Elvin Martin Akre Oral History Interview, 1980

Overview of the Collection

Akre, Elvin Martin
Elvin Martin Akre Oral History Interview
1980 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
2 compact discs
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Elvin Martin Akre, a Norwegian 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

Elvin Akre was born on March 9, 1903 in Horace, North Dakota to Olai Johan Akre and Anna Lydia Johnson, who were both of Norwegian descent. Elvin had one brother and four sisters, but his brother and one sister died from small pox. The children were raised on a farm south of Lidgerwood, North Dakota. Elvin's father, who had attended school at St. Olaf and Concordia, was a teacher and choir director, and his mother worked in the fields. Elvin himself was also well-educated, attending school in Allendale, North Dakota for one year and Concordia from 1924 - 1928, where he took Greek, Latin, and Music. Following graduation, he taught English in Ryder, North Dakota for a year and then became the principal at Deering, North Dakota. He went on to become the Dean of Men, Choir Director, and History teacher at Pleasant View Luther College. When the college closed four years later, he got a job teaching English in George, Iowa, where he met his wife, Magdalyn Baumgaertner. Magdalyn's father was the minister at the church where Elvin directed choir.

After they were married, Elvin became the music supervisor at a school in Delrapid, South Dakota, where he taught for four years and their son, Grover, was born. When Elvin and Magdalyn came to Tacoma, Washington to visit Elvin's uncle in 1937, they learned of Pacific Lutheran College. Orville Running, a religion professor there, offered to give the Akres a tour of the school, and Elvin soon met President Tingelstad, who informed Elvin of an opening for the Dean of Men. Elvin obtained the position, and that fall, he and Magdalyn moved into the south end of Harstad Hall. At that time, the boys lived on the south end of the second floor and the girls on the north, the third and fourth floors were vacant, the first floor had the library and classrooms, and the dining area was in the basement. In addition to Old Main (renamed Harstad Hall), a small chapel resided where the Mortvedt Library currently is, and the gym was located where the University Center currently stands.

As the Dean of Men, Elvin had to ensure that the boys followed all of the rules, including not going to saloons or taverns, not smoking on campus, and not dancing. Elvin additionally taught some classes in history. Elvin served as the Dean of Men for 4 - 5 years until Magdalyn fell ill and they had to move off-campus. They moved into a house on 120th Street, and Elvin began to teach band at PLC. By 1938, Elvin had obtained his master's degree from the University of Washington, and in 1954, he received a Fulbright scholarship and went to Norway to teach in several high school throughout the course of one year. Elvin continued to teach history upon his return from Norway and retired in 1972 at the age of 67.


Full Name: Elvin Martin Akre. Father: Olai Johan Akre. Mother: Anna Lydia Johnson. Paternal Grandfather: Johannes Olsen Akre. Paternal Grandmother: Marthe Malene Johannesdatter Akre. Maternal Grandfather: Ole Anton Johansen (Johnson). Maternal Grandmother: Lovise Christine Jensdatter. Brothers and Sisters: Malene Lovise Akre, Josephine Olea Akre, Emil Julian Akre, Lille Helena Akre, Agnes Janette Akre. Spouse: Magdalyn Baumgaertner Children: Grover Elvin Akre

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Elvin Akre on May 13, 1980 at his home on Lake Cushman. It contains information about family background, education, marriage, teaching at PLC, and receiving the Fulbright scholarship to teach in Norway. The interview also contains two articles about Elvin teaching in Norway and a "Profiles From the Past" article from PLU's The Scene, 1979.

