1893 - 1980
En historie fortalt av han selv.
On October 28, 1893, a boy baby was born to Ole and Johanna
Sagdahl. The world shaking event took place on the farm of Myren in Hemne County, Norway, about a mile distance from the village of Kyrksæterøra. They named him Johan. At an early age, he shoved signs of having strong
lungs. He would howl and cry mostly at nights to keep everyone in the house
awake. When baptized, he cried so loud no one could hear the
Shortly after, his parents bought the small farm, "Hagen", located on the bank of the Sagdahl River and on the shore of the fjord. The place could feed a couple
cows, a horse, a few sheep, and some chickens. It's from those early days at Hagen that I have the first recollections of being one among the living human creatures
Father had learned the shoemakers' trade some years before and I recall him sitting by the window at his bench repairing
shoes. He died at the age of thirty. Arne was born just a few months before Father died from complications after losing a leg in an
accident. A few things happened during that "dim" period - 2 to 3. First recollection of being among the living was that I ran across the floor in a red skirt. Sister Anna was the baby then laying in the cradle most of the
day. It was the job of me and my brother, John, to watch her and rock the cradle if she woke up and started crying - when mother was doing things
outdoors. Well, when Anna did cry and wouldn't stop we just gave the cradle a hard rock - flipped it completely over - there was the baby laying on the
floor, face down, screaming. One time I got a bit scared so I ran out to get mother - in slamming
the, door, I got my hand stuck in it. The door slammed hard and one finger caught "whang", there went one
nail. It lay there on the floor. I must have howled good and long that time. I was also especially clever at putting stove rings over my head - must have been a cute sight - rings,
soot, and all.
I vividly remember Father's funeral. Anna, who then was about
three, insisted on standing near the casket and touch him. It was sadness and gloom in the house after
that. Mother cried a good deal and was deeply worried about how to manage and support four small kids.
Well, she just couldn't. She sold the farm to Joe Sagdahl, Dad's younger brother who had just got
married. Mother, John, Anna, and Arne moved to her old home, Merkesnes, where her father let her have quarters to live in - small but
comfortable. Grandpa was a kind man.
I then about six was farmed out to an elderly couple - the woman was my mother's
aunt. They lived about two miles from Merkesnes where mother now
lived. This old couple whose children were grown and on their own - three girls had left for America and son had gone to Oslo where he later became a police
officer. I was treated well there like their own child by Joe and Helena Holten. They were a religious
couple. Joe headed religious meetings all around and took me along most of the time. After a year in their cozy
hone, it was decided that I be moved back to Hagen where Uncle Joe and his wife had a new baby by name "Hans". And I was then old enough to watch the baby.
I was there a year and it turned out to be the most unhappy period in my whole
life. The place was like prison to me. If I joined kids from nearby farms to
play, I got a good licking when I returned to the house. Uncle had a birch bow handy and he didn't spare it. My behind got to be like raw meat - I had difficulty sitting down - it simply was
Finally, it had an unexpected, pleasant ending. Its firmly stamped in my
memory. On a Sunday, I sneaked away to play with kids nearby and stayed away longer than
usual. When evening and darkness came I dared not go into the house knowing that I would get a cruel
beating. I would wait till the lights were out and then somehow get
inside. I crawled under a bush by the road and waited. After a bit, a woman with a cane came by - she noticed some movements in the bushes and poked her cane in
there. She spoke and I recognized her, my grandma, mother's
mother. She had visited a sister on a nearby farm. She was flabbergasted to find me there and wanted to know
why. I stammered that I didn't dare go into the house and told her the reason for my strange
behavior. Grandma acted fast and firmly. She took me into the house and gave them a verbal shellacking they didn't soon
forget. Told them to find my few personal belongings,
clothes, etc. as she was taking me with her to Merkesnes, Boy was I happy - my sore behind would finally heal so I could sit on a chair like other
people. Now began the most pleasant period of my childhood
Grandpa became father to me and I called him "far"
(father) all the time. He was a big man in his fifties with long flowing red
beard. I was constantly near him - on land or water. When I got strong enough to row the
boat, when he set the nets, I was a real happy boy.
His own son, about three years my senior, didn't get along well with his dad - a spoiled fellow he
was. He had five sisters, all older, being the last one he naturally was pampered a plenty. Of the
sisters, mother was the oldest. Only one of the five are now living. Aunt Mary (age 92), at Foss' Rest
Home. She is a splendid person.
Its now the year 1900. I am nearly seven years old and time to begin
school. Mother took me there, a half hours walk from home. I remember the lady
teacher, a big fat woman, who spoke a strange dialect. At first, I couldn't understand her sing-song
speech. She was from Aalesund, ca. 100 miles from Hemne. Two years I went there and learned the ABC. I was then sent to the regular grade school farther away near a large lake "Storvandet". One year I went
there. Sliding on the snow was our main recreation during rest
1903. There is talk about me earning my own living. A farmer named Esten Sporild came to Merkesnes and dis-cussed with Grandpa and mother the possibility of my coming to his place ca. four miles away and be his goat herder - summertime. He would see to it that I attended school properly and that I would be like one of his
I was real fortunate. Esten, his son Arnt, his wife, and one hired girl made me feel right at home from the start. Arnt was four years older than me but we became more like brothers as time passed
on. A year later, Esten's wife died and a new housekeeper was hired
on. She, too, became real nice to me. Five years "Sporild" was my
Esten was not only a good farmer but a first class fisherman as
well. Fishing was the main job, wintertime. When not in
school, I had to do my share. In the fall 1903, I was sent to Holden
School, ca. two miles away. There was no road between Sporild and Holden so I was supplied with food for one week and lodging was arranged for me on the "Sagen" farm near the
school. Other kids from Sporild stayed there too and we helped each other preparing food etc, mostly
fish, herring, potatoes, bread, butter, and cheese. We got along surprisingly well
there. On Saturday evening someone from Sporild came with a boat and took us
home. School two weeks and home two weeks (six days). The coming
home, Saturday evenings, was a happy event. There was usually potato-balls (my favorite
food) on the table and boy did I load up.
