Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Norsk royalty visit goes to head of local Norwegian citizens...

By Jim Heffernan
King Harald V & Queen Sonja 
I’m happy for all of the local Norwegians that King Harald V (motto: “Alt for Norge!”) and Queen Sonja of Norway are visiting Duluth next week.

Of course there will be no living with them after this (the locals, not the king and queen). If you thought (you think, don’t you?) the local Norwegians were an uppity bunch before this visit, well, what do you suppose this royal invasion will do to them?

Oh well, we’ll just have to live with it, for how long we don’t know. I think maybe until the second coming of You Know Who, but what do I know? I’m only a half-baked Swede calmly taking it all in from a well-calculated distance.

I will be nowhere near Duluth's Enger Tower when the royal couple rededicates it, even though I feel a special kinship with King Harald. He and I are close to the same age – he’s a little older, but not much. In the 1940s after World War II broke out, Childe Harald and his mother, Princess Martha, lived in the United States – at the White House with President and Mrs. Roosevelt and, at times, other guests like Winston “Win” Churchill. They had fled Norway when Germany invaded the country. (See historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent account of this in her book “No Ordinary Time.”)

At that very same time here in Duluth I was living in the yellow house in the West End with my Swedish mother (and Irish-German father and brother), where we entertained guests as well, including my Uncle Win (not short for Winston, but rather Winfield), who could imitate almost any European accent, especially Scandinavian, including, of course, Norwegian. What a stitch.

So you can see King Harald and I have some things in common, nationality not being one of them, but that’s OK. My Scandinavian heritage is on the Swedish side of the Baltic Peninsula where today good King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia hold forth on the throne and Greta Garbo is still dead.

Oh, how I long for the day that King Karl Gustaf  (they usually leave off the Roman numerals in second reference, Italy being so far away) and Queen Silvia would come to Duluth and rededicate, well, let’s see, oh, rededicate the Svithoid Hall in the West End, where local Swedish folk used to dance the schottische on Saturday night