Gjertine Karia Eriksdatter Storebø Hjortedal Oral History Interview, 1984  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Hjortedal , Gjertine Karia Eriksdatter Storebø
1984 (inclusive)
2 file folders.
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Gjertine Karia Eriksdatter Storebø Hjortedal, 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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Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Gjertine Karia Hjortedal was born Gjertine Eriksdatter Storebø on September 24, 1894 at Storebø, Huftarøy, Hordaland, Norway. She was one of eleven daughters by Kari Zachariasdatter Drønnen and Erik Eliason Storebø; her father was a boat builder and owned a 25-acre farm where the family lived. When Gjertine was 15, she asked her father for permission to attend a business college, but he refused because she was female. She went to Bergen and found a house job, and after six months she had enough money to pay tuition, continuing to work while attending the school. She then had several jobs in Bergen, including grocery store positions. She entered nursing training in 1921 at Aklaa (?) Hospital and graduated in 1924, after which she took a job in a hospital in Haugesund. She met her husband, Øystein Hjortedal, while working the night shift at the hospital; two of Gjertine's sisters had immigrated to the U.S., and one had asked Øystein to meet Gjertine when he went home to visit Norway in Christmas 1925. Gjertine visited her sisters in the U.S. and because of Øystein, remained in America. She got a job at Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, MN and then at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, IL.

She and Øystein married when Gjertine was 33 and lived in Marlin, WA, but moved to Edwall, WA in about 1930. Her oldest child, Gladys Kate, was born while Gjertine was visiting her sister in Glasgow, MT, and her son, Erling John, was born in Edwall in 1931. Gjertine later worked as a private duty nurse for seventeen years, and became head nurse at Riverview Terrace in Spokane, WA when she was over sixty years old; she retired a few years later. Her name was changed from Gjertine to Gertie when she gained citizenship, and she took a return trip to Norway after WWII. Gladys studied nursing at St. Olaf and married Hans Johnson, a lawyer from Hawley, MN; she lives in Denver, CO. Erling lives in Spokane and is Director of Financial Affairs for Spokane Falls Community College. In 1984, Øystein Hjortedal passed away. Gjertine Hjortedal passed away in 1990.


Full Name: Gjertine (Gertie) Karia Eriksdatter Hjortedal. Maiden Name: Gjertine Karia Eriksdatter Storebø. Father: Erik Eliason Storebø. Mother: Kari Zachariasdatter Drønnen.. Paternal Grandfather: Elias Erikson.. Paternal Grandmother: Synnøve. Maternal Grandfather: Zacharias Brekke.. Maternal Grandmother: Martha Drønnen. Brothers and Sisters: There were 11 girls in the family: Marte Helene Storebø, Synnøve Nilsina Storebø, Bertine Storebø, Anna Storebø, Johanne Storebø, Jortine Storebø, Emelia Storebø.. Spouse: Øystein Hjortedal. Children: Gladys Kate (Hjortedal) Johnson, Erling John Hjortedal.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Gjertine Hjortedal on August 22, 1984 in Spokane, Washington. This interview contains information about family history; boat building; work in Norway; nursing training; marriage and family; settling in the U.S.; gardening; life in Edwall, WA and rural America; the Great Depression; the birth of her son, Erling; emigration and voyage to America; American food; work in the U.S.; return trips to Norway; citizenship; Norwegian heritage. The interview was conducted in English with some Norwegian towards the end of the interview. Also see Osten Hjortedal, T273.

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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
274, side 1 007: FAMILY BACKGROUND
Gertie Hjortedal was born Gjertine Karia Eriksdatter Storebø on September 24, 1894, at Storebø, Huftarøy (Hordaland) which is about four Norwegian miles south of Bergen.
274, side 1 070: PARENTS
Mother was Kari Zachariasdatter Drønnen. Her father was Erik Eliason Storebø; he was the fourth generation of Erik Eliason - Elias Erikson (patronymic naming system).
274, side 1 095: FAMILY SCENE
Her father was a boat builder and also owned a 25 acre farm with timber land and animals: 10 milking cows, 45 sheep, 3 pigs, 40-50 chickens. Girls cared for the animals.
