Brodahl. Mother: Gina Bjoerge Engebretsdatter Brodahl. Paternal Grandfather: Peder Olstad. Paternal Grandmother: Alme (?) Jonsgaard. Maternal Grandfather: Engebret Rotaas. Maternal Grandmother: Anne Onshus. Brothers and Sisters: Paul Andor Brodahl, Einar Brodahl, Albert Brodahl, Paul Brodahl, Marie Brodahl Nelson, Fridtjof Maruis Brodahl. Foster Sister: Borghild Braastad Asplund. Spouse: Ole Arthur Hemmestad

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Olga Hemmestad on July 26, 1983 in Bellingham, Washington. This interview contains information on family history, childhood in Norway, school, voyage to Canada, arrival in Canada and the U.S., confirmation, arrival in Washington State, settling in Ferndale, learning English, marriage, trip to Norway, changes in Norway, family in America, citizenship, moving back to Ferndale, family and friends in Norway, childhood memories, Christmas traditions, and canning. The interview was conducted in English.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Preferred Citation

[Collection Number, Collection Title] New Land New Lives Oral History Collection. Scandinavian Immigrant Experience Collection. Archives and Special Collections Department. Robert A.L. Mortvedt Library. Pacific Lutheran University. Tacoma, WA 98447

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
256, side 1 023:
Olga Kristine Hemmestad. Born in Gudbrandsdalen on March 5, 1893. Gudbrandsdalen is a valley. Tretten is the town Olga was born in. Tretten means "13." Got its name in the Middle Ages when the Black Death hit Europe because only thirteen people were left. Faavang to the north got its name because only a few were left after the plague. Øyer to the south got its name because nobody was left.
256, side 1 102: PARENTS
Fredrik and Gina Brodahl. Father ran a country store at Brodahl. Farmed this place too. Wasn't very big. Bought two other places to farm, Rødrud (?) and Skrandrud (?). Family lived at Brodahl. Had cows that had to be taken to the mountains. Made cheese.
256, side 1 152: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Oldest brother died when he was 4. Olga never knew him. Einar and Albert went to America in 1900. Paul went a year later. Mother always wanted to go to America. Had a brother here. Olga's parents sold their place. It was to become an old folks home. Paul came home before he knew they had sold it. Went back to America with his family. Sister, Marie and brother, Fridtjof. Parents brought another girl. She was related to the family. Her mother had died. Name was Borghild.
256, side 1 238: GRANDPARENTS
One grandfather lived with them for two years he was bedridden before he died. The others died before Olga was born. She was the youngest child. Father's mother lived to be over 90. Could see without glasses when she got that old.
256, side 1 267: CHILDHOOD
Had to help with everything. Farm and store. Had cows and goats. Had to herd the goats in the spring before they took them to the mountains. Father closed the store when Olga was quite young. Another store opened not far away. Not enough business for two stores.
256, side 1 338: SCHOOL
Left Norway when 14. Got only a grade school education. Got confirmed one month after coming to America. Had a private tutor teach her to read when she was little.
Came to Quebec. Family had friends there. Came to Winnipeg, Manitoba first. Planned on buying land in the West. Paulson, the friend in Winnipeg had eight boys. Had been sick. Was afraid something might happen to him. Greeted Olga's family and then moved to Neillsville, Minnesota (?) where he had an uncle. Olga's family decided to go to Thief River Falls, Minnesota where her brother Albert was living. Went to the depot in Winnipeg. Met Paulson there. He couldn't get into the U.S. with all of his kids unless he had someone to sign for him. Olga's family stayed at a hotel in Thief River Falls for a few days while looking for a house to rent. Mother met a Norwegian girl who was studying for confirmation. Mother wanted Olga to get confirmed too. Brother, Paul had been in Thief River Falls before. Offered to take her to the church. Had problems finding the right church. There were four different Lutheran churches in Thief River Falls. Chose the one that was the Lutheran Synod because it looked like a Norwegian Lutheran church. Had a tall tower. It was the one she was looking for. Father was 75 years old when they left. Mother was 19 years younger. Took a boat from Oslo to England. Spent about a week in England. Came to Quebec, then Winnipeg and then Thief River Falls. Stayed there for a year. Then moved to Kerkhoven. Minnesota.
