Ivar Gottfrid Alm Oral History Interview, 1981

Overview of the Collection

Alm, Ivar Gottfrid
Ivar Gottfrid Alm Oral History Interview
1981 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
1 compact disc.
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Ivar Gottfrid Alm, a Swedish immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 2535357586
Fax: 2535357315
Access Restrictions

The oral history collection is open to all users.

Additional Reference Guides

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Ivar Gottfrid Alm (originally Ahlm) was born on June 15, 1897 in Boxholm, Sweden to his parents Per Gottfrid Ahlm and Elin Sofia Ahlm. Ivar grew up with his seven siblings in the industrial town of Boxholm, but he occasionally lived with his grandparents, Adolf and Christine Anderson, on a large farm. At the age of 14, Ivar began working in a steel mill; he was promoted to electrical work. In December of 1917 the Army called him to serve in World War I. After the war Ivar quit the steel mill and moved to Linköping. He decided to seek work in America, so he traveled to Tacoma aboard the "Stockholm" in 1921. Although he initially had a difficult time finding a job because he lacked English skills, Ivar was employed in a variety of places. These jobs included working at St. Paul Lumber, at a boiler house, at the University of Washington, and at Key's Place as a houseboy. Ivar studied hard to learn the English language; he achieved his electrical degree at the YMCA. To enhance his social life, Ivar joined the Valhalla Lodge. There he met Edith Svensson, whom he married in 1928. Ivar has taken five trips back to Sweden. He still speaks Swedish with friends and participates in the Vasa Club and the Valhalla Lodge to preserve his heritage.


Father: Per Gottfrid Ahlm Mother: Elin Sofia Ahlm Maternal Grandfather: Adolf Fredrik Andersson Maternal Grandmother: Karolina Andersson Brothers and Sisters: Signe Teresia Larsson John Gunnar Ahlm Jenny Maria Nyberg Karl Elis Valentin Ahlm Carin Linnea Johannesson Astrid Ida Viola Ahlm Spouse: Edith Mathilda Svensson Alm Children: There were no children

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Ivar Alm on August 6, 1981 in Tacoma, Washington. The interview contains information on personal data, life in Sweden, emigration, settling in, work in Tacoma, Swedish heritage, and return trips to Sweden. A photograph of Ivar and his wife Edith on their fiftieth anniversary (January 28, 1978) is also available. 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

Custodial History

The Oral History collection project was started during an experimental course on Scandinavian Women in the Pacific Northwest. Students in the course were encouraged to interview women and learn about their experiences as immigrants to the United States. The project was continued and expanded with support from the president's office and by grants from the L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, from the Joel E. Ferris Foundation and the Norwegian Emigration Fund of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project was directed by Dr. Janet E. Rasmussen. The collection was transferred to the Archives and Special Collections Department.

Acquisition Information

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Processing Note

The interview was conducted by Morrene Nesvig using a cassette recorder. A research copy was also prepared from the original. To further preserve the content of the interview, it is now being transferred to compact disc. We deliberately did not transcribe the entire interview because we want the researchers to listen to the interviewee's own voice. The transcription index highlights important aspects of the interview and the tape counter numbers noted on the Partial Interview Transcription are meant as approximate finding guides and refer to the location of a subject on the cassette/CD. The recording quality is good

The collection was transcribed by Mary Sue Gee, Julie Peterson and Becky Husby.


Rasmussen, Janet Elaine. New Land New Lives: Scandinavian immigrants to the Pacific Northwest. Tacoma, Washington. University of Washington Press. 1993

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
76, side 1 010/15: PERSONAL BACKGROUND
Born June 15, 1897. Boxholm, Sweden, built on a river because of steel mill, an industrial town also with sawmills.
76, side 1 026:
Employed at age 14 making hinges at local steel mill.
76, side 1 031/079: PARENTS
Mother, Elin Andersson. Father, Per Gottfrid Ahlm, prior spelled Ahlm, Alm means elm tree. Employed as steel worker (sorted and weighed steel).
76, side 1 053/128: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Eight brothers and sisters. (See attached).
76, side 1 060/144: MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS
Large self-supporting farm. Sold milk and also charcoal to steel company. Lived with grandparents when 7 or 8. Adolf and Christine Andersson.
76, side 1 086/195: GROWING UP
School was a long walk. Went six days a week for six years. Quit at age 13 and lived with grandparents.
76, side 1 106/230:
Employed at steel mill at age 14. Promoted to electrical work.
76, side 1 115:
Called to Army in December 1917 (WWI). Received orders from Russia for submarines.
76, side 1 125/264: CONDITIONS IN MILLS
Worked 10 hours a day. Low wages but not overly dangerous.
76, side 1 139: ARMY EXPERIENCE
Some electrical work. Worked on airplanes.
76, side 1 163:
Quit steel mill and moved to Linköping until 1921. Unemployment great in 1921, after no war no jobs many went to U.S.
76, side 1 193: ARRIVAL U.S.
Age 23 in 1921. Trip took one month to get to Tacoma.
76, side 1 214/399: FEELINGS LEAVING SWEDEN
Father was dead. Brother was supporter of family. He mailed home money to family in Sweden. Nothing to lose by going to America, everything to gain.
76, side 1 228/418: BOAT TRIP
Rough hard storm. Third class passage. Played chess with a champion. Ship called "Stockholm." Ticket cost about $300.
76, side 1 261/467: ARRIVAL NEW YORK
Took train to Chicago on to Tacoma. Ellis Island: Sorted people out, check for sickness and lice.
76, side 1 281: TRAVELERS' SOCIETY
Volunteers that helped immigrants to get around.
76, side 1 291: TRAIN TRIP
Lightning around Minneapolis. Didn't speak English. Ate apple pie and milk on trip. Learned to use American money.
76, side 1 313/519: ARRIVAL TACOMA
Came in on Milwaukee Line. Met by family. Aunt in Tacoma named Henna Alm married a Johnson. Only brought one little suitcase with him.
76, side 1 358: CITIZENSHIP
Applied one month after arrival. Describes prose. Citizen January, 1927. Took courses to prepare for citizenship.
Nice city. Many ships coming in from around the world. Employed for a while at St. Paul Lumber.
Boiler house for a while. Drove boats around Puget Sound. Describes job as a houseboy at Key's place where Roosevelt's history was recently filmed in Lakewood. Edison Foster owned it.
76, side 1 456: LEARNING TO DRIVE A CAR
Taught himself. Didn't need a license in those days. License policy began in late 1920s.
76, side 1 494:
Employed scrapping floors. Also at University of Washington. Attended school at Broadway High School in Seattle.
Did much reading. Had a hard time talking and writing.
76, side 1 539: TACOMA CITY COLLEGE
Got electrical degree at YMCA.
76, side 1 562: EMPLOYED ST. PAUL LUMBER
Sorted lumber. Worked on roads for a month, hard work, no tractors, used horses.
76, side 2 011: CONDITIONS AT ST. PAUL
Nice company. Fair wages. Good to workers. Eight hours shifts.
76, side 2 021:
Handicap not being able to speak English. Difficulty getting a job. "No friendlier people than the American people."
76, side 2 026: SOCIAL LIFE
Member Valhalla Lodge. Always something going on. Spoke Swedish when they got together. Joined in 1923. Paid sick benefits to those who were sick.
76, side 2 060:
Met Norwegians. Two boarding houses in Tacoma with many immigrants. learned to understand Norwegian well.
76, side 2 072: MEETING WIFE
Met at Valhalla Lodge. Married January 28, 1928. Worked at St. Paul Lumber.
76, side 2 088: CHURCH LIFE
Not involved much because of school and playing soccer.
76, side 2 115: DEPRESSION
No work, no money. People getting food in garbage cans. Wife did housework to help out. Worked six hours a day at St. Paul during this time. St. Paul didn't sell much.
76, side 2 147:
Attended First Lutheran on holidays.
76, side 2 152: TRIPS TO SWEDEN
Five trips back. Many changes in Sweden. Visited with family and friends. Still speaks and writes Swedish. Living prices are higher-care for old people better. Sweden's social conditions are changing.
76, side 2 270: SWEDISH HERITAGE
Very important, not ashamed to be a Swede. Talks of grandparents and dancing in Sweden and Tacoma at Vasa and Valhalla.
76, side 2 302:
Describes Scandinavian Days in Tacoma.
76, side 2 304:
Still speaks Swedish and says something in Swedish.
76, side 2 323: CLOSING REMARKS
Glad he came to Tacoma, been very happy here, good climate, good people.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family -- Sweden
  • Naturalization
  • Railroad travel
  • Soccer
  • Sweden -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Swedish-Americans -- Ethnic identity
  • Swedish-Americans -- Northwest, Pacific -- Interviews
  • Swedish-Americans -- Social Conditions
  • World War, 1914-1918

Personal Names

  • Ahlm, Per Gottfrid
  • Alm, Edith Matilda Svensson
  • Alm, Ivar Gottfrid--Interviews (creator)
  • Andersson, Adolf Fredrik Andersson
  • Karolina Andersson

Corporate Names

  • First Lutheran Church (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • St. Paul Lumber Company (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Stockholm (Steamship)
  • Swedish Order of Valhalla (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Vasa Order of America. Lodge Number 233 (Tacoma, Wash.)

Family Names

  • Ahlm family
  • Alm family
  • Andersson family
  • Larsson family

Geographical Names

  • Boxholm (Sweden)
  • Linköping (Sweden)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Electricians
  • Sawmill workers