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Interview with Mae Peterson

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Beginning in 1998, the City of Duluth (Minn.) Sister Cities Commission collaborated with the Iron Range Research Center to record a series of oral history interviews. Independent scholar Dr. JoAnn Hanson-Stone acted as the lead interviewer. The voluntary, self-selecting participants were second-generation Swedish Americans whose parents settled in northeast Minnesota in the early 1900s. The interviews were initiated to create supplementary material for a planned exhibit, “A Long Way Home: Swedish Immigrant Life in Duluth and Northeast Minnesota, 1890-1940.”

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Use of this oral history is governed by U.S. and international copyright law. Please contact the Iron Range Research Center for more information in regard to this oral history; http://mndiscoverycenter.com/research-center/archive

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Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 1

DATE : July 15, 1999
SUBJECT : Interview with Mae Peterson, Duluth, Minnesota
INTERVIEWER : Dr. Joann Hanson-Stone
PROGRAM : Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
City of Duluth Sister Cities Commission

I'm doing this interview with you because both of your parents emigrated to northern
Minnesota from Sweden. Father's name?
My father's name was Gustav Nordeen (sp?).
And where did he come from in Sweden?
Atownbythe name ofLogdeawiththe dotoveritand I'mnotsure ofthepronunciation.
When did he emigrate from Sweden to US?
He came to the US in 1902.
Did he come directly to Duluth?
That I don't know.


Where did he live in Duluth?
When they -he had brothers that came over too, and I think -and a sister and from what I
understand they lived on Garfield Avenue. Then his mother I believe came over later and I

imagine she lived there too.
Where is Garfield Avenue?
I don't think it exists anymore. It was taken over by homes. I suppose way back then there


were small houses but now there is a place where the Goodwill Indnstries has a place down
there and
Ok, So on the West Side oftown close to the lake.
Yeah, close to the lake. Close to downtown really.
What was your mother's name?



Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 2

We called her Christine but I think on her -on the birth certificate or whatever it's Christina.

And she came from Vestem Demnemhag, Skurop, (sp?) Sweden? I know that very well
because Mother always wrote to her sisters and brothers and relatives in Sweden.

Did she coach you how to say it?

I imagine so.

What was her last name?

Hedin. Before she married.

What were the circumstances that led her to immigrating?

I am not sure but she had half sisters that were over here. One in Biwabik and one lived in
Ely and that I guess they probably heard about what they were doing and sounded like a fun
place to go so she came over here in 1901.

You said your mother lived on a farm in Sweden. What do you know about the farm
your mother lived on in Sweden?

Well I was there in 1981 so I know a lot about that farm. But also my grandfather was a
blacksmith. So the house is in a U shape and the one part is the blacksmith shop and then the
other part opposite ofthat is the house where they lived. But then there was also the section in
the old days they would have animals there you know and I got -I really was interested in the
fact that they had a pantry there and it had bars on it so no one could come in and steal their
food or whatever. But then ofcourse they had out buildings you know that are gone now
because it's a regular house; it isn't a farm anymore and they do have gardens and they have

beautIful strawbernes.

When your mother was living on the farm what was happening?

Well the way she talks it sounded as ifthey had bunkhouses or whatever they called them for
the men and women that were there. She used to tell me the stories ofhow the men would go
knock on the door ofthe girls' cabin and ask ifthey could come in and have a little fun.

So they had more money than most?

I don't think they were poor at all.

So her reason wasn't so economic as others might have been?

Yeah that is true. She was quite young when she came here. It was 1901 and she was born in
1884, so-

Do you know anything about your father's life in Sweden?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 3

I know that he took music lessons and that he used to walk a long ways just to take music

lessons. I also know that the town that they lived in at one time burned completely to the

ground -the whole -I don't know how large it was and now that might be one ofthe reasons

that some ofthem came over here.

What instruments?

As far as my dad was concerned he could play the accordion, violin, piano, and he had a
brother, my uncle, that played the accordion very very well and I am not sure about the violin
-which uncle played the violin -but they had -when they were up in French River -this
orchestraand ofcourseuncle heplayedthe accordionandDadplayedthepianoandthey
called themselves "Button -Hole Orchestra." I know there were others from French River
that were in it also.

