Ida Pauline Apalseth Oral History Interview, 1982

Overview of the Collection

Apalseth, Ida Pauline
Ida Pauline Apalseth Oral History Interview
1982 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Ida Pauline Apalseth, 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
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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Ida Apalseth was born on December 18, 1896 in Litløy, Norway to Ole Pedersen and Herborg Johnsen. Litløy is on an island in northern Norway. Ole owned a bakery in addition to selling fish and working as a mailman, and Herborg was a homemaker. Ida had three sisters-Aslaug, Dagmar, and Herborg-and two brothers-Martin and Halfdan. Ida was the eldest and Herborg the youngest. Herborg and their mother died a week after Herborg's birth; Ida was only six. When Ida was twelve, her father remarried and had eight more children. The family was fairly well off and had several workers; at times, there would be eighteen people at the dinner table. After Ida was confirmed, she and her sister moved to Trondheim, where Ida got a babysitting job. Not fully satisfied in Trondheim, Ida decided to immigrate to Petersburg, Alaska, where her older half-sister from her father's first marriage lived.

Ida left Norway in November 1916; she was nineteen years old. From Ellis Island, New York, Ida took the train to Seattle, Washington, where she was supposed to meet a woman, Molly, who would help her get to Alaska. When Ida and Molly contacted Ida's sister in Alaska, she told them that the weather there was awful and Ida should just stay in Seattle if she could obtain employment. Ida followed her advice and found a housekeeping job with the family of a retired Navy officer within a week. Ida was very fond of Seattle and joined a mixed Norwegian group that met at the Norway Hall. She continued to work for this family for nine months and then got a cleaning job at the Potter Hotel on James Street. A boy from Ida's hometown had immigrated as well and joined the U.S. Navy. He was stationed in Bremerton, Washington, and Ida met her husband, Andrew Apalseth, through him. Andrew was also born in Norway. He and Ida were married on April 1920 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle and then moved to Tacoma. They had one daughter, Olive (Rudsil). Once in Tacoma, Ida joined the Daughters of Norway and attended Bethlehem Lutheran Church. She returned to Norway once in 1973.


Full Name: Ida Pauline Pedersen Apalseth. Maiden Name: Ida Pauline Pedersen.. Father Ole B. Pedersen. Mother: Herborg Johnsen Paternal. Grandfather: Peder Kristian Olsen. Paternal Grandmother: Maria Inbjør Olsen. Maternal Grandfather: Albrigt Johnsen. Maternal Grandmother: Laura Johnsen. Brothers and Sisters: Aslaug Marie Pedersen. Dagmar Pedersen. Halfdan Pedersen. Herborg Pedersen. Martin Pedersen. Half Brothers and Sisters: Ole Pedersen. Solvieg Pedersen. Vilhelm Pedersen. Edgar Pedersen. Margot Pedersen. Kristofer Pedersen. Olive Pedersen. Spouse: Andrew Apalseth. Children: Olive Apalseth Rudsil.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Ida Apalseth on July 26, 1982 in Tacoma, Washington. It contains information on family background, emigration, settling in, marriage and family life, church, and community activities. The interview was conducted in English. See t32 for Ida's interview on the Daughters of Norway.

