Olga Karoline Nilsen Haug Oral History Interview, 1982  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Haug, Olga Karoline Nilsen
Olga Karoline Nilsen Haug Oral History Interview
1982 (inclusive)
3 file folders
2 photographs
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Olga Karoline Nilsen Haug, 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

Olga Karoline (Nilsen) Haug was born on June 3, 1905 on the island of Kvæøeya on Kvaefjord in Norway. She was one of seven children by Ludvig Nilsen and Albertina Roervik; her oldest sister and youngest brother died of tuberculosis. Her family lived on a farm that was divided between her father, his two brothers, and his cousin; she attended school on the island as well. She was confirmed at the church in Borkenes on the mainland and stayed with friends of her parents while attending confirmation classes. She went to sewing school for three months and worked with her sister in her dressmaking shop. When Olga was 17, she worked for a dentist in Harstad for a year and cooked for fourteen people. She sewed after she went home and raked hay in the summertime for the farmers.

Olga met her husband, Magnus Haug, at a Christmas party at the bedehus, a religious meeting house, on the island in 1925 when she was 20 and he was 31. He had lived in the U.S. for twelve years but had come home to Kvæøya to visit for a year. They were married in the Borkenes Church on July 6, 1926 and went to Harstad on their honeymoon. They came to the U.S. in September 1926, and stayed with Magnus' three cousins in Wisconsin for a week. They then rode the train on to Oregon, where they lived in Astoria with Magnus's aunt; Magnus had a fishing boat there and Olga helped out in the house. They moved to Seattle in the spring, where she lived with the aunt's sister in Redmond, WA while Magnus fished. They rented a place in Kirkland, WA for two years and had one son, Melvin, who was born in 1929. He is a retired art teacher, and is married and has a family. Magnus had served in the Coast Guard before his 1925 visit to Norway, and he rejoined after he returned to the U.S. and his fishing vessel was run down and sunk by a government boat. He guarded the California coast during WWII and retired from the Coast Guard after twenty-five years of service; he died of a stroke in 1967, fifteen years after he retired.

In 1937, Olga had started making lefse for Sund's Norway Pacific Importing Co., and after Magnus died, she cleaned houses and made lefse. She has taken three trips to Norway. The first was in 1952, when she went with a friend and stayed for five months; her son was attending the University of Oslo's summer program at the same time. In 1971, she took her granddaughter and Clara Greene, Magnus' cousin, for six weeks, and in 1977, she went with a niece from Canada whose daughter worked in Borkenes. Olga belongs to the Sons and Daughters of Norway and Nordlandslaget, and attended a Lutheran church until she quit. Her grandson fishes with his father and does carpentry work; her granddaughter is a nurse, and is married and has a family.


Full Name: Olga Karoline Nilsen Haug. Maiden Name: Olga Karoline Nilsen. Father: Ludvig Nilsen. Mother: Albertina Rørvik. Paternal Grandfather: Nils Jensen. Paternal Grandmother: Marianne Jensen. Maternal Grandfather: Carl Rørvik. Maternal Grandmother: Greta Rørvik. Brothers and Sisters: Julie Anne Nilsen, Nils Nilsen, Ragnhild Nilsen, Lilly Nilsen, Carl Nilsen, Anne Nilsen. Spouse: Magnus Haug. Children: Melvin Haug.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Olga Haug on October 25, 1982 in Seattle, Washington. This interview contains information on family history; life on a Norwegian farm; fishing, school, and church life in Norway; Christmas traditions; work in Norway; marriage and family; trip to and arrival in America; life in the U.S.; trips to Norway; community involvement. Also available are two black and white photographs of Olga Haug at the time of the interview.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

Preferred Citation

[Collection Number, Collection Title] New Land New Lives Oral History Collection. Scandinavian Immigrant Experience Collection. Archives and Special Collections Department. Robert A.L. Mortvedt Library. Pacific Lutheran University. Tacoma, WA 98447

