The reason I wanted to do an interview with Orrin Hermundstad came about as I saw on the visit to his house a picture of the home he grew up in. My wife and I were visiting Orrin and Dorothy and their lovely lakeside home in Stoughton at the time. The contrast between Orin’s house and the home he grew up and could not be more dramatic. The house he grew up in North Dakota was, to put the best possible construction on it, little more than a shack. When Orin’s father immigrated from Norway early in the last century he was very poor, and had to serve what amounted to an indentured servitude for a farmer for seven years before he could get out on his own. He eventually bought land in North Dakota and farmed it throughout the farm and general depression that hit the country in the 1930s. Orrin was born in 1922 the oldest. Brothers and sisters followed. Orrin’s father determined that his children would get a decent education that would free them from the ordeal of the farming that he had done his entire life. True to his father’s promise, Orin finish high school college and eventually medical school. He and an army buddy after military service decided to open a partnership in the city of Stoughton Wisconsin. What follows is his story. As is fitting, the hero of the story is the remarkable John Hermundstad, Orrin’s father. As our conversation ended I had to ask one additional question. Did your father ever tear down that original house and build a new one? Orrin answered No, but he did add to it and improve it.
Steven Fortney, Historian and Boss
I can't think of a better introduction for Dennis Skogen than an introduction of him as Master of Ceremonies for a past Torske Klubben meeting by the incomparable Boss Emeritus Gene Nordby. It follows:
Our Master of ceremonies for today claims that one of his hobbies is trying to keep up with his family. I would suggest that he's making it a losing proposition because he has 7 Children, ages 1 through 21. It underscores the truism that man's main preoccupations are getting and begetting. But I can't be too critical because platonic love is like being invited to the wine cellar for a glass of ginger ale.
While they were in Phoenix instead of coming to Torske Klubben last month, a lady said to his wife ,Judy, "My, that's the biggest, most beautiful diamond that I've ever seen". "Yes",said Judy,"That's the famous Skogen diamond - it's very famous because it comes with a curse".''What is the curse'?" asked the lady. "Mr. Skogen", was the answer.
I believe in total honesty. Years ago our son asked me what I did during the Sexual Revolution. I told him I was captured early and spent the duration doing the dishes. But I'd advise for second honeymoon, never take one of those rooms that have a mirror in the ceiling - because you'll never recognize the couple that's up there. It's a funny thing, but 'when you get older, food is sometimes more important than sex. I didn't believe it until I saw a mirror over a dining room table. But I would warn our M.C. that giving away baby clothes and furniture is a major cause of pregnancy.
Our toastmaster started life in Janesville and after getting a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the U.W. in 1969, took a job with Gilman Enginering Manufacturing Company as a machine designer. But he was raised on his Dad's farm and should have learned from an example given him there. His Dad was plowing the field with the bull dragging the plow, He asked him why he didn't use his tractor. His Dad said,'I want this bull to learn that life isn't all romance".
He was always a good son. When he brought his report card home, his father commented to his mother,"At least this report card proves that he isn't taking any mind-expanding drugs". But he persisted and took a job with Gisholt Machine Company where he was a Senior Product Engineer for J years, specializing in machine tool safety design. He then concentrated on safety and since 1970 has been a consulting engineer with Safety Engineering Associates, Inc. You might think he has a hang-up on safety But it's o.k. Psychiatrists now say there is only one hang-up that can ruin you for life - climbing over a barb-wire fence. They say there are two ways of getting what you want: Knowing the ropes or pulling strings. I think for the former reason, he was Vice President for four years and is now President of Safety Engineering Associates - and will get his Masters of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering at U.W. this spring where he has been honored scholastically by being accepted in Pi Tau Sil rna and Phi Eta Sigma. The only one I ever made was Thata Felta Thy.