At school, I did pretty well. The teacher, a young man named Anders
Krongelvik, was just out of colleges. He lived with his wife and baby in the school building which had only one
classroom. Since I now lodged near the school, I became well acquainted with Anders. When he became aware that I was interested in
history, he invited roe into his dwelling and loaned me books on history - mostly ancient Greek and Roman. Also one on the American Civil War that I read with
ferver. I was also much interested in geography. Everyday, we were given two hours of religion. This teacher could not sing - and as school always started by singing some familiar
song, he would usually ask one of the kids to start ! Often he would ask
me. If I started on a false note, all the kids would snicker. Ha would then pound his desk with a wood mallet and give them a hard stare. That did more harm than
good. They would laugh out loud. Frankly, I enjoyed every day at
school. Five years at Holden.
At Sporild, life went on at a steady routine. Everybody had a chore to do. Mine was usually to see that wood was cut and carried into the house - chiefly in
winter. Summer, I herded goats in the hills. There were three farms in Sporild of equal
size. All had goats. We took turns herding - so I had two days home and one day in the
bills. The herd, about fifty to sixty, were brought home every evening about eight o'clock p.m. Much goat cheese was made and sold. All farms had a "seter", a place in the back
country, where the cattle and goats were kept one month in late summer. There were cabins and barns.
We, youngsters, enjoyed the seter life, fishing in the nearby lake and picking wild berries of which there were many
kinds. We sold some of them.
In the wintertime when not at school, we were very busy fishing in the fjord. It was a rugged life leaving home before daylight and usually sailing across to the other side of the fjord. It was a bit risky when we had a strong side wind - but Esten was a first class boatman and all went
well. One incident is still fresh in my mind -connected with
fishing. Esten was away building a house for someone. One day his son, Arnt, and I got the idea to set out nets for bottom
fish. So we did - on the opposite side where we usually
operated. The next morning we sailed over to pull the nets. Low and behold we hauled up a bunch of the largest red snapper we had ever
seen. The wind was yet moderate. We didn't want to take all that fish home so we decided to sail out further north where we knew a fish buyer was
located. Got there and sold the fish. By the time we were ready to go
homeward, there was a storm blowing (sidewind). We knew what we were in for and put lots of rocks in the boat for ballast. After rowing round a
point, we realized that the wind was now a real storm - white caps and large
waves. We got the sail up (each of us probably said a prayer). The
boat, about sixteen feet long, wide and deep - an excellent sea and
sailboat. The waves would wash over the side and one had to bail
constantly. We knew if too much water washed in we would sink immediately with all that ballast.
Neighbors' on the shore were watching us through
binoculars. Didn't think we would make it. We did - and were a bit of
heroes, a day or two. When Esten came home and heard of our
exploit, he gave us a good lecture and warning not to try that again (I was about fourteen when this took
It's now spring 1908. I am fifteen years old and regular grade school is behind
me. It is now confirmation time. Five weeks it took. I stayed at Grandpa's place while going to classes not too far
away. This confirmation was strictly religious review of former Bible
lessons. Most of this I knew by heart, making sessions for me very
easy. When that was over I went back to Sporild for a short
period. I knew that I had to move away from there as I now was too old and big to be their handy boy any longer.
About that time my Uncle - my father's youngest brother, also named Johan - had married a girl from Melhus, a district in Gauldal
Valley. He made his home there at his wife's farm, as she was an only
child. He found out that his nearest neighbor needed a farmhand and wrote to me asking if I was
interested. I was and shortly after, I took the boat to Trondheim where he met
me. This was my first trip to the city, population about 50,000. We took the train to Melhus, about 15 miles from the city. The farmer and his wife were glad to have me and I soon got acquainted with my
duties. I hired out for one year, wages were 45,00 Kroner (which equaled $6.00), working
clothes, foot-gear, and one new suit at the end of the year (and
shoes). I got along well with Ivar Kregnesmoen. The farm was located on a high ridge overlooking the
valley. It had a magnificent view.
Shortly before leaving Hemne, my mother had been corresponding with her sister in
Redfield, South Dakota. This sister, Berit Erickson, whose husband worked for Norbeck and Nicholson Well Drilling
Company, had contacted Peter Norbeck about travel fare for my
mother, Anna (age 12), and Arne (age 9). After some
preparation, they left for America one Sunday afternoon. On the boat to Trondheim, it was a sad day for my older
brother, John, and me.
Early spring 1910, my boss farmer tried to talk me into staying another year with
him. But mother informed me that this man Nor beck would finance my trip over
also. Soon the ticket money came. My uncle went with me to Trondheim and made travel arrangements with the Gunard Line
I left Kregnesmoen the first part of April and went home to Hemne and stayed with my grandfather before leaving for
good. He felt very sad about my going so far away. His five daughters were all in
America, four thousand miles away. When mother left he nearly broke
down. There was a feeling of sadness at Merkesnes after that.
