Reflections of a Second-Generation Norwegian

By Mrs. Carma Pedersen

What I remember most of my early days was climbing gangplanks no matter how steep they were – or almost inaccessible.

My dad was with the Merchant Marine and I saw him very little. He enjoyed the sailing waters of Japan and the Middle East, which meant a six month trip.  At the age of 14, after my Dad was confirmed in Norway, it was at that time the custom to go to sea.  He was the oldest of six children. After years at sea he went back to his hometown and went to Seamen’s School there and studied to become an officer. After being at sea again he came back to study for his Captain’s license.  He had decided the sea would be his career. He was shipwrecked twice – once in the Atlantic Ocean and once in the Pacific Ocean.  It was a British ship that picked them all up in the Pacific Ocean taking the able bodied men. He worked on board for three months – no pay – just to get back to England.

Then my mother came to America and as soon as she got off the ship they were married.  She hated Ellis Island, but nevertheless had to go through it. I think that prompted her to get her citizenship.  They were three brothers who came to America and, of course, my Dad had to settle in New York. Another brother settled in Boston and the youngest one in Chicago. There he became a contractor and built most of the Oak Park homes.

Mother and her sister bought a house in Brooklyn as my Dad was in the Far East, but she had his approval.  He was home every six months for only three weeks.  We had many visitors from Norway and often they stayed with us. I can speak Norwegian “properly” and fluently and also with “slang”.  When I made my first trip to Norway I read many Norwegian books. I learned to write Norwegian from reading these books.  I was in my teenage years when it was easy to learn.   When we got back to Brooklyn again, I wanted to learn the grammar part so I went to Waldemar Reiersen schooling.  It was located across the street from the Nordisk Tidende office on 4th Avenue. I believe it was advertised in the Nordisk Tidende paper which at that time was located on 4th Avenue between 48th and 49th Street in Brooklyn. I believe it was the first office of the paper. I went every Sunday afternoon to study with him.  Now I am able to write to my friends in Norway. I write as they want me to and I wrote such beautiful Norwegian.

My father joined Broderkretsen in the Norwegian Seamen’s Church at 31 First Place and at 111 Pioneer Street which was the first church they had.  At that time we lived near the church and Mother would take me to Coffee Park in the neighborhood.  We attended the Norwegian Seamen’s’ Church after it moved to 31 First Place where they had many affairs for the seamen.  My mother was in Musikkoret there for twenty five years!  I still remember the packages that were given to the seamen at Christmas festivals and now I am friends with one of the seamen who received a package there!  I went to the Bazaars and loved working at them.  Parelli Olsen was the assistant there and directed everything efficiently.  His daughter, Hjordis Mortinsen, wrote a column for Nordisk Tidende and Norway Times papers.   It was most enjoyable.  I still glance through the Norway Times for her column.  So do many of my friends across the nation as it was a plus for us.  She and her husband visited me here and enjoyed Lefse.

All of Mother and Dad’s friends were Norwegian so when they came for a visit I followed along on all they said.  I only wish my brains worked better when I was 14 years old as I could have written a book about my Dad’s life.  He had a tough life, but never came in the door without a smile.  He told story after story about his adventures to our friends.

Fifth Avenue was most popular with my Mother and she met many friends there. Hildebrands, Glass & Lieberman, Lerners, and Woolworth’s five and dime stores were very much visited at the time.  On Sunday afternoons she would go to the Trefoldighets Kirken on 46th St. and 4th Avenue and there she met friends. Across the street from the church was the Norwegian Hospital where the Deaconesses were very popular. This hospital became the backbone of the Lutheran Medical Center on 2nd Avenue and 55th St. in Brooklyn.  I moved to Florida when my husband retired, but I still miss ”the good old days”.

My Dad had a very rare license Master of Sail, Steam and Diesel – any ocean, any sea.  There were only seven of them issued in 1950, the last year my dad renewed it.  My cousin Al said all he wanted was my Dad’s license and it is now hanging in his office in Manhattan as a keepsake.

Mrs. Carma Pedersen
October 21, 1999

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