Do you know about when that was?

That was before I started going -it must have been in the early 30's before I started going to
-or even the late 20's because it was before I started high school.

Do you remember going to hear them play?

Absolutely; I went to all those dances. My brother and I after my sister moved to Marquette
to go to high school so my mother and father took us with to the dances at town hall and I
remember sometimes we had -we did square dancing or the Virginia Reel and we took part
in that and later on they put us on the benches and we would go to sleep and I remember one
lady up there that made the most fantastic chocolate cake and I always wanted to have a piece
of her chocolate cake. One night when I woke up and Mother said she would save me a piece
and she hadn't brought chocolate cake, she had brought somethmg else and-

So you were young at that time?

Yes I was. I remember one time only when we were walking home because we had to walk
about a mile and a half or something and for some reason or other my brother was kind of
ornery. My Dad goes out and gets a little switch and gives him a spanking so, oh, I didn't
want that.

Where did they meet?

When Mother first came here I believe she went to Biwabik with her step sister and -so I
have no idea when she came to Duluth but she was a domestic in homes and I remember
mentioning a little bit about the people she worked for but she never did tell me specifically
who it was that she worked for.

How did she describe it?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 4

Well, she didn't really tell me much but she certainly learned how to clean the house well and
pass that on to her children. But I don't know why that I remember some silly things but this
one woman that she worked for-Mother-she ironed everything but she didn't iron the
stockings and so this woman ironed some stockings, put them on the ironing board and told
her that the stockings had to be ironed. Whatever kind they wore back then and I imagine -I
don't know. I thought that was pretty silly. I don't know why I remember that.

How did she feel about it?

Oh, no, she seemed to think that was great.

What was your dad doing when he got here to Duluth?

I think that he did carpentry work. It was possible to get something in that line.

How did they meet?

They did not know each other in Sweden. One came from the north and the other came from
the south. They met at a dance and evidently they had a lot ofdances because Mother tells an
awful lot ofthings about what happened at these dances. Mother tells me that when she saw
Gustav? she just thought he was the greatest and that was the guy she wanted and that was the
guy she got.

Did she tell you about the dances?

Well I don't know but she always danced; she never had to sit on the side line; she always
had someone to dance with, you know.


Yes.

When did they get married?

It was in 1914; I am not sure ofthe month. Where were they married? No, I don't; ifit was
at -ifmy aunt had been married before that and they got married at her house


What did your parents do once they were married?

I don't know exactly because the Nordins were on the Ryan Road -there was Uncle Oliver,
Uncle Elif, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Wi! and then my dad so they must have some how or other
acquired that land approximately either that or some ofthem moved there before and the
others followed suit and so my dad -evidently he came up there right away after they were
married. Where is there? On the Ryan Road in French River.

There is a town now as French River and I am associating that with the Lake?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
PageS

Oh ,you mean at the lake and the community there.

Where were yon?

WewereIsupposeacouple ofmiles-upinlandandIhadtowalkthatcouple ofmilesto

school when I was little. Towards the lake to go to school. It was about two blocks from the

lake because you come up and then you have to circle around and the school was up on the
hill.

Did you walk on a road?

It was a road, it wasn't -there were cars then but it was gravel. And so -but in the winter
time when it was -the snow was high and knee deep there were some nice older boys who
put me on their shoulder and help me along.

So you walked with a group?

Yah, most ofthetime. Theywould startoffandthen moreandmorewouldjoinaswewent
down the line.

Did you ever have bus service?

Later on but not at the school that we went to. It was later on when that school was no more
and they went to Clover Valley or to another school.

French River? What did your father do in French River?

Well I guess really my father once III a while he would work up at the ? Most of the time It
was his chickens and the cows and the produce you know -he sold eggs and milk and that
sortofthing.Idon'tremember-hedid-hewasacarpenterso-andthentherewas -he
wouldwork offandonwhenanyoneneededthatsort ofthing.Howevermyother-this
wasn't way way back and later on my uncles had jobs and I remember we had these dances
you know and I remember before I think that there was these people that he was
superintendent of fish hatchery and he and his wife had several daughters and I always envied
the clothes they wore because they came from downtown and they had their shoes -they were
so narrow, real pointed shoes and they came from Italy and I thought that was fantastic.