256, side 1 520: KERKHOVEN, MINNESOTA
Had friends there. Rented a farm for three years. Then got tired of Minnesota. Didn't like the weather. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Brothers sent away for information on different state. Remembers them getting a lot of literature from Montana. Olga wanted to go to a place that had trees. Didn't like the prairie.
256, side 1 541: WASHINGTON STATE
Had train tickets to Vancouver. Stopped in Everett, Washington where her brother had a fried. Came in the spring. Stayed a little less than a year. Mother, Paul, and Olga had friends in Parkland, Washington by the name of Løsness. Visited them. Saw Pacific Lutheran Academy. Another friend from Parkland, Hong has been to Ferndale, Washington to visit a relative. Hong's father and Olga's father were confirmed together in Norway. Hong visited them in Everett. Told them about Ferndale.
Family became interested in Ferndale. Hong described Ferndale being like Norway. Everybody asked where you were from. They sent oldest brother, Albert up to check it out. They got a place with a small house. People were very friendly. There was a Swedish settlement in that area. People always came and visited. The house was always full. People invited them over too. Thief River Falls was like this too. Easier to make friends in a new settlement than in an older one. They owned 20 acres. The boys had to clear the land.
Mother always wanted to go to America. Father was always willing to move. Olga doesn't think it's right to move to another country when you're older. Father was 75 when he came to America. He was interested in things in Norway. Could take part in politics. Couldn't do that he since he didn't know the English language. He could read the Norwegian newspapers printed here. Read the Minneapolis Tidene and Decorah Posten.
256, side 1 664: LEARNING ENGLISH
Young people in Ferndale spoke Swedish. Heard a lot of Norwegian and Swedish. Will always have her Norwegian accent. Father died in 1912. In 1918, mother sold the farm in Ferndale to a Swedish family from the Dakotas. Moved to Bellingham, which was a Norwegian settlement. Not much of a chance to learn English there. Learned English through the years.
(See also I-374) Left on May 18, 1907. Spent a week in Oslo. Parents had friends there. Spent a week in England. It was a long trip.
Olga didn't have much experience with this. Was at home. Father didn't do much. They had enough to get along. Mother liked to have company. Would have dinner parties. Remembers one man talking to her father after a Sunday dinner party. Said if he'd have worked as hard in Norway as he has in America, he would have made it in Norway too. Had to work hard. Worked hard in Norway too, but at a slower pace.
256, side 1 768: MEETING PEOPLE
Met people through church. People in Thief River Falls were very friendly. People would come to call.
256, side 1 783: MEETING SPOUSE
Met him in Bellingham. He was a fisherman. Got married in 1920. Just went to a minister. Invited friends over for a reception. Weren't many big weddings in those days.
256, side 1 810: CHURCH
What is now Central Lutheran was at one time, the Norwegian church in town. Some of Olga's friends studied for confirmation in Norwegian. Olga still goes to Central Lutheran. Drove to church until she was 75. She was getting old, the car was getting old, and people were stealing things from it. Had to park it in front of the house. Was going to Ferndale once. Tried to start the car. Noticed the hood was unlatched and the battery was missing. The church has van, which brings her to church.
256, side 1 842: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
Went in 1960. Visited her home. Doesn't have any relatives. Knew the lady who was in charge of the old folks home when Olga and her family left Norway. (See also I-152) Her old home was no longer an old folks home. Two bachelors came home from America and donated money for a new one. The people in Olga's old home treated her husband and her like family. Husband was from Kvaefjord in northern Norway. (See also I-783) Olga and her husband went north too; all the way to Finland. Changes in Norway, roads straightened and widened. Many hills in Norway. People didn't build with the view in mind like they do now. The lake Olga lived by is called Losna. The river is called Laagen.
256, side 1 909: FAMILY IN AMERICA
Borghild, the second cousin that Olga's family adopted was five when they came to America. Sister, Marie for married. Died about a week after giving birth to her first child. Brother, Paul went to school. Taught German at Columbia College in Everett. Other two brothers stayed in the area too.
