Henry Haram Oral History Interview, 1984  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Haram, Henry
Henry Haram Oral History Interview
1984 (inclusive)
3 file folders
2 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Henry Haram, 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.

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

Henry Haram was born on September 4, 1903 in Ålesund, Norway, but his family moved to Sykkylven when he was very young. He was the third of ten children by Karl Haram and Hanna Grebstad. In 1923, Henry and a friend decided to emigrate; Henry's older brother, Petter Karlson, was already in America. After arriving in Washington State, Henry found work in the fishing and lumber industries, and moved to Seattle in 1926. For the next twenty years, he worked in a variety of jobs: a Ford assembly plant, a sawmill, cannery, and others. He became an American citizen in 1933 and owned a home close to the Ballard area. He returned to Norway after WWII, in about 1946, and remained in the Sykkylven area, employed in brickwork. Henry began playing the violin when he was 7, took lessons, knew Fritz Kreisler, and competed in violin contests in the U.S.


Full Name: Henry Haram. Father: Karl Haram. Mother: Hanna Grebstad. Maternal Grandfather: Jens Jorgenson Grebstad. Maternal Grandmother: Pernille Grebstad. Brothers and Sisters: Anton Haram, Petter Karlson Haram, Hjalmar Haram, Solveig Haram, Karl Haram [twin with Hanne], Hanne Haram, Nellie Haram, Judith Haram, Jon Haram.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Henry Haram on June 19, 1984 in Sykkylven, Norway. The interview contains information on his family background, emigration to the U.S., settling in experience, work, return to Norway, violin playing, and life in America. This interview was recorded in Norwegian; the tape has not been fully translated. Also available are a photograph of Henry Haram with his violin and a photograph of Henry at the time of the interview.