I was hoping all along that I wouldn't have to travel alone. That fear soon
vanished. A young man, Ingebrikt Bjerkan, who had for several years lived and worked near Duluth, Minnesota, came home to find a wire. He did - a neighbor
girl, Sara Sagnes, whom I knew well, I soon contacted him and arranged to be one of his
group, 9 all told, mostly young men in their early twenties. I was the youngest at 16 1/2. We all went to Trondheim together after a tearful parting with grandfather and
We boarded a boat, "Irma" of Bergen, the evening of April 15, 1910. It was an impressive
send-off. Singing groups stood on the dock and sang for their kinfolk?s leaving for a far away land. The boat left Trondheim that
evening. During the night it called at Kristiansund and Aalesund, thrifty fish-towns on the west coast. Both are on
islands. The next day, about noon, we entered Bergen harbor. Bergen was a city of about 70,000. In the 16th and 17th
centuries, it was dominated by the Hanseatic League. Some docks built by that dominating outfit still stand. We did not get a chance to go uptown and look around - the boat left mid
(If I would have had an inkling of what we were in for the next twenty-four
hours, I probably would have walked ashore and stayed.) That following night in the North Sea a terrible storm hit
us. The ship bounced around like a cork. Most all passengers were
seasick, I worst of all. If they would have heaved me
overboard, I wouldn't have cared. The top deck entrance to our cabin up forward was washed
away. Water was gushing down the stairs flooding the cabin;
boxes, suitcases, etc. were floating all around. There were perhaps 20-30 men in the
cabin, nearly all were vomiting. A couple of sailors on the way to England to board a merchant ship tried to help the rest of
us. They were pretty drunk and happy, singing at the top of their
voices, wading in water up to their knees.
We made Newcastle, landed and soon on a train heading for Liverpool. We were all installed in some sort of a hotel which had a dining hall. Stayed in the city six days and we spent our time looking
around. A mighty large museum two blocks away was most interesting to
me. Beggars were everywhere. I thought that was odd as at that time England was the world's richest
The last day in April we boarded the Mauritania, the largest vessel in the world at time.
The Atlantic crossing was smooth. The 5th of May, we entered New York
Harbor. Have a hazy recollection of seeing the Statue of
Liberty. Also, some ungodly tall buildings. We were taken to Ellis Island in the Hudson River. We were inspected from head to
foot. I passed but was held back when it was discovered that I had only $3.00 on
me. Luckily, our leader could loan me $5.00 and he also explained things to the
officials. By this delay I lost contact with the rest of the
group. I was put aboard a train and the next morning when I looked out the window I read the name Ottawa on the
station. Good grief, I was in Canada, probably lost
completely. The train continued, changed a few times, only food I had was a few hunks of hard bread in my
suitcase. The wooden benches were not good to sleep on. I met another Norwegian fellow and he helped me get sandwiches at the
R.R. stops. I remember crossing the Sault Saint Marie Canal in northern Minnesota. Those iron ore boats seemed to be a mile
long. Got to Minneapolis early the fourth morning. A station hand came and spoke to
me. I must have looked like a lost soul to him. He cheered me up by telling me that I would reach my destination the next
He was from Bergen. Next day, the fifth after leaving N.Y., I reached
Redfied, South Dakota. Mother met me at the station.
I stayed with my aunt a few days where mother stayed also. She worked in Redfield's steam
laundry. We soon found a small place to live in and a few days later started working for Norbeck and Nicholson Well Drilling
Company. Norbeck, as we know, financed my fare over. Norbeck's mother was from Trondheim and he could talk my
dialect. He, some years later, became Governor of South Dakota and later a
U.S. Senator from that state. Wages were $1.00 per day, 10 hour shifts (10c per
hour). The work was hard and dirty, especially in the foundry casting machine parts. My boss was a Swede and I could understand
him. After six months, I got a raise to $1.75 per day. I could save a little then and pay off my
Life in Redfield, population about 4,000, wasn't too bad. Most all of the employees of N. & N. were
Norwegians. Made friends with several of them. We had a social club where all activities were done in the Norwegian
tongue. I also joined the Norwegian church and sang in the choir
awhile. They were a fine group of young people. After a year, I began to understand English enough to get by. Mother and I had by that time paid off our debt to
One day Mr. Fish, owner of the laundry and mother's boss, asked me if I'd like to work for him in the laundry as a washerman at $15.00 per
week. His foreman would teach me the ropes. I was real happy to quit Norbeck &
After a month of training by Duane Gardner, the foreman, I was able to take over the washroom
duties. It was most interesting work, I really enjoyed it.
However, the summer of 1911 was a hot one, up to 110 during the day and not much better at
nights. Mr. Fish was like a father to me and when he offered mother and I a small apartment above the
laundry, we accepted. That made it most handy for us. But the heat began to bother me seriously and.
Dreams about the Pacific coast began to take hold.
One of the other reasons for this outlook was that sister Anna was already
there, it happened that shortly after I arrived at Redfied in May, 1910, our Aunt Lena and husband, Anton Jacobsen, came to Redfield
visiting. They had for several years lived and operated a business in Nome, Alaska. They were now taking a trip around the country visiting friends and relatives. They wanted Anna to go with them to Seattle; she was naturally thrilled and
went, At first, she was a bit lonesome so mother and I decided to join her with me going first. I arrived in Seattle, April, 1912, with a
friend, Arvid Olsen. He, too, had a sister there. She met us at the railroad station and took us out to west
Woodland, someplace where her boyfriend lived. I slept in a tent in the backyard that
Next day, I located my aunt and was told that I could stay with them in their small shore home on Lake Union at Latona
beach. Anna, who then was working for a Jewish family, came over the next day for a happy
To find work was most important now. Aunt Lena took me to "Model Electric" Laundry on First Avenue and presented me to the manager whom she
knew. Well, he could use a reliable washerman (right up my
alley), I enjoyed working there, mostly hotel flats. 1 got alone fine with the
foreman. Wages were $16.00 per week. One day about six to seven months later, the manager informed me that I was no longer needed
(laid off in another words). He admitted that a nephew of his needed a job so I had to
go. However, before I left he called Washington Laundry, on Lake Union, whose manager was a friend of his. Sure
enough, he needed a flat-washerman so the next day I started working there with the same
The foreman insisted that we washermen use less soap and more bleach in
washing. Results were mostly complaints from hotels, etc. To clear
himself, the foreman blamed us for the predicament and several of us were
Well, I now realized that laundry jobs were not for me, I had to try something
else. But jobs were scarce at that time. So what next? I still stayed at Aunt Lena's
I had by now met mother's cousin, Ed Wall, about three years my senior. He,
too, was idle. We teamed up shopping around for jobs. The lumber camps were perhaps our best
chance. One day looking at signboards on the skidroad, a sign came up stating "2 Blacksmith-helpers
Wanted." We dashed through the door and convinced the German blacksmith who was there that we were top
blacksmith-helpers. He hired us. The next day we started working for the Bryant Lumber Company on Lake Union, near the Fremont Bridge. The old mill had burned down sometime before and a new one was under
construction. Wages were $2.75 per day, 8 hour shifts, six days a
week. I could now start saving for future needs. Averaged about $20.00 per week since I usually helped the blacksmith do odd jobs after regular
hours. I soon moved to Fremont Hotel - room and board was $5,00 per
I now felt I was on solid ground and began planning to bring mother and
brother, Arne, to Seattle, He worked for his keep on a farm in South Dakota.
