Matt Andreas Wæsbotten Mattson Oral History Interview, 1982  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Mattson, Matt Andreas Wæsbotten
1982 (inclusive)
2 file folder
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Matt Andreas Wæsbotten Mattson, 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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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

Matt Mattson was born Matt Wæsbotten on October 11, 1903 in Sunnfjord, Norway, which is located twenty-three miles southeast of Bergen. Matt's parents were Kristoffer and Henrikke Wæsbotten, and he had three older siblings: Henrik, Mads, and Susanne. Kristoffer was a farmer and Henrikke was a homemaker. Matt began fishing in Norway when he was sixteen years old, but in April 1926, he immigrated to America, where he hoped to make a better living. Matt went to South Dakota, where he had two uncles. They were the ones who convinced him to change his name from Wæsbotten to Mattson, which came from the place they lived and was the name they used. Matt had studied carpentry in Norway and worked on a farm as carpenter in South Dakota. Displeased with the cold weather in South Dakota, Matt went to Tacoma, WA, where a friend of his lived, in December. In Tacoma, he worked in a sawmill and then began fishing in 1928. A lot of Norwegians fished in the Seattle-Tacoma area, and Matt got the job through his friends. He fished for halibut seven months out of the year. In 1938, Matt married Emma Bratten, who was from Bergen, Norway. They had three children: Shirley, Kenneth, and Dennis. In between fishing, Matt built docks around Tacoma and worked on the Narrows Bridge during the winter of 1939-40. Matt was not very active in Tacoma's Scandinavian community but was a member of the Sons of Norway. Matt returned to Norway for the first time in 1947 and has made four trips since then. He remains in contact with his family there and continues to speak Norwegian. Nevertheless, Matt is glad he emigrated and feels he is an American.


Full Name: Matt Andreas Mattson. Former Name: Matt Andreas Wæsbotten. Father: Kristoffer Wæsbotten. Mother: Henrikke Wæsbotten. Paternal Grandfather: Mads Hele. Brothers and Sisters: Henrik Wæsbotten, Mads Wæsbotten, Susanne Wæsbotten. Spouse: Emma Severine Bratten Mattson. Children: Shirley E. Day, Kenneth M. Mattson, Dennis E. Mattson.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Matt Mattson on February 9, 1982 in Tacoma, Washington. It contains information about family background, emigration, fishing, marriage and family, and Norwegian heritage. Also see Emma Mattson. The interview was conducted in Norwegian.