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
182, side 1 027/08:
Ida Pauline Pedersen Apalseth. Born December 18, 1896 in Litløy, Norway. Litløy is in northern Norway on an island. Eight families lived on the island. Litløy is part of Vesterålen.
182, side 1 073: PARENTS
Ole Pedersen and Herborg Johnsen. Her father had a bakery, bought and sold fish, and was also a mailman. He was called "Nesskong." This means he lived on the point and had little more than others. He also had a big barn and eight cows. Ida's mother was a housewife.
182, side 1 168: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Four girls in the family. Ida, the eldest, Aslaug, Dagmar, and Herborg, the youngest. She and their mother died within a week after birth. Two brothers, Martin and Halfdan. Half-brothers and sisters. (see I-320 and I-825)
182, side 1 197: GRANDPARENTS
She remembers her grandmothers. Both grandfathers died before she was born. Her father's mother came to live with them when she got too old to live alone. She was in bed most of the time. They'd go in her room and talk to her and bring her candy. Her name was Maria Pedersen. She and her husband both came from Vesterålen. Ida's great-grandfather (Maria Pedersen's husband's father) was called Borkenhaugen. They think that the name comes from Poland or East Germany. He was lost at sea. Her maternal grandmother had a little farm up in the mainland. They used to go visit her.
Ida's father remarried when she was 12 years old. Eight more children. The last two were born after Ida had left for America. She met them when she came back to Norway. They were both grandparents when she met them. (see I-825).
182, side 1 388: CHILDHOOD
Nice to grow up on the island. At Easter, they'd go up on the mainland to visit their grandmother or other relatives. They'd go to church when the weather was nice. It was about 12-15 English miles to the mainland. It was open sea. They had a quite large house. They had quite a few workers. One who took care of the barn. One uncle came in the spring and baked. They had a cook. A cousin did the housework
182, side 1 390: CHILDHOOD
Her dad also raised a boy, who had no father. The mother couldn't raise all of the kids herself. The boy fought in WWI and was stationed at Fort Lewis. He came to America to find his father. In the summer they needed help with the hay. It all had to be done by hand. In the winter, the kids liked to make snow houses, snowballs, and they liked sledding. They had skis but conditions for skiing were poor. It was too rocky and the steep hills went down to the water's edge. The island wasn't very big.
182, side 1 456: SCHOOL
In the summer, they rowed a boat to and from school. In the winter, they lived at school, which was on a near-by island. The weather was rough and the waves were high. The older kids rowed. The home life on the island was nice. It wasn't until after confirmation that Ida began to think about leaving the island. She didn't want to baby-sit her half-brothers. Ida was six years old when her mother died. Her father remarried when she was 12 and started another family. The older kids had to help out. At times, there were 18 seated at the dinner table. They had some schooling at home. They went to school for three weeks in the winter. There was one teacher who had three schools to teach at.
182, side 1 586: CHURCH
It was far away. She had to leave home to get confirmed. To go to church, they had to take a boat and then walk a long ways unless they had horses. Most people had working horses. They usually didn't use them on Sunday. The minister rotated between two churches.
182, side 1 597: CHRISTMAS
Lots of house cleaning, new clothes, baking. They had fattigmand and hjortetakk which is like a doughnut, krumkake, and a cookie like shortbread also made in an iron. They made dry lefse and julekake. They also had rullepoelser, fresh ham, and salted or smoked ham. They made flatbread throughout the year. They had lutefisk now and then. When they made it, they didn't use lye, they used ash. It had the same effect in the fish. Ida still uses the cookie recipes. At Christmas, they ate the same amount of food as they usually did. People didn't have weight problems because they worked and played hard.
When it snowed, they had to make roads to the bakery, the barn, etc. There wasn't that much snow on the island. The wind blew it off. It was colder and there was more snow in Trondheim. They dressed in wool clothes. In the summer, they would stay up and read. Her father was a member of the local government. He brought home an old gramophone. The neighbors would stay outside on Sundays so they could listen to the music. They girls used to play singing games. They would clasp hands and dance in a ring. They played a game about a fox up in the hills who was after a chicken.
Ida and her sister wanted to go somewhere to work, so they went to Trondheim in 1913. Ida got a job babysitting three boys and her sister worked in a coffee shop. Ida liked it there, but still wasn't quite satisfied. She had an older half-sister in Petersburg, Alaska. Her father had been married once before he married Ida's mother. In 1916, Ida left for America. She was 19 years old.
182, side 1 888: TRIP OVER
