Gustav Simon Simonson Oral History Interview, 1981  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Simonson, Gustav Simon
Gustav Simon Simonson Oral History Interview
1981 (inclusive)
2 file folders
2 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Gustav Simon Simonson, 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

Gustav Simonson was born on December 3, 1905 in Røysund, Norway, which is located on the island of Bømlo to the south of Bergen. His parents were Simon Røyksund and Gustava Olsonstensland, and he had four siblings: Simon, Ola, Britta, and Alfred. Gustav attended school for seven years, and at the age of fifteen, he was basically on his own and began fishing. In 1923, he decided to immigrate to America with his friend Vilhelm (Bill) Larsen. Gustav had a cousin in Sandstone, MN, and Vilhelm settled in Duluth, MN. In Minnesota, Gustav obtained a logging job, was a deck hand on a passenger-fish transport boat, and worked as a harvest hand. He later moved to Tacoma, WA, where he did heavy construction work for eight years. When the Depression set in, Gustav went to Alaska and began fishing again. Eventually, he became the skipper of his own boat, fishing mainly for halibut and cod. Gustav married Jennie Jacobson in 1930 and had seven children: Conrad, Helen, Glenda, Sonja, Jon, Stanley, and Elaine. Gustav never became involved in any Scandinavian organizations, but maintained Norwegian traditions within his own household. His children can speak Norwegian, and the family celebrated Christmas in the traditional Norwegian way, complete with lutefisk, suttapisk, and fattingmand. Gustav's Norwegian heritage means a great deal to him, and he has no resentments toward his emigration provided that the traditions continued to be carried from one generation to the next.


Full Name: Gustav Simon Simonson. Father: Simon Røyksund. Mother: Gustava Olsonstensland. Paternal Grandfather: Simon Røyksund. Paternal Grandmother: Karina Røyksund. Maternal Grandfather: Ola Stensland. Maternal Grandmother: Britta Stensland. Brothers and Sisters: Simon Simonson, Ola Simonson, Britta Simonson, Alfred Simonson. Spouse: Jennie Jacobson. Children: Conrad Simonson, Helen Simonson, Glenda Simonson, Sonja Simonson, Jon Simonson, Stanley Simonson, Elaine Simonson.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Gustav Simonson on July 31, 1981 in Graham, Washington. It contains information on family background, emigration, marriage and family, employment, and Norwegian heritage. The interview also contains a poem entitled "Where the Wind Blows West" by Gustav's son Conrad, 1980. The interview was conducted in English.