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
142, side 1 008:
Matt Mattson. Born on October 11, 1903 in Sunnfjord, Norway, southeast of Bergen 23 miles. Velsvik is close to the place he was born.
142, side 1 017: PARENTS
Kristoffer and Henrikke Wæsbotten. Father was a farmer had cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. Mother was a housewife.
142, side 1 026: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Henrik, Mads, Susanne. Matt was the youngest.
142, side 1 030: GRANDPARENTS
Paternal, Mads Hele, he was a fisherman. Maternal were farmers. Matt's mother got the home place.
142, side 1 041: NAME MATTSON
Two uncles in South Dakota told him to change his name from Wæsbotten to Mattson. Name came from the place where they lived. Picked Mattson because his uncles had this name. Andreas is Matt's middle name.
It was easier for people in U.S. to say and spell Mattson.
142, side 1 059: CHILDHOOD
Worked hard. Home was nice. Lots of mountains. A 20-minute walk from the ocean. Had one neighbor close by. No hardships for his family.
142, side 1 074: SCHOOL
First through fourth grades. He went all through school.
142, side 1 080: CHRISTMAS
Programs every Christmas. Lots of Christmas cookies.
142, side 1 085:
Matt fished in Norway for four years. Began when he was 16, he wanted to make a few dollars.
142, side 1 092: FISHING IN NORWAY
Started in the fall and fished during the winter. Herring and codfish. Boats similar to the ones here. About 8-9 people on the boats. Used nets. Fishing was a dangerous occupation as storms could come up and boats would be lost at sea.
142, side 1 115:
Decided it was not a good living in Norway so he came to the America. His oldest brother would take over the home place. He needed to find something to do.
142, side 1 122:
Chose American because friends were talking about going. He was 20 years old when he came in 1926.
142, side 1 129:
Matt wrote to his uncles in South Dakota to see if he could come to the U.S. They said yes. He bought his own ticket, about 800 krones. He went with a friend who he had grown up with. Left Norway on April 26, 1926.
142, side 1 145: TRIP OVER
Left Sunnfjord by boat to Bergen. Left Bergen by boat to America.
142, side 1 152:
Matt did not plan on staying permanently in America, only planned to stay 5-6 years.
142, side 1 156:
He felt okay leaving Norway. Father had died when Matt was young. Mother took care of the farm all by herself for many years.
142, side 1 164: SHIP
Nice boat. Lots of people from many countries. Good weather. Took nine days.
142, side 1 174: NEW YORK
Took the train to South Dakota. Cousin was supposed to meet him, but he was not there. Matt went into a grocery. He could only speak Norwegian. They called his cousin and he soon came.
142, side 1 188:
Worked on a farm and as a carpenter in South Dakota. He studied carpentry in Norway.
142, side 1 194:
Matt went to Tacoma in December 1926. It was too cold in South Dakota. He had a friend in Tacoma.
142, side 1 204: TACOMA
Worked in the sawmill out at Point Defiance and Old Town. This was the Henry Mill that burned down.
Some language problems. Did not have time to go to school. He was always working.
142, side 1 217:
Lived with a family up on McKinley Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Erikson. He liked Tacoma, lots of Norwegians here. He was able to speak Norwegian.
142, side 1 224: FISHING
Got a job through friends. Began in 1928. Fished out of Seattle.
142, side 1 235:
A Norwegian owned boat in Ballard. Also worked for another boat. Lost his partner during a storm, he was washed overboard.
142, side 1 250:
Met his wife in Tacoma. Married in 1938.
142, side 1 261: FISHING
Fished halibut for seven months out of the year. Long time to be away from the family. During the war he would have been drafted if he did not fish. Lots of Norwegians fishing in the Seattle-Tacoma area. They learned fishing in Norway, then came here.
142, side 1 280: CHILDREN
Shirley, Kenneth, and Dennis.
142, side 1 287:
Lived on 16th and L Street in Tacoma. Bought a house on 16th and Ainsworth. Lived there for 20 years. He built the house they are in now and have been for 19 years.
142, side 1 295: FISHING
No set salary. Matt shared a boat with two others. They bought a boat. Worked for 20 hours a day, fished and slept at the same time.
142, side 1 315: ALASKA
Went into Alaska only when they needed ice and bait. Sold fish in Seattle. Some years better than others. Name of his boat Leviatin (?), had this ten years.
Worked on the pile driver, used for building docks. He did this in between fishing. Worked here the winter of 1939-1940. After it blew down he worked on the bridge, salvaging what they could. This was with Hart Construction Company.
142, side 1 362:
He was Boeing in Seattle when the bridge blew down.
142, side 1 378:
Tried to get work in the fall after fishing. He built docks around Tacoma.
142, side 1 382: SHIPWRECKED IN ALASKA
Came around the Wrangell Narrows, outside of Petersburg. This was swift place. Tide was so strong that it stopped on top of a dolphin. All seven men went and sat on top of the dolphin.
142, side 1 405:
A dolphin is pilings in the water. A light is placed on it so the ships can see it. Boat went under with all the fish. Sat on the dolphin for 2-3 hours until they were rescued.
142, side 1 418:
Not too active in the Scandinavian community in Tacoma. Was a member of the Sons of Norway.
142, side 1 423: CHURCH
Belongs to Gloria Dei. Married at church on 17th and J Street, Our Saviors.
142, side 1 434: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
First time in 1947, visited the home place. Changed a bit. Family still there, has contact with brothers, corresponds in Norwegian.
142, side 1 449:
Speaks Norwegian still. Children used to know the language. Shirley went to PLU and learned it there. The whole family took a trip when the children were small and stayed for six months. This trip was right after the war. It was bad for Norway. Germany came in and blasted everything. His brother was hurt during the war.
142, side 1 489: TRIPS BACK TO SINCE 1947
Four trips. Have flown. The first trip in 1947 they took the Stavangerfjord from New York to Bergen. Took trips back to visit relatives. Matt enjoys visiting Norway.
142, side 1 503:
Matt is glad he emigrated to the U.S. A better standard of living here. Things have changed in Norway since he left. They have more money now, one of the richest countries.
Good country, everything is expensive.
Nothing special, he feels he is an American.
142, side 1 530: CITIZENSHIP
Was here 6-7 years when he got this. Had to be here for five years. Went to school to learn how to answer the questions they asked. Questions about the Constitution. Got papers in 1938-1939.
Christmas tree, gather for dinner. Norwegians celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. Have special food.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Marriage service
  • Naturalization
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Railroad travel
  • Personal Names :
  • Hele, Mads
  • Mattson, Dennis
  • Mattson, Emma
  • Mattson, Matt--Interviews (creator)
  • Day, Shirley (Mattson)
  • Mattson, Kenneth
  • Wæsbotten, Henrikke
  • Wæsbotten, Kristoffer
  • Corporate Names :
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran church (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Hart Construction Company (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Narrows Bridge (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Norden Lodge No. 2 (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Stavangerfjord (Steamship)
  • Family Names :
  • Bratten family
  • Day family
  • Hele family
  • Mattson family
  • Wæsbotten family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Bergen (Norway)
  • South Dakota
  • Sunnfjord (Norway)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Carpenters
  • Farmers.