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
200, side 1 021:
Olga Karoline Nilsen Haug. Born on the island Kvæoeya on Kvæfjord in Norway. Born on the north end of the island. Had to take a boat to Borkenes on the mainland to go shopping. Borkenes is near Harstad, north of the Arctic Circle. Olga was born on June 3, 1905, the same day that Norway became independent from Sweden.
200, side 1 143: PARENTS
Ludvig Nilsen and Albertina Rørvik Nilsen. Olga's mother came from a prominent family. She doesn't know where the Rørvik's came from, but they were short and quite dark.
200, side 1 176: GRANDPARENTS
Maternal Carl Rørvik and Greta. Grandfather wrote poetry. Died before Olga was born. Grandmother died when Olga was 18. Grandfather made a living from his poetry. Published it. Brother handled his business. Some kind of "hanky-panky" involved. People would bury money in the ground in those days. Her grandfather did this. Grandmother looked for it but they never found it. Olga's father was taxed for it. Her uncle, Johan Pedersen (Person), belonged to the parliament. Said government couldn't tax Ludvig for something he couldn't find. The government thought Olga' grandmother had a lot of money. She didn't have a penny. Paternal, Nils Jensen and Marianne. They lived next to Olga's family on Kvæøya. Grandmother died when Olga was 5. They had a big farm.
200, side 1 313: FATHER'S WORK
Father and paternal grandfather fished in Lofoten in the winter. The family farm was divided between Olga's father and his cousin. Olga's father divided his half with his two brothers. He had 5 or 6 cows. They had homemade butter. They sent milk to the dairy in Borkenes. Got money from this. Made most of their money form fishing. Fished in February, March, and April. Caught cod and other white fish. They would dry fish by the ocean to eat. Called this "tørrfisk." Olga's grandson liked to eat "tørrfisk" when he was little. They bought it at the Scandinavian Store in Ballard.
200, side 1 421: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Seven children. Grew up in a large home. Julie Anne died when she was 20. Nils sells fish to foreign countries. Lives in the family home. His wife had a knitting machine. Ragnhild, a dressmaker, had her own business in Borkenes. Lilly immigrated to Canada. She went to school to learn to sew in Norway. Olga also went to a sewing school. Carl died when he was 20. Anne still lives in Norway.
200, side 1 508: SCHOOL
There was a school on the island. Went to school on Saturdays too. Had to buy their own pencils. Surprised when her son started school and supplies were provided by the school. Olga had to talk about two English miles to school. Skied in the winter. Came home after 3pm. It's pitch dark there during two of the winter months by this time. School children often had quite a lot of homework as well, especially in history and math. Their teacher even taught chemistry twice a week. They did some writing too. Olga had a big imagination. When 13 years old, she wrote about riding a bicycle over the Doverefjell Mountains. She stopped at a farm house. Asked to buy some milk. The lady at the house refused because all their milk was to be used for cheese for the Germans. The teacher liked the story and read it aloud.
200, side 1 679: CHURCH
There was a church in Borkenes. Olga got married there. They had a "bedehus" (a religious meeting house) on the island. Her parents were Lutheran. The "bedehus" was more like Baptist. The people on the island would go anyhow. It didn't matter which minister came there.
200, side 1 701: YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS
The young people on the island had their own organization. One of their objectives was to help send those with tuberculosis to the sanitarium. There was a lot of tuberculosis up there. Her oldest sister and youngest brother died from it.
200, side 1 728: CONFIRMATION
Was confirmed in Borkenes. Stayed in Borkenes with friends of her parents while attending confirmation classes. One had to row from the island to the mainland in those days. It was too stormy to be able to row every day.
200, side 1 740: CHRISTMAS
Christmas tree. No presents. Rice much on Christmas Eve. Visited people. Had julekake, lefse, and waffles.
200, side 1 766: CHRISTMAS DAY