In the spring, 1914, Mother informed me that she would soon join us
here. I began looking for a modest house and found one where the north end of the Aurora Bridge is
anchored. I bought furniture and fire wood so, when mother and Arne arrived a few days later, we had a place to move into and call
home. Anna moved in with us. A short while later both Anna and Arne started to work at Zimmerman Degen's Shoe Factory in the Wallingford area. It was a ten minute walk from our
home. What a break ! They both followed that trade throughout their active lives.
Mother kept house and went regularly to church and made
friends. We were a happy group now. Sometime before mother came I joined the Norden Young People Society at the Stub Church on Pontius Avenue and Thomas
Street. I went every Friday evening. Most members were Norwegian
newcomers. I had much good clean fun there and made many
All went smoothly until the spring of 1914 when an unfortunate thing
happened. The old wooden dam that held the water in Lake Union at an even level broke down and the water sank to a point where logs couldn't be brought up to the mill. So it forced the mill to shut
down. Now I was out of a job again and times were tough. I worked a few days now and then with a pick and shovel but nothing steady. One day I met a fellow I had gotten acquainted with at the church - Idar Hansen, at the old Pike Place Market. He,
too, was idle. Looking through the ads section of the Seattle Times, we saw an ad saying "Small Business for Sale" on the lower floor of the market. We went down there to investigate and found it, an elderly Danish lady operating a stand (#48) selling mainly butter, eggs, and cheeses, etc.
Yes, she wanted to sell it for a price of $450.00 cash. She had made a good living there for
years, she told us. We bought it. We soon discovered that it wasn't enough for two but kept going a few
months. The following spring, Hansen got a chance to go to Alaska so I bought him
out. One could make a fair living and take care of it six days a
week. Saturdays, there had to be two and mother became my
helper. Business gradually improved. On a good Saturday, we took in $120.00 to $130.00 in mostly small sales.
During that period, while attending a social at "Norden", I was introduced to a Swedish girl named Hanna Marie
Anderson. She was there with another girl I knew. (They worked
together.) I took a shine to her and we began . going steady
together. She worked as a chambermaid at Fairfield Hotel at 7th and Madison.
Business improved right alone since I added many imported items to my
stock. But the confinement in the market stall began to tell on
me. Hanna and I had by then agreed to be married the coming June. The winter of 1915-1916 was the worst snow in
memory. Traffic was paralyzed. Only a few car lines operated. Two fellows I knew and I got the bright idea to put on a ski show.
We chose Queen Anne Hill right up from the Fremont Bridge. We built a good
size. jump and cleared some snow away and set up the run. We contacted the sport people in the newspapers who gave excellent write-ups for this Sunday
event. The street cars going past the place were running. Sunday morning it started to rain but in spite of that about two hundred people were there to see ski jumpers in action for the first time in Seattle. In spite of the soft snow and
rain, jumps up to 80 feet were made. It was a modest
sensation. The next day in the papers there were pictures of the event on their front
pages. Skiing in these parts was on the way.
In April, 1916, I sold my business for about $500.00. I tried some other kinds of activity but they didn't work
out. So June 11th we were married by Pastor Odd Gorniska, Anna and her husband, Robert Solheim, and the girl who had introduced us were
witnesses. Shortly before this event, I had moved from Fremont to 404 Pontius Avenue where I rented a three bedroom
house. Arne was still with us. We lived there for about two
years. May 25, 1917, a boy was born to us. We named him John Harold. He was a fine boy.
Working conditions were getting better. The first world war was raging in
Europe. England was losing her merchant ships fast. She had to replace them or go under. Several shipyards were started and put thousands to
work. I got on as, you guessed it, a hammer swinger and soon I was
strawboss, had my own gang and made big money, $100.00 per week and $100.00 per month bonus
besides. In the fall of 1917, we moved to Youngstown to be nearer the yard that I worked at, "Ames Shipbuilding Company" located on Harbor Island. I could walk to work in ten
minutes. That fall I bought a Model T Ford, cost about $600.00. It had no starter but a good
crank. We lived at Youngstown a year or so. Then the owner sold the house so we moved up to West Seattle on Brendon Street where we rented a small new
house. I could walk to work if I chose too or use my "Limosine."
The fall of 1918 the war ended and I knew the shipbuilding day would soon end. At this
point, I was talked into a very foolish thing. One of my
helpers, Elmer Nelson, a very nice fellow, pointed out that in as much as there was a coal strike on we could make good going into the fuel business selling
wood. I fell for it, we bought a big truck and a dragsaw. Things went bad from the start. Later when the truck froze up with a cracked block we gave
up, having lost by then several thousand dollars, mostly from my shipyard
savings, it was back to odd jobs again and sawmill work in Ballard. I could walk from Salmon Bay to
By midsummer 1919, an old friend and woodsman, Ben Dahlem, offered to have me go with him into the woods as a second faller. Why not? After the
fourth, we took the train to Concrete Skagit Company where a Bellingham company
operated. Our boss was also an old friend. After I got broke into falling trees, we were highest team in camp making $12-$15 per
day. The company set up in a new camp on a ridge across from Mt, Baker. Very modern
inside, steam heat arid hot water, with four men to the
cabin. I enjoyed this outdoor life very much. Went to Seattle every other weekend.