256, side 1 951: CITIZENSHIP
Husband applied for it. Olga applied for herself. Can't vote if you're not a citizen. Didn't study for it much. There were things she already knew about the government. Had to read up a bit. Got it in Bellingham.
256, side 1 976: MOVING BACK TO FERNDALE
Sold farm to family from North Dakota. They were supposed to get money from their farm in North Dakota. They had family problems and weren't able to pay. Mother got the farm back. Olga moved out there while taking care of her mother. She was in bed for two years. Brothers felt Olga should have the farm because she was taking care of mother. Husband was fishing in Alaska in the summer. Husband died in 1964. Olga stayed not quite a year in Ferndale after his death. Sold the farm. Moved back to Bellingham. Ferndale has grown a lot.
Corresponds with the people who bought the family farm in Norway. Had been in America 50 years before she went back to Norway. That was too long. Doesn't have the same meaning when you wait that long. School friends were old people just like Olga and her husband. Better not to wait more than 20 years.
256, side 2 189: MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD
Remembers going to her aunt's place. Had to take the train to the north. Came home with her grandfather. They were closed in a compartment on the train. Olga got scared. Didn't know how they'd get out. Remembers fifth birthday. Didn't usually make a fuss about birthdays but her grandfather came. Brought her a pretty apron. It was white with pink and blue small flowers.
Railroad was built when Olga was a baby. The engineer for the railroad in that area rented the upstairs of their house. Olga remembers when he left. Lillehammer was the closest town for them. They did their shopping there. Mother liked having company in Norway too.
Wasn't old enough to have developed an occupation. Helped bring the goats up to the mountain in the summer. Let them run loose until the spring. Then had to herd them so they wouldn't get in the fields. Did some Hardanger embroidery once while watching the goats. Got so dirty from running back and forth that they never got it clean again.
256, side 2 331: CHRISTMAS
A lot of partying from one place to another. Lots to eat. Someone would come dressed up as a julebukk. They'd try to guess who it was. He'd hand out goodies. All of the butchering had to be done after the cold weather so that they'd keep. Didn't have freezers. Did a lot of baking. Have kept a lot of the same Christmas traditions here too. In Norway, there was a lot of work to do before Christmas. Everything was prepared for Christmas so they could take it easy. The men had the wood split and piled up. The house was cleaned. Mother always took down the curtains before baking and butchering. Put them back up when everything was done. You could see Christmas. Everything looked nice.
256, side 2 435: CANNING
Butchered a pig every year for Christmas. Wouldn't keep as well here in Washington because of the warmer climate. Did a lot of canning. Canned meat and fruit. Mother used 100 two-quart jars. Later used one quart jars. Finally point jars. Fruit was expensive when they were living in Minnesota. Canned salmon that her husband would bring home. Remembers going to a restaurant when they first got to Everett, Washington. Could get huge slices of salmon or halibut for 25 cents. Another time, heard about a cannery in Blaine, Washington that was giving away fish. Albert and Olga took the lumber wagon up there. They filled the wagon and gave them two spring salmon, which they didn't usually give away. Albert and Olga gave fish to their neighbors.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Naturalization
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Personal Names :
  • Hemmestad, Olga Kristine --Interviews (creator)
  • Brodahl, Gina Bjørge
  • Hemmestad, Ole Arthur
  • Hong, Nils
  • Olstad, Peder
  • Onshus, Anne
  • Brodahl, Frederik Pederson
  • Brodahl, Olga Kristine
  • Jonsgaard, Alme
  • Jonsgaard, Alme
  • Rotaas, Engebret
  • Corporate Names :
  • Central Lutheran Church (Bellingham, Wash.)
  • Decorah-Posten (Decorah, Iowa)
  • Minneapolis Tidende (Minneapolis, Minn.)
  • Family Names :
  • Brodahl family
  • Hemmestad family
  • Jonsgaard family
  • Olstad family
  • Onshus family
  • Rotaas family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Bellingham (Wash.)
  • Everett (Wash.)
  • Ferndale (Wash.)
  • Hjørunfjord (Norway)
  • Kerkhoven (Minn.)
  • Parkland (Wash.)
  • Ringebu (Norway)
  • Thief River Falls (Minn.)
  • Tretten (Norway)
  • Winnipeg (Manit. Canada)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Farmers