Set the table the night before. Ate a big breakfast together at 9am. Had rullpoelse, sylteflesk, goat cheese, lingon berries (tyttebær), cloud berries (moltebær), wild blue berries. This was one of the best meals they had all year. For dinner they would sometimes have ptarmigan, a bird that turns white in the winter and gray in the summer. They went to the "bedehus" for church. It was too stormy in the winter to go to Borkenes.
200, side 1 805: JULETREFEST
Between Christmas and New Years, people in the community would gather at the "bedehus." They would sing and dance around the Christmas tree. Had refreshments afterwards. After New Years, they would have a party at their house. Had candles on the tree. Her dad would get them sparklers, like we have on the Fourth of July. They would eat cookies, which were hanging on the tree. Her mother made really good rullepølse. Sometimes they'd have a whole leg of lamb.
200, side 1 847:
Didn't hear stories about the trolls until she came to the U.S.
200, side 1 878: WORK
Started dressmaking. Her sister had a shop and a dressmaking school in Borkenes. Went to school for three months. Then started to sew. Worked for a dentist in Harstad for a year. She was a cook. Cooked for fourteen people., Got only 40 Nkr per month. She was 17 then. She had been cooking at home since she was 11. Learned to make Hardanger lefse then. After she came home from Harstad, she started sewing. Raked hay in the summertime for farmers. Girls made big money this way. Haying season lasted for six weeks. Would harvest potatoes in the fall. Earned 10-15 crowns per day. Made 400 Nkr during one season. Felt rich. One can earn 20 Nkr per hour now.
200, side 1 951: MEETING SPOUSE
Magnus Haug. Was from Kvæøya, but had been in America for 12 years. Came home. Olga was 20 then and he was 31. They met at a Christmas party at the "bedehus." Olga was serving coffee. He kept coming back for more. Her brother introduced them.
200, side 1 1002: MARRIAGE
He came home in 1925. They got married on July 6, 1926. A man on the island had a motorboat. He took people from the island to the mainland. They got married in the Borkenes church. The church was full of people from Borkenes. They really thought it was something when a man came from America and married a girl in Norway. About 100 people were invited and about 200 more came. They went to Harstad for their honeymoon. Came to the U.S. in the fall. Had a big party at her parents after the occasion. Had Alexander pudding for dessert. Made out of eggs and jello. Raspberry sauce and whipped cream on top. There is also rum in it. Danced to accordion music in the barn.
200, side 1 1094: TRIP TO AMERICA
Husband was home for only a year. They left for America in September, 1926. Came to Astoria, Oregon. Parents took it pretty hard when she left. Said she'd come home the next year. Didn't realize it was so far away. Didn't enjoy the boat trip. Got seasick. A couple from Seattle said she needed to go on deck and get fresh air. They took her up on deck.
200, side 2 015: TRIP TO AMERICA
She got hungry in the middle of the night. Her husband would get spekekjøtt (dried, salted mutton) and bread for her. They had a suitcase of food. She would heave it up in the morning. Took ten days to get to New York. Came on the Bergensfjord. They didn't got through Ellis Island. Was married in Norway. New law made in May 1926. Had to have your application to come to the U.S. prepared three years before you were to leave Norway. She had applied to go to Minnesota before she met Magnus. She had an uncle in Winger, Minnesota (?), Peter Jensen. Her mother received word from him that Olga could come in 1927. Her mother wrote and told him that Olga was already in America. Olga became acquainted with Peter's son. He came to visit them every year.
Saw automobiles on the docks. Saw two black women. Got scared. Had banks and everything at Grand Central Station in New York.
200, side 2 256: TRAIN RIDE
Beautiful scenery. Stayed in Wisconsin with Magnus' three cousins for a week. Big farms. Continued on the train to Astoria, Oregon. Magnus had a fishing boat there. Was staying with his aunt. (This aunt was Clara Greene's mother. See T156)
200, side 2 292: LEARNING THE LANGUAGE
Magnus' aunt had three sons. The youngest was 19. Olga learned a lot of English from those three boys. Olga helped out in the house.
200, side 2 313: SETTLING IN SEATTLE
Moved to Seattle in the spring. Stayed with Clara's sister in Redmond. It would have been difficult for Olga to live alone while Magnus was fishing since she didn't speak much English. They rented a place in Kirkland in the fall of 1927. Stayed there for two years.