Before this timber adventure, we had moved from West Seattle to Salmon Bay on Fort Lawton where I bought a run down cabin and had fixed it up
livable. Hanna and Harold lived there while I was in the logging camp. Our nearest neighbor were good friends (Johnson). They had a girl
(Florence) about Harold's age. Stayed at camp till the first part of
December, Snow on the ground made logging difficult and the camp
closed. But I saved a good part of my earnings and was in good shape for winter
layoff. I did not go back. Next spring, I worked a while on Smith's Cove Dock - under
construction. I also worked a while at a sawmill in Ballard (small
pay, hard work).
Now our neighbor, Maurity Johnson, informed me that Elliott Mill on Spokane
Street, where he worked, needed a man with a power saw. I had mine from the fuel mess, I went out there and talked with the superintendent. They needed someone badly to cut up core logs and broken up logs for stove
fuel. Having nothing to lose, I set up my saw and went to work at $2.23 per
cord. The superintendent, a fine man, saw to it that I got help if I needed it.
Things went surprisingly well and I made good money. The superintendent, George
Bartells, when he was convinced that I could handle it, increased my rate.
Also, he had me install electric power for my saw which he had his electrician set up for
me. I was my own boss and made good money, $70-$80 per week. We still lived at Salmon Bay.
It's now 1923. Harold is six years old so he starts school at Fort Lawton Elementary and goes there for one
year. We now move away from Salmon Bay to John Street and Yale Avenue where mother and Robert and Anna
lived. We have an upstairs apartment two blocks from Cascade School where Harold finishes his grade school
period. My good job at Elliott Bay Mill comes to an end in 1926. The mill decides to send all waste wood to the pulp mill in
Everett. About this time, two ladies we knew well started an eating place in the
I.O.G.T. Building on Virginia Street near Boren Avenue. They did well from the start. They needed help and asked Hanna to help out in the
kitchen. She did for awhile. Then the two partners had a falling out and one wanted to sell her part. She suggested to Hanna that she buy her
out. This was agreed to by the other lady, Mrs. Egil Johansen. We were now in business. Both Egil and I helped in the kitchen washing dishes and
cleaning, etc. Things went very well for a couple of years. We made a fair living. In 1928, Mrs. Johansen, not feeling
well, wanted to sell out so I bought her share and now we owned Nor den
Cafe. Business got better so we had one steady waitress and one part-time and a part-time
We moved again now to an upstairs apartment right across the street from the cafe which was very
handy. We were now not just busy selling food, but also
socially. We were members of the "Balder" Sick Benefit
Society, the Norwegian Turners, and athletic club. I was an average gymnast and took part in all public
exhibitions. During one of these exhibitions, I had a mishap - fell out of the parallel bars and wrenched my back. A chiropractor I knew fixed me up after some painful punching. This man got me interested in this form of healing and suggested that I contact the Seattle College of
Chiropractic, a branch of the Palmer School at Davenport, Iowa. I
did, and enrolled as a student, not knowing what I was in for. All the other students have had high school and some university graduates were
enrolled. Me? Eight years of grade school in Norway. The course cost about $750.00 and a stack of
books. At first I took evening classes, only 6-9 o'clock. In my spare moments, I always had my nose in a book. It was rough but now I couldn't pull
out; I had paid my tuition.
(Let's go back a bit. The Model T I bought in 1917 I traded in for a 1919
model. It had a starter. Big improvement - kept that six
years. In 1925, I traded that for a 1925 coupe (Ford). It had glassed in cab and balloon tires. That was real
class. We kept that five years.)
Ford Coupe 1925
1928. I was still able to do my share at the cafe. Business was going
well. Later we got more help and I could take both day and evening classes at the school on 6th and Pine. In the evening
class, I got acquainted with an English man, Vern Ittner, a very bright fellow who had attended Oxford in London. He was a straight
vegetarian. He convinced me that most people consume far too much meat and pork and ruin their health and well being that
way. (I still firmly believe that.) He didn't succeed in turning me into a vegetarian but I changed my style of eating and have stayed with it ever
since. I ground away studying and gradually caught up with the rest. I wanted to graduate with
them, about twenty all told. The last six months I worked in the
clinic, a busy place. Some of the patients called me Dr. Wow. That nearly made me
blush. It was a good experience though. Anatomy was my best subject and I held my own there with the rest of
them. In June, 1929, the class went to Olympia to take the State Board
Exam. I was uneasy but went along. We spent two days writing and I passed with the average of 88%. I furnished an office in the old Yale Building at Third and Union. Ittner and another graduate shared it with
me. It was mighty slow starting. My first patient was a big, fat Negro woman and I had to think fast to get rid of her. It was a bad start. Six months later - moved to Peoples Bank
Building, 2nd & Pike, Business picked up but the inside atmosphere began to tell. Couldn't take it, closed and went back to the cafe
full-time. Set up my chiropractic stuff in the apartment where we lived and quite a few came there with back
1929 was a year of tragedies. 8,000 banks closed in the U.S. and we lost our
savings, about $2,300.00. Got back about 45% over a fifteen year
period. Luckily, I had bought four acres of land at Echo Lake and had it paid for, about $1,800.00. Business gradually got
worse. By 1931, we couldn't make enough to live on and pay rent. Had to do something drastic or just close
up. I checked around out in Ballard and found a vacant space in the Sunset Hotel
Building. I decided to take it. Reasonable rent. Cleaned and painted the place and moved our equipment in. Our landlord, Mr.
