Guide to the Karl Olsen Collection, 1992  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Olsen, Karl
Guide to the Karl Olsen Collection
1992 (inclusive)
1 File (1 folder)
Collection Number
Collection comprised of the autobiography of Karl Olsen entitled, Little Karl From Norway: The Story of My Life.
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
Access Restrictions

The collection is available for research.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Karl Olsen was born on 27 July 1921 in Bergsoya, Norway, near Kristiansund. His father, Anders, was the eighth child of Ole and Oline’s nine children. He immigrated to Tacoma, Washington, and gave up the farm name to become Andrew Olsen. He worked in the sawmills and married Kristine Jordal on 7 October 1912.

Karl’s parents and their three children Olive, Edward, and Arthur, moved back to Norway in 1919. They lived on the Jordal farm and then their own farm, Hagen, on Bergsoya. It was here that Karl was born. The family decided to return to America in 1927. Only Karl’s father could afford the trip, so he went ahead to earn money for the rest of the family to join him, which they did in 1929. They sailed from Bergen to Halifax and then crossed Canada by train to Tacoma. The trip took them from May 14 to June 2.

In Tacoma, they rented a house for $10 month until they could move to a better house in 1934. They learned English through their English-speaking relatives and through the movies, and the children went to school.

The Depression began in 1929, but Karl’s father was able to get a job on a halibut boat. The Olsen boys became interested in American sports at this time, as there was little else they could afford to do.

Karl went to school at Gault junior high and had several jobs, such as on a paper route job, at a movie theater, and as a janitor. Karl’s family moved again to a house on Harrison Street. He graduated from Lincoln High in January of 1941. He worked at the sawmill to earn money to attend Pacific Lutheran University in the fall. In the summer of 1942 he worked in the shipyards installing metal ducts in the small airplane carriers that were being built in Tacoma. On a day off he met Lois and began dating her.

He enlisted in the Army Reserve the fall of 1942, reporting to Fort Lewis on 3 March 1943. He trained at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas, for thirteen weeks. Then he went to ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) in Louisiana. He was assigned to Lake Forest College in Illinois to be trained in engineering. By early 1944, the program was canceled and he was sent to train for the 96th Infantry Division. This took him to Oregon, California, then Hawaii. On 14 September they boarded a ship for an unknown destination. The trip took thirty-six days, taking them to the Marshall Islands and the Admiralities until finally, on 14 October 1944, they came to Leyte where they were to be the first wave of assault troops. The Leyte campaign ended in January of 1945. On Easter Sunday 1945, Karl and his squadron charged onto the Okinawa beach. In one week, the battalion was down from 1,000 to about 50 men but they were told to hold their line. The Japanese tried to discourage them by throwing paper flyers into their foxholes that said President Roosevelt had committed suicide. Karl was assigned to the 3rd Battalion. He helped save the life of two injured men and was later awarded the Bronze Star. Karl’s division had been on the front lines for thirty-six days straight after the Okinawa landing until replacements arrived. He had ten days off before he was back at the front line to capture the Shuri line. After the line was captured, he helped collect Japanese ammunition in the captured town of Yanabaru and was part of a squad clearing mines so troops could pass. Karl went home on 19 January 1946.

Karl decided to return to college using the G.I. Bill. Both he and Lois were at PLU and became engaged in 1946 and married on August 17th. Karl student-taught and Lois continued school. He graduated from PLU in 1947 and continued school at the University of Puget Sound. By the spring semester of 1948 Karl had a job teaching in Tacoma. That year their daughter Lynn Christine was also born. They had a son, Glen Edward, in 1951.

Karl and Lois built a brick home in 1954. Carol Ann was born on 8 October just before they moved into the house. Karl was then a school principal as well as principal of the congregation at church and a Sunday school teacher. All three children did well in school and college and became teachers.

Karl was in education for thirty years before retiring. He taught sixth and fourth grades, coached sports, was president for the Tacoma Association of Classroom Teachers (TACT), and was an elementary principal for twenty-five years starting in 1953. He worked at these schools: Mary Lyon, Bryant, Roosevelt, McKinley, Grant, Edison, and Seward. In 1966 he was awarded Tacoma Schools Administrator of the Year. He retired June 1978. During the first year of retirement he received a plaque for Citizen of the Year.

Karl was involved in church his whole life. He attended Bethlehem Church and sung in the choir, taught Sunday school for about forty years, became an advisor for Luther League, and was secretary, then vice president, and later president of the congregation. They planned and took a lot of trips and hikes with Luther League. Karl was chairman of the 50th anniversary of the congregation and he and Lois were chairpersons for the 75th Anniversary celebration of Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

Karl enjoyed all kinds of recreation and games. He fished, golfed, played softball, and attended many ballgames. He also enjoyed travel. 1994 Karl joined the Normanna Male Chorus. 1996 marked the 50th anniversary of Karl and Lois’s marriage. They took a week-long trip to Disney World, a trip to Alaska, and a trip to Norway. Karls ends his autobiography in 1997 at age 75.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This collection contains the autobiography of Karl Olsen entitled, Little Karl From Norway: The Story of My Life. The manuscript is 140 pages long and contains photocopied photographs of the Karl Olsen family.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with Archives and Special Collections Department at Pacific Lutheran University. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish or quote from (the collection) must be submitted to the University Archivist. The reader must also obtain permission from the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

Karl Olsen Collection, SIEmss_57, Archives and Special Collections, Pacific Lutheran University, 12180 Park Avenue South, Tacoma, WA 98447

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Norwegian Americans
  • Sawmills
  • Scandinavian Americans
  • World war II
  • Personal Names :
  • Anders Olsen
  • Andrew Olsen
  • Karl Olsen
  • Kristine Jordal Olsen
  • Lena Jordal Olsen
  • Lois Olsen
  • Corporate Names :
  • Pacific Lutheran University
  • Family Names :
  • Jordal family
  • Olsen family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Bergsøya (Norway)
  • Kristiansund (Norway)
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Autobiographies
  • Occupations :
  • Principals
  • Soldiers
  • Teachers