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 Janet Rasmussen 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
268, side 1 020: NAME
Henry Haram. The first year he was in America he used the name Karlsen because his brother who immigrated the year before used that name. This caused a lot of trouble, but Henry changed back to his original name when his brother died. His brother chose this last name because his father was named Karl.
268, side 1 037: FAMILY
Henry was born in Ålesund in 1903. His parents lived there until 1904 when Ålesund burned down. His mother was from Sykkylven so the family moved there and lived with different people until they bought their own place and built a new house in 1913. His father's name was Karl Haram and he was born in Ålesund. He was a captain on a fishing boat. His father and brother traveled together to America in 1922. His father had been to America two times before. Henry's mother was Hanna Grebstad. She grew up on a small farm and worked in a hotel in Ålesund where she met Henry's father. There were a total of ten brothers and sisters in his family. The brother who went to America was the second oldest.
268, side 1 098: SHIP ACCIDENT IN NORWAY
The same year that Henry went to America he was involved in a large ship accident. He had traveled to Haugesund to join a boat and go herring fishing. They stopped by Bergen to get some ropes. On the way to Haugesund, just outside Bergen, the boat had to go through Vatlestraumen (strong current in the area). Fishing boats used trawl nets in the area on both sides of the current. The area with the current was narrow and numerous boats were in the area.A German cargo ship the size of "Stavangerfjord" and loaded with pyrites collided with Henry's boat. Everyone was asleep on Henry's boat except for the person steering the boat. Henry was asleep and it was a terrible feeling to wake when the two boats collided. Henry's oldest brother was also on the boat. The boat had twin bunks and Henry and the brother shared a bunk. Henry remembers his brother waking for his shift 15 minutes before the accident. Henry's boat keeled over and he describes it as seeing a waterfall inside the boat. He thought he was going to die. The stern of the ship was heavy due to the engines so that part of the boat started to sink. Just before it sank the bow twisted and cracked open the side of the ship so seven men managed to escape. Eleven men drowned in the accident. The survivors swam to the German ship that was not far away. The accident happened in the winter and Henry got sick and returned to Ålesund. It took some months to get well because he got bronchitis. He was well in the summer again, but the mental aspect was much worse, it took several months before he was able to get over the accident.
268, side 1 198: LETTERS FROM BROTHER
Henry got letters from his brother in America. His brother invited him to come to America but Henry felt he needed to get recover from the accident first. In the early 1920s, times were good in America.
268, side 1 206: DECISION TO GO TO AMERICA
Birger Johansen, a friend from Grebstad was going to America and wanted Henry to join him in America, so Henry decided to go in 1923. The accident happened on February 21, 1923 and Henry and Birger left home on August 2, 1923.
268, side 1 230: TRIP
The weather was nice when they crossed the Atlantic. Henry and Birger stayed in Bergen for a week and ate very good food at the Transatlantic Hotel. They left Bergen on August 11. The ticket covered all transportation to Seattle. The ship, "Stavangerfjord," was very nice, but the train was not so good. The seats were dirty from coal and the train trip took several days. The ticket was cheap; the whole ticket from home to New York cost NOK 1,200. Henry traveled to Seattle through Chicago. Some police officers in Chicago spoke Norwegian, and the immigrants were warned against taking a cab, since they sometimes ripped off a new immigrant.
268, side 1 274: LANGUAGE
Neither Birger nor Henry could speak English, they only knew a few swear words. Learning to speak English in the forest was difficult. The Americans did not laugh if a person had some errors in the sentences, but the Norwegians did. He took a trip to Seattle during the first Christmas he was in America. He traveled on a ship to a salmon cannery in 1924. A French cook onboard spoke English and he helped Henry learn English. Henry noticed that Norwegian and English had several similar words.
268, side 1 307: FIRST JOB
Henry got his first job easy because his father and brother fixed Henry up with a job in the same area as they were. He had to change transportation in Seattle and a Swedish police officer helped him to get to a welfare coordinator. She provided the hotel and explained when they had to get up next morning. Then he arrived in Hoquiam. He did not like the place because it was too small after being in Seattle.He worked at the Polson Camp, in camp #8. His brother's name was Petter Karlsen and his father called himself Karl Pedersen. His father did not return to Norway until 1935. His father stayed in Seattle for some years and then used the name Karl Haram.
268, side 1 341: WORK AT THE POLSON CAMPS
Henry started in camp #8, later he worked at camp #4, and his last workplace was camp #10. This camp was called the Norwegian Camp, because everyone spoke Norwegian in camp, even people not originally from Norway. Henry traveled back to Seattle in 1926.
268, side 1 351: ALASKA
Henry went three more times to Alaska after 1926. He worked at a cannery for one year, fished herring for one year, and fished salmon one year. The cannery was in Hak Inlet, which was a nice place. Henry liked Alaska much.
268, side 1 368: WORK AT THE FORD PLANT
Henry worked two years at the Ford Plant in Seattle. Ford had an assembly plant for the new A-Ford there. This was hard work, much worse than working in the forest, because he could not take many breaks from work. He worked using fine-grained sandpaper. This was a rotten workplace with much swearing and quarrels. However, the salary was good, $5 a day, and when Henry had been there two months, he received $6 a day. This job was dangerous to the health. He worked there between 1929 and 1931.