In the country you didn't have those kinds of shoes?

No way; we got them from the catalog and most ofthe time they didn't fit when we got them.
They were too small and Mother wouldn't retum them, so my poor feet. Sears Roebuck or
Montgomery Ward's.

Your father had some educational interested?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 6

Yes,he-beingdirector ofthegleeclubthatdidn't -nomoneyfromthatImeanthat'sthe
thing he liked; he liked music and he loved singing so he did


Being a director: what did that mean?

I was too young at that time to really koow about it.

Duluth male choir?

Chorus: I am quite sure that is what it was called. My Dad belonged to that along with some
other men that he was very friendly with and I don't koow if-I don't think it was still ingoing
on when he came up to French River but when he was -he had these friends -we had
friends come up to visit us from Duluth and I remember that some ofthem had been in that
male chorus and especially one time when there were quite a few that came up and they sang
and it was wonderful. And then -there were two that especially that would come. We also
had a friend who came and he wasn't a singer, he was a barber so he would cut our hair.

What did your mom do to prepare for this?

Just about all ofthe company got chicken. Mashed potatoes and lots of vegetables. You could
just go to the garden and get them and then Mother calmed too; she -and we -they
slaughtered a cow or calf or something.

Did your father hunt?

No, my father did not hunt. However my brother had traps for rabbits and one time he got a
partridge in a trap.

DId you eat It?

Yes we did. Rabbit? I have no idea why he did that.

Did anyone fish?

Later on when we were older but not when we were younger.

What did your mom do on the farm?

Well I guess Mother sewed you koow and she sewed all my clothes and my brother's clothes
too and my sister's and she -then of course washed clothes and I remember the boiler on the
kitchen stove and -I had a tub on each side and a wringer that sort ofthing and then she
would be -we always had home made pie and so she -then there was the chickens and the
eggs that had to be put into cartons and the milk that had to be separated and I guess I
suppose when she was -before we got old enough to bring in the wood or whatever she did it
because Dad would take the trailer and the horses out in the country or the back woods or
whatever and cut down trees and bring home chopped wood to put in the stove.


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
Jnly 15, 1999
Page 7

He also built?

Yeah, he did a lot of carpentry work on the houses -for sure his own house and he helped
with the others.

What happened to their first honse?

It was about four years after they had moved in their house; unfortunately there was a forest
fire in Cloquet and for some reason or the other the wind decided to blow a few sparks
throughout the territory and it came over in our territory and so -then there was no way to
save the house; it burned and unfortunately they had had company I guess that same day early
and my Dad had been all dressed up and everything and he had just changed his clothes, put
his gold watch on the dresser and whatever and then they went out and they were almost
trapped in the -because they went out to the field to take care ofthe cows or whatever and
they were practically trapped out there and couldn't do anything about saving their house. I
don't think they could have done anything anyway; where would you get the water and so
they saw their house bum and the -Dad always talked about that gold watch that he lost in
the fire.

How did they get out?

Well, 1 don't know because the way Mother told it {just -she never did go into detail on how
they managed to get out so


Your brother William -Uncle William.

Uncle William he had -that is where Grandma Nordin-lived with Uncle William-he never
marned-and he was fight next door to us except that next door was about a block away and
we would go and visit Grandma and Grandma never learned to speak English so we should
have learned to speak Swedish and you know -she spoke Swedish to us and I am sure we
understood Swedish and what she was saying and spoke a little bit of Swedish back to her but
{guess you don't unless you keep it up.

How did Grandma Nordin come to the US?

I think because all her sons and daughter was here.

What about her husband?

Well now I was never quite sure about it but evidently he was not very reliable husband so I
am not sure.