Aug. Victor, was a fine person to deal with. He operated a large market in the same
building. Very handy for us. Ballard had several sawmills and smaller shingle mills running and most of the single fisherman lived
there. Soon business was on paying basis. We now moved to 60th & 5th
NW, rent was $30.00 per month. From there Harold could walk to Ballard
High. Things shaped up good at Sunset Cafe, as we named it. Had one waitress steady.
But I had chickens on my mind, the egg laying type. I started to work on those four acres at Echo Lake, Usually after
lunch, I'd drive out there and put in 3-4 hours clearing and burning.
(Had a 1929 Model A Ford than -a very good car) Was on the clearing job about a
year. Made it into a park-like place - campstove, tables, and
playground. It became a busy place on Sundays in the summer. Friends and neighbors came in
droves. Then I built a good size cabin.
In 1934, I started clearing and getting ready to build a real
house. Took about a year to dig out the basement, all by hand. The
basement, wall, and floor - handmixed concrete. Hauled all materials on a small trailer. Used a good deal of trees to shore up bulkheads and sills for the
house. Things I couldn't do alone I had done on Sundays
when friends and relatives were there.
By the spring of 1936, the house was shaping up. I had the roof on and most of the outside
done. I sold the cafe for about $500.00. We needed cash badly and moved to an unfinished house in July of 1936. Before the house was
finished, I built a chicken house, 20'x30', for about 200
pullets. I was very lucky with the material; our nearest neighbor was a yard foreman at Stimson Mill in Ballard. He gave me some good deals on
lumber, about $12 to $14 per M. I put in a lawn and cleared space for a garden. We were lucky to get water from Seattle's extended water line. By August, the house was
finished. Harold had the upstairs bedroom. Now for chickens. I bought 200 five month pullets
(Leghorns) from Erickson Brothers at Issaquah. They were fine birds at $1.05
each. They began laying at six months and were excellent
layers. They kept us in groceries the first year.
In 1937, I built another chicken house with two stories, I bought 600 baby chicks which I raised and sold:
some. I kept about 400 and had now about 600 layers. We could put aside a little
now. It has been on my mind to learn a trade other than
carpentry. This trade had many drawbacks. I figured barbering would be worth trying -enrolled at Moler Barber School on 1st & Yesler for a six month course (spring of 1938). I finished in late September and had to go to Spokane for State Board
I had for years been interested in the Hawaiian Islands. Just had to pay
'em a visit, so when I got back from Spokane I wrote to a fellow I had known
well, now living in Honolulu, inquiring about things in general. I soon got a reply plus a piece from the "Honolulu Daily" stating that Olaf Lagreid (his
name) was the successful bidder on erecting a hanger for the Navy on Ford Island in Pearl
He added, "If you come down here, you'll have a
job," Hanna and Harold weren't keen about me going - but gave in. Harold had started postgraduate courses at Ballard High and could help with the chickens and dispose of the eggs to private homes and stores in Ballard. I
took: the train to Vancouver and got on an Australian boat, "Aorangi", meaning "flying skies" in Maori
tongue. After seven days, we rounded Diamond Head and were soon
docking. Lagreid was there to meet me. He had a new car and took me out to Waikiki Beach where he had a classy
apartment. He offered for me to stay with him if I would do the cooking to which I
agreed. After resting and looking around in a new dream world, I went to work on the hanger
foundation. It was mostly pick and shovel, and not too
inspiring. I arranged to ride to and from work with his carpenter boss with whom I later worked - fine
fellow. Things went along nicely. Then Olaf, who had friends
there, would invite them for Sunday dinner; I was on the spot - had to get the food and do the
preparation, cook, and serve the food. They all bragged about the food but I didn't appreciate the honor and later I got a room a block
away. Occasionally, I did go over and cook for Olaf. When the hanger was partly
erected, I started painting and liked that better. For
recreation, I'd walk a lot and ride around the island, Oahu, which took about four
hours. I had gotten acquainted with a fellow from Michigan on the
boat. He bought an old car and we'd drive to interesting
places. Later we were joined by a young Norwegian boy who lived on a
boat. He and his two brothers had sailed from Norway to Honolulu. The three of us became good
friends. We climbed the "Tantalus" Hills above the city and had a marvelous view of everything from Diamond Head to Pearl
Harbor. The "Pali" was another wonder view. It was on the "Pali", the final battle was fought and won by Chief "Kamehameha", who then became ruler of all the island about 1772. Nearly every
evening, after work and supper, I'd go down to the beach and enjoy the entertainment - hula
dances, singing, and surfboard riding and splash in the lukewarm water. It was interesting and pleasant at first, but the balmy warm climate began to get monotonous and when the hanger was finished I was glad to leave
paradise. Mid April, I took a boat to Vancouver and made it home about eight days later. Things were in good shape at home so it was back to routine
work, but not quite. Took a barber job up at Skykomish, a little village in the
Working in Pearl Harbor
Cascades - which lasted a month. It was a very dreary place. I, later, worked at Winslow barbering several months and went home weekends. That fall Harold started at the University of Washington. We cut down on
chickens, and I worked as a carpenter awhile again. When the war with Japan broke out in December of 1941, I worked for Austin con-struction Company at Boeing Plant II - night
work. in snow and ice. I went sour on that trade and worked awhile as a barber in
Greenwood. Sea Tac Shipyard was started to construct Navy destroyers for the
war, I applied for work and was hired for the same kind of a job I did in World War I. The head of the department was Al
Richardson, with who I worked at "Ames" 24 years
before. When the nightshift started, they put me in charge as leading man. For the next three
years, I enjoyed the job and made the highest possible wages. I got several friends
jobs; Harold, too, quit school and worked on my crew awhile. He switched later to the shipfitter shop and soon became a
mechanic. In 1943, he, to avoid being drafted for the Army, enlisted in the Navy - a wise
move. Before this happened, he had met a girl at some dance and fell hard for her -
name, Helen Andersen from Ketchikan, Alaska. We liked her. They got
married. David was about two years old when Harold enlisted. Paul was born at Berkeley while Harold was stationed at Treasure Island.
