Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Earl Hanson Interview
Narrator: Earl Hanson
Interviewer: David Neiwert
Location: Poulsbo, Washington
Date: May 27, 2004
Densho ID: denshovh-hearl-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

DN: This is our interview with Earl Hanson at his home in Poulsbo. Today is May 28th?

EH: -7th.

DN: I'm sorry. May 27th.

EH: I think 27th.

DN: Yes, you're right. Yeah, sorry. May 27, 2004, and the interviewer is David Neiwert, and our videographer is John Pai. And we are having a very nice conversation with Earl in his home. Earl, can you tell us a little bit first about your family? What was your father's name?

EH: Gunnar.

DN: Gunnar? How would you spell that?

EH: G-U-N-N-A-R. Well, actually, his full name was Gunnar Torvald Hanson Haltbakk. And when he came to Port Blakely in 1910, he dropped the name of Haltbakk and took up the name of Hanson. And in Norway, the Hanson name is spelled "-E-N," but somehow or another it's "-O-N" here in the United States. So everybody calls me a Swede, but that's a no-no. But Dad was born in Kvisvik, Norway, in (January 8,) 1891. Then my mother was born in Forvik, Norway, up near Mo i Rana, and she was born in 19-, wait a minute, 18, (January 15,) 1895. 'Cause Dad was four years older than her.

DN: And what was her name?

EH: And her name was Ingebjorg Strand. Ingebjorg Frederika Strand. And Dad came to Port Blakely in 1910, Mom came to Tacoma in 1914. And where Dad lived, in Eagledale, on Bainbridge Island, was, there was a community of people that had come from Norway where my mother was born. And there was quite a few of 'em. So my mom would come from Tacoma up and, and visit all the people up there, well, that's where she met my Dad, and then in 19-, November 26, 1921, that's when they got married. And went on a honeymoon to Los Angeles, and back to Port Blakely. And Dad was a carpenter and a shipwright, and a boat builder, and he was also a commercial fisherman in Alaska.

DN: Why did he leave Norway?

EH: He came over with four of 'em. There was, the economy was so bad that they figured they could come over. And what Dad wanted to do was to work in the Port Blakely mill, which he did. And I think Marcus and Ed Batten also worked in the mill. And then Pete Oness was a captain of a whaling ship. And he had sailed with Roald Amundsen. So every time I'd see Pete, he'd always talk about him and Roald Amundsen. So that goes back a long, long way. And the first trip that I went to Norway, and I hadn't seen Pete in oh, I don't know how many years, and I'm waitin' to go through immigration and I look out, I told my mom, I says, "That looks like Pete Oness over there." She says, "That is Pete and Ellen." [Laughs] So they had come down, they had known that we were coming, and so they were there to meet us. And then I was meeting a cousin that I had never met before, and I had one picture of him, but he, he picked me out and so that was our first trip to Norway. And that was the first, my mom hadn't been back to Norway in fifty-seven years. So it was a kind of a tear-jerker when the whole family got together. When we got to Trondheim, we came in on a bus from Kvisvik, from where my dad was, home was, and the bus driver says, "Everybody out, this is the end of the line." And he says, "The bus isn't gonna go anyplace. And I told, asked my mom, I says, "Who are all these people out there?" She says, "That's all your relatives." [Laughs] "And your aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, third cousins," oh, boy. And there was over fifty of 'em there. So we had a, quite a reunion there.

DN: What year was that?

EH: 1972.

DN: Wow.

EH: Our oldest daughter, she had just graduated from high school. And so Norma drove a school bus, so she couldn't go, but Earlene -- that's the oldest daughter -- she went with us. And I was the flight leader on a charter flight for Sons of Norway. And she was my assistant, so her and I, we got two free round-trips. And then Mom, I think Mom's trip at that time was about three hundred bucks, round-trip. And we had a great time.

DN: Was your mom a typical homemaker?

EH: [Nods] That's all she did, was a homemaker, yeah.

DN: And what about your dad? Was, did he work at the Port Blakely mill until it closed?

EH: He worked at the Port Blakely mill, and then I don't remember what year he started fishing in Alaska, he went to Yakutat, and fished there until I think 1939 when, and we were just kinda getting the war going. You know, Hitler was making his move. Well, he didn't wanna go back to fishing, but they needed carpenters to build a army base in Anchorage, Alaska. So he went up there for a year, and then came home, and then he, he went to work in the Winslow shipyard. And stayed there until he died. He actually had a stroke going on board one of the boats. He was, had a foot up on the ladder, and his tool box here, and he had the stroke and he... I think in his right hand, he hung on until somebody came along and laid him down, and then he laid for two years, and that was it.

DN: When he, did he leave the Port Blakely mill when it closed, or before then?

EH: That's before -- [laughs]

DN: Would have been...

EH: That was before I was born. See, when the mill closed is the year I was born.

DN: In 1923?

EH: 1923, yeah. See, the mill had burned twice, I think. And, but I think he... of course, my first recollection, he was working at the shipyard in the wintertime, and then going to Alaska and fishing.

DN: Was it his own boat?

EH: Yes, he had his own boat. He fished for Libby McNeil and Libby in Yakutat. And...

DN: So he'd go up there in the summertime and come back?

EH: Yeah, I think, I think he was gone about six months out of the year.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2004 Densho. All Rights Reserved.