Your family had hopped a train to get out of a fire?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
PageS

Well when the fire started then -a cousin and some other people were there too and they took
my sister who was about three years old and took her and they went down to the train and
managed to get to Lester Park and there was a train and in those days -I remember when I
was a kid the train would come up in the morning and go to Two Harbors and then come back
at night or vice versa and so we used to take the train. I don't know if earlier there were more
trains -there weren't any cars and so there probably were more trains that came-

Tape 1, Side B

How did your mom feel about living on the farm?

Well I really didn't know that she did not like living on the farm until just recently when my
sister told me that. So it really -I can nnderstand now why she reacted to people the way she
did. She didn't -at one time she didn't have anything to do with any ofthe relatives and I
couldn't understand that. Well, then, fmally, at one point then she and my dad's sister -they
got friendly or whatever and that was fine and Aunt Nancy used to come over and Uncle Wil,
but Mother didn't want to have anything to do with anyone and she didn't come -a lot of
times she did not come. I had to be in things in plays and sing and do all these things but she
didn't always come to hear or see me in these things. So I don't know, I always thought she
was shyandwasafraid ofpeoplebutevident!y thatwasn'tthecase.Shewantedtoliveinthe
city.

How did she make up for that?

Well she -earlier before I was born she would go down to Duluth and visit her sister. When
-at one point when my sister went to Marquette MI and she graduated in 1934 my mother
decided that she wanted to be in Duluth so my sister and then that is when I started going to
school in Duluth so my sister got a job and I -we had an apartment and we lived with a
fnend ofthe famIly and she had a boardmg house-small apartment. My mother came along
too, and did day work to get away from the farm.

Day work?

She would go for the day and clean the house, wash clothes or whatever they wanted her to
do. That is what she did starting in 1934.

Did she go back to the farm?

Yeah, we would go to the farm on weekends and things like that and I suppose there were
times when she would be there and other times when she would rather be in town working.
Working, working for somebody else.

Did your father stay at the farm?

Yes, took care ofthe chickens, cows.


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 9

Your dad had a couple ofthings outside of music?

I was in high school or something like that when I came across a -I think it was Sears
Roebuck and someone was demonstrating this way of making rugs and it was really neat and
the frame and sort ofweaving and then bringing the yam up and then cutting it so that it was
kind ofpretty and I told Daddy about that and I guess he was interested so he went down and
looked at the frame and came home and made the frame and started making these rugs and
then I don't know who it was that introduced him to the hook rugs because he made those
too. Well he had to have something to do when his wife was downtown doing day work and I
was going to school down there. Everett my brother was there because he went to school at
Clover Valley -there until he graduated in 1942.

Did your mom retire on the farm?

Well, for a while when my husband was out ofthe service we lived on the farm once -one
summer -and that was interesting. I had to have my youngest daughter there and so my dad
and -we were there in 1946 -she was walking and whatever. And we were -memories well
this was-were married and she was born in '45 and that must have been about 1947 we
lived up there because -I don't know-he lost his job or he was looking for a job because
hejustgotout ofthenavyandwewereupthere andDadwouldtakecare oflittleNancyeven
and there was -my-there was a time and someone and came and said that Dad had some
problems and so I had to take him down to emergency so it's got to be later than that because
he died in 1949 so it was in 1949 -ok, so then my dad was in the hospital for awhile and then
eventually he died and we were up there at the farm for a while and then came to Duluth and
mother stayed at the house and then mother sold the house. She sold it for? and the land too.
Yeah.

Then she could live in the city?

Yeah.

When did your mom pass away?

1978.94 years old.

Did she do day work after your dad died?

Yeah, she enjoyed the work and the women that she worked for and you know she had some
ofthe same people to do all the time and we got to know them and she was working for them
even before some ofthose people -one ofthose -couple that she worked for had a Scottie
dog -they gave for some reason or another didn't want the Scotty dog so we got the Scottie
dog so we had the dog. That was earlier because that was before -I was young before I
started high school.

Do you remember the name of the dog?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
Jnly 15, 1999
Page 10

It was a Mctavish or something or other.

What language was spoken in your home?

Yes, my parents were -spoke Swedish and so that's what was spoken. When my sister who
was 7 years older than I and was already starting school you know when I -when she came
home from school the very first day she said ,"1 will never speak Swedish again." And
therefore my parents learned English and so I really didn't have that much exposure to

Swedish except for my grandmother over on the hill.