In his safety work,he does testing, failure analysis, damage analysis, motor vehicle, industrial & farm accident reconstruction and investigation. One observation he was heard to have made was that there are certain things you should be wary of when buying a used car - for instance if the hood release is worn out. He belongs to a whole list of engineering societies, the National Safety Council and the like, but he gets time for racquetball, tennis, sailboarding & skiing. But he seems most proud of his heritage in the person of Uncle Ingval. He was so smart - he crossed a North Dakota Red potato with a sponge - tasted awful, but it sure soaked up the gravy!
Please greet our Master of Ceremonies, Dennis Skogen.
With this interview, done in May of 2012, the direction of theses conversations changed. Instead of concentrating only on our subjects connection with Torske Klubben, during the conversation we found us exploring the discovery of our Norwegian roots. Jon, as will be evident from his story, began life a bit indifferent to his background. But here he tells us of his gradual awakening. Slowly but surely his knowledge grew with his participation in the Norwegian-American events available to him here. Among other things, not only is he active in Torske Klubben, but he is a long time member of the Sons of Norway, Yggdrasil, and has sung for years in the Edvard Grieg Male Chorus. This interview details often with a great deal of humor but always with deep affection for his roots. Steven Fortney, Historian
How did this Englishman become a Torske Klubber, and so early? Howard Martin describes himself as something of an outsider in Torske Klubben as he is English in origin, a Yorkshireman. However as this part of England has deep Norse roots, and since his academic credentials reflect that with his specialties in Old Norse, and Old English, he can rightly claim some Norwegian heritage, as a Yorkshireman, born and grown up in that part of England that was occupied by Vikings in the 9th century. The city of York was founded by the Romans in the year 71 of the common era. In 866 Northumbria was raided by the Vikings and captured York. Under Viking rule the city became a major river port and part of the extensive Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe. He retired as Associate Vice Chancellor and Professor Emeritus at Wisconsin, and was Dean of the Division of Continuing Studies. He served as an excellent source for our guest speakers for many years. He remarks here that with the Madison area community and its government and university we have an almost limitless source for great speakers for our club. This interview was done in the summer of 2012.
Steven Fortney, Historian
Because he was the only surviving founding member of our club not yet interviewed, I had always been told that getting Ralph Thorp on record for the Torske Klubben home page was a must. The only problem was that Mr. Thorp had left Madison some years ago and moved to his natal city Minneapolis where he has lived for many years as a boy and man.
The King of Norway brought us together. King Harald visited this country in the fall of 2011. A banquet was held in his and Queen Sonja's honor on the 16th of October, 2011, to which my wife and I were invited. I was told that Ralph Thorp would attend that banquet. Sure enough I found him and his wife there. I learned that he made occasional trips to Madison, visiting his friend Carl Loper and his wife, Jane. Carl had since died, but Ralph still visited Jane Loper and planned to do so sometimes that following winter. I got his email address. We made sure to contact each other when he next visited Madison.
This interview occurred as arranged the following winter of 2012. As a special bonus I interviewed Ralph's and Carl's wives for a perspective of the Viking wife about their husband's involvement in the club. With this interview all surviving founders of the Madison Torske Klubben are on record.
Steven Fortney, Historian
This became a star-crossed interview. The first occurred in the winter of 2012 and because of a malfunction of the interviewer (not the recording machine), the first half of the interview was lost. And the patch-up job was not satisfactory. So this second interview took place the following spring at his charming rural home just south of Stoughton and went without error.
Norwegian-born Jan Kristiansen is a long time member of Torske Klubben and has served as its officer, namely treasurer for many years. Though a native of Oslo where he got his early schooling, he trained at the University of Glasgow as a metallurgical engineer. He met and married his wife there. His career as an engineer and entrepreneur has taken him to several locations in Norway, Canada, and the United States where he eventually wound up living in Stoughton, Wisconsin--not knowing when he came there of its Norwegian heritage. He keeps in touch with his background as an active Torske Klubber and a busy member of the Stoughton Mandt Lodge of the Sons of Norway. This has turned out to be an accidental homecoming of sorts. His account is of a travelled, busy, and interesting life.