268, side 1 394: THE DEPRESSION
These were bad times because of the crash in the economy. He did not earn much money for the next two years. He got some jobs for the government, where the payment was vouchers that could be used for groceries in stores. The jobs were limited, but Henry managed to get around.
268, side 1 406: LUMBER MILLS
In 1935, he started a job at Seattle Cedar, a lumber mill. There he developed asthma problems because of the cedar tree aroma. The doctor said that the asthma would get worse each year. Henry stayed there for five years anyways. He got a new job afterwards on another mill that refined pine and spruce. This was a nice job that he liked a lot. He had that job for five years as well. The next year he went to work for a cannery in Alaska, and then he returned home to Norway.
268, side 1 430: RETURNING TO NORWAY
He had not decided to go back to Norway and he was an American citizen. He returned after World War II. Two of his brothers had escaped from Norway to England during the war and he received letters from them when they were there. Henry's plan was to visit his family when he returned in 1946, but he ended up staying in Norway. He was 43 years old when he returned and he had to renew his papers from Norway. Many furniture factories started in the area, so he and a brother-in-law started a furniture factory in his brother-in-law's basement. After the furniture factory he was a bricklayer and did concrete work until he retired. He like this brick and concrete work because you were your own boss and the work was healthy as well.
268, side 1 489: RETIREMENT
He is retired now and receives a pension from the Norwegian Government. The pension is not good, but it has become better in the last years. He has right to a pension from America, but he never has applied for it. He paid social security taxes for 10 years.
268, side 1 507: INTERESTS
He is a member of a "Pensjonistførening"(Association for retired people), and they have meetings and one trip each year, where they go to different hotels in Southern Norway.
268, side 1 518: FIDDLE
Henry likes to play the fiddle. People commented that it was a strange combination to work in a lumber mill and play the fiddle. He started with the fiddle when he was about ten together with a friend. Henry lived with his grandparents from when he was seven until confirmation. They used to play during Pentecost and Midsummer celebrations. A bonfire was lit at those celebrations.
268, side 1 550: MELODIES
Henry learned different melodies by listening to others. Henry did not know a note before he came to America. He played different Norwegian melodies that he learned in weddings and at the youth meeting halls in Norway.
268, side 1 559: FIDDLE TEACHER
One of his teachers was Arnold Kraus. He had a saying, "When you practice four hours on the violin, you practice only two." This was correct, since it takes two hours to get the coordination right. He was very positive to Henry. Kraus was a friend of Fritz Kreisler, from Austria. He took classes together with two other people. Henry went to classes to Kraus as long as he had money. Later Henry had another teacher. When he worked, Henry was too tired to play the fiddle sometimes.
He played the fiddle for different engagements at the Norway Hall. While he was at Seattle Cedar, he played together with a Swede and a Norwegian every Friday and Saturday. The other two played every day in taverns, but that was too much for Henry. He did not earn much when he played because he played for fun.
268, side 1 618: HOQUIAM
He quit working in the Norwegian Camp in 1926. Two weeks later a friend was killed up in the camp. A violin teacher came to Hoquiam and people said that he should contact him. Henry got a job at Grace Harbor mill and contacted Carl (Molleram?). He was an artist and had been a Music director in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Carl was from Norway and his parents were from Helgeland and Stavanger. Carl spoke Norwegian and Henry learned a lot with the fiddle from him. Carl had his own studio, and Henry was allowed to listen to Carl practice. These meetings stopped when Henry moved to Seattle. He contacted Kraus in 1928.
268, side 1 656: TODAY
Henry likes Steven Foster's melodies. Henry is a member of a music group today that consists of seven violins, two accordions, and a double bass. The group meets at the school each Wednesday except for the summer. They play for retired people at different engagements. The "Ungdomslaget" (young people's society) arranges the dances. People sometimes wear their bunad. They also bring their instruments when they are on the trips, and play when the other orchestra takes a break. Three people in the group wear a bunad, but Henry are not going to get a bunad.
268, side 1 694: ACCIDENTS IN USA
He was on a boat when a fire started. All were awake except for two twin sisters who had gone to bed. They received severe burns in the fire and died after eight days in the hospital.
268, side 2 051: BROTHER AND FATHER
Carl and Petter immigrated in 1922 between Christmas and New Years Eve. After Hoquiam, Petter started as a steward and cook on a halibut boat. Their father stayed in Hoquiam for many years. He also had problems during the Depression, so he was in Seattle during that period. Petter died from tuberculosis in America.
268, side 2 103: AMERICAN CITIZEN
Henry took classes for 21 days to be able to get the citizenship. Henry had to go to a judge for the exam. The judge asked him one question that he was not able to answer. He answered the judge "I should know that." Got another question and the judge gave him the citizenship. He got it during the war.
268, side 2 141: WAR
He was close to Ft. Lewis in Tacoma when he got the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Henry worked at a sawmill, so he did not have to enlist during the war. The government felt it was more important that he kept his job at the lumber mill. He could not leave the job for a higher paid job. However, he could move from one lumber mill to another one. He worked a lot of overtime, the last year he worked half of July 4 as well.
