Knute John Mjøen Oral History Interview, 1981

Overview of the Collection

Mjøen, Knute John
Knute John Mjøen Oral History Interview
1981 (inclusive)
3 file folders
2 photographs
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Mjøen, 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
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

Knute Mjøen was born on November 12, 1902 in Oppdal, Norway to John Moen and Sigrid Mjøen Moen. Since he was born on his mother's farm in the Mjøen community, Knute received the Mjøen name. Knute was the eldest of six children, which included Johan, Martin, Elisabet, Sivert, and Sverre. Knute's father was a shoemaker, and the family lived on a small farm with a few animals and a garden. Knute, however, lived and worked on his aunt's farm. Knute attended school for eight years, including one year of beginning high school, and when he was eighteen years old, he decided to immigrate to America. In February 1921, he traveled to Sioux City, Iowa, where an aunt and uncle of his lived. Knute had minimal language difficulties, having learned some English from his cousins who were raised in Seattle, WA and spoke only English when they visited Knute's family in Norway. Finding a job was not difficult for Knute either. An uncle in Norway had trained him as a painter, and Knute began painting shortly after he arrived in Sioux City. In 1923, Knute moved to Stanwood, WA, where he also had relatives. Jobs were harder to come by here, and Knute lived with an aunt before becoming employed in a shingle mill in Milltown, WA. Knute also had trouble finding employment during the Depression and painted in exchange for food. In 1926, Knute married Gertrude Rise, who was originally from Oppdal, Norway but had been living in central Washington. They had three children: Esther (Hansen), Sylvia (Sill), and John. After Gertrude passed away, Knute was remarried to Violet Larson in 1960. They have been active church members, and Knute has also been active in the Sons of Norway, which he joined in 1921. He has served as their President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Knute has made four return trips to Norway and continues to speak the language.


Full Name: Knute John Mjøen. Father: John K. Moen. Mother: Sigrid Mjøen Moen. Paternal Grandfather: Knut Prestmo. Paternal Grandmother: Marit Prestmo. Maternal Grandfather: John S. Mjøen. Maternal Grandmother: Elisabet Stoelen Mjøen. Brothers and Sisters: Johan J. Moen, Martin J. Moen, Elisabet J. Moen Aalgard, Sivert J. Moen, Sverre J. Moen. Spouse: Gertrude Rise Mjøen, Violet Larson Mjøen. Children: Esther Mjøen Hansen, Sylvia Mjøen Sill, John Mjøen.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Knute Mjøen on October 29, 1981 in Stanwood, WA. It provides information on family background, emigration, work, marriage and family, community activities, and Norwegian heritage. The interview also contains two photographs of Knute. 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

