Bremerton’s Oslo Lodge 2-35 was created during the Great Depression when the community’s main industry, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, was actually going through a period of expansion in building our nation’s military fleet. It was one of the shipyard’s civilian employees, Al Blomlie, commuting from Tacoma, who recognized the need for a lodge in this Norwegian-populated area.
He used the local telephone directory to begin its members’ list. The first two calls were to Sten and Thora Aksdal and then Ragnvald, RK and Sofie Andersen who both excitedly began the process of inviting their neighbors, friends, and family to create a new Sons of Norway lodge.
Today, we still have the three families’ descendants as current members as well as their old neighbors and friend’s offspring. We are a lodge of longtime heritage.
Forty-nine (49) members signed our charter on August 22, 1935. By 1940, Bremerton had the principal naval shipyard on the West Coast and the only one with the capacity to handle aircraft carriers and battleships. Our membership kept growing as workers migrated to the Kitsap area. The lodge chaired war bond drives, collected food, new and used clothing, and money to aid Norwegian relief and Camp Little Norway in Toronto, Ontario. As WWII ended, however, the shipyard’s mission changed from repair work to the deactivation of the Pacific Fleet vessels thus causing the community’s work force to go from 32,500 to 9,000 workers. Oslo Lodge was left with only 42 members and decided to disband, but the stubborn few voted the lodge to continue. The Korean War brought the industry’s employment back up again - the lodge flourished - and then down again where there was another talk of disbandment. The few continued. The second generation then took over the lodge administration and the work of their parents and, in 1985, we had over 800 members.
Today the lodge faces a continued recession in membership; however, we are still going strong with new ideas and enjoyable events. In 2012, the membership recognized it was too difficult to continue maintenance, insurance and taxes on the building we had owned since 1950. And in 2014, we sold the building and land to Olympic College. We have the advantage of living in a Scandinavian-known area; however, in the last 40 years our Norwegian population has dropped from 34% to only 5.5% in Bremerton. Our first, second, and third generation Norwegians are becoming fewer and fewer. Our Lodge membership today is around 180 with about 85% Norwegian….Smaller, but still strong.
The following history will explain how we survived and how we will continue to survive.
A war surplus building was purchased in the late forties at the same time as their next door neighbor, Olympic College, was being built. The building was a small two- story block structure on a 254’ x 120’ lot. In the fifties, sixties, and seventies, additional rooms were added. The building had three main rooms, each with full kitchens. The smallest of these has a cozy fireplace and carpet flooring, while the other two rooms have dance floors - one includes a stage. The lodge was in the center of the city next to the Warren Avenue Bridge where averages of 31,000 vehicles pass by the building daily. A long standing agreement allowed the lodge to use Olympic College’s main parking lot for large functions.
One of the smarter configurations Oslo Lodge developed in 1945 was a strong building association, a corporation in itself under the state of Washington. Its purpose was to provide, maintain, and operate the building and facilities necessary to carry out the fraternal and related activities of the lodge and its members. Fifteen elected directors met monthly for this purpose, employing a lodge manager whose main function was to coordinate hall rentals and normal office and custodial duties. Once a month lodge members joined the directors of the building association in maintaining the lodge (anything from scrubbing chairs, pulling weeds, fixing faucets, moving furniture, and cleaning out storage room) followed by an afternoon lunch. The Building Association joined the local Chamber of Commerce and, by keeping the rental rates affordable, it had seen an ever-growing increase in business, school, church, and ceremonial rentals.
This left the general lodge membership focused on Scandinavian culture, heritage and socializing. The long dignified monthly General Meetings are a thing of the past - the meeting days were changed from Fridays to Thursdays to accommodate more rental business, and the officers walked away from their high back chairs.
Thirty-one (31) lodge officers were elected each year through a nominating committee inviting everyone to take on some responsibilities. The Board of Directors handles all business dealings and details of the budget and by-laws annually approved by the membership. Members are informed of any changes or updates by a short review of the committees at the monthly general meeting and in the monthly newsletters. The General Meetings begin with a great potluck, then a planned cultural or social program before the members get down to a friendly and short business meeting. Those with birthdays during the month are responsible for desserts and clean-up, plus each must give a dollar to the birthday club while a raucous Happy Birthday is sung by the membership. Social events for the membership and the public are arranged, usually on the weekends, for entertainment and fundraising purposes.
Most importantly, the lodge has had a strong Ladies Club since its inception in 1935. All female members of the lodge are automatically members – no extra dues. Monthly afternoon luncheon meetings are held for their entertainment. Their purpose is to assist the lodge gain desired improvements, to take part in charitable works, and to meet the social needs of the members of the group. They are constantly involved with projects and events. When the lodge still owned the building, cookies were sold at the annual Lutefisk Dinner and Ladies Club Bazaar which was held on the first Sunday in November. Monies from the Bazaar were provided to the Building Association as needed. Today, Monies raised from the Julesag Sale are passed onto the General Lodge membership as needed. The Julesag Sale (Bazaar) includes home-baked Scandinavian cookies and breads, embroidered towels, etc.
Fifty-one (51) presidents have led Oslo Lodge. The tradition allows the president to serve for two consecutive years and the vice president to be voted in when the maximum time is completed. This procedure has worked well. Our current administration is split between longtime generations of families and new members of the community. It allows new ventures to merge and the experienced to provide caution.
Oslo’s members have also served in numerous District and International offices. We have had four “Man/Woman of the Year” and six “Lodge of the Year” awards (1963, 1969, 1975, 1985, 1986, & 2013) for our District 2 four-state area. We have also been honored with three “International Lodge of the Year” (1990, 1991, & 1992) between the countries of Canada, Norway, and the United States.