Do you have any idea what your sister's motivation was?

Isupposeshewasembarrassed-butlikeItalkedtosome oftheothersthatwereinherclass
and we all spoke kind of broken and spoke Swedish or whatever they were all kind of in the
same boat. It bothered my sister to the point where she was not going to let them talk Swedish
anymore.

You knew English when you started school?

Oh, yes, I probably -I had very little Swedish and I had mostly English.

Your parents didn't insist?

Oh, yeah, some ofthese people I know from talking to that they said we're in America now
and you're going to speak English now so that's the way it was.

Any special events?

I remember the one time that we went to Lincoln Park to celebrate Ill1d-summer -the SwedIsh
people. So I remember just that one time when we went there and it might have been there
earlier but it was young and -but I think my folks probably had gone there every summer.

Did your parents belong to Swedish organizations?

My mother belonged to Vasa Lodge or whatever it was and I often asked her how come she
didn't go to the meetings and she always paid her dues and got information, whatever it was.

Did your parents attend a church?

There was no church in French River at that tinte. My aunt Nancy was very religious; she had
-was a born -again Christian and she -I don't know how she managed but she managed to
get somebody to come up occasionally and have a service and also to get someone to come
and have Bible school in the summer time so I remember going to Bible classes .... However
my dad ofcourse was a brilliant man and it's too bad that he didn't have a chance to do his
thing -because he would -he knew the Bible so evidently they had gone to classes to learn
the Bible when he was a child -to learn the Bible.


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 11

Was there a Bible in your home?

I don't remember a Bible.

Your mother was superstitious?

Well, my mother -all the superstitions that anyone has heard of, she believed! But the one
that really got me was when one Christmas and there was this beautiful Swedish song and my
mother sang it and of course I would coax her, "sing it again" and I thought she had such a
lovely voice; well as luck would have it, a few days later a calfdied and Mother said it was
because she had sung these Christmas songs that made that calfdie -she wouldn't listen to
me; she did not sing another note from that day on.

Did you remember any other times where she responded like that?

Not that I can recall. That just was in my mind. At Christmas time we had a sort of a tradition
that Santa Claus would come to our house and the -we always called my sister, "Sister." I
didn't call her Elsa and of course it was 'sister' that went to hold Santa's reindeer and then
she dressed up as Santa Claus and came and gave us our presents and one year when she did
this little thing and she came back and I looked at her very closely and I saw that she had
boots on just like sister so I said to Mother, "how come Santa Claus has Sister's boots on?"
So that was the last Christmas that she had to pretend to be Santa Claus.

Did your brother react to that?

I think he believed it. He was two years younger so.

What kmd 01 gIlls did you get at Christmas?

No, I don't.

Did you have special food?

No, never. That's one thing about Mother; all these things that I hear about now being in
Swedish Cultural Society-never was told anything about this -well, they talked about ?-I
wasn't told about the celebrations. One thing that I do remember was that at weddings that
they would celebrate for days and days afterwards. Over in Sweden.

Did they have Shivaree?

They did, yeah, but I don't


Were your neighbors Swedish also?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
Jnly 15, 1999
Page 12

Oh yes, there was another family that were brothers in the neighborhood so there were a lot
of Swedes. Swansons and Hendricksons and there was one place or one farm where they
dido't have a Swede but they had a store and they had quite a large farm and they had sheep
on the farm and I thought they were awfully out ofplace and -because everyone was
Swedish.

Do you remember the number of the school you attended?
I think it was number 90. St. Louis County? Yeah.
What ethnic groups in your class in school?
Mostly Swedish. Or Swede-Finns, you know. They are not all Swedish; they are a little Finns.
Was there rivalry?
Oh, Norwegians. The thing is that they were all Swedes and I don't remember ifthere were


any Norwegians out there but yeah, my dad used to talk about somebody but they dido't live
in our neighborhood. But he would talk about the Italians and Jews and-

What was he saying?
Well-my dad was pretty nice guy; he dido't look down on any ofthem. And there was a guy
-Jewish fellow -that used to come in the neighborhood and looking for old iron and scraps of
stuff and


Are there any other organizations that might not have been Swedish?
No. I am not aware of any.
Newspapers or anything?
Oh, yeah, they got Swedish newspapers. I don't remember the name but it came once a week


or whatever and it had a cartoon that I used to get a kick out of. But otherwise I couldo't read
it but it could look at the cartoons.
Did both your parents read the newspaper?
Oh, yeah, Dad probably from cover to cover. Mom just -scanned through.