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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 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
110, side 1 016: PERSONAL BACKGROUND
Knute John Mjøen. Johnson is the family name. Mjøen is the name of a community with everyone named Mjøen. Born on November 17, 1902.
110, side 1 059: PARENTS
John and Sigrid Moen. Knute was born on his mother's farm. Mother's maiden name was Mjøen. Knute lived with Olene and Marte Mjøen, his aunt not his parents.
110, side 1 114:
Father was a shoemaker. They lived on a small farm with a few cows and pigs. They also had a garden. Knute lived and worked on his aunt's farm. They had 25-26 milk cows.
110, side 1 160: FARM
Was in Oppdal, Norway in Sør Trøndelag which is eight Norwegian miles south of Trondheim.
110, side 1 173: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Johan worked in a creamery as a machinist. Martin was a fisherman in Seattle. Elisabet immigrated to the U.S. in 1926 and was a housewife in Canada married to a Norwegian. Sivert lived on the home place in Norway and worked in a sawmill. Sverre lives at Hasvaag where he owns a hotel eight miles north of the ocean.
110, side 1 253:
Knute enjoyed living with his aunt. Didn't miss living at home.
110, side 1 275: GRANDPARENTS
Father's side, Knute was a shoemaker. He was a husman. Mother's father, John, had a farm in Mjøen. Father's mother was Marit Elisabet. Her maiden name was Stoelen.
110, side 1 362: HOME IN NORWAY
Very nice place, big house. Close to 1,000 acres. Lots of cleared land and timber. Raised barley and potatoes.
110, side 1 389:
Barley and potatoes were raised in high places like Oppdal which was in a mountain valley. Raised famous potatoes which were banana shaped and colored.
110, side 1 422:
1914, his uncle came from America and took over his aunt's farm.
110, side 1 434: CHRISTMAS
Before Christmas they cut lots of wood and piled it up. Women did the baking and the men cleaned around the place.
110, side 1 468: CHRISTMAS EVE
Everyone stayed home. At 5 o'clock the church bells rang for an hour. Had a Christmas tree. Very few presents. Usually had a new pair of shows and a red shirt.
110, side 1 498: CHRISTMAS DAY
Went to church. Went visiting and had company in. Christmas usually lasted for two weeks. Men didn't do anything but chores. Women usually cared for the cattle. Women were very busy.
110, side 1 532: FOODS
Lots of baked goods, lefse, cookies, and lutefisk. Lutefisk on Christmas Eve, but sometimes had rib steak. Had rommegrøt.
110, side 1 565: CHRISTMAS DAY
Had beef roast and pork roast.
110, side 1 586: FIREPLACES IN NORWAY
Not used much, mostly for show. Used to cook on these stoves. Also stored wood in the fireplaces to dry it. Had special heating stoves for heating the house.
110, side 1 673: TROLLS AND JULENISSEN
Thought that the Julenissen was in the grain in the hayloft.
110, side 1 688: THRESHING GRAINS
Had a long stick with a club. They swung this and hit the bundles.
110, side 1 718: JULENISSEN
Put food out for him, rissengrøt. Fed him on Christmas Eve.
110, side 1 732: FOODS
Ate rissengrøt and sungrøt, which was cooked out of fresh milk, almost like fresh cheese.
110, side 1 753: SCHOOL
Eight years and one year of beginning high school. Confirmation.
110, side 1 777: CHURCH
There were two churches in Oppdal, Lønset Church and Solkirke. They had the same minister for both churches.
110, side 1 801: CHURCH
Took the "sluffe" (a sleigh) to church in the winter and in the summer they took a nice wagon.
110, side 1 818: REASONS FOR COMING TO U.S.
Had relations in the U.S. Norwegians like to travel. Knute was the first in his family to come. He was 18.
110, side 1 838: RELATIVES IN THE U.S.
He had an aunt and uncle in Sioux City, Iowa and relatives in Stanwood, Washington.
110, side 1 849:
Came in 1921 in February to Sioux City, Iowa.
110, side 1 861:
Parents and relatives didn't like him leaving Norway.
110, side 1 863: TRAVELS
Sailed from Oslo to New York on the Stavangerfjord. Took nine days on the boat. Cost around 1400Kr, which is about $400. Very nice boat.
Could speak some English when he came over, but not much. Learned from his three cousins who came to Norway and they spoke only English.
110, side 1 923:
These cousins were born and raised in Seattle, Washington. They went back to Norway after 20 years in the U.S.
110, side 1 937: ELLIS ISLAND
No trouble. A lot of fun. Herded like cattle. Had to show that you had $20. A doctor examined you.
110, side 1 964: TRAIN TRIP
Fine. He knew what to eat because he'd learned English well enough in Norway.
