Just to remind to the readers that these little background stories of how the book came to be written are not a rehash of the book about Rønnaug Petterssen and the dolls she created. If you want to read the whole background story the first entry started back on July 29, 2014.
The main reason for my traveling to Sortland was as told to participate in the Herring Festival which is held on the fishing dock in Sildpollen usually in the latter part of May each years. Each Festival has a topic or focus if you will and the one in 2011 was on emigration from Norway. Since I for all intents and purposes I had emigrated it was certainly appropriate. Still in past times of immigration from Norway to the US (between 1825 and 1925) large numbers of Norwegians left Norway, many from the area around Eidsfjorden, to seek better economic opportunities in America. This was also the case with our family. Of my maternal grandmother’s brothers and sisters, 5 out of 9 (one died in infancy) emigrated first to Minnesota then on to Seattle, Washington. There are now hundreds of descendants of the original 5 living in the US. They were the true emigrants. I merely left because I married an American.
My talk at the Festival went off without a hitch, I met so many interesting people and it was fun to experience how many came specifically to hear the story about my mother and the dolls. Exhibits of art by local artists are always part of the Festival, but this years Adrian Korsmo had also arranged to borrow dolls from the Norwegian Emigrant Museum in Ottestad in southern Norway. The Museum graciously lent a nice collection of large dolls and among them a Kautokeino boy with proper leather britches, a doll that Petterssen made only 3 or 4 of during the whole of her production. Some dolls at the exhibit had also been lent by two ladies who have doll museums, one in Lofoten, the other in Vesterålen .
Dagmar Gylset’s family owns a wonderful Rorbu by, fisherman’s village, in Reine, Lofoten Here she also operates a Doll Museum, and owns many wonderful Rønnaug Petterssen dolls. They also recently opened a restaurant. I can still taste sauteed Sei that we had for lunch in a dockside restaurant in Gjestehuset, Nyksund.
It was caught that morning, sprell levende (meaning it still practically flaps its tail) (there is nothing in the world as delicious in my mind). I had been to Reine some 40 years earlier, before the whole idea of Fishing village vacations had really taken hold. In 1972 my little family and I were spending some time in Svolvær with my mother in her Rorbu, located on Svinøya, Svolvær in Lofoten and the focus of this particular daylong excursion to Reine was to visit a wonderful master blacksmith who made the most enchanting small sculptures out of forged iron especially the northern loon. Another woman who lent dolls to the exhibit and who also came to my talk was Svanhild Reinholdtsen. She lives in Myre just north of Sortland. Svanhild owns and operates a very special doll museum, Dukkehuset i Myre south of Nyksund and she as well has a significant collection of my mother’s dolls. Both of these attractions are well worth the visit if you travel to Lofoten and Vesterålen, which you should.
But of course many other people came as well to hear about my mother. Many already knew about my uncle Sverre Petterssen, brother of Rønnaug Petterssen. He was the world renowned meteorologist and had been a significant contributor to the weather forecasting for the Allied Forces helping predict the most advantageous day to invade Normandy, a day when the weather would pose the least threat and would give them the greatest possibility of surprise and success. He had published a book in the early 1979 – Med Stiv Kuling fra Nord which was later translated in the US as, Weathering the Storm.
It was with great sadness I had to return home, from an area of the world I consider my true home, but not before promising to write an article for the Sortland Historic Society. This I eventually did and it was published in the spring of 2014.