Did you have a best friend?
Not really. 111at school that we went to -number 90-evidently there weren't enough children
in that school so they decided they would bus us up to 92 and I think that was when I was in
the fourth grade and I dido't like that at all and I met some other gals my own age so there
was a girl named Virginia and whatever that we -there was a fence around the school and it


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 13

had about that much board on the top ofthe fence. Not all wood, sort ofwire -not barbed
wire -and then it had this board so recesses we used to go walk the fences


Was she Swedish, Virginia?

Oh, probably.

Did you socialize with Swedish kids or other?

No, we were all pretty much together and really I don't really remember anything other than
Scandinavian. I know some Finnish -Makela -but that's ok; we were all together.

Do you remember any other activities with your family?

No, I don't know. There were programs at school-that sort ofthing. Oh -just last week a gal
downstairs -Frances Hoffman Levine-died and her dad lived up in French River and she
would do readings and her dad would have -we had programs you know entertainment of
some sorts at times that would come from Duluth and she used to come and do readings and I
thought that was just great. When I was in the 6th grade maybe we happened to have
declamatory contests so I was going to be in that so Virginia and I were participated in that so
we went to school -other schools -to compete but unfortunately I was never good enough to
compete for a third time. I would win on one level and go on but I would never win again to
goon.

What did you do?

They furnished these little stories for us and they were just humorous and serious and we
memorized it -about 2 pages long -and did it. And presented it -like a skit. Just have one
person. !hat Frances Levme was the one that got me thmkmg about domg that sort of thmg
and my dad pushed me into singing. Yeah, I sang when I was little. I sang "Jolly Old Saint
Nicholas" right on the stage and the community hall that we had. No, that wasn't a school
program; I was in the school plays-we almost all had to be in the school plays so of course I
would sing.

So singing was carried on?

Yes.

Any practices that were brought over from Sweden that were continued in your home
and it sounds like there weren't too many?

When I was little it was the mid-summer celebration.

Did they ever talk about why they left Sweden (parents)?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 14

End of tape 1

Mae Peterson -Tape 2

Oh, yes; I asked questions but I dido't -the things that they told didn't really because I was
too young to understand you know what they were talking about really; so later on I tried to
find outmorethings fromMotherbut she justkindofkeptontalkingaboutthe samethings
and it was mostly about her home in Sweden, not what happened here in the US.

Did your family keep in touch with relatives in Sweden?

Yeah, my mother did. My father as far as we know they all came over -all the brothers and
their mother came over here so we had no way ofknowing ifthere was ever any over there
and Mother kept in touch with ....-then one ofher brothers came over here and I don't recall
how many years he was here but he sailed on the boats for one season, and then he went back
to Sweden and he stayed there.

So he worked on the Great Lakes ships?

He did for one season and I don't remember what else he might have done. His name?
Thorston. And his son is the only one that is alive in Sweden and I have seen him twice.

Did anyone go back to visit?

I wish Mother had but she dido't. Oh, yeah, Mother went back and her mother died and I
guess she decided to go back. I don't know ifthat was her idea or her stepsister's idea but
anyway they went and there was Mother and Aunt Betty and my cousins and Leonard and I
don't recall how -I don't know how old Mildred was or Leonard but Leonard took sick when
he was on the boat and died and so he was buried at sea and Mother was over there for about
a year and well, anyway, her brother had stayed in Sweden but I guess Mother liked America
better so she decided to come back. And so she -there was this nice new boat called the
Titanic and she wanted to get passage on the Titanic, and her half-sister suggested that they
go on this other boat together at a later date so


Had the Titanic sunk before they left?

