This is the final part of A Mother's Letters. You can read the other posts here and here. Thank you once again to Patricia Marton for sharing these personal letters and giving us a fascinating insight into the divided Norwegian-American heart.
June 23, 1971
Here I am on the way to Svalbard (A northern Island owned by Norway) on the ship Nord Norge. I left Oslo last Friday by train over the mountains and valley, it was a beautiful journey. When we come to Myrdal, it was snowing a little and everyone at the station was dressed like winter. But the trip was great. I met a man from London, who travels a great deal; he had been in Kenya, Africa for several months and was on the way to London where his family lives, and his children go to school there. I had to smile at his expressions though. I met him at dinner on the train.
Ingrid’s husband got me a ticket and place on the Nord Norge tourist boat, a big and comfortable boat, and very friendly officers and helpers. I stayed overnight at Ingrid’s, we had a very enjoyable talk together. It was foggy and rain in Bergen, but it cleared later in the day, and the beautiful panorama along the coast of Norway began to unfold. I sat in awe and watched one place more beautiful than another; it was like my whole life was unfolding in all its beauty and years of dreams and longing realized.
Our first stop was Trondheim but only a short time, then Bodø; there was a stopover in Bodø of two hours, so I went ashore, had my shoes shined, went to the telephone co. and called Ida when I would come there. Then I went to the store where Henny (Henny Jensen, a school friend from Vesterålen) works. I could see her in the back waiting on a customer, she looked exactly as when we were young; when the customer left I walked up to her, and she said “Versågod”, which means “May I help you? I said “Goddag Henny”. For second she stood with awe and amazement on her face, then she ran and put her arm around me and said “Signe, Signe.” She had just mailed me a letter a week ago; she had no idea that I was coming. She held on to me as if she thought the whole thing was unreal. She took me across the street to see her sister Borghild, who was only 14 argammell (fourteen years old) when I left and is now in her 50’s.
They both thought I hadn’t changed, and said I looked like my Aunt Andrea, which is true; it is Knut’s mother. I shall return later in the summer to Bodø as I also have cousins there. Two days ago we arrived at Honningsvåg where BjarneHaug, Mary and Ingrid’s brother lives (a cousin). I called him from Hammerfest. He described himself as an old man with glasses, and asked how I was dressed. I told him I would know him and he me.
When we arrived, I saw him standing at the pier watching the people; I walked up to him and said “Hello Bjarne” -- he didn’t think I had changed either. We had two hours here -- two busloads of people going to Nordcap to see the midnight sun. I went to Bjarne’s home and met his wife. They have a nice cozy and large home. I had waffles, coffeecake, and coffee. But think, there is nothing but rocks and mountains, no grass or trees.
We drove partly up to Nordkap (northernmost point of Europe and Norway), but it was completely overcast and the sun could not be seen. So we drove to Skarva (Skarsvåg), where the boat would stop, and when the rest of the tourists came we went aboard on a little motorboat. The scenery is wild and beautiful. Bjarne showed me where last week he went skiing in shorts and sweater, it was a real good place to ski. Bjarne is head of a large shipping company and they are very content here, but I doubt I could learn to like it here.
We just heard over the loudspeaker that we will be in Svalbard 3 P.M., and I have just bought a ticket to see the sights by bus and shop there, so your letter will be mailed from here. Yesterday it was very rough sea and many were sick, but so far I have felt great, and am enjoying every minute of the trip, made lots of friends and been invited to stop and visit them many places. But I am primarily interested in seeing the country and visiting all my relatives.
Sometime I hope I can take you, Patricia & Julie, on the same trip, you will love it, it is worth every cent. It is best to prepare for the trip long beforehand, in order to see and take advantage of everything. This trip is also 10 days. I am getting real seaworthy now. Write any letters from now on to Före. Am eager to hear from you and Julie, and how you are. I keep all of you in my prayers.
