Yesterday a Syttende Mai parade was held in Park Ridge, Illinois. I did not attend. I have not attended since the parade left Chicago. Boy, that was decades ago.
A little explanation is necessary. The Syttende Mai is the 17th of May. It is the day Norwegians celebrate the writing of their constitution in 1814. When I was a kid it was a day of national pride for those of Norwegian ancestry living in Chicago. It is hard to believe that Chicago once held a large Scandinavian immigrant population. The Swedes hung out in North Park, Andersonville and Lake View. The Norwegians were in Humboldt Park or Logan Square. In any of those neighborhoods today you would be hard pressed to find a person of pure Norwegian or Swedish blood. In a lot of ways I really wish I lived in a part of the country that still has folks that relate to being Norwegian. Stoughton, Wisconsin is one of those places. I highly recommend their Norwegian Heritage Museum "Livsreise". At the left of this blog is a link to it. But Chicago.....no.
When I was growing up those Chicago neighborhoods were already beginning to break down, turning into dirty, depressed, crime ridden areas. They were the neighborhoods of the Scandinavian grandmas and grandpas who just couldn't leave the old neighborhood even though their more educated and affluent children, now married to folks of all different back-rounds, had long since done the "white flight" thing and escaped to the suburbs. The Syttende Mai parade drew them back if only for that day. It was held in Humboldt Park and was a pretty big affair, bands, floats, dancers. We would meet in Grandpa and Grandma's apartment on Pierce Ave. and walk to the park. After the parade we returned to their apartment for coffee and cake. Lots of fun and flag waving but you got out of there before the sun went down. It just wasn't "safe" anymore.
|1964 - my sister, waiting for the parade to begin|
Funny thing...many of those same Chicago neighborhoods are now doing a turn around. They call it "gentrifying"and it costs big money to live there. Sure, you can again walk the streets in relative safety but I don't feel like I would belong there either.
Where are the grandmas? the coffeecakes? the Norwegian flags?
Gratulerer med dagen!