Odin Jentoft Davidson Oral History Interview, 1982  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Davidson, Odin Jentoft
Odin Jentoft Davidson Oral History Interview
1982 (inclusive)
3 file folders
6 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Odin Jentoft Davidson, 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
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

Odin Davidson was born on August 3, 1900 in Rødøy, Helgeland, Norway to Ole Davidson and Jakobine Olsen. Ole was a fisherman and carpenter and had twelve and a half acres of land, where the family raised cows, sheep, and potatoes. In addition to Odin, there were four other children in the family: Olaf, Kasbara, Aksel, and Sigur. Odin attended school through the eighth grade and then began fishing with a neighbor after his confirmation. Not making a sufficient amount of money in Norway, Odin decided to immigrate to America in 1920. His brother Olaf had a farm near Albert Lea, MN. Odin lived with Olaf and worked on various farms for three years and then moved west, where he could fish and make a better living. After finding work in Seattle, Odin was shipped to Alaska, where he fished for salmon. In the early days of his fishing career, the men could fish from the dories, which were 16 feet long and held two men each. However, in the 1930s, dories were abolished, and they began long-lining-fishing from the big boats. Odin maintained fishing as his occupation until retirement.

On April 27, 1929, Odin married Inga Brobak and had two children, Judith and another daughter who died of rheumatic fever when she was fourteen. The family lived on a small farm north of Seattle, where they had cows, chickens, and raised some of their own vegetables. Odin was not involved with any Norwegian organizations but was active in the Lutheran Church. Odin returned to Norway in the fall of 1949 - February 1950 and still speaks and understands Norwegian. He also continues to cook traditional Norwegian foods.


Full Name: Odin Jentoft Davidson Father: Ole Davidson Mother: Jakobine Davidson Paternal Grandfather: David Olsen Paternal Grandmother: Kasbara Olsen Maternal Grandfather: Mons Olsen Maternal Grandmother: Marie Olsen Brothers and Sisters: Olaf Davidson Kasbara Davidson Aksel Davidson Sigur Odin Davidson Spouse: Inga Brobak Children: Judith Davidson Another daughter who died at the age of fourteen due to rheumatic fever.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Odin Davidson on January 14, 1982 in Tacoma, Washington. It contains information on family background, emigration, work, church, and Norwegian heritage. The interview also provides photographs of Odin and his brother Aksel, Odin halibut fishing, and Odin and his wife Inga at the time of the interview. The interview was conducted in English. Also see Inga Davidson, t127.

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 Inger Nygaard Carr 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 NorthwestTacoma, WashingtonUniversity of Washington Press1993