All my love to you, Mom
I have no trouble with the language, everyone is amazed and think I am a real native.
Hello from Svalbard 6-24-71
We have just now taken a tour of Langeburn (Longyearbyen), the mining district. There is a new school being built now, a very pretty church, a government building. Only officers and government people can
bring their families, the miners live and have apartments or living quarters in 2 large buildings, some stores. It is a beautiful warm day in the 50’s or more; it is mostly moss on the mountains, no trees or grass, but some small flowers in blue, pink & yellow grow on the rough dry ground, one cannot pick them. There are not any berries here yet, not until August…about 120 children here, also a hospital and 2 doctors. We will leave late tonight.
Here I am after one months travel. I arrived June 30 at Stokmarknes. It was a most glorious and beautiful scenery along the coast of Norway, sunny and warm all the 11 days. You should have the letter from Svalbard by now. When the Nord Norge was a little way from Tromsø, there was a telephone call from Tromsø where DagrunKlaussen, my cousin who was about 5 yrs. old when I left Norway, met me at the boat. I recognized her immediately, and since the boat stayed for 2 hours, she took me home and we had coffee, lefse (a soft flat potato bread), and vetebröd (a type of braided Swedish bread).
All people here have lovely homes. There are no poor people, they are all well taken care of, pensions, social security and all health care taken care off, besides earning good salaries. So one sees prosperities all over, as far as homes, food and welfare, but roads are very bad all over, and narrow, even in Oslo streets were not good, but electricity there is plenty of and water, homes look just like anywhere in U.S.A. …
This is a very well educated land, and have all the advantage of free education for all people who want it. So very different when I lived there. But time change everywhere, I see long haired people here also, but mostly in Oslo and the larger cities.
I am having a wonderful time meeting people and so far I have been able to recognize everyone. Yesterday I went to a local store with Ida, and there I saw an old school friend, and went up and spoke to him. He didn’t know me. They have been so surprised that I remembered people so long, it has been so much joy. Do you know yesterday Ida had the flag out to celebrate my coming. Last night she had some of my cousins over and my uncle. It was so nice.
I have been up as late as 1 A.M. for several nights. In Harstad I stayed for 2 days with two of my cousins who also met me. They weren’t even born, when I left.
There I also went to see my old schoolteacher that Gunnar wrote me about. He was delighted and knew and remembered me. He is now 82 but very energetic, but have had one heart attack. It is beautiful where he lives, with lovely scenery. It was a very pretty town about 2,000 population. Ida was in Stokmarknes when I arrived there. We had to wait for 2 hours, and went into a hotel to sit down and talk, it is a new and large hotel. After a while she asked me if I knew the man at the desk. I did, he was a little boy from Fjærvoll that I stayed with many times and also had in school, and he was owner of the hotel: he invited us to a lovely dinner. He is also senator from Norlandi Oslo, and had just come back for the summer
This afternoon I shall go to Töhaugen (Signe’s birthplace in Fjærvoll, the house built by her father) to see my old home. We come in car, so it wasn’t much chance to see much we came too fast. There are many changes and new homes everywhere. I hoped this would be a pleasant experience, and it has exceeded all dreams I formerly had. People are so friendly and interested, it is overwhelming and there are so many to see. I met so many on the boat also, and do you know one of the nicest were a couple from Nice, France. They lady didn’t speak English but her husband did. I also met German people, who were also very nice, and when I left the boat in Harstad so come they and shook hands and wished me good luck.
This afternoon I went to my home, much had changed, but the memories were still there, it was as if the past appeared and unfolded before me. I stood outside a long time before I went in. The house had changed also, but for the better, it is very nice, and my school friends greeted me with vigor and were very surprised…
All my love to you dearest.
I miss you too. But am having a most enjoyable vacation.