Left on the ship, Bergensfjord in the late fall. The war was going on in Europe. Ida was traveling alone. Her father paid for her ticket. They had to stop in Scotland and spend the night. The ship couldn't go out by itself. They had some rough days. They played music on the boat and danced on the deck. She became acquainted with Sigrid Dal, a girl from Stavanger who was going to live with a sister in Seattle. They've been friends ever since. When Ida left Bergen, two of her cousins were there to see her off. They worked for the Northern Shipping Company. When the boat left, it had to go north, through icy waters, because there were U-boats everywhere. The bottom deck of the boat was packed with Eastern Europeans. In Scotland, some government officials took one person off of the boat. They were looking for spies. They ran into bad weather on the Atlantic. It took eleven days to cross it. They came to New York on a Sunday and Ellis Island was closed. On Monday papers filled out saying who you were and where you were from. It didn't take long to get through Ellis Island.
182, side 1 998: TRAIN TRIP
Ida met 6-7 people on the boat who were going to the Seattle-Tacoma area. They got to Seattle on Friday at 8:00am. They had to change trains in Chicago. A family that lived on the same island as Ida in Norway had moved to Grantsburg, Wisconsin. They had a daughter in Seattle who was supposed to meet Ida and help her get on the boat to Alaska. Nobody was there and Ida couldn't speak the language. Sigrid's sister didn't have room for her. A Swedish man who helped them on the train and asked what the problem was. He said that if Sigrid would come with them, he'd find them a room in a hotel. He'd pick them up in the morning and find a place for Ida to stay. She stayed at a hotel by the King Station.
182, side 2 085: SEATTLE
Saturday morning a taxi came and took her to the home of the lady who was supposed to meet her. A little boy answered the door and said that his mother had gone to the train station to pick up the girl from Norway. When she came home and saw Ida, she said she had been in tears and didn't know what she was going to tell Ida's sister. Molly and Ida contacted her sister in Alaska. She said that the weather in Alaska had been nasty and if Ida could get a job, she might as well stay in Seattle.
182, side 2 122: WORK
Ida got a job as a housekeeper within a week. She didn't want to be dependent on anyone. She worked for a retired navy officer and his family. He had a boy and a girl. She carried a notepad with her and wrote down new words. She learned English from the kids, as well. Ida wanted to learn English as quickly as possible.
182, side 2 217: SOCIAL LIFE
She met a lot of people from northern Norway in Seattle. Many of them were fishermen in Ballard. They invited her to a Christmas party. It was nice to speak Norwegian with them. She and Molly had a good relationship. It was nice to have a contact from home. A boy and girl who gone to confirmation with Ida were also in Seattle. She had a lot of contact with other Norwegians.
182, side 2 263: CHURCH IN AMERICA
Ida belonged to a youth group at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Thomas Street in Seattle. The church had a library with Norwegian books. On Friday, they'd have a social. The boys who worked in the woods or fished could come on Fridays. The pastor's name was Stub.
182, side 2 289: WORK
(See II-122) Ida lived with the family she kept house for. They lived near Madrona Park. She worked there for nine months. She helped cook, washed clothes, dusted, cleaned the furnace, etc. She got $12 a month, plus room and board. She had Sundays off and half of Thursday. Sometimes she'd go downtown to a show with Sigrid. They would go to town by bus or sometimes they'd walk.
182, side 2 342: IMPRESSION OF SEATTLE
She liked it in Seattle. Her sister in Alaska said she should she stay there if she liked it. She could get better work in Seattle. The best job she could get in Alaska would have been canning herring. She never felt she was treated prejudicially because she was a foreigner. The language was the most difficult thing for her. She took the wrong bus to Molly's once. All she could say was "transfer." She took a bus back to Pioneer and then went home. The U.S. was exciting because it was so big. Everything was new and there were so many different people. At home, on the island and even in Trondheim, she had contact with her family and didn't make an effort to meet strangers. Ida really liked Seattle. She thought it was pretty.
Couldn't join Daughters of Norway. They met on Wednesdays and that wasn't her day off. She joined a mixed group that met at the Norway Hall. She met men and women from different parts of Norway. They had a Norwegian choir. Ida sang alto. They sang both Norwegian and American songs. She was shy and wouldn't speak unless she was spoken to. Her English was getting better. She could speak for herself.
182, side 2 497: WORK
(See II-122 and II289) After nine months, Ida wanted to find a better job. She wasn't earning much as a housekeeper. She could earn more money as a cook. One of Sigrid's relatives had a hotel (Potter Hotel on James Street). Ida got a job there. She had to clean 12 rooms, change sheets on the bed, wash clothes, pick up, etc. She shared a corner room with Sigrid. She paid $8 for the room and got $72 per month. When then hotel changed owners, the new owners wanted to cut her wages. She said she'd leave. They decided they needed her. She worked there for several years. This job was better, more free time. The new owners were Japanese. Their two-year-old son was killed by the cable car on James Street so they went back to Japan. The next owner was also Japanese. He was stingy so Ida didn't stay much longer. She got another job at a boarding house on 8th Avenue. It was called Blackstone and was a nice place.
182, side 2 660: MEETING SPOUSE
