Norwegian Immigrant | Teen Ink

Norwegian Immigrant

April 1, 2009
By Briann Saxman BRONZE, Portland, Indiana
Briann Saxman BRONZE, Portland, Indiana
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Inger Sofie Pedersen was born on June 28, 1927; she was raised in Drammen, Norway and moved to Portland, Indiana in 1946. When she moved to the United States she was nineteen years old. Inger did not know anyone but her newly wedded husband Carl Rathbun. Her life is an adventure and one of a kind.

Question: Why did you move to the United States?
Answer: I married a GI. He was sent to Norway with his regiment, some of them were Norwegian Americans.
We met at a town dance. We got married in 1947 in Drammen, Norway. We were married at my church; the service was all in Norwegian. Carl did not know how to speak any Norwegian, so as we were standing at the alter I nudged him when it was his turn to say “I do”. As far as he knows we could have never been married (smiles). We were married for 51 years (he is now deceased).

Q: If you could go back and do it over, would you make the same choices again?
A: (Laughs) Hmm… If I knew what I know now (long pause)… Well I probably wouldn’t have come. I was too young, way too young to get married. I was 18. But, I did it anyway, I wasn’t going to listen to what anyone else told me.

Q: What was your life like growing up in Norway?
A: Well, It was nice, such a beautiful country.
We swam, skied, skated, and went to school. I competed in the skiing competitions.
I always got last or second to last (laughs). My brother would always get first though. He was very good looking and all of my girl friends wanted to come home with me so they could be around him.

Q: What were the cultural differences you had to make when you moved here?
A: Well, one was where I lived we had buses, street cars, trains, and I could travel and go where I wanted whenever I wanted. That changed a little when the Germans arrived during World War II, Norwegians didn’t get along with the Germans.
Then I moved here, Indiana, in the middle of nowhere (laughing), if you could imagine. It was a tough change. Sometimes I was so homesick, I was actually got sick. I couldn’t just call my family up on the phone like you can now.
I took English class in the 6th grade, but when I was in the 7th grade the Germans invaded and eliminated English in the school systems. So I really only had one year of formal English. When I moved to Indiana I read all the Norwegian books I had brought with me and then I stared on any English ones I could find. I think that’s what helped me learn English. I still read a lot today.
Another thing was that we were dirt poor. We didn’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of (laughing).

Q: When you moved here, did your new family and people that surrounded you welcome you in? Or did you have troubles?
A: They were all really nice to me. They all welcomed me. Carl’s grandparents and Dad welcomed me into their homes.

Q: Have you been back to Norway since you moved to the US? Do you ever want to go back?
A: No I have not been back since I left when I was 19. I would love to go back. But, all of my brothers and sisters have been here. Most of my nieces and nephews have come to see me too. Today, I talk to them all on the phone and chat with them regularly.

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