Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Fall/Section009/Halver Halverson

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Biography[edit | edit source]

This is the Langren hotel, where Nerbovig was living alone at the time of the interview.[1]

On February 13, 1939, Halver H Nerbovig was interviewed by Douglas Carter in Asheville, NC for the Federal Writer's Project. Nerbovig was a fair-skinned man of medium height with a medium build as well. Nerbovig had grey hair and blue eyes.[2] At this time he was living alone in Asheville, NC where he worked as an expert watchmaker in his own shop.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Halver Halverson
Born1876
Winona, Minesota
DiedAugust 19, 1953
Los Angeles California
NationalityNorwegian/American
Other namesProfessor, Hal
OccupationWatchmaker
SpouseGeorgia May Cram
ChildrenDora Nerbovig

Elizabeth Nerbovig

Helen Nerbovig

Halver “professor” Nerbovig was an American-born Norwegian. Both of his parents were born in Molde, Norway where his father heard exciting things about America which sparked his curiosity. Nerbovig was born in 1876 in Winona, Minnesota; where many Norwegians emigrated to. His father was the eldest of nine boys and Nerbovig was the sixth child out of a whopping ten. As a child, his family vacationed to Mexico and Canada, but the most exciting trip for him was a boat trip on the Mississippi river in 1893. The sailboat was 18 feet in length and built by his father during his spare time. Nerbovig, his father, and two of his brothers set sail on the boat for Iowa and were even caught in a whirlwind. Once in Iowa, the quartet enjoyed time together at the Chicago World's fair.

Jobs[edit | edit source]

The sign to Nerbovig’s shop reads “expert watchmaker” and that he was. He learned this artistry from his father. Nerbovig had a couple of jobs before he was an expert maker. This included being the operator of an early motion theatre picture, then the manager of 10 grocery stores but he got bored with them, so he returned to jewelry as a traveling auctioneer. As a traveling auctioneer, he earned about $250 a week but his health failed and never recovered. When he could work again, he went to the artistry he learned as a young boy, watchmaking. Nerbovig had a limited capital but the watch field was fully covered so he was able to have his own small shop and be his own boss.[3] At first, business wasn't booming, but soon he was making more money and moved from his first small job to two other shops, each one bigger than the last.

Family life[edit | edit source]

He married an English woman named Georgia May Cram in 1902 and they had three successful daughters, Dora, Elizabeth, and Helen. Dora was the only one in the family to maintain a college education, which she received at the University of Minnesota. She got married and moved to New Jersey with her husband. His two other daughters Helen and Elizabeth, "Buff", both became artists for Walt Disney Studios and lived in California. Buff, the older of the two, was an assistant manager and had 40 employees working under her and Helen was working in a department with 16 artists under her instruction. Nerbovig was very proud of his daughters and had original sketchings of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck did by his daughters hung up in his watch shop. He stated in the interview to not have seen his children for seven years, possibly because they all lived far away now.

Social issues[edit | edit source]

Depression-era Asheville[edit | edit source]

During the depression, Nerbovig was living in Asheville NC in the Langren hotel. Nerbovig had been to North Carolina when he was a jewelry auctioneer, after finding the weather suitable for his condition, following his health problems, he moved to Asheville. Asheville was severely impacted by the Stock Market Crash of 1929 though as everywhere else in the country. Pre Depression-era Asheville was seeing many advancements and architecture springing up especially downtown. During the early 20s as well, many notable people were visiting Asheville including the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Thomas Wolfe, and U.S presidents. [4] Following this time of growth Asheville was hit hardest probably out of all cities in the U.S. because it retained the highest debt per capita of any city in the county. This debt hung around for many years until finally all debts were paid off in 1977. Nerbovig was living here in this time and doing his best with his small shop, but he was also living alone as his kids were grown up and living elsewhere.

Norwegian immigration patterns[edit | edit source]

There were three main waves of Norwegian family immigration and Norbovig and his family went to American during one of these waves. They landed through New York and made their way to Minnesota. Many Norwegians sent back letters as to why or why not families should make the transcontinental move, these were in circulation during this immigration period and were very influential. Minnesota had become so packed with Norwegians that Minnesota became the unofficial capital of Norwegian American.[5] Norwegians feared their children would lose their Norwegian identity among so many other cultures so they moved farther away.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Ancestry.com. U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
  2. Registration State: Iowa; Registration County: O'Brien County
  3. Carter, D. C. (n.d.). Craftsman Born. UNC University Libraries. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/750/rec/1
  4. Asheville History: Early Settlement to Downtown Boom. (2021). RomanticAsheville.Com. https://www.romanticasheville.com/History.htm
  5. Meshbesher, Samuel. 2018. “Norwegian Immigration to Minnesota.” MNopedia: Minnesota Historical Society. 2018.

bibliographies[edit | edit source]