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 Donna Mallonee 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
44, side 1 020/10:
PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Elvin Akre. Born Horace, North Dakota in 1903.
44, side 1 030:
PARENTS: Olai Johan Akre and Anna Johnson.
44, side 1 040: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Had one brother and four sisters. Died from small pox. Three sisters and himself survived.
44, side 1 060: FATHER
Was a teacher and a farmer. Lived on a farm south of Lidgerwood, North Dakota. Father went to school at St. Olaf and Concordia. Father opened and closed church meetings with prayer.
44, side 1 110: MOTHER
Worked out in the fields.
44, side 1 125: GRANDPARENTS
Paternal doesn't remember them. They lived in Granite Falls, Minnesota. Maternal, lived in Owego Township (?) close to Sheyenne River, North Dakota. Visited them every year. Lived in Sand Hills. Tells of traveling to visit them on the bad roads. The farm is now National Park. Their names were Ole and Lovise Johansen. They came from Hemnes, Norway in the Mo I Rana area. They homesteaded in North Dakota on two quarter sections of land where they raised many cattle. This was near Sheldon, North Dakota.
44, side 1 290/11: CHILDHOOD
Raised on a farm in Sargent Co., North Dakota. Father had a threshing machine. Had smallpox.
44, side 1 333: SCHOOL
One of the teachers was his uncle Ole Johnson. TeachOOL: One of the teachers was his uncle Ole Johnson. Teachers often boarded at their house. Elvin's father was the school director about 1906-1920. Father played the guitar and sang sometimes.
44, side 1 392:
Father was the choir director for many years at the Bergen church there.
44, side 1 410: CHURCH
Sometimes lasted for two hours.
44, side 1 420: SCHOOL
One teacher for the whole school. Elvin was one the first to graduate from this school.
44, side 1 430: EDUCATION
Went on to Allendale, North Dakota for one year and to Concordia College academy from 1924-1928.
44, side 1 443: WORK
Worked on farms to help parents. Worked as a waiter at the college and milking cows also worked in a cafe and firing the furnace in the girl's dormitory to get through college.
44, side 1 488: COLLEGE
Took Greek, Latin, and Music. GRADUATED: 1928.
44, side 1 505/12:
Taught public school (English) at Ryder, North Dakota. Next year was principal at Deering, North Dakota.
44, side 1 520:
Rev. Brown, president of Concordia told him of a job at Pleasant View Luther College. Became Dean of Men, Choir Director, and History teacher. Nest year became director for the Illinois Circuit Choral Union. After four years the school closed.
44, side 1 553:
553 Taught English in George, Iowa. Met wife there. Her father was the minister. He became the choir director and she was the accompanist. Married Magdalyn Baumgaertner.
44, side 1 560: WIFE'S BACKGROUND
Swiss. Persecuted for being Lutheran. Came to U.S. in 1854. Settled in Iowa. Tells about her family.
44, side 1 665/13:
Married at the Lutheran church in George, Iowa. He got a job as supervisor of music at a school in Delrapid, South Dakota. He taught…
44, side 1 /01:
music and history there for four years. Superintendent had been there 28 years. He retired. New superintendent wanted to start with a clean slate so about half the faculty left.
44, side 1 688:
He had no job. An uncle in Tacoma, Washington invited him to visit. They bought a second hand Chevrolet. Visited parents on the way. About ten miles from his parent's house the crank shaft on the car broke. He brought his wife to his parents and went to Britton, South Dakota the closet town to his parents. Spent half of their money getting the car fixed. Decided they would still go west.
44, side 1 724:
First night on the road they slept in the car. Next day reached Glasgow, Montana and stayed with a cousin. Went onto Glacier Park. This was in June so there was still quite a lot of snow. Had brake trouble on the way down. They stopped in Spokane. Spent an extra day there so they…
44, side 1 770:
could wash clothes. This was in 1937, a very dry year. Couldn't see a blade of grass in Montana. They expected Washington to be green. Were disappointed when they went through Coulee county in eastern Washington. Things became greener as they drove over Snoqualmie Pass.
44, side 1 810/02:
Everything green and beautiful on this side of the mountains. They spent a week with an uncle who lived in an apartment on Yakima Avenue…
44, side 1 824:
in Tacoma. That was the first they'd heard of Pacific Lutheran College. His aunt mentioned that one of the religion professors at PLC was Orville Running, whose father confirmed Elvin in South Dakota. They went to Running's church one Sunday and he offered to show Elvin…
44, side 1 844:
