This came out in 1959, and soon us kids were singing it at YMCA summer camp. The mess hall rang with it: Oleanna, a Norwegian-American folk song. This version’s by the great Theodore Bikel, plus Israeli folksinger Geula Gill.
Yes, this song was sung by those eccentric people who came here legally, embraced their new country, took pride in becoming Americans, and never demanded to be rewarded for breaking immigration laws. They learned to sing our songs, we learned to sing theirs, and the songs wound up belonging to all of us.
(Inane Y camp memory: Kid to counselor: “Bruce put a boogie in the Kool-Ade, I seen him!” Counselor bops his against the table. Some people will do anything to pay their way through college–but maybe that’s ancient history, too.)
4 comments on “Memory Lane: ‘Oleanna’”
Sort of the Norwegian version of The Big Rock Candy Mountain.
I loved the singing around the big campfire at YMCA camp. I don’t specifically remember “Oleanna.” It would be a fun one to sing I always liked the songs sung in a round.
My counselor took us on caravans in the YMCA van to places like San Francisco, Yosemite & Sequoia Parks, and San Clemente beach. It was great! He ended up going to Viet Nam.
And after the singing, a ghost story! My favorite was “The Creeping Sand,” with “The Hairy Hand” as runner-up.
The one I remember was One-One – he had one arm and one eye. One kid in our cabin peed in his pants that night instead of walking to the john.