We began thinking of selling the farm ~ too tied down -
unexpectedly. We sold the chicken farm in January, 1942, for $5,000.00 cash. We were permitted to stay six
months. By then a house was built on 92nd and Fremont avenue where I bought two lots. By
July, we could move in. Hanna was happy about that move. The
builder, Svanson and Son, had done an excellent job, A lot of work had to be
done; there was no sewer system in and a makeshift water
set-up. (It all came in later.) Built a fair size storage
house, later converted to live-in for Harold, Helen, and boys. Harold and Helen bought a house north of Ballard but had to sell when Harold
enlisted. At this time [1942), I bought 100' of water front property on Sunset
Beach, Hoods Canal, paid $1,200.00 for it. Built a small
cabin. Shortly after, Robert and Anna, Jon, Arne, and 0. Petersen bought lots
nearby, They all built nice cabins and spent most weekends out
there. We all had a grand time. Back to barbering again, I built a portable building in the backyard and leased ground at 125th and
Greenwood. Two schools nearby - I made good there. Had quit the shipyard some time
I now bought a 32' boat for $1,900.00. Would like to try fishing dogfish for liver
value. I worked the barber shop in the winter and leased it out for six months through the summer while I
My fishing boat
Lived on the Canal mostly and kept the boat there. I soon discovered that the boat was too big and unsuitable and sold it for $2,500.00. Made a little there. I bought a 23 footer open hull and had my neighbor, H. Veggen, put a cabin and motor in it. A good rig it was, I made fairly good at dogfish fishing as the liver went up to $1.30 per pound. Besides fishing, I worked at barbering at Kingston awhile, I also built a larger cabin and a boat and gear house on the beach.
Harold came home from the war in late 1945 and a year later he bought a five-acre place above Poulsbo (still lives there) and I bought a small building at Poulsbo Junction (1947). I fixed it up for barbering and set it or eased ground where the IGA now stands. Kept it open afternoons only at first. Business gradually got better arc began to plan on moving to North Kitsap to live. Hanna was opposed to it. When the war ended (later 1945) the rice on dogfish liver dropped down to nearly nothing. I sold the boat and went full-time barbering. Before this, had sold the shop in Seattle.
In the spring of 1946, I took a trip to Alaska on a fishing boat - visited Ketchikan and Petersburg, about a six-day trip. Gloomy weather, I have no desire to go back. Took the plane going back,
In 1948, I got interested in a piece of ground just above the Junction. It turned out to be six acres belonging to a Seattle man. Swan Lundmark. It had two small cabins, a garage, and chicken house. I contacted Landmark; no,
he didn't plan to sell the place. Just then, maybe later, unexpectedly, I sold my place on the Canal for about $7,000.00 to a Ballard banker. Awhile later, Landmark called me and said he wanted to sell his six acres and all For about $5,000.00 cash, Well, I now had. the money and I bought it. In my spare time from barbering, I fixed one cabin up to live in while remodeling the other. Made it into a two bedroom dwelling, completed and rented it,
In 1949, I sold my shop below and started clearing space for a future home. Pretty rough going - stumps and windfalls galore. In 1952, I built a barber shop on the corner of Vinland Road and Cedar Lane. First on own ground. £ opened it up in November. Business was good from the start, soon had all I could handle. In 1953, I started on the foundation for a house. By using all my spare time, with some help, I had it ready by July, 1955. (Hanna was opposed to moving.) She liked our house on Fremont and 92nd in Seattle. We kept that and rented it for $80 a month.
While finishing our new home, I rented out the shop to Raymond Solheim, just out of barber school, for nine months. He did well; I helped when needed. To clear all of the six acres was a big job. All the stumps and windfalls had to be burned. When all cleared, I had it surveyed into lots, 14 all told. Eventually, I sold 'em all for cash.
In the summer of 1959, I took a trip to Norway and stayed there three months on the old home farm, now operated by ray cousin. Traveled to Sweden and Denmark (bought an Opel car). The shop I had leased to Sex Foster, who two years later bought it. In 1961, I sold not only the shop but our house in Seattle and leased out the house at the Junction. Hanna was lonesome for Seattle so late in 1961 I bought a house on 93rd and Linden Avenue, two blocks from our former home, This place, about 20 years old, needed a lot of fixing and it took about a year before we could move in. We didn't sell our house at the Junction but rented it to a very nice couple (ifs 1961).
After we moved in at Linden, I went over to Poulsbo every Friday to help Rex in the shop. Business was good then. Returned Saturday afternoons. I did a good deal of work on our new dwelling. First, a six foot high fence around the place (120'xl30'), almost an acre. Double garage, workshop, woodshed, and blacktopped the driveway. I made a fishpond (lillypond) and a patio. On the house itself, I enlarged the basement and put up partitions for a bedroom, washroom, and lavatory. We enjoyed living there with our friends, Nels and Astrid Hovlands, as neighbors. Nels and I helped each other with projects.
In 1968, Hovlands sold their place. We stayed awhile until street improvements came in - paved streets, sidewalks, drain sewers, etc. We were heavily assessed, about $1,500.00, and likely more to come. We desired to sell, A man owning an apartment nearby bought it. He paid cash, I came out about even on this deal (1968),
We moved back to our place at the Junction. It was now vacant. Barbering fell off. Long hair came into style. That meant I would no longer be needed in the shop. I could also notice that Hanna's mind was undergoing a change.
1970. I sold the small house in the back and the last of the lots. Cash deals all. Only thing we now owned was the house we lived in. Planned to make a move of some kind. Harold offered us ground for a mobile home. We took him up on it. Cut trees and cleared ground. By March, 1971, it was ready. I bought a 20'x46' Elcar from Brentvoods in Bremerton. They set it up and did a good job. I put skirting on all around it. Also, added porch and patio - built a garage and workshop. This new home proved to be real nice. Easy to keep up and very comfortable.
