No Norwegians left in Brooklyn

 Photo courtesy of Arlene Bakke Rutuelo Norwegians in Brooklyn: this year’s Syttende Mai Parade begins with the parade chair, committe chairs, and N.Y. Senator Martin J. Golden (who isn’t Norwegian).

Photo courtesy of Arlene Bakke Rutuelo
Norwegians in Brooklyn: this year’s Syttende Mai Parade begins with the parade chair, committee chairs, and N.Y. Senator Martin J. Golden (who isn’t Norwegian).

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

For the last three decades or more, I have heard that “there are no more Norwegians left in Brooklyn.” As a Norwegian American, this is troubling when you are standing right in front of the person mouthing those words. One thinks, “Am I invisible?”

Now, this is not to say that we live in the heyday of “the norske kolonie” that Brooklyn once was. However, there are more of us around than you think.

The other day I was taking the Fifth Avenue bus and a tall couple walked on. I overheard the man speaking to his wife in English, but with a familiar accent—Norwegian. I politely turned around and asked if he was Norwegian. The couple laughed and said actually they are from London, but he by way of Norway.

The husband had recently discovered where his grandfather had lived in Brooklyn and had just come back from visiting the house. I asked if they knew about the Danish Club and they said yes, “we are eating there this evening.” Coincidentally, so was I! I mentioned Sporting Club Gjøa as a place they may wish to visit before they had dinner. That was a place they were not aware of, but they did go by Gjøa before their dinner at the Danish Club. Where of course, we saw each other again.

Just two days before, I had met with a researcher from Norway, Liv Marit Haakenstad, who is writing a book about Carl Søyland, the renowned editor of the Nordisk Tidende. As we were walking Fifth Avenue, a street filled with a diversity of peoples that can only be found in New York, I saw Alf, a Norwegian-born neighbor. I introduced the two of them and she quickly found out that he had known Søyland. They exchanged contact information to follow up on the Søyland connection.

So before anyone flippantly throws out those words on the streets of Brooklyn—“There are no more Norwegians left here”—hold your tongue. I am here and live beside many others who share a common Norwegian ancestry.

This article originally appeared in the Dec. 11, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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