Her husband was in the Navy. They met at the Norway Hall on Boren Avenue and Virginia. He was born in Norway and lived in Tacoma. He joined the Navy because he didn't want to be in the Army. He was a first class fireman in the Navy. A boy from Ida's town immigrated to Montana. He joined the Navy and met Ida's husband in Bremerton. Ida met her husband, Andrew, through this boy. They got married in April 1920 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle. Ida's Aunt Molly, one of Andrew's Norwegian friends from the Navy and his girlfriend, Olga attended the wedding. They were married by Rev. Stub. Ida says that many Norwegian met their spouses through Norwegian organizations. Ida and Andrew lived in Tacoma.
182, side 2 752: CITIZENSHIP
Ida's husband was already an U.S. citizen when they got married. He had to be in order to be in the U.S. Navy. Ida automatically became a citizen by marrying Andrew. She just had to pick up the legal papers. They hadn't changed that act yet. Later, women obtained their U.S. citizenship in the same manner as the men rather than through marriage.
182, side 2 765: TACOMA
After their wedding, they spent the night in Seattle. They took a boat from Seattle to Tacoma. At that time, there were two boats going between Seattle and Tacoma, the Tacoma and the Indianapolis. Andrew rented a furnished house in Tacoma. Ida got homesick for Seattle. She didn't know anyone in Tacoma. In June 1920, Andrew joined the Sons of Norway and Ida joined the Daughters of Norway. Both clubs met on the same night. When Ida joined the Daughters of Norway they met at the Fraternity Hall between 11th and 13th on Summers (?).
182, side 2 811:
The Sons of Norway met at the Eagles. In 1922, the built Normanna Hall. It was owned by different Norwegian lodges, such as the Normanna Male Choir, the Vikings, etc. They were also selling individual shares for $10. Now, the Sons and Daughters own all of the shares.
(See t32) The Daughters of Norway are still very active. They are keeping up their heritage. There are third and fourth generation girls in the group. Ida's daughter is leader of the dance group, which is called the Daughters Leikarring. Ida's granddaughters are also involved in Daughters of Norway.
182, side 2 876: FAMILY
They've lived on McKinley Hill for most of the time they've lived in Tacoma. Ida has one daughter, Olive Rudsdil. She has two girls and a boy. Camus, Annette, and Victor. Olive was named after Ida's father, Ole. She didn't like the name when she was young. The kids at school teased her because of Olive Oil in the comics. She tells more about Olive's childhood.
182, side 2 929: THE DEPRESSION
Andrew was out of work. Ida worked a little during this period. This was the only time she worked during their marriage. She worked at Bailey Underhill (?). She got a job sewing overalls and children's jeans. It was a good job, but when the business moved to Portland, Ida had to quit.
182, side 2 974: NORWEGIAN CUSTOMS
They spoke English with their daughter. Ida's sister came from Norway in 1924 and they spoke Norwegian then.
182, side 2 982: NORWEGIAN CUSTOMS
Ida's daughter was little and couldn't understand her aunt from Norway. It wasn't long before Ida's sister could speak English. She got a good job working for Lou Johnson. He had a beautiful ladies clothing store in Tacoma. She worked there for thirty years.
182, side 2 992: CHURCH LIFE
Ida belongs to Bethlehem Lutheran Church. She didn't join when she first came to Tacoma because her daughter was sick. She went to a little wooden church for a while. They'd have fish dinners to make money to pay for the organ and the church bell. They now have a new church, the Bethlehem Church.
182, side 2 1019: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
One trip in 1973. She got a little insurance money after her husband passed away. She couldn't go while he was living because she was babysitting her daughter. Ida went on a Sons of Norway tour. She planned on going alone but a friend who had left Norway when she was 2 years old went along with her. Ida visited her half-brother in Oslo and then flew to Harstad. She visited another half-brother who was a teacher there. Another half-brother came down from Tromsö. He drove and took Ida home to Bø in Vesterålen. The two half-brothers, a nephew, and Ida made the trip. The trip was nice but sad. She felt better after she'd seen the island. She saw the foundations of the house and the stabbur, where they stored meat and things. They sat on the steps of the bakery and had coffee and cakes. They rented a big fishing boat in order to go to the island. They had to find wood on the beach so that they could cook the coffee. The weather was beautiful. The sun was shining and it was light all night.
Ida is proud of being Norwegian. She'd be proud if she was any other nationality. She learned to speak good Norwegian through the family. Her father didn't speak the dialect because he'd have to go to the bigger towns for business sometimes. Ida says the language had changes. "They're getting a little of that Swedish in it." Her daughter studied Norwegian and counts differently.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Scandinavian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews

Personal Names

  • Apalseth, Andrew
  • Johnsen, Albright
  • Johnsen, Herborg
  • Johnsen, Laura
  • Olsen, Maria Inbjør
  • Olsen, Peder Kristien
  • Pedersen, Ole
  • Rudsil, Olive Apalseth
  • Apalseth, Ida--Interviews (creator)

Corporate Names

  • Bergensfjord (Steamship)
  • Bethlehem Lutheran Church (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Daughters of Norway (U.S.) Embla Lodge #2 (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Norway Hall (Seattle, Wash.)
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Norden Lodge No. 2 (Tacoma, Wash.)

Family Names

  • Apalseth family
  • Johnsen family
  • Olsen family
  • Pedersen family
  • Rudsil family

Geographical Names

  • Trondheim (Norway)
  • Litløy (Norway)
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Domestics