Hands across the sea
I asked her if she was excited to come to America.
“Oh yes. I was. To begin with I was very excited to get to come to America. But I had a cat at home called “Munce.” I didn’t like to leave my cat. And when we were on the boat coming over here I was crying and you know how kids are. And my dad said, “What are you crying about?” “Oh,” I said, “I wish the doctor would find something wrong with me so he would send me back to Norway.” He said, “Why do you want to go back to Bergen?” “Well,” I said, “I want to go back to my cat.” [Belle laughed.] My cat meant more to me. He was such a cute cat. We used to go play hide and seek at home.
“We came on a ferry steamship across the North Sea into Hull, England. From there we went by train and boat across the Atlantic in through Canada. We came in to Canada. But I don’t, you know, when you are 14 years old you don’t pay too much attention when you’re not interested in scenery or anything. And . . . when we came into Vancouver, Canada, in the late afternoon and we just missed a train to go to Seattle. So my dad, he went down and he found out there was this boat leaving. That was a Princess boat, and so we left, he got us on there, and we got in the next morning at 10, no 8 o’clock. So, we traveled at night. And they were surprised when we came. They expected us the night before. They were down to the train to meet us but we didn’t come. My brother (Birger) left that morning for Alaska. So we didn’t get to see him. He had that job* to go to in Alaska and he had to get going. So we didn’t see him until he came back, say in October or late in September.
“We had family in America. My brother was here, Birger. Birger Amungus. Funny names they had back in the old country. Hmmm, Mrs. Landaas, Karen Landaas, she was here. She had a sister here, Gurine. But I never met her. She passed away before we came over, it seemed like it. I don’t remember. But I know they used to go and see him (Gurine’s husband). Tryg did anyway. That’s the one they called “Saude.” They always called him Saude. It was a funny name. The Landaas family, they were great for making up names. I guess you heard that. They always had names for everybody. Different names. They were very nice. Sigrid . . . she was Taxi or Tax. That’s what Harry called her. And then it was Tryg and then Nora. They were a pretty good-sized family. Adolf, Cornelius and Harald and Tryg, that was four boys. Maggie, Klara, Petra, Sigrid, and Nora. That’s a big family and to all come over. In those days the fare was very reasonable, but even so, the wages were smaller too. So it was just about the same as now, we just had to skimp and scrape to get along.
“I had to learn to read and write in English, you know. So I went to a school in Ballard. They put me in with younger children and I didn’t like that. Now, I can hardly talk Norwegian. I could if I had Norwegian people to talk to. It takes a little time to think about it. I was trying to tell Jack (her husband) every once and a while what they call this and that in Norway. I always thought I’d like to take a trip back. And my son, I don’t remember what year that was; it was before I married again. You see I was a widow for 18 years between Jack and my other husband. Let’s see, Frank passed away in 1947 and we got married in 1965. Him and I. So, you see that was about 18 years. So I was going to go and take a trip to Norway. I belonged to the ladies chorus and I thought, well, they had a tour going so I signed up for it. But I didn’t, I backed out. I’ve never been back.
I have a cousin, you know, he was just a little child. He was about 2 ½ or 3 years old when we left Norway and he is here in the United States. Otto was his name. He was my stepmother’s nephew. And I call him once in a great while, and he said he goes back every so often. He said, “You wouldn’t even know the place.” He said, “If you came back to the place where you lived it’s altogether different.” It’s so different that he doesn’t even enjoy going any more. But he has a sister living there. But they were a big family. I think there were 11 or 12 kids. And so he, but there’s only one of them left and that’s Klara. And she was about 4 or 5 years old when we left. So she’s the only one and she lives in Oslo. She is a trained nurse. She married a captain--ships went back and forth. They don’t have any children, so she is all alone. She’s the only one who is living, the only one of his family left. So he used to go back there quite often. I don’t think he’s gone back lately; he’s not too good either. He’s about Jack’s age, about 83. A youngster. We’re all youngsters. I’m the old lady. (Belle was 93 at the time.)
To be continued.
* Birger worked in the canneries in Alaska and later on the ships that went up and down the coast from Alaska to Seattle and further south. He often shipped out of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.