Henry was a member in Sons of Norway in Hoquiam but did not continue that in Seattle. He read Washington Posten and other local newspapers.
268, side 2 204: CONTACT WITH AMERICA
He keeps in most contact with a sister-in-law. Henry was married and divorced in America and he did not have any kids. He writes letters and sends presents to her. They were from Quebec and he wrote to her mother as well, but she died not long after Henry returned. Laura wants him to return to visit. To visit would be fun, but Henry believes that it is too late now.His cousin, Oscar Jensen visited a couple of years ago. He works for Boeing. Oscar's sisters, Olga and Inga Jensen, also live in America. Their father was Henry's maternal uncle. He immigrated before Henry was born. Their father was in Alaska and Olga and Inga were born there. He had his own gold mine in Fairbanks. He did not become a millionaire in the gold rush.
268, side 2 309: MOTHER
Mother did not like the fact that Henry immigrated to America. Henry said that he was going to stay there for two years and he was confronted with that when he returned. Henry liked America, but the Depression was bad.
He chopped wood in the forest and worked on a military base near Lake Washington. He was surprised that they were allowed to enter the base. Henry had many different jobs and he liked best being in the forest.
268, side 2 349: HOUSE IN SEATTLE
Bought his own house in Seattle, close to Ballard on 8th Avenue NW and 60th. He had to give up the house during the Depression.
268, side 2 364: LIVING AND FOOD
The biggest surprise was all the good food everywhere; the food was good even in the forest. All kinds of pastry were on the tables all the time. However, he missed fish. The fish was frozen when they got it in the forest. Norwegians were not used to fruit. He remembers eating apples and other fruit at dinner.
The electrical generator was turned off at 9pm. This was too early to go to bed at 9pm, especially for the young people, so they went to the highway, or spent time outside. He was sometimes in Hoquiam, usually once a month. He did not like Hoquiam because the city was too small.
Henry used to play at restaurants in Ballard. Many Norwegians were in those restaurants, but also people from many different nations were there. John Mellum, the owner of the place, was a Norwegian.
268, side 2 428: CHURCH
He was not active in a church. The last teacher he had had lessons on Sunday in the Lutheran Church on 20th Avenue. A pastor there, Håvik, was very interested in violin music. He was from Nordfjord, Norway.
268, side 2 448: VIOLIN CONTESTS
A "Fiolinkappleik" was arranged once a year in either Seattle or Tacoma. This was fun, and he won many first prizes. He did not attend the last contest in Seattle because he won three years in a row before this contest. He played outside the concert instead. He played: "På solen jeg ser" by Ole Bull and tried to play "Solveig's sang." That is a difficult song so he tried a song by Fritz Kreisler which he liked instead. A young girl sang together with him on the song. There were three judges in the contests and conflicts happened. Some thought the judges were unfair sometimes.
268, side 2 493: FRIENDS IN AMERICA
Signe Midtseter played the fiddle and her sister played the piano. They were from a musical family and he spent both Christmas and summer at their house. Their youngest sister took song lessons.
268, side 2 516: FIDDLE CONTESTS
Henry likes to play in groups and was not as a solo player. The melody he played in Norway Hall was "The Old Refrain." They had one contest each year and he won the prizes in 1943-45. Around 15-20 people participated in the contest. The contest drew many people and the place filled with people when the contest was held. A band was hired to play at the dance later. The winner got a silver trophy. Norway Hall was on Virginia St. in Seattle. Tacoma had a bigger hall on K Street.
268, side 2 591: VIOLINMAKERS
He was a regular guest in Fremont to a Norwegian violinmaker named Ed Kvamme. He also was a regular guest to a violinmaker of German heritage. There he met many members of the symphony orchestra. Henry would have liked to have been a professional musician if he had had the chance.
Henry fished in the winter together with his father after confirmation. Herring was well paid on the market. In 1922, they still had a good catch but the prices were bad. They were offered 3 NOK/"Mål" (Approximately 150 liter). Then they decided to stop fishing and his father sold the boat as well. Then Henry's father decided to go to America instead.
268, side 2 661: MOTHER
His mother was in America once when Henry was married. She was in New York when her son was lost at sea. She did not like America and decided to go home after a year.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Depressions--1929--Washington (State)
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fiddling
  • Fishermen--Norway
  • Naturalization
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Railroad travel
  • Return migration--Norway

Personal Names

  • Haram, Henry--Interviews (creator)
  • Kraus, Arnold
  • Kreisler, Fritz
  • Kvamme, Ed
  • Molleram, Carl
  • Pedersen, Karl
  • Grebstad, Hanna
  • Grebstad, Jens Jorgenson
  • Haram, Karl
  • Haram, Petter
  • Karlsen, Petter
  • Midtseter, Signe
  • Pernille Grebstad

Corporate Names

  • Grace Harbor Mill (Hoquiam, Wash.)
  • Norway Hall (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Norway Hall (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Polson Logging Camp (Hoquiam, Wash.)
  • Seattle Cedar Lumber Mill (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Stavangerfjord (Steamship)

Family Names

  • Grebstad family
  • Haram family
  • Karlsen family

Geographical Names

  • Ålesund (Norway)
  • Ballard (Wash.)
  • Grebstad, Sykkylven (Norway)
  • Hawk Inlet (Alaska)
  • Hoquiam (Wash.)
  • Pensjonistførening (Norway)
  • Seattle (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Bricklayers
  • Cannery workers
  • Sawmill workers