GEARHART - In a display case at the front of the Norse Hall, a large silver trophy proclaims the Sons of Norway lodge as winner of a tug of war contest at the Scandinavian Picnic in Astoria.
The year is 1927.
It's only a small bit of the history accumulated during the past 100 years by members of the Sons of Norway Nidaros Lodge No. 16. More history will be recounted during a centennial celebration and dinner beginning at 5 p.m. April 17, at Norse Hall on U.S. Highway 101 between Gearhart and Seaside.
The celebration will not only honor previous lodge leaders, but enable members to see the renovations done on Norse Hall, including repairs and repainting. Historic photos also have been taken out of storage and hung on the walls.
"People are going to be stunned," said Marian Soderberg, lodge president.
"It was really so dark and dreary."
Now, the hallway is a bright white, the eating area is refurbished and repainted, bathrooms are improved and the large hall has been scrubbed and spruced up.
Norse Hall - and the lodge members - are ready for a party.
Norwegians have had a presence in Clatsop County since Hans Andersen arrived in Olney in 1850. After the railroad between San Francisco and Astoria was completed in the 1870s, many more arrived. They became fishermen, loggers, farmers and small business owners.
"They came here for survival," Soderberg said. "My grandpa Sage immigrated here in 1914 from a family of 12 to support the family."
Surrounded by water and trees, the North Coast reminded them of the land they had left behind, she added.
By 1910, when the Sons of Norway Nidaros Lodge was established, Norwegians were the majority of citizens in Astoria, according to Soderberg, who wrote a brief history of the Norwegians in Astoria. Most settled in Uppertown, in the city's east end. At the lodge's first meeting, on April 18, 1910, 30 members were initiated and 19 more joined six days later. Many came from the Trondelag area of Norway, which included Nidaros, Norway's Viking capital, founded by King Olav Trygvason in 995. They met in several different halls until 1935, when the lodge purchased 10 acres between Seaside and Gearhart, overlooking the Necanicum Estuary, for $503 at a county auction. The hall where they had been meeting was a former soap factory in the Scow Bay area of Astoria, where Columbia Memorial Hospital stands today.
Lodge members dismantled that old soap factory, hauled it 18 miles on an old country road to its present site, and reassembled it at a cost of between $5,000 and $6,000. Hans Bue, Soderberg's grandfather and president of District 2 of the Sons of Norway organization, presided over the dedication of Norse Hall.
"It was a huge lodge at the time - we had more than 300 members until the end of World War II," she said.
Now there are 160 members; anyone can join. "Just be interested," Soderberg said. "You don't have to be Norwegian."
Many of the lodge's leaders and members are descendants of the original membership, Soderberg said. Even some of those who have moved away keep up their membership "because it is so meaningful to them."
Others, she added, are "without a single drop of Norwegian blood."
When the lodge first started, members supported the immigration efforts of other Norwegians hoping to settle in the United States. They taught English classes and continued cultural activities. Most important, they offered, through the Sons of Norway's Supreme Lodge headquartered in Minnesota, health, life and disability insurance for members. "It was also an opportunity for Norwegian-speaking people to get together and support each other," Soderberg said. "There weren't so many (other) community activities then."
Because women weren't allowed to join the lodge, they had their own group, the Daughters of Norway. By 1940, however, four women were admitted, and many, like Soderberg, now have leadership positions.
But some of the traditions remain.
The Sons of Norway booth is popular during Astoria's annual Scandinavian Midsummer Festival for serving the pastry called "lefse," which takes members several days to prepare every year. The lodge also sponsors an annual crab feed, Christmas program, lutefisk feed and a two-week Norwegian language camp.
Since 1963, the lodge has allowed the Seaside Kids, Inc. and Seaside School District to use part of the 10 acres near the highway for a baseball field at a cost of $1 a year.
"It's a wonderful community outreach for us," Soderberg said. "The people who purchased this property (for the hall) would have been incredibly pleased. Scandinavians by their nature are very family oriented."
Several of those families donated time and money to help refurbish the old hall. Linda Josephson and her daughter, Greta, who own NW Design Consultants in Cedar Mill near Beaverton, spent many hours cleaning and painting the hall. All of their design work and much of their labor were donated in memory of Greta's paternal grandmother, Avis Josephson, of Astoria, and Linda's father, the late Harold Anderson, of Bremerton, Wash.
"This is a labor of love for our Scandinavian heritage," said Linda Josephson. Greta, who is half Norwegian, was Miss Junior Norway in the 1983 Scandinavian Festival and was the model for the drawing of the little girl in the Scandinavian Festival poster used every year.
The newly scrubbed walls are adorned with photos of faces from past picnics, conventions and other gatherings. The 100th anniversary celebration promises to be just as festive.
The no-host social hour begins at 5 p.m., followed by a catered Norwegian dinner consisting of a codfish dish, beef medallions and all the trimmings. Dessert will be prepared by the lodge's members.
The program will include a video presentation of the Sons of Norway history, performances by a Daughters of Norway dance group and Scandinavian music for dancing.
Reservations are required. Cost is $45 and no charge for children 10 years old and younger. Call Soderberg at (503) 325-2354 or Edith Helligso (503) 861-3254.
Soderberg plans to be there, recalling many memories she had as a child and showing off the rejuvenated hall.
"There has been a tremendous amount of volunteer labor, not only from the members but from friends as well," she said.
"No one has said no. It has been heartwarming."