Two important functions the lodge has supported for many years are its local scholarship program and its youth camp. In 1963, member Sam Fitz Sr. had his 89th birthday, and the crowd of 260 members and friends wished him well by establishing a local scholarship program for the lodge. This program is ongoing and has given scholarships to around 150 members and descendants. The contribution the lodge has collected provides the program’s continuance for many more years.
The other program Oslo Lodge members have supported is the Gordon Memorial Fund, created in 1981 in memory of Ed Gordon, longtime member and leader of the lodge, to award annual assistance for young people to attend District 2’s three heritage camps. This program is also self-supporting and has been very worthwhile for the more than 300 youth who have participated.
Youth royalty has been celebrated in the lodge since 1956. Boys and girls can apply to be King, Queen, and Princess and/or Prince annually. They participate in local events, fundraisers, and celebrations.
While we still owned the building, the main fundraiser for Oslo Lodge was the annual Lutefisk Dinner and Ladies Club Bazaar….always on the first Sunday in November when Daylight Savings Time ends. December 12, 1935 was the first lodge dinner served to a full house at the ticket price of 50-cents for adults and 25-cents for children. Fredrica Olsen, the lodge’s first president’s mother, actually soaked the lutefisk for many of the early dinners at her home. The lutefisk was purchased from New Day Fisheries in Port Townsend, and the cooks had the equipment and experience to make the dinner one of the best in the area. Swedish meatballs, boiled potatoes, carrots, lefse, and dessert complimented the delicious stiff-dried cod soaked in lye.
Members and the public enjoyed the historical significance of the much-loved Norwegian art, artifacts, and heirlooms that decorated the rooms at Oslo Lodge: In 1996 fylke banners were constructed and surround the Viking Ballroom. There were also large shields hung on the stage wall that was taken down for parades to decorate our Ormen Lange Viking ship. A giant map of the Scandinavian countries, acquired through the Sons of Norway General Heritage and Culture Fund Grant, were displayed prominently. Numerous weavings and historical art decorated the hall with an almost life-size wooden cutout of Pillar Guri standing next to the stage protecting our Charter.
The display cases were changed seasonally with one section prominently given to our two internationally-known rosemalers: Lois Clauson, Marilyn Hansen, and their students.
The Fireside Room had large rosemaled wall insets (designed and painted by Marilyn Hansen) that decorated the cozy room where the Al Blomlie Library was located. When we moved to Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, we moved the library with us. Members have enjoyed the library’s wealth of Norwegian biographies, fiction, history, travel, and reference material including hardanger, rosemaling, cooking, genealogy, language, and music. Two member authors, Leif K. Karlsen (deceased) and Olav Brakstad have published books on Norway. Many use the library’s contents to participate in the Sons of Norway Cultural Skills Program. The annual "I AM NORSK" genealogy seminar held the first Saturday in May is open to the public. The seminar was created from the Cultural Skills Program.
The Ormen Lange Viking ship was built in 1958 by dedicated members of the lodge to use in the surrounding communities’ parades. It was reconstructed in 1982 and is quite impressive with its hand- carved dragon head that snorts and shoots out dangerous-looking smoke to the delight of spectators at parades. At one time the float was used in 8 parades during the year including Seattle’s Seafair and Portland’s Rose Parade. Currently it is used in the local community parades in Bremerton, Poulsbo, Silverdale, and Port Orchard.
The Sports Directors of the lodge have promoted the International Sons of Norway Sports Medals program since its inception. A great number of members have been honored with the Gangmerke, Sykkelmerke, Skimerke, Idrettsmerke, and Svømmemerke medals. The West Sound Senior Games began in the community in 2004 and members of the lodge continue to participate as athletes and officials. The Kitsap BlueJackets have also used volunteers from the lodge as hosts for their baseball season.
Through the years, Oslo Lodge has participated in many other community affairs in the Kitsap and Mason county areas. The local Kitsap Sun and the Kitsap Newspaper Group continue to promote the lodge’s functions. The lodge has also promoted themselves at fairs and festivals. Monetary and labor donations have been made to many community causes, such as Harrison Memorial Hospital, Bremerton Community Theater, the former Evergreen Park Swimming Pool, Memorial Stadium at Bremerton High School, Headstart Development Center, Bremerton’s Downtown Carillon Bells, Kitsap Regional Library, Bremerton Police Department’s K9 Drive, Special Olympics, the county’s three food banks, AARP, Adopt-A-Highway, Bremerton High School Arts, etc.
On a fraternal level, Oslo Lodge consistently donates money to the Sons of Norway Foundation through fundraisers. District 2’s Trollhaugen Lodge, nestled in the beautiful Cascade Mountains, was built in the seventies by a number of Oslo’s members, and adult scholarships are offered to partake in the wonderful annual Trollhaugen Adult Retreat weekend requiring the participant to bring back ideas and discussions to the membership. An annual average of 40 pounds of stamps for Tubfrim has been collected by the lodge for many years.
When Oslo Lodge members are asked what the best part of their lodge is, a resounding answer is always, “the friendly people”. There’s a lot of pride, laughter, conversations, and hard work constantly going on at this wonderful lodge. This is a picture of our old lodge building that overlooked the Sinclair Inlet in the Puget Sound.
In 2014, because of the cost of maintaining the lodge, we were forced to move. Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church was willing to host our lodge, provide us office space, and storage so we took them up on it. We still have our monthly meetings, participate in parades, have special events, yearly bazaar/cookie sale, etc. Please check our schedule and our newsletter for details.
Our new location:
Fellowship Hall (door located closest to the parking lot)
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church
1015 Veneta Avenue
Our meetings begin with a potluck at 6:00 PM followed by a program and a short meeting.