274, side 1 115: BOAT BUILDING
Father made four small fishing boats per year, which sold for 500 kroner per boat. The timber was selected from the woods, cut down, and fashioned by hand. Gertie has a cup, which shows the biggest boat her father made; it took one year and sold for several thousand kroner.
274, side 1 161: SIBLINGS
Eleven girls - no boys: Marta, Synnøve, Bertine, Anna, Johanne, Jortine, Emelia, and Gjertine.
274, side 1 175:
Mother made and sold butter to customers in town. Made cheese from cow's milk, which was also fed to chickens and pigs. The children had religious teaching at home as their father read a sermon each Sunday.
274, side 1 213: WORK
When 15, Gertie asked father for permission to attend business college. Father refused because she was a female. Gertie received enough money from her mother to go to Bergen and find a house job. After six months, she had sufficient funds to enter business college and pay tuition, while continuing with her job. She earned eight kroner ($2.25 per day) plus room and board, working until 4 pm, attending school from 4-8, and working until 10 pm. She "made it", but did not get good marks.
274, side 1 300: FATHER'S REASONS
Her father always wanted a boy; was angry about it and didn't like the girls. If Gertie had been a boy, she could have gotten anything she wanted - so her father told her.
274, side 1 340: BUSINESS COLLEGE
She was 16, but doesn't remember much about it.
274, side 1 350: EMIGRATION
Two older sisters were in America and bragged about it. She was interested and her father offered to pay her way, but she was too proud and refused. She paid her own way over to visit her sisters. She was going to come home but had met "this fellow" (Oystein Hjortedal) in Haugesund earlier, so she stayed in America.
274, side 1 370: WORK IN NORWAY
She had several jobs in Bergen, including grocery store positions.
274, side 1 383: NURSES TRAINING
: She entered training in 1921 at Aklaa? Hospital and graduated in 1924 with good marks. Gertie liked to help people and felt nursing was her "call" in life. There were 64 in her class, and they worked 12 hours per day.
274, side 1 400: MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
She was on night duty when Øystein Hjortedal came in. She had already asked for her passport, and so they talked of America. He wrote many letters to her from America afterwards and later traveled to Chicago just to ask her to marry him.
274, side 1 420: NURSING
She had a choice of two jobs: Riks Hospital in Oslo or a hospital in Haugesund. She accepted the latter.
274, side 1 447: MARRIAGE
Two years later they were married, had a wedding dinner, and received many gifts of sterling.
274, side 1 454: SETTLING IN
They traveled back to Marlin, Washington by train, passing through Spokane. Marlin just depressed her, so she sent applications to Deaconess Hospital in Spokane. But then, she got pregnant and "was stuck". Tells a story about a meaningful flock of chickens and a large rattlesnake, which she hammered to death (by decapitation) and the chickens ate!
274, side 1 496:
Two weeks before her first child was born, Gertie traveled by train to her sister (also a nurse) in Glasgow, Montana. A "beautiful baby girl", Gladys, was born and baptized in Glasgow. Two weeks after the birth, she and Gladys returned to Marlin.
274, side 1 513: EDWALL
They moved here (about 1930), and Gertie took up gardening: very successful first garden as neighbor gave them 12 loads of horse manure. Gardens were important during the Depression, especially since Osten worked half-time for half-pay, $65 a month. She started to tithe to the church, $6.50 a month: tells about tithing. They had enough food and money for themselves, God, and hoboes. Made use of 25 pigs' heads from neighbor to make headcheese. Tells story about Norwegian hobo and head cheese. Another story about 27 hoboes and her freshly baked bread.
274, side 1 587:
Son was born in Edwall. Couldn't wake doctor, so Oystein fetched a neighbor lady who arrived after the baby was born at 1 am. Gertie instructed the "shaking lady" on how to proceed with the baby and herself. By 3 am, all three were in bed; everything had gone perfectly.
274, side 1 612: LIFE IN RURAL AMERICA
People were nice. Gertie continued to improve her English by reading and comparing English and Norwegian Bibles. Tells stories about using her skills as a nurse, adapting to the Western environment, killing a "huggorm" in Norway when she was nine.