Steven Fortney, Historian
The following interview with Boss Nordby was conducted on March 17, 2010, St Patrick's Day at his home in Madison. Boss Nordby was one of the founders and charter members of Torske Klubben and was Boss of twenty years. It can be said that he was and is still the heart and soul of our club. Known for his legendary humor and quick wit it was this genial nature that set the tone for the club since its inception in 1978. He comments in this audio that our club differs markedly from our sister club in Minneapolis and our brother club in Chicago in that its emphasis is on the cheerful fellowship of its members. "Those other guys are too serious." The fact that we have more rations of Akavit at each meeting may help in that objective. The interview casts a wide net. We learn much about Boss Nordby's early life, his education, his military service, his many faceted career in medicine. We also learn priceless details about the founding and the continued vitality of the Madison Torske Klubben. The interview is one hour and eight minutes long. Enjoy!
Steven Fortney, Historian
The following interview with Retired Boss Trygve Lonnebotn was conducted on April 18, 2011 at Barnes and Noble Bookstore on Madison's West side. Trygve Lonnebotn was the second Boss of Madison Torske Klubben for ten years between 1998 and 2008. He maintained the tone of the spirit of good fellowship and camaraderie established by our founder and boss for the first twenty years, Gene Nordby. We learn much about Trygve's early life in Norway, his education culminating with a Master's in Engineering, his internship in Madison at the Rayovac Company and his eventual hiring on full time with them. He had a varied career there and became Executive Vice President in charge of operations, from which he has since retired. In addition he was Norwegian Counsel--Minneapolis from 1996 to 2006. He speaks of founding our Torske Klubben Foundation charitable foundation, spearheaded by Gary Anderson, keeping in touch with our parent, the Minneapolis Club and the establishment of close ties to our sister organization in Chicago. The interview is a bit short of one hour.
Steven Fortney, Historian
We met with Eldred Swingen on the afternoon April 14 at his elegant home in Shorewood. Eldred, a prominent Madison Attorney, licensed some 65 years ago, was one of the founding members of the Madison Torske Klubben and was a Board Member the years between 1978-1998. Gene Nordby, Gerhard Naeseth, Eldred Swingen and Roland Day met at noon on August 16, 1978 at the Madison Club to resolve the main issue of the site to hold the luncheon meetings. The key concern was the availability of cod. The only firm bid for all the proposed dates for 1978-79 came from the Concourse Hotel. It was agreed that the meetings would be held in the Normandy Room on each of the proposed dates with a cost of $6 for lunch. An 8 ounce serving of fresh boiled cod steak was guaranteed. Norwegian beer would be available for sale. The membership unanimously ratified the selection of the Concourse at the inaugural meeting on September 9, 1978. The move to the Madison Club came a year later.
In this interview Eldred tells tales of his boyhood in small town south-east central North Dakota, in a house that did not emphasize study and learning, where the only two books were the Bible and a book on the Titanic. Because of the depression, the high school was able to hire a group of exceptional teachers, all of whom, according to him, possessed doctorates. The most influential of them was his English teacher who introduced the young Swingen to Shakespeare, and instilled in him a life-long love for that greatest of all poets in English. English was Eldred's favorite subject in high school.
We spoke at length about the conditions in North Dakota during the depression. Because his family was more fortunate than others economically (his father ran one of a chain lumber yards in the area) Eldred was able to to attend the University of North Dakota, where he studied Commerce. Shortly after graduation, he joined the army and became an officer during World War II, where he served in Europe during the conflict after D-Day. After the war, he returned to Madison and the University Law School. Upon admission to the Bar, he practiced law until recently. He met who was to become his wife, Marie, in Madison.
Included in this interview are some surprising and interesting anecdotes about his father's career during the depression.
The Swingens celebrate their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary in the fall of 2011.
Steven Fortney, Historian