Bersven (Ben) Grytnes Oral History Interview, 1982  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Grytnes, Bersven (Ben¿¿¿)
1982 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Bersven (Ben) Grytnes, 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

Ben Grytnes was born Bersven Grytnes on October 6, 1902 in Oksendal, Norway. His parents were Endre and Brit (Aafar) Grytnes, and he had four siblings: Nils, Gunnar, Brit, and Guro. Endre was a farmer and also owned a lot of timber, which allowed him to log during the winters. Ben attended school from age 6 to 15 and then began working for his father and hunting. He hunted for grouse and ptarmigan, which he sold in the market.

Ben's father passed away in 1921, and a year later, Ben decided to immigrate to America. He traveled to Hoquiam, WA, where his sister and her family lived. Ben's sister had three children, who helped him learn the English language. Ben caught on quickly and had no difficulties getting accustomed to America. In Hoquiam, he began working at a sawmill, which lasted for two months, and joined the Sons of Norway. He then began logging, which provided him with the opportunity to make a better living. In 1926, Ben returned to Norway and stayed for one year before coming back to America. By that time, the Depression had begun, and the American government was only allowing a certain number of immigrants to come into America. Since he was not an American citizen yet, Ben spent the summer in Alberta, Canada and then logged and did carpentry work in Vancouver, British Columbia.

When he finally went back to America, he began logging near Hoquiam again. In 1927, Ben married a woman named Mabel, whose parents were from the same part of Norway as Ben. Mabel and Ben had two daughters, Norma and Jean. In 1932, the logging camps around Hoquiam began closing, and Ben went to Ketchikan, Alaska, where he entered the fishing industry. After his second year there, he bought and rebuilt an old fishing boat and continued fishing until he retired. Ben has visited Norway once more since returning in 1926 and still remains in contact with his relatives there. Ben and Mabel never spoke Norwegian in their household, but according to Ben, Mabel "cooks [Norwegian dishes] better than they do in the old country."