274, side 1 696: NURSING IN NORWAY
Jobs were readily available and pay was 220 kroner per month ($55 a month). After working two years at Haugesund which was close to the North Sea and "stunk like herring", Gertie moved to America.
274, side 1 720: BOAT TRIP
She traveled alone as a passenger, not an immigrant. Gertie was met by a traveler's aid in New York and taken to a cousin's big beautiful home.
274, side 2 045:
Her sister from Glasgow arrived in one week. Tells story about seeing her first black person.
274, side 2 101: AMERICAN FOOD
Some foods were strange: corn on the cob, multiple layered sandwiches. The fish tasted rotten compared to the fresh Norwegian fish.
274, side 2 124:
She had sent an application to Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, so she went there accompanied by her sister. The hospital gave her a job with no pay, only room and board because she didn't know English. With a good friend and recommendations, she left for Chicago and received a job with the Cook County Hospital. Here she was helped greatly by another Norwegian lady employee - Mrs. Rasmussen from Stavanger.
274, side 2 276: WOMEN AND EMIGRATION
It was better then than now, as jobs were readily available. Spokane reminded her of Bergen, and she liked it.
274, side 2 311: WORK
Gertie later worked as a private duty nurse for 17 years. Tells story about Catholic-Lutheran communion practices while employed at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane. From there she became the head nurse at Riverview Terrace when she was 60 plus years old. She retired a few years later.
274, side 2 374: CHILDREN
Gladys Kate Johnson lives in Denver, Colorado. She studied nursing at St. Olaf and then married a lawyer, Hans Johnson, from Hawley, Minnesota. Her son, Erling John, lives in Spokane and is Director of Financial Affairs for Spokane Falls Community College.
274, side 2 480: RETURN TRIPS TO NORWAY
Gertie went right after WWII. She was seasick on the boat trip back, so she drank two tablespoons of whiskey and slept.
274, side 2 500: CITIZENSHIP
Gertie could have had citizenship through marriage, but she obtained it on her own by studying three months. Her name was changed from Gjertine to Gertie at this point.
Gertie regrets not taking the Oslo job.
274, side 2 524: SCANDINAVIAN CLUBS
She went once to the Sons of Norway. Because of the gambling, playing cards, drinking, and smoking, she never went back.
274, side 2 546: NORWEGIAN HERITAGE
Gertie wasn't planning to stay in America, just visit her sisters. Her sister in Glasgow was so sorry she came. She was a head nurse in Trondheim and never felt at home in America. Because of the children, Gertie felt satisfied and happy in America. Tells story about trying to learn English by attending school with Gladys (6) and Erling (4).
274, side 2 605: SPEAKING NORWEGIAN
Snakker litt om jul: grønt tre, synger norske sanger, ekstra god mat, julehelgen. Spiste lutefisk, bløtkake, krumkake, goro. She continued to bake many of these items here: lefse, flatbrød, krumkake, fattigmann, goro, lumpe, and julekake.
274, side 2 700:
End of tape.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Depressions -- 1929
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Naturalization
  • Norway -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Personal Names :
  • Hjortedal, Gjertine (Gertie) Karia--Interviews (creator)
  • Erikson, Elias
  • Hjortedal, Erling John
  • Johnson, Gladys Kate (Hjortedal)
  • Brekke, Zacharies
  • Drønnen, Kari Zachariasdatter
  • Hjortedal, Øystein
  • Storebø, Erik Eliason
  • Storebø, Gjertine Eriksdatter
  • Corporate Names :
  • Sacred Heart Hospital (Spokane, Wash.) (subject )
  • Family Names :
  • Brekke Family
  • Drønnen Family
  • Erikson Family
  • Hjortedal Family
  • Storebø Family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Bergen (Norway)
  • Chicago (Ill.)
  • Denver (Colo.)
  • Drønnen, Huftarøy, Hordaland (Norway)
  • Glasgow (Mont.)
  • Haugesund (Norway)
  • Minneapolis (Minn.)
  • Spokane (Wash.)
  • Storebø, Huftarøy, Hordaland (Norway)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Domestics
  • Nurses