Another Bay Ridge Saga: Sandoya Social Welfare Club of Brooklyn

By Kay Morch Langeland

Written April 13th, 2000

          The Sandoya Social Welfare Club in Brooklyn was a haven for many hearty seamen, who came from the island of Sandoya who had immigrated to Brooklyn in the 1920’s. it became a favorite gathering place for seamen during the Second World War. The seamen participated in convoys in the North Atlantic and when their ships docked in New York they were always welcome at the Social Club.

The Sandoya Social Welfare Club began in April 1940. Seamen met at the homes of two brothers Arthur and Victor Morch in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. When their ships came in, it became an increasingly favorite place for the seamen to go. They knew the doors were always open to them in the Morch homes and they were always treated kindly.

After a while it was decided to form a club for the Sandoya people, and also for a place that the seamen could meet other friends from home. The meetings were held in the Sons of Norway Hall on 66th Street bnetween 6th and 7th Avenues in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The Club arranged all kinds of fests, Lapskaus, Sild and Potato dinners, and many dances which were enjoyed by all the members and seamen. Anker Nilsen, father of this area’s popular Accordionist, Arthur Nilsen, always provided the music for all the events on his trusty accordion.

After the war The Club sent cases of food and clothing to every home on Sandoya. It is said that the docks in Tvedestrand were overflowing with cases of supplies, from America, ready for shipment to Sandoya.

In the years after the war, the Sandoya Club continued with meetings and get-togethers until about the mid 1960’s. as the years passed, club members moved from Bay Ridge to the suburbs of New York and New Jersey. The seamen’s lives changed and not many stops were made in the New York area.

The Club’s wooden symbol is a replica of the lighthouse on the eastern end of the Island, which was delivered to Sandoya in the 1980’s and is displayed in the Public Meeting House there. It was donated to the island as a memorial of the loving relationship between the Sandoya residents and their families in the United States. The bond has been so strong between the first and second generations of these immigrants, that many of them still visit Sandoya quite often. I, as a first generation Norwegian American, born of a Sandoya immigrant, Agvald Morch, enjoy many happy visits to the island that my father was so fond of, on the eastern coast of Norway.