Oh, yeah -so she went back in 1911 and returned in 1912.

So she did go back for a very personal reason that her mother died?

Yeah, she went back there for a year. But she couldn't convince her youngest sister Elma to
come to the US and Elma stayed in Sweden and there were a couple of other relatives who
never came over here.

Did any relatives come here to visit?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 15

I wish they would have


Do you remember if your mother made or carryon any Swedish-food?

Oh yes. ? brown beans and I wasn't too happy when she made that because I didn't care for
that, Swedish pancakes and of course she made the most wonderful pancakes. I don't make
Swedish pancakes but my grand kids all got the recipe -well, she never had a recipe but -and
they managed to -and so they always said, "don't you know how to make these -it is so
easy." I try but they don't tum out like Mother's. And let's see what else -and then what
theycalled?when acowcalvedtheytakethatmilk andmadethis sort ofpuddingthing; it
was baked in the oven. I remember that. And then of course they made -with the intestinesthey
made whatever the sausage that they made and


Potato sausage?

I suppose some kind of a mixture that they made. And then syllta -head cheese-that sort of
thing. And I don't know.

Any kind of bread?

She made the most wonderful rye bread; everybody wanted her rye bread. Not in French

River. When my sister was working then and we would have people over from downtown

and they tasted her rye bread and they wanted her rye bread. So she'd make rye bread for

everybody. Pie -she made lemon pie to die for.

Any drink?

No, we just -oh of course we made root beer, you know -our own root beer, our own beer
----------a.....we didn't have to begm WIth a basement so It was Just down and we walked

na sowe had
downthere anditwas allearth-about halfthe size ofthis room-andthat'swheretheymade
the root-beer sat and the beer sat to get the whatever it has to age or whatever and so
sometimes when we were sitting there we would hear a pop. I remember they had a certain
kind of contraption and you put the beer in the bottles and ,yes, I remember those.

The top would pop?

Yes, the top would pop.

Any heirlooms?

Everything that they had from Sweden was lost. But how these pictures that they had were

saved I don't know unless they had copies or so that like when they got married they had

copies for the other relatives because we do have a picture of Mother and Dad when they

were married and we have a picture of some ofthe other relatives.

Were you married and who and when and where?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
Jnly 15, 1999
Page 16

1married a sailor during the war in 1944. 1went out to the east coast -Cape May, New
Jersey-andwhen -hisnamewasCharlieandwhenheheardthat-ofcourse1gotpregnant
and when he heard that they were about to ship out he said, "I think 1 better take you home,"
so he took me home to Duluth and 1 stayed with my sister and then sure enough as soon as he
got back he was shipped out to the Philippines and that of course was the year of everything
happening so 1 didn't know where in the world he was so then he was discharged in 1945,1
suppose. Andsohewasherebecause1imagined that1wasgoingtohavethebabyallby
myselfand he came home a couple months before Nancy was born on December 14, 1945.
And we lived-1think we stayed with an aunt for a while and then we found a little house and
1 don't know what the reason was we decided -we wanted to go out to the farm so we were
there for a while and that is when Grandpa and Nancy got to be very good friends.

Was Charlie's last name Peterson?

Yes ,Charles A. Peterson -Arnold everyone calls him Arnie. 1am the only one who calls him
Charlie. All his sisters and relatives call him Arnie. Well, to begin with 1 started with this
Charles A Peterson business -no. "C. Arnold Peterson"-but that was how -so 1thought nuts
to that noise; you are going to be Charles Peterson whether you like it or not.

What is his ethnic background?

He had more Norwegian that Swedish. But the relative that 1 liked the most-Aunt Mary -was
the one that had the most Swedish in her. She was adorable.

So you married another Scandinavian?

Yes.

Did your brother and sister do the same?

Oh, my sister married a Finnish person and her junior year she came home and they always
hadalot ofdancesand1wasyoungerso1didn't getinonmany ofthese dances butshewent
to this dance and she saw Onnie and she decided that was the guy that she wanted and so the
next summer-that's 1934 when she graduated, but they went together for 5 years before they
got married. They got married in 1939.

