Esther Nordmark (1922-2014) was born into the Næss family. Her mother's name was Lydia and her father's name was Peder Anton. He was a blacksmith, originally from Florø. The family lived in the Kalvskinnet district in Trondheim, first in Elvegata, and from 1927 in Kalvskinnsgata 1, a house called Døvmonsgården [Deaf Mons' house] after an earlier resident. Here Esther grew up with her mother, father and a brother who was five years older than her.
Her father died when Esther was seven years old. But it appears the little family coped well. We get the impression that the little girl was much about on Øya, in Kalvskinnet and eventually in Midtbyen [downtown]. Esther was talked about as a gifted child in school. Her powers of observation were good, and she also had a good memory. In the future this would prove to be a good combination!
Esther’s mother, Lydia (b. 1883), told her a lot about growing up in Trondheim "in the old days", and this sparked Esther's great interest in local history. As fate would have it, this would become a forty-year long hobby that had practical use.
Esther Næss married in 1946, and had a daughter. But her husband died in 1952, only 34 years old. In 1954 she married again, now acquiring Nordmark as her surname. Esther and Arthur lived in Gautes gate on Øya, and they had a long life together.
Esther generally stayed at home as a mother and wife. In addition to her interest in old Trondheim, she liked writing. But it took a long time before she started to share her work with a larger public. In 1968 it was announced that the house from her childhood, Døvmonsgården, was to be torn down to make way for the new university library at Kalvskinnet. This put her in a reflective mood, and her remembrances were printed in Adresseavisen [the largest newspaper in Trondheim]. (As of 2014 this house is in the process of being rebuilt in the urban department of Trøndelag folk museum in Sverresborg). At about the same time she started submitting regular Dagens hjørne [today's corner] columns to the same newspaper. Her language was colloquial and inspired by dialect, providing everyday thoughts on the near and far. All in all, she produced around 800 such texts!
She also wrote more artistic works. In 1973 she won first prize in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s grasrotvisekonkurranse [grass root song competition], and in 1976 she again won a prize for the best Fjordgatasang [song about Fjordgata (a street)], awarded by the two-man jury of Martin Michaelsen and Asmund Bjørken. From the end of the 1970s she also started giving radio talks under the vignette Som dagene går [As my days pass].
But it is for her passion for local history that Esther Nordmark is remembered best. With funding from the county and local authorities she conducted around 50 interviews with elderly residents of Trondheim, where they told their stories about growing up in the town around the turn of the previous century. Twenty-three of these are presented in the book Gamle trondhjemmere forteller [Stories about Trondheim told by older members of the community] (2006).
Much of her work has been compiled in books printed in several editions and versions. The first book, Kjære gamle Trondhjem. Glimt fra byen vår i 30-årene [Dear old Trondheim. Glimpses of our town
in the 1930s] (1980) is probably the greatest sales success the small publishing house Rune in Trondheim has had.
Esther Nordmark was a popular lecturer and guest speaker, often using audio and video media, and her topic was generally the "old days" in general and "old Trondhjem" in particular. She was active in this regard almost until she was 90 years old.
Recommended reading: Rolf Rolfsen: Trondheim 1960: små og store hendelser for 50 år siden [Trondheim 1960: Small and big events 50 years ago] (page 147-150). Tapir akademisk, 2010.