On October 22, 1975, King Olav of Norway visits Poulsbo to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Norwegian immigration to America. Poulsbo, located in Kitsap County and nicknamed "Little Norway," welcomes the king enthusiastically with a luncheon at the Sons of Norway Hall.
From Norway to Poulsbo
Norwegian immigrants began coming to the Poulsbo area in 1876. The first, Ole Stubb (1821-1916) and his family from Nautsdal, Norway, settled on the south side of the bay where Virginia, an unincorporated community on the south side of Liberty Bay, is now. In 1883 Jorgen Eliason, who had emigrated from the same area, sought out Stubb. Eliason wanted to locate a homestead and Stubb helped him find a promising location.
Waves of immigrants, particularly in the 1890s and 1900s, followed. Some followed Eliason from the western coast of Norway, others came after Iver Moe who also arrived in 1883 but from eastern Norway. John Tornensis, a Saami from Kautekeino in far northern Norway, arrived around 1901 and encouraged other Saami to settle in town. (The Saami are a distinct ethnic group that occupies much of the Artic north of Finland, Sweden, and Norway. They have historically relied on reindeer, which they herd, for subsistence.) Norlanders (Norwegians from the fylke, or province, of Nordland in Northern Norway), including poultry farmer Peter Johnson, came to Poulsbo in the later 1890s, bringing their fishing traditions with them.
Poulsbo's Norwegian heritage remains vital. The Sons of Norway has 800 members and a number of festivals each year, including Viking Fest, Midsommer Fest, and Julefest, celebrate their roots . Additionally, during the summers children can register in language camps to learn Norwegian. Many tourists visit Poulsbo for a Norwegian experience and the town actively cultivates the Little Norway identity.
King Olav's Ferry Ride
When the time arrived for King Olav to leave, weather prevented his planned helicopter ride back to Seattle so he took the ferry, accompanied by Thor Berg and his son Dick Berg who was the head of Washington State Ferries. During their conversation, Thor and the king realized that Thor had been a palace guard in 1917 when King Olav was the crown prince.
Almost certainly Thor did not imagine while he was a palace guard that he would one day sit with the king on a ferry passing the time in friendly conversation. Of all the things the king saw that day it is hard to imagine anything that more tellingly illustrated what immigration had meant for people's lives.