110, side 1 977: FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF U.S.
Interesting. Cold in Sioux City where his uncle lived. Uncle worked on the railroad. He was a blacksmith.
110, side 1 994: WORK
Knute did painting in Sioux City. Learned this trade in Norway from an uncle. No problem finding work. Worked for a Norwegian contractor.
110, side 1 1018: CHURCH
Met lots of people there.
110, side 1 1031:
No problems with minority groups.
110, side 1 1040:
Moved to Stanwood, Washington. Wanted to see the coast, similar to Norway.
110, side 1 1055:
No jobs were found in 1923, so he stayed with his aunt in Stanwood. Worked in a shingle mill in Milltown, Washington through the winter.
110, side 1 1082: WAGES
$15 in Sioux City, eight hour days, six days a week. $5 in the shingle mill. $5 a day painting. During the Depression, he made $2-$3 per day.
110, side 2 040: MARRIAGE
Married Gertrude Rise from Central Washington. They were wed in 1926. She was originally from Oppdal, Norway. It had been three years since they came to the U.S.
110, side 2 083: MARRIAGE
Performed at home. Three couples were married at the same time. Gertrude's brother and sister. Gertrude's father was a wheat farmer.
110, side 2 152: CHILDREN
Esther, Sylvia, and John. Esther married Orville Hanson, a painter. They have three children, Patricia, Nick, and Karen. Patricia lives in Cold Bay, Alaska. She's married and is a medic up there. Nick is a salesman. Karen is a student at Western.
110, side 2 207:
Sylvia married Dean Sill, both are deceased now. They had five children. Dennis works for Twin City Foods. Rick is a carpenter. Mikes also works for Twin City Foods. Susan works for Twin City Foods too, which is a freezing plant in Stanwood, Washington.
110, side 2 276:
John is married and has two girls. He is an ambulance attendant. The two girls are both students.
110, side 2 297: SECOND MARRIAGE
Knute remarried Violet Larson. They've been married for 21 years. Knute's first wife died years ago.
110, side 2 341: CHURCH
Have been active members.
Sons of Norway member since 1921. Served as President, Secretary and Treasurer. Still goes to their meetings. A lot of nice people there. Kept up with the Norwegian heritage.
110, side 2 402:
Norwegian classes every Monday night a few times a year. Singing and folk dancing.
110, side 2 414: LANGUAGE
Continues to speak the language.
110, side 2 434: TRIPS TO NORWAY
In 1952, he went alone. In 1962, Violet and her son, Alan went with him. In 1972, all three went again. In 1979, Knute and his wife went.
110, side 2 460: CHANGES
New buildings. People are more modern. High prices.
110, side 2 485:
Homes kept up nicely in Norway.
110, side 2 491: CHURCH IN NORWAY
They don't attend much except for special days.
110, side 2 524: CHURCH IN NORWAY
Different church there now, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, and Pentecostals.
110, side 2 540: NORWEGIAN HERITAGE
Proud, Norwegians are sturdy people
110, side 2 564: NORWEGIAN TAXES
They pass less taxes on a well kept home. Different from the U.S.
110, side 2 579: SOCIALIZED MEDICINE
Hard at times to get into hospitals or see a doctor. Don't pay for service.
110, side 2 599: OLD PEOPLE IN NORWAY
Well cared for. Rest homes are nice. Many old people stay home with their family near. Old people get help from the state.
110, side 2 642: WORK IN NORWAY
Most people are working. No unemployment to speak of. Farms are very efficient today, more modern.
110, side 2 666: OLD HOME FARM
They milk cows and sell the milk to the creameries.
110, side 2 688: SPOKEN NORWEGIAN
Good, clear example of the language.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Marriage service
  • Norway--Social conditions--1945-
  • Norwegian language
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Railroad travel

Personal Names

  • Hansen, Esther (Mjøen)
  • Mjøen, Gertrude (Rise)
  • Mjøen, John
  • Prestmo, Knut
  • Prestmo, Marit
  • Sill, Sylvia (Mjøen)
  • Mjøen, Knute--Interviews (creator)
  • Mjøen, Elisabet Stoelen
  • Mjøen, John S.
  • Mjøen, Violet (Larson)
  • Moen, John
  • Moen, Sigrid (Mjøen)

Corporate Names

  • Ellis Island (N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Fritjov Lodge No.17 (Stanwood, Wash.)
  • Stavangerfjord (Steamship)

Family Names

  • Johnson family
  • Larson family
  • Mjøen family
  • Moen family
  • Prestmo family
  • Stølen family

Geographical Names

  • Oppdal herad (Norway)
  • Sioux City (Iowa)
  • Stanwood (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Painters