My brother married a gal from Knife River and she -I don't know if she has any Swedish in
her or not. Probably a combination ofthings although her name was Anderson before she got
married but 1 don't think she -she might have some Swedish but there has to be other-

Scandinavian?

Maybe.

Did yonr mother talk abont who she wanted yon to marry?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
Jnly 15, 1999
Page 17

She always told me that her half sister told her children it is better to marry someone rich

because it's better to be an old man's hat than a young man's slave. So I thought about that

but you know you can't just find a rich guy somewhere; besides that it was the war and

everything and so I felt that I was fortuuate to find someone, you know.

So no feelings?

No, I think -I imagine that they wanted me to marry -but I don't remember them ever
saying anything. Dad was a real nice guy and he got along with his son-in-laws very nicely.

How many children?

I have five daughters.

Where were they born?

Right here in Duluth, Minnesota.

Names?

Nancy, Pamela, Diane, Sandra, Charlotte. And you know that I have given them names of
relatives-all ofthem. So Nancy is Louise for Charles' sister, and Pamela Kristine with a K
for my mother and then Diane Marie for this nice little aunt that I liked so well. Sandra Mae
for myself. Charlotte which is a nice long name Johanna for my grandmother, so poor
Charlotte Johanna when she puts her name anyplace and they chop it offwhere you -on a
form or something her poor name gets chopped off.

So you wanted to remember people who were Important to you?

And Nancy -that was Aunt Nancy, and she is very much like Aunt Nancy; nothing daunts her
she can do anything, if she has to, so I did that very well.

Your Swedish heritage?

Well, I wanted to join the Swedish Cultural Society; in fact I asked Mother, "why don't you
join?" but it didn't happen and so it wasn't until 10 -12 years ago it was -so my sister had a
friend that belonged and so we decided that we would join and so we joined and my sister
dropped out, but I still belong and I belong to ASI -American Swedish Institute in
Minneapolis and I have been interested in my Swedish heritage; now my sister and I and my
oldest daughter went to Sweden in 1981. My sister -I don't remember anything she said
from Sweden and of course Nancy jotted down everything to have a family tree you know.

How do you feel your children have identified with the Swedish heritage?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
July 15, 1999
Page 18

Well, Char definitely -she is the one who had the pictures. Nancy, too, she had the original

pictures and she's got them on the wall and Char has negatives made and she has all the

pictures on the walls. The others aren't all that -of course Char sings Swedish music every

chance she gets and Nancy well she was interested in her family tree but she has so many

other things right now that -takes up her time.

What did you do to make a living?

Well, he worked for Standard Oil and then he had his own station -Standard Oil and Fuel
aud then from there he went on the boats and he was on the boats for 11 years aud then he
worked for the post office and that is when he retired.

Did you work out of the home?

I worked at ? company that doesn't exist anymore aud I worked for IC Campbell company
that doesn't exist anymore and I worked for the College of St. Scholastica and that is still
there. I was a bookkeeper.

Were you trained for that?

Sort of. I took a course in bookkeeping at night school because I didn't do that when I was in

high school. And then I also went -I started at DBD but then I got this job so I thought well I

might as well just work as long as I have ajob.

You live in Duluth today?

Yes, I live in Duluth.

------------cA~...re.-y"oi>I"I..r"'etr.l.....rell?r----------------------------------


Yes, I retired.

How would you describe your growing up in a Swedish household? For someone who
never experienced anything like that?

My brother and I were pretty much alone so we got our own entertainment but our folks were

very very nice and we had our chores to do which was fine; no complaint there. They were

very good parents and I think -I feel as if! should be very thankful that I had parents like

that because when I see what is happening in the world today and I just cringe when I think of
it -I can't imagine people being brought up in a place where they are abused, etc. etc.

Family history?

Oh, I think it's great. I think that was very nice.

You could have been in Sweden?


Swedish Immigrant Oral History Project
Mae Peterson
Jnly 15, 1999
Page 19

Well, I don't know.
Your ethnic background-how do you answer?
Swedish. I am Swedish, that is for sure.


END OF INTERVIEW