July 12, 1971
I received your letter today July 10th so it took 6 days. You mailed it the 6th. I hope you received the letter …I went all the way to the post office in Skagen. The reason you could not find Svalbard is because it is only 10 degrees from North pole; you have to look way north of Norway where there are a group of Islands. We went all the way by there, stopped and visited two islands where there was a church, school, consulates, a store, and about 2000 people. All official people could bring their families but all coalminers could not bring their families, because there weren’t enough buildings for so many. Everyone looked healthy and well taken care of.
High mountains & oceans but also little flowers everywhere; it was so warm there that we went without coats. Later so sailed we far enough to 80 degrees where ice lay all over as far as one could see. It was beautiful, sun shining and found (?) all sorts of colors; some of the icebergs were blue and pink and lavender in color, and the seals played all over them. I wasn’t lucky enough to see a polar bear, but they were there at the time. It was a beautiful trip, and the sea was quite calm except for a couple of days. But I didn’t get sick, though some people did. There are also planes which fly to Svalbard to Longmarkuen (Longyearbyen), and the boat also went to New Alesund, where only 40 men live and lots of dogs, which they use in the winter. (After Före) I still sleep long every night. Last night we saw an old Bob Hope film, not too good though.
I have had a busy time since I came here to Före, so many people to meet and see or visit. I have been invited out to their homes every day, all sorts of delicious food, and where I stay is just like home. Next week I will probably go to see my mother’s family. They live pa Malnes (a district of Bö), and I will probably stay there two or 3 days. I found that I also have an aunt still living, a half brother of Mother’s; it is his wife she is in her 80’s. Then I will also visit 2 of my very good friends I went to school with, it will be nice.
I think I will be here until the end of July, then I begin to go down the rest of the way inside Norway, and have relatives all the way down beginning i Bodø. Every home I visit they have everything lovely and modern, and extra extra clean. Lovely embroidery everywhere. It has been very bad weather here the last week, very cold and rainy and still is, but we are hoping it will be better soon.
Today Ida is waiting (for) a cousin from Svolvær here for over the weekend; she is a widow in her 50’s and works during the week. Also Knut, Ida’s husband, he will have a few weeks vacation. Yes, it has been wonderful to have been here once more, and see all the progress and how well people are taken care of,…All education is free, but room & board is not at the university. They have the same kind of system as there is in Sweden and Danmark. One sees plenty of longhair here too, especially in the cities: motor cycles, Hondas & automobiles, but the highways are terrible -- big holes all over, water standing and nowhere else to walk.
…I shall be back sometime in August, so get practice in cooking, and have a full 4 course dinner for me. I have made the recipe for rhubarb you spoke of, and it is very good. If you keep picking rhubarb it will grow all summer. How is the grass and flowers...On Nord-Norge there was an English woman who had been around the world 3 times, but she had only a few teeth in her mouth. She was the first one everywhere, at the table on board on ship. Took pictures everywhere. The paper is used up so I must close.
All my love to you always, Mom
Wednesday I had a letter from Julie, the first one. They had a week’s vacation at Cape Cod (Massachusetts), rested and cooked. They had a nice cottage…Snoopy also went swimming…Julie is now interested in embroidery and have finished the towel we bought together.
July 27, 1971
Thank you so very much for your letter and enclosures; it was so nice that there was an appreciation party for Father Lyons. He deserves the best. Yes, I would have liked very much to see Island (Iceland), the clipping sounded very interesting, but I will have to save it for another time. I am still having a wonderful time, meeting friends and relatives, and have been invited and treated like a royal guest.
This weekend I had a family get together at a quiet house pa Vinje (a section of Bö), which is a short distance from here. A lovely place. It was the only uncle and aunt, each 85 years old, but in excellent form, and all the cousins I could reach and could come, as many were far away and could not leave, but they were here from Tromsø, Harstad, Bodø, and Trondheim. There were 31 all together, and it was a lovely party, including 4 of my closest friends also. They gave speeches and sang songs. It lasted to midnight. Then of course I have been invited out every day somewhere. Yesterday was the only day with sunshine enough to take a walk up the hills and mountains, it has been 3 weeks of cold and rain all July so I haven’t had a chance to take many pictures.
