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Loren Celebrates Syttende Mai With Some Norwegian Family History

Yah, here comes the Syttende Mai. The Norwegian Constitution Day is May 17. If not for my Danish great-grandfather, I’d be a purebred Norwegian. Just a few random thoughts from a Norwegian. I was baptized by the Rev. Jurgenson, who was followed by the Rev. Hanson, and then the Rev. Olson … and there’s a pattern here, isn’t there?

My mother’s side came over first. The great-great-grandpa Ole wrote a letter to his brother describing what his father had to say about the journey from Norway to America. He made mention of his father’s jugs, which he shared with the captain. As a result, the crew sort of kept an eye out for his family. Bribing the ship’s captain with booze. Probably happened a lot. They arrived in 1859 and made mention of the wind and torrential rains around the La Crosse, Wis., area where they arrived and later settled.

The one thing I remember being told about the other half of my mother’s family was that they apparently weren’t too concerned with what name they used. My great-grandmother used the last names Hanson, Anderson and Bever, and sometimes used two of them at the same time. My great-grandfather was originally a Peterson, but there were too many of them and the mail and other stuff got mixed up, so they took the Rude out of Skotterude, Norway, and used that as a last name. These are all familiar stories I’ve heard from other Norwegian families.

On my dad’s maternal side, the Johansons, and later Johnsons, came from way up north near the Arctic Circle. They settled in southern Wisconsin and then wound up in the northern part of the state.

The last branch to make it over was my father’s father in 1911. My grandpa made mention of each spring heading up to the mountains with his brother Thor and a herd of goats along with a couple of jugs. They then spent the summer grazing the goats in the mountains of Norway. As a young fellow, every Christmas Eve was spent at my aunt’s with the traditional meal of lutefisk. Fortunately she also made meatballs. When grandpa died, no more lutefisk, just meatballs as the main course for Christmas eve. Sad to see grandpa go, but most of us certainly didn’t miss the lutefisk. He also had a thing for sour cream. He’d come up to our farm and set a quart jar of milk out in the sun and then drink it after it curdled. Must not have done any harm as he made it to 89.

My grandpa dearly looked forward to the arrival of his newspapers written in Norwegian. There were a number of them still being printed up into the 1980s in the Twin Cities and Decorah, Iowa. He saved every one of them.

Just a few thoughts from days gone by. Happy Syttende Mai.

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