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

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 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
74, side 1 TAPE 74; SIDE I:
Born December 3, 1905 on an island called Bømlo in the town of Røyksund, Norway. This is primarily a fishing community to the south of Bergen near Hardangerfjord.
74, side 1 033: PARENTS
Simon Røyksund and Gustava Olsonstensland. Mother's family became well to do. Between fishing and farming you made it.
74, side 1 052: WINTER AND GRANDPARENTS 1916
Severe, uncommon in Norway.: Maternal grandparents were Ola Stensland and Britta. They were rugged and independent. Talks about the farms in the area. Paternal grandparents were Karina and Simon Røyksund, ships pilot. How family name was derived. Grandfather had a country store. Father was a…
74, side 1 112:
buyer for a cannery. Brothers and sisters are Simon, Ola, Britta, Alfred, and Gustav. An aunt raised him. At home they had a housekeeper.
74, side 1 149: ISLAND HOME
Divided into three parishes, Bremnes, Moster, and Bømlo. Today they are all joined into one, Bømlo.
74, side 1 167: GROWING UP IN NORWAY
Pleasant childhood, learning to fish, rowing was second nature. Boating accidents common, but not daily occurrences.
74, side 1 200: SCHOOL
Mandatory seven years. Primitive set-up (describes vividly). Father demanded he returned home (age 12), created tension, stayed with aunt.
74, side 1 247: COMING TO U.S. 1923
Age 17. Circumstances that brought him to the U.S. The export market for fish collapsed after WWI.
74, side 1 334: TROPICS VS. AMERICA
Chose America. At age 15 more of less on your own, you became a man. Came to U.S. with a school friend, Vilhelm (Bill) Larsen (?).
74, side 1 363: COUSIN IN AMERICA
Resided in Sandston, Minnesota as a farmer. If immigrated as a farmer you had a better chance of being accepted and getting permits.
74, side 1 383: BOAT TRIP
Bergen to Newcastle, England on the "Jupiter." Took the train to London and Southampton, England. Took the "Olympic" (one of the largest ships at that time) to the U.S. Took on other immigrants later.
Brought up thinking his country was the best and he accepted that fact.
74, side 1 438: ENGLISH PROBLEMS
Learned enough to communicate. Learned fast.
74, side 1 449: SHIP TRAVEL
Lice problems. Steerage class. Food service not as good. Left Bergen on September 15, 1923. Arrived at Ellis Island on September 26. Had $25 cash.
74, side 1 557: TRAIN TRIP
Big long lines. Had a train ticket to Sandstone before leaving Norway. Looked after himself. Changed trains in Chicago and Minneapolis. His friend went to Duluth, Minnesota.
74, side 1 593: IMPRESSIONS
Big cities, big crowds, and too much garbage. Wanted to get out of the city and into the country.
74, side 2 008: WORKING IN THE WOODS
Cutting trees, enjoyed cold weather. Looking for a job. Employed on a road project. Lake Superior made him homesick…
74, side 2 040:
Wanted to be back on a boat. Deck hand on a passenger, fish, and transport boat. Ate fish for one month until he got his fill.
74, side 2 059: LEARNING ENGLISH
By ear and experience. Didn't take long.
74, side 2 069: COMING WEST
Alaska always on his mind. In 1925, he bought a harvest ticket for $5 and took off. Stopped in Jamestown, North Dakota, but no work. Took the train back to Valley City, North Dakota and the told him to go to Litchville, North Dakota, where he worked for the Sortlands' as a harvest hand.
74, side 2 122: BOUGHT FIRST AUTO
1916 Overland by car to Montana. Quite an adventure (no brakes, no gears). Sold car and took the train.
74, side 2 166: TRAIN TO SPOKANE
Norwegians wherever you went then onto Tacoma.
74, side 2 194: HEAVY CONSTRUCTION
Eight years. Depression set in so he went to Alaska to fish.
74, side 2 212: STARTED IN FISHING
Halibut boats. Seattle based boat went to Alaska. Felt good getting back to fishing.
74, side 2 245: BUYING OWN BOAT
Came about naturally. You try to better yourself as you go along.
74, side 2 274: MARRIED 1930
Met at church (wife Jennie Jacobson). Ending up in Graham, Washington. First home.
74, side 2 304: FISHING BUSINESS
96% Scandinavians. Second generation took place of immigrant.
74, side 2 326: CHILDREN
Conrad, Helen, Glenda, Sonja, Jon, Stanley, and Elaine.
74, side 2 338: SKIPPER
Boss of his own boat. Pretty much the same, but accommodations have seen a revolution. Fellow sailors had to give and take.
74, side 2 397: KITSAP AND MARKET
Name of his first boat, mainly halibut and cod. Sold mainly in B.C. or wherever market was best.
Accepted fact that father would be gone. Compass old days, today just press a button.
Male average 35-40 lbs. Female were 300-400 lbs. Fishing always fun-element of gambling, a challenge.
74, side 2 512:
Retired ca. 1971 from fishing. Became a farmer. Raised hay. Had a 20-30 head of beef cows.
74, side 2 536: CHURCH LIFE
Bethany Lutheran Church.
74, side 2 541: JOHNSON'S CORNER
First person to settle in 1921 from Oslo. The community is primarily Norwegians and Swedes.
74, side 2 556: TRIPS BACK TO NORWAY
Nephew came from Norway to fish with him.
74, side 2 638: NORWAY TODAY
Social structure, no good. Lost sense of value, don't feel proud.
Relatives come to visit.
"Good God, yes." Children speak it, too.
75, side 1 006: CHILDREN'S EDUCATION
Oldest son attended one year at the University of Oslo. Presently teaching Luther College. Children interested in heritage.
75, side 1 035: NESVIG CHURCH
Seattle area, used name of pastor. Held Norwegian services.
Christmas, in the Norwegian way (lutefisk, subtask, fattingmand, everything you can think of.)
75, side 1 074: SPEAKS NORWEGIAN
Quotes Norwegian table grace. Speaks language once in a while with neighbors, some subjects easier to talk Norwegian.
Meant a great deal, always will. Literature embedded itself into his make-up. Discuss various authors including Arnfinn Bruflot and Siren.
75, side 1 164: CLOSING REMARKS
No resentment towards immigration. Tradition of continuity from one generation to another - if chain not broken. If broken you feel a loss and hard to carry forward, otherwise no regrets.
75, side 1 184:
Those gathering information of immigrants are doing valuable service to the next generation.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Marriage service
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Railroad travel

Personal Names

  • Røyksund, Karina
  • Simonson, Conrad
  • Simonson, Elaine
  • Simonson, Glenda
  • Simonson, Helen
  • Simonson, Jon
  • Simonson, Sonja
  • Simonson, Stanley
  • Stensland, Britta
  • Jacobson, Jennie
  • Larsen, Vilhelm (Bill)
  • Olsonstensland, Gustava
  • Røyksund, Simon
  • Simonson, Gustav--Interviews (creator)

Corporate Names

  • Bethany Lutheran Church (Spanaway, Wash.)
  • Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.J. and N.Y.
  • Olympic (Steamship)

Family Names

  • Jacobson family
  • Røyksund family
  • Simonson family
  • Stensland family

Geographical Names

  • Alaska
  • Bømlo (Norway)
  • Røysund (Norway)
  • Sandstone (Minn.)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Loggers