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
128, side 1 004:
Odin Jentoft Davidson was born in Rødøy, northern Helgeland, Norway on the polar circle. Born in a fjord called Tjongsfjord. Born on March 3, 1900.
128, side 1 024: PARENTS
Ole Davidson and Jakobine Olsen. Father did fishing and carpentry. Fished for cod, halibut, and herring. Father was gone out fishing for long periods of time. Had about twelve and a half acres of land. A few cows and sheep. Raised potatoes and feed for the cows. Ate lots of fish.
128, side 1 050: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Olaf farmed in North Dakota and Minnesota. Worked on the West Coast and in shipyards. He came to the U.S. in 1911. Kasbara is a housewife in Norway, she had two children. Sigur was fishing in Norway and did construction work. His wife is still there.
128, side 1 075: CHILDHOOD HOME
Had eight rooms.
128, side 1 078:
Odin made a trip to Norway in 1949-1950. Noticed many changes, improvements. Modernized a lot.
128, side 1 083: GRANDPARENTS
Marie Olse was his maternal grandmother. Paternal grandfather was David Olsen, a fisherman, and Kasbara Olsen.
128, side 1 098:
Odin's name in Norway was Olsen. Used Davidson when he got his citizen papers. Brother also changed his name when he came over.
128, side 1 110: SCHOOL
Twenty minute walk. Went through the eighth grade.
128, side 1 116: WORK
Went fishing.
128, side 1 118: CHURCH
A mile away on an island, Rødøy. Went often in the summer. Away in the winter fishing.
128, side 1 128:
Mother died with Odin was two-years-old. Had a stepmother.
128, side 1 139: CHRISTMAS
Tree, apples and cookies were the trimming. Had presents.
128, side 1 152: CHRISTMAS FOOD
Christmas Eve, lutefisk, potatoes, butter, lefse, flatbrød, rissengrøt. Christmas Day, rissengrøt and roast.
128, side 1 166:
Went to church the second day of Christmas. Stayed home Christmas Day. Had bazaars, lots of celebrating. Had to make your own fun.
128, side 1 186: "TØYELSMESSDAG"
Day they took the tree down in Norway. He spells it "Tolesmesda." It is not in the dictionary.
128, side 1 192: TROLL STORIES
Did not believe in them. Just stories.
128, side 1 196: CONFIRMATION
Was the end of schooling unless they paid for more.
128, side 1 204: FISHING
Age 15 did cod and herring fishing. Stayed on a big boat. Did not fish on Sundays as it was forbidden. He fished with a neighbor who had a motorboat. They sold fish to cities down south, they shipped it out.
128, side 1 234:
Had a cook on the fishing boat. He fished until he was 20 years old.
128, side 1 239: REASONS FOR COMING TO THE U.S.
Came to the U.S. because he was not making enough money in Norway. Poor times in Norway. Left May 1920. His brother was in the U.S. close to Albert Lea, Minnesota. Olaf had a farm there.
128, side 1 251:
They tiled farms in Minnesota, put pipes in to drain the land because it was so wet. Olaf did tiling for the county.
128, side 1 265:
Olaf had written to Odin and encouraged him to come. Olaf was married in Minnesota to a girl from Sogn, Norway. Her family name was Orn (?).
128, side 1 279:
Olaf sent a ticket to Odin and his brother, Aksel. His father was not thrilled about the idea, but figured it was best for the boys.
128, side 1 291: TRIP OVER
Took the Stavangerfjord. Ellis Island, "nothing to it," no problems. Could not understand a lot of what was going on because he could not speak English. No difficulty getting on the train.
128, side 1 306:
Agents helped them get on the train. Bought food on the train, he pointed at what he wanted. Train trip took 3-4 days. Went to North Dakota where Olaf was farming.
128, side 1 320:
Started working on the farms. Everyone spoke Norwegian, no problems getting along. Stayed here for three years. Came out West because there was no money on the farms. Made $40 a week.
128, side 1 340:
Came out West because of the fishing. Took train out West. Shipped to Alaska after he got work in Seattle. Went salmon fishing. Had no trouble finding work. Made $90 a month.
128, side 1 357:
Stayed in Alaska until salmon season opened. Went out on a sailing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska.
128, side 1 362:
Has fished all his life. Mostly in Alaska. Ran boats for others. Bought a boat with his brother in the 1960s. Was skipper for boats.
128, side 1 385:
Fished for tuna, halibut, sold fish in Seattle and in Ketchikan, Alaska, and Prince Rupert. Came into port every two weeks or so.
128, side 1 394:
Since 1960 there was a conservation of fish. Could not fish for ten days.
Used to fish from the dory. Describes this. About six dorries on each big boat. On a big boat you would dress and ice the fish. Held 100,000 pounds of fish. Fished 8-10 days each trip. In the 1930s they abolished dorries because too many men were lost. Then began fishing from the big boat.
128, side 1 435: LONG-LINING-FISHING
From the big boat. This was much safer, could fish in any kind of weather.
128, side 1 447: DORRIES
16 feet long, two men each. Describes working the dorrie. Stayed in them all day long.
128, side 1 474:
No protection from the weather. Had to put up with it in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Dug out ice to get a hold of coal.
128, side 1 502: DEPRESSION
Continued fishing. Sold fish for four cents a pound. A lot of work for little money.
128, side 1 520:
Family lived in Seattle during the Depression. Odin bought a few acres in north Seattle. Bought a cow, few chickens, something that helped. Raised some of their own food.
128, side 1 544:
There was a three bedroom house on the land. Odin paid $900 for this, he used the money he had saved up so that he was not in debt.
128, side 1 555: DEPRESSION
Many people on WPA. Odin managed to stay off WPA. Odin cleared his land, cut wood for wood burning stove, saved money.
128, side 1 571: CITIZENSHIP
April 27, 1929 in Seattle. Went to school for this. Odin was married the same day.
128, side 1 588:
Worked in the shipyards one winter during the 1960s, waiting for the fish season to open up.
128, side 1 608: FISHING
A rough life. Conditions better in the U.S. than in Norway.
128, side 1 633:
633 Worked with other minorities. People from the East Coast, New Foundlanders. Most gone now.
128, side 2 008:
No problem dealing with other minorities.
128, side 2 010: PROUD TO BE NORWEGIAN
"A good race of people." Decent people. Doing well for themselves. Look at Ballard and see what they have built up. Other Scandinavians are also hard working people.
128, side 2 024:
Did not belong to any lodges. Did not have time for meetings and such. Met Norwegians from fishing. Many live in Ballard. Met at church.
128, side 2 037: CHURCH
Used to go to Rev. Nesvig's church (First Lutheran) on Boren and Virginia. Active church. They preached in Norwegian.
128, side 2 049: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
February 1950. Took the Stavangerfjord back, took Oslofjord back to America. Boat was nice.
128, side 2 063:
Oslofjord was not a good sea boat. Took eight days to get to Oslo and seven days to get home.
128, side 2 073:
Stavangerfjord was sold in 1950 to someplace in South America. It was getting old.
128, side 2 081: CHANGES
Improved, modernized more now than in 1920. New Norsk made it difficult to understand some people. Odin learned Old Norwegian. It is much different from New Norwegian. "They've ruined the language.
128, side 2 104:
People are still going to church. They built a church on Odin's home place. They used to have a boat out to church.
128, side 2 117:
Sister-in-law and niece still live in Norway. They still correspond.
128, side 2 126:
Still speaks and understands Norwegian. He is getting rusty. Can not talk to the new people coming over.
128, side 2 140:
Children could speak Norwegian when they were young. Quit when they went to school.
128, side 2 144:
Other customs maintained, cooking.
128, side 2 155:
Odin's father was still living when Odin went back to Norway. He was 80 years old.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Depressions--1929
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family farms--Norway
  • Family farms--United States
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Naturalization
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs

Personal Names

  • Davidson, Odin --Interviews
  • Brobak, Inga
  • Olsen, David
  • Olsen, Kasbara
  • Davidson, Judith
  • Davidson, Ole
  • Olsen, Jakobine
  • Olsen, Marie
  • Olsen, Mons

Corporate Names

  • First Lutheran Church (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Oslofjord (Steamship)
  • Stavangerfjord (Steamship)

Family Names

  • Brobak family
  • Davidson family
  • Olsen family

Geographical Names

  • Alaska
  • Albert Lea (Minn.)
  • Edgewood (Wash.)
  • Helgeland (Norway)
  • Mountain View (Wash.)
  • Seattle (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Carpenters
  • Farmers