in Tacoma. That was the first they'd heard of Pacific Lutheran College. His aunt mentioned that one of the religion professors at PLC was Orville Running, whose father confirmed Elvin in South Dakota. They went to Running's church one Sunday and he offered to show Elvin…
44, side 1 853:
shifted over to treasurer. Tingelstad invited them over to his house. They discussed the job. Elvin got the job of Dean of Men. This was in…
44, side 1 862:
early July. Reverend Yer (?), a minister in Puyallup suggested they pick raspberries for a month. They had to wait until August to find out if he got the job.
44, side 1 888: PLC IN 1937
They had the academy, which was like a high school, then too. Elvin was in charge of this as well as being Dean of Men and teaching some history courses. PLC was only a two year college at that time. They got a three room apartment on the south end of Harstad Hall.
44, side 1 901:
The Dean of Women lived on the north end. Mrs. Lora Kriedler was Dean of Women. Two years later, Grace Blomquist came as Assistant Dean of Women. PLC had about 200 students at that time.
PLC had strict rules. Elvin had to act as a policeman at times. Boys were not supposed to go to saloons or taverns. Elvin had to make sure that they were not there. They were not allowed to smoke on campus either. He had to make sure they obeyed rules and regulations. They couldn't dance. Halloween custom, boys would break down the door to the girls' side of the dorm.
Second floor was a dorm. Third and fourth floors were not in use yet. Mice and bats lived there. Students would hang clothes to dry on third and fourth floor. First floor had a library and classrooms. There were a few classrooms on the second floor. The kitchen and dining room were in the basement.
44, side 1 970/03:
Most students were from the Tacoma area. They also had boarding students. These students came from all over. Many boarding students had behavior problems. Elvin says the job was difficult at times. Students ate in the dining room. Elvin and his wife had to feed themselves. They had a furnished apartment.
Peter Bardon. His favorite expression was "civilization is going to the dogs." He had a room on the 2nd floor above the main entrance. One of the students' favorite past times was to drop sacks of water on people as they walked out of the building.
44, side 1 1006:
They locked the doors at night. The students called the night watchman "the rat." There was no more going out after 10:30pm.
44, side 1 1020: EARTHQUAKE IN 1939
Shook the whole building in the middle of the night. The new library had just been finished. They brought all the students there because it was a better building. They slept on the floor and on the tables for the rest of the night.
44, side 1 1040: DESCRIPTION OF CAMPUS
Harstad, the old gym, and a small chapel, which was located where the library now is. The old gym was located where the student union building is now. The gym burned down about 1940. Library built 1939. Dr. Eastvold spoke at the library's dedication.
44, side 1 1071:
Elvin continued as Dean of Men for 4-5 years. Then his wife became ill and they had to move off campus. Ted Karl was hired as speech teacher and became the new Dean of Men. They bought the old Gaard home at 857 S. 120th. This was one of the first homes in this area. There were no streets. There was a lot of scotch broom.
44, side 2 Side II:
44, side 2 037/04:
Students damaged buildings. The janitor was Hinderlie. Kids would dig plaster out of the wall. Hinderlie would go around with a bucket of plaster and patch up the holes.
44, side 2 074:
Rooms were bare. Two cots, two chairs, and one table. Building was heated by steam.
44, side 2 108:
Taught band. They played at football and basketball games. They gave one concert at Parkland grade school. They also had an orchestra.
44, side 2 148:
1954-1955 Fulbright exchange teacher to Norway. Their son was a freshman at PLU so they left him behind. He couldn't speak Norwegian.
44, side 2 227/05:
They took the train to New York. They traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden…
44, side 2 251:
on the ship "Stockholm." There were other Fulbright scholars on the ship. There was storm on the North Sea. The orchestra had to quit…
44, side 2 273:
playing. Chairs were sliding from side to side. When they got to Gothenburg, they weren't allowed to leave the ship until they'd been checked by a doctor because some of the crew had got typhus. They spent the night in Gothenburg. They went to Oslo by train the next day.
44, side 2 315:
They spent five months in Oslo. Elvin taught in several high schools in different parts of Norway. He taught history and American culture. He gave students time to ask questions. They would write questions in Norwegian and he's answer them. Elvin lectured at many public events. They spent their first month in Voss, near Bergen. They were in Norway from August to June.