200, side 2 343: CHILDREN
Melvin. He is an art teacher. Taught in Seattle. Retired now. He is married and has a family. Melvin was born in 1929.
200, side 2 366:
Husband started fishing in March and fished until late fall. He lost his boat. Was run down by a government boat. They were saved by the Coast Guard. They had bought a house and lost it too. It took five years to get a trail for his boat. They claimed Magnus' boat didn't have any lights. Magnus won the case. He had two lawyers. Paid $1700 to the lawyers. The boat cost $10,000. They have had the house they have now for 50 years. Rented it for $12 a month first, then bought it. Magnus joined the Coast Guard and retired 25 years later. He fought in WWI. Caught the flu that was going around then. Was in the hospital in San Francisco for eight months. He had served in the Coast Guard before he came to Norway in 1925 and rejoined after he lost his boat. He ate too much while on the boat. Got diabetes. Died from a stroke 15 years after he retired from the Coast Guard. Died in 1967.
200, side 2 485: WORK
Olga started working after her husband died. Couldn't stand to be around the house. Her husband was gone quite a lot while in the Coast Guard, so in 1937 she started making lefse for Sund's Norway Pacific Importing Co. In 1939, she made lefse for the Crown Prince of Norway. After her husband died, she started cleaning houses. Made $4.50 per hour. Had four jobs. Made lefse too. Sund's store closed during WWII. Couldn't import from Norway because of the German occupation. Started making lefse for stores in Ballard. Now she makes it for people for Christmas. Has a license from the Health Department. She has sewed for other people too.
200, side 2 587: COAST GUARD
Her husband guarded the California coast while in the Coast Guard during WWII.
200, side 2 593: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
Three trips. First trip in 1952. Went with a friend. Took the Oslofjord. Stayed five months. Only one week of nice weather during the summer. There weren't many changes. Didn't even have a bus station in Borkenes. Still don't have a bus station. Took another trip in 1972. Brought her granddaughter with her. She was 17 at that time. Clara Greene went on this trip too. (See also t156) They stayed in Norway for six weeks. Trip was arranged through the lodge they belong to. Was cheaper through the lodge. Made a third trip in 1977. A niece from Canada wanted to go to Norway because her daughter was working in Borkenes. She worked at a home for retarded children. A rich man donated the land for it. The doctor there is from India. Many doctors from India in Norway. "Oslo is being invaded by people from Pakistan." Olga's niece's daughter married a man from Pakistan.
Belongs to the Sons and Daughters of Norway and Nordlandslaget.
200, side 2 793: CHURCH
Belonged to the Lutheran church until she quit. Nobody would come visit her when she was sick so she quit.
200, side 2 827: NORWEGIAN LANGUAGE
Has taught her grandson some Norwegian. Her son studied foreign language. Went to the University of Oslo summer quarter in 1952, while Olga was in Norway.
200, side 2 845: GRANDCHILDREN
Grandson fished with his dad. Does carpentry. Bought a house. Granddaughter is married. She's a nurse. Has a son.
200, side 2 885:
Finishes the interview in Norwegian
200, side 2

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Marriage service
  • Naturalization
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Tuberculosis

Personal Names

  • Haug, Olga Karoline--Interviews (creator)
  • Greene, Clara
  • Haug, Magnus
  • Haug, Melvin
  • Jensen, Nils
  • Roervik, Albertina
  • Rørvik, Greta
  • Jensen, Marianne
  • Nilsen, Ludvig
  • Nilsen, Olga Karoline
  • Rørvik, Carl

Corporate Names

  • Bergensfjord (Steamship)
  • Daughters of Norway (U.S.) Bredablick Lodge #10 (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Nordlandslaget Fembøringen (Seattle,Wash.)
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Leif Erikson Lodge No. 1 (Seattle,Wash.)

Family Names

  • Haug family
  • Jensen family
  • Nilsen family
  • Rørvik family

Geographical Names

  • Astoria (Or.)
  • Borkenes (Norway)
  • Harstad (Norway)
  • Kirkland (Wash.)
  • Kvæøya (Norway)
  • Redmond (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Carpenters
  • Cooks
  • Domestics
  • Dressmakers
  • Farmers
  • Nurses
  • Poets