Full Name: Bersven (Ben) Grytnes. Father: Endre Grytnes. Mother: Brit (Aafar) Grytnes. Paternal Grandfather: Nils Grytnes. Paternal Grandmother: Guro Grytnes. Brothers and Sisters: Nils Grytnes, Gunnar Grytnes, Oline Grytnes, Brit Grytnes Ansnes, Guro Grytnes Melkild. Spouse: Mabel C. Grytnes. Children: Norma Grytnes, Lotsh Jean Grytnes Cserepes.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Ben Grytnes on May 10, 1982 in Poulsbo, Washington. It contains information about family background, emigration, work, marriage and family, community activities, and Norwegian heritage. 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
170, side 1 014:
Bersven Grytnes. Changed it to Ben. Grytnes is the name of the place where Ben was born. He was born in 1902. Oksendal is the name of the community he was born in. Oksendal is in Møre Fylke (County). Kristiansund was the nearest city. He grew up in a farming area.
170, side 1 109: PARENTS
Endre and Brit Aafar. Ben's father had a farm. He also had quite a lot of timber. He logged in the winter. He did some fishing too. Salmon came into the fjord. They had traps along the shore.
170, side 1 176: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Guro, Oline, Brit, Nils, and Gunnar. Nils took over the family farm after their father passed away. Gunnar is still living. He is a retired carpenter.
170, side 1 236: GRANDPARENTS
Knew his grandmother. She died in 1912. Her name was Guro. His grandfathers were farmers.
170, side 1 257: FAMILY HOUSE IN NORWAY
Pretty big houses. Divided into three apartments. One end was built for the older generation to move into when they retired. They had milk cows. Raised quite a few sheep. Had a whole mountainside for them. The third apartment was for guests. A typical Norwegian farmhouse. Family lived in the center apartment. Two-story house.
170, side 1 349: CHRISTMAS
Started celebrating Christmas Eve. Lasted two weeks. Had public gatherings, Christmas trees, and open houses. They'd have pork, beef, and lamb.
170, side 1 424: SCHOOL
Long walk to school. Went to school from age 6 to 15. Went to a district school for one winter. Boarded at the school.
170, side 1 497: WORK
Worked for his dad after he was done with school. Did some hunting. Hunted grouse and ptarmigan. Sold them at the market. When his older brother took over the farm, he was out of a job. No future there. Came to the U.S. in 1922, a year after his father died.
170, side 1 537: TRIP TO AMERICA
Came with a neighbor who'd been home for a visit. Landed in Nova Scotia. Took nine days to get to Vancouver, B.C. Came in the fall. Came to Hoquiam, Washington where his sister was.
Didn't feel much about leaving but got homesick after he got to the U.S. Had to work in Hoquiam on New Years Day, 1923. Big holiday at home.
170, side 1 608: WORK IN HOQUIAM
Was working at a sawmill. Brother-in-law knew the foreman. His brother-in-law and sister had both been in America. Bother came home for a visit. Got engaged. Brother-in-law worked in logging camps near Hoquiam. They got married in 1913.
170, side 1 644:
Lived with his sister and her family. She had three kids. They were good teachers. He picked up English pretty fast. Had no difficulties in America.
170, side 1 688: WORK IN LOGGIN CAMPS
Stayed at the sawmill for about two months. Earned more money in the woods. Lots of Norwegians in the logging camps. The first crew he worked with were Finns. Learned some Finnish words.
170, side 1 716: TRIP HOME IN 1926
Had the old country on his mind. Worked in logging camps until 1929. Stayed home for a year. Stayed away too long.
170, side 1 726: RETURNS TO CANADA
Ben wasn't a U.S. citizen yet. The Depression was coming. The U.S. quota law only allowed for a certain amount of immigrants. Ben went to Canada. Spent the summer in Alberta. No future there. Went to Vancouver, B.C. Got a job logging. Hard to find steady work. Started doing carpentry work.
170, side 1 756:
Got back in the U.S. Worked in the woods near Hoquiam, Washington.
170, side 1 764: LOGGING CAMPS
(See also I-688) Mess hall, bunkhouses. Way out in the woods. No highways into the camps. Traveled by train. Worked six days a week. Received different wages for different jobs. $3.60 per day was the lowest. Got $5.60 per day for falling trees. The highest wages he got was $8.00 per day. Camps around Hoquiam were closing. Little work. Ben went to Alaska in 1932.
Had a friend from the old country there. Trolled for salmon. Got an old boat after his second year there. Rebuilt it. One could easily live off of the country there. Lots of good hunting. Fished until he retired.
170, side 1 861: UNIONS
There were no unions yet in either Alaska or in the logging camps near Hoquiam, Washington. (See also I-764, and I-688)
170, side 1 867: MARRIAGE
Met his wife in Alaska. She was Norwegian. Her parents were from the same part of Norway as Ben. Got married in 1927.
170, side 1 876:
Many Norwegians fishing in Alaska at that time. Scandinavians there weren't too clannish. Some groups stuck together.
Sons of Norway, joined when he first came to Hoquiam, Washington in 1923.
170, side 1 895: CHURCH
Lutheran to begin with. Never joined a church here.
170, side 1 897: TRIPS TO NORWAY
1926 and 15 years ago. A lot changed after the war. Met a lot of relatives he didn't know about. He keeps in touch with his relatives. One of his nieces is coming to visit.
Nothing extraordinary. Their outlook on life had changed. They're more aggressive. They had to be during the Occupation of WWII. His family was left alone for the most part. Their location wasn't important to the military throughout the German Occupation. Their firearms were confiscated. Had to sell some of their food to the soldiers.
170, side 1 942: COMING TO AMERICA
He would have been just as well off in Norway, but at that time he saw no future for himself in Norway.
170, side 1 965: CHILDREN
They have two daughters. They have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His wife, Mabel, is for Scandinavian cooking. She cooks better than they do in the old country.
They don't speak it at home. Mabel understands quite well but she can't carry on a conversation.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Christmas
  • Depressions--1929
  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Marriage service
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Personal Names :
  • Grytnes, Ben --Interviews (creator)
  • Grytnes, Guro
  • Cserepes, Jean (Grytnes)
  • Grytnes, Brit (Aafar)
  • Grytnes, Endre
  • Grytnes, Mabel
  • Grytnes, Nils
  • Lotsh, Norma (Grytnes)
  • Corporate Names :
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Grays Harbor Lodge No. 4 (Aberdeen, Wash.)
  • Family Names :
  • Grytnes family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Hoquiam (Wash.)
  • Ketchikan (Alaska)
  • Oksendal (Norway)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Carpenters
  • Hunters
  • Loggers
  • Sawmill workers