I will probably leave here late this weekend, as I will be going south with stopovers in Bodø (the largest city in Nordland), Ornes, Mosjøen, Trondheim, Molde, Voss, (the family home in southern Norway, where the Clausens first settled, after leaving Germany), Bergen & Stavanger before I arrive in Oslo, where I will probably stay a week and then home.
I am not planning to go to any other country at this time, I will save it for the future. I will be traveling in the middle of Norway now, seeing the valleys and waterfalls. I haven’t been so tired so far, although often I have been as late as 12 P.M. But I sleep to 10 A.M. and very soundly. Ever since I left home I haven’t had a sleepless night. The air is pure and cold, a great land to live in, but not forever. I still feel U.S.A. is the land for me, it is there I have lived the longest and and have my family. I am most grateful to have had this beautiful trip. Every day have been a joyful event, and I have a wonderful place to stay with Knut & Ida (cousins from Före), it is just like home.
People here live extremely well, and have money, lovely homes everyone, and well educated and successful children. It sure is different from the time we lived there. If only my brothers and I had the chance they have here now. We would have gone far in our education. But then (?) we have all much to be thankful for where we are too, even though we worked hard for what we got. We have a lovely family each doing well, that is all we care about. Wherever I have been invited so have they had the flag up, it is so wonderful, but that is the way the Norwegians are. Sociable and hospitable. Wish you could see the food and cakes. But so far I haven’t gained, why I cannot understand.
There are not any berries here yet, not until August…Everything here is very inflationary and expensive, some things more than in U.S.A. I will not be going to any other country this time. I haven’t seen all of Norway yet, and there will not be time to see other countries, as I want to be home before the end of August. Are the gladiolas up yet? They should be pretty.
Yes, I spoke French to the wife of the man (on the coastal steamer); she didn’t speak English. It was fun for us both. They were wonderful people. I also talked German to the Germans. They were jolly and drank lots of beer. I shall see if I can find something real nice for you….Give my regards to my friends, Mrs. Wildes and Margie and the Fiskes (neighbors) .Have he had my car out yet? I had my old shoes soled here, and he did a wonderful professional job and the beauty operator is the best I ever had. I asked her to move to U.S.A. She is pretty, nice and capable, with beautiful red hair and lovely complexion.
Today is my wedding day and thoughts go back through the years, could you be so kind as to put out a plant for Oscar from us all for his birthday. Don’t stint on your food, eat well so you won’t get sick. Keep up your good spirit dearest, your future will be to your liking, I am sure.
All my love to you, Mom
You can send the letters to Fru Dahlen next time, but I won’t be there for a couple of weeks yet.
July 31, 1971
It was nice to hear from you. I also had a letter from Julie and she hopes to find an apartment (new) soon. We have lovely weather now, the first in almost 5 weeks.Yesterday I went out in the mountains, and had a beautiful view over a great area. I saw lots of sheep, and picked a few blueberries. If it is nice tomorrow, I will take another trip up the mountains and take some pictures.
First part of the week I shall begin my journey inland. I hope to take a plane from here to Bodø. I am waiting toget a place as it is difficult during tourist season, but so far I have been lucky. I will make many stops if people are not vacationing. I will probably take a couple of weeks to take the trip before I come to Oslo. I will be there a few days and then find a plane for home. It has been a wonderful trip. I shall never forget, and cherish if I should never return. But one never know. I have felt great all the time, and sleep like a log every night. But I shall not visit any other country this time. It is expensive to live here, just like in the states, and I shall be ready to come home when it is over….
I am proud of the way you are taking care both of my business and yourself. I haven’t had a worry since I left or thought about the house, so I trust you greatly. You can write Fru Dalen your next letter.
All my love to you always