Report by City Missionary, Karl Holm
Translated in 2003, from the original document kept in family archives.
In September, 1923, I, Karl Holm, came to America and found work in a shipyard. In December, 1924, I went back to Norway to take my family with me to America.
We sold the farm in February, and in April 1925 we set our course to America. Before we left Norway, many people came and asked me if it was possible, when I went back to Brooklyn, to try to find their father, their husband or their brother. I promised to do my best to look for them.
When I came back to Brooklyn I got the job at the shipyard again. At the beginning of January, 1926, I had my first trip to the "Smoke Lot," which was later called "Ørkenen Sur" (The Bitter Desert).
I worked days, and in the evenings and on Sundays I went around to the many places where I thought I might find some of those people that I was looking for. I succeeded in finding many of them. Then it was up to me to write to their families in Norway telling them that I had found their father, their brother or their husband. This message made them very happy in Norway.
My first mission was to "Ørkenen Sur". From January, 1926, to September, 1934, I visited "Ørkenen Sur" 307 times. You can read about life in "Ørkenen Sur" and my work there in the book which came out in 1932 called Opplevelser i Ørkenen Sur.
In the autumn of 1934 we founded the Hospital and Prison Mission. Between January, 1926, and May, 1959, I made 4,781 hospital visits where I found 11,156 Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Finnish people.
Morgues in Brooklyn, New York, and Staten Island were visited 1,555 times. Many of the dead had no papers or identification on them, so it was often difficult to find out who they were. We visited 720 police stations to find out where people were taken, depending on whether they were alive or dead, whether sent to the hospital or the morgue. Among the people who were dead, 1,381 died in hospitals. Those found dead either out on the street, in their rooms, or in the ocean numbered 482.
I visited saloons 529 times. Many of those we were looking for were in the saloons, but some went right out to their deaths.
I was at 230 funerals. Private homes were visited 590 times. Mostly it had to do with drunkenness, and fights between husband and wife because of drinking. I visited prisons 451 times: Brooklyn, New York, SingSing, Dannamora and Auburn.
From 1929 until 1933 we gave out to the needy: 1,740 pairs of shoes, 290 coats, and 4,010 suits and other clothes.
Several hundred letters were received with requests to look for someone, or saying, "Thank you," after people had been found. More than 700 of those we were looking for were found, alive or dead.
I worked in the Hospital and Prison Mission from September,1934, until May, 1952, and in "Ørkenen Sur" for almost 8 years before that. Together it has been 26 years, and those were blessed years. So I have often thanked God for giving me this calling in life.
In May, 1952, I received a letter from the mission board, saying that there was not enough money to pay my salary any longer than until July 1st. When that day came, I was without resources to live on, and had no money to pay travel expenses.
I had to resign from the mission to find another place to make a living.
Translated May 11. 2003 by:
Nancy & Arthur C. Andersen (USA)
Reidun Torgrimsen (Norway)