By now, Hanna's mind had deteriorated to a point where she could do very little of house chores. I didn't mind taking over. Physically, she was in surprisingly good shape, till the first part of 1975. She became bedridden. She faded rapidly now, didn't know anyone, I brought her to Martha and Mary's Nursing Home in Poulsbo where she
Johan and Hanna
passed away the 5th of March, quiet and peacefully. The Stone Chapel people took charge of cremation, etc.
Her remains are at the Evergreen Mausoleum, Bremerton, At the memorial service, all of the family and many friends were present. Mr., Darrel Tracy gave a very nice talk on Hanna's long and useful life. She was just over 82.
She was born at Sundals Ryr, Dalsland, Sweden, She immigrated to Alberta, Canada in 1912. Came to Seattle in 1914 where I met her. Besides her own immediate family, she leaves one sister and two brothers in Sweden and one brother in Norway.
Hanna was a good, faithful wife for over 58 years. An excellent housekeeper. As a cook, second to none. All the family miss her. When the one you have shared house and home with for over a half century passes on, your dwelling becomes uncomfortably still and quiet. Noises from dishes, vacuum cleaner, washing operation, etc., just aren't there and you miss them. You'd give anything to hear those noises again. But you also know that you must carry on, too ~ keep active, be useful when possible, and not be a burden to your family nor anyone else. Cultivate a few friends, retired ones preferably. I go to Seattle quite often. Have a few old-time friends and some relatives there. My favorite Aunt Mary Kana, now 92. She is a most remarkable human being. She is to me, one in a million. A Few Words of Sadness
Most families have had their share of sorrow and sadness, we have had ours. Brother Arne died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1950, only fifty years old. He seemed to be in excellent health, a great fellow, 1953, Robert, Anna's husband, dropped dead in his house. Anna took it very hard. In 1961, Mother passed on. She was 92. She lived a long and useful life, 1970, Jon, the oldest, died after a long and distressing illness. Jon and Sofie's great sorrow was in losing their youngest son in the Korean War. Rolf, age 20, was a splendid young man. His parents never fully got over their loss. Early in 1974, sister Anna left us after a period of failing health, She was 78, It was always a pleasure to visit Anna; her house was like a second home to me. May they all rest in peace.
August, 1975. Living alone can be a bit lonely at times. But now with good reading, TV, stereo, and radio, it's not too bad. Having cats around helps. Watching my great-grandchildren (six of them) grow and play is my greatest pride and joy. Realizing that these fine youngsters are the fourth generation offspring of that scared, bewildered boy on Ellis Island, 65 years ago, gives me quite a lift. I hope to be around a few more years, the good Lord willing, and be near my family - until the day comes when the light flickers out, having reached the end of the trail. In this respect, we all wander on common ground. Amen.
This is roughly the highlights of my life - to the best of my recollection.
September 6, 1975
A Few Afterthoughts
I would like to go into a few details as to Balder and the Viking football club, having had much enjoyment in both organizations.
I joined "Balder" in 1913. It was then a small club struggling to keep going, most all members were newcomers. I was elected Forman three years later. Held that position when Hanna joined. At that period, there were about 200 members. A few of us put our heads together and made plans for the future. Had bazaars, raffles, dances, etc, In a few years we were financially sound and had about 700 members. That was an interesting time. Several member-ship drives. Hanna took second prize in one. Our dances packed old Norway Hall and fun for all. Friendships made during those days lasted a lifetime, "Balder" folded in 1943. The great war was raging, curtailing social activities,
The Viking football club was organized in 1923. I was not active at first as the Swedes took command of things.
Later when they faded away a few of us Norskies took over. It was a hard struggle to stay alive at first. Later when we got a sponsor, things improved. I never was a player but was active in fund raising and social activities, I was head of the club for a few years. Harold joined up with the second team for one year (1935). Then graduated into first team. A good and popular player, he vas. The great war ended most sports for those years. Afterwards, things got back to normal again. Harold played a short period before moving to Poulsbo. Viking had its finest period in 1970, 1972, 1973 when Sons of Norway was sponsor. Never missed a game then. In 1974, a new sponsor took over, changed the name of the club, and Viking became another memory.
Something else I've been thinking should be included deals with my grandfather (mother's dad). As you know he took me into his house after being mistreated by my uncle. He became my boyhood hero. The incident I best cherish
is going to church with him on Sundays. To sit beside him and listen to him sing - I was in heaven - naturally he had the finest voice in the congregation. Yes, Gramps was one of the noblest.
Myself and all the family figured - Grandpa is washed up by now and sort of out of the picture of doing things, well hardly. I have for some time been looking for a suitable travel trailer to, someday, live in, I found one. My former barber customer, Ted Hart, had one for sale, sort of by chance I found out. Four years old and arranged the way I had planned, Terry, 22', all in good shape. I bought it.
I also for some time been snooping around looking for a piece of ground in the Lemolo district but with no luck, I learned that a 5 acre tract just east of David was for sale. (Actually the tract that the City of Poulsbo tried to put their sewer plant on) Looking it over I got seriously interested. 1/2 cleared, the back half in fine timber.» Front part - view over the water. Also found out that someone in the neighborhood had a bid on it. Anyway, I put a bid a bit higher than this other person on it. The owner, living in Idaho, flew here and signed the agreement. So how your old grandpa is a land owner again. One of the reasons I'd considered acquiring property at my age is that land in a good location will maintain its value in the future while cash in the banks shrinks. Also, it gives me something to do and take an interest in. I have no plans to build or anything else except leveling the cleared part after the blackberry bushes are removed. I know several people around there and that helps, it. is now December, 1975.