44, side 2 385:
Elvin went to summer school for five weeks at Oxford University in England. They spent a week in Paris before they came back to the U.S. They came home on a French ship the "Isle de France." During the Easter vacation, most of the teachers and students went…
44, side 2 422/06:
skiing. Elvin and his wife took an extra week off and went to Italy. They were two of 250,000 on the square at the Vatican when the Pope came out on Easter Sunday.
44, side 2 469:
During WWII, most of the boys were at war. Some of the teachers at PLC got jobs at Todd Shipyards. Elvin worked the swing shift, 4:00pm to 12:00am for two years. Ramstad and Malmin from PLC worked there as well.
44, side 2 488:
They worked so that the ladies on the faculty could stay and teach. There wasn't much money for salaries. NO regular paychecks. If someone needed money, they'd go to the treasurer's office and get $5 - $10 at a time. Dahl's Store supported them with groceries. They could charge everything. Mr. Dahl would go to board meetings and try to collect money so he could get his money and they could continue…
44, side 2 526:
getting groceries. They had a lot of faculty parties in different homes. That was their social life. Everyone supported each other.
44, side 2 556/07:
After they came back from Norway, he went back to teaching. He got his masters degree from the University of Washington in 1938. He retired in 1972 when he was 67 years old. He taught history.
44, side 2 600:
When the new president, Dr. Mortvedt, came the older teachers got the summer off with pay. President Tingelstad had everyone teaching summer school on ten month salaries. Elvin and his wife took a trip to Greece that summer.
More of a "family spirit" in the old days. The faculty was small and he knew all the students by name. "Family spirit" was lost as the institution became larger.
44, side 2 677/08: STUDENTS HE REMEMBERS
Lute Jerstad played basketball, was a good student, climbed Mt. Everest. Bill Rieke. Jens Knudson had a steel plate in his back. Couldn't sit still for a whole class period. Good student. Art Martinson. Phil Nordquist. Bill Rieke was on the debating team. So was his wife, Joanne.
44, side 2 753: RETIREMENT
They had bought a lot on Lake Cushman and built a cabin. They liked it so much that they decided to move there after they retired.
44, side 2 805/09:
The football team used to practice right behind Harstad Hall. Beyond Eastvold, where the dorms are now on upper campus, were some big fields. They had a big chataugua season there. All of the ministers would camp on these fields. This started at PLU in the 1920s.
44, side 2 827:
continued through the 1930s. Speakers and music groups would perform. This would go on for several weeks.
44, side 2 848:
Elvin remembers seeing Ramstad and Hauge milking their cows in the morning before they ate their breakfast. Dr. Hauge was the only one that didn't have to teach summer school because he had a cannery up in Alaska.
44, side 2 875/10:
During this time Clover Creek flowed right through campus. One could catch trout there. There was one day before May Day when the students didn't have to go to classes. They were divided into groups and assigned to do work around campus. This was between 1937 and 1947.
44, side 2 911:
This was when Rhoda Young started May Festival. It used to be celebrated in front of Old Main. Elvin's band played the Grand March. There was May Pole dancing. A wonderful festival. This was campus day. The kitchen would make sandwiches and they'd eat outside. They'd always have a ball game. Sometimes they'd go to Spanaway lake. This stopped after WWII.
44, side 2 940:
School was reorganized when Eastvold came. He helped save PLU.
44, side 2 961:
Ed Mason Holmes, Art teacher. Sold paintings to faculty so he could buy paints. Added flavor to PLU.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Education -- North Dakota
  • Family -- US
  • Fulbright Scholarship -- Norway
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Universities and colleges -- Administration

Personal Names

  • Akre, Elvin
  • Akre, Grover
  • Akre, Olai Johan
  • Baumgaertner, Magdalyn
  • Eastvold, Seth C.
  • Johnson, Anna Lydia
  • Mortvedt, Robert A.L.
  • Running, Orville
  • Tingelstad, Oscar A.
  • Martin Akre, Elvin -- Interviews (creator)

Corporate Names

  • Pacific Lutheran University
  • Stockholm (Steamship)
  • Todd Shipyards Corporation

Family Names

  • Akre family
  • Baumgaertner family
  • Johannsen family
  • Johnson family

Geographical Names

  • Allendale (N.D.)
  • Deering (N.D.)
  • George (Iowa)
  • Horace (N.D.)
  • Lidgerwood (N.D.)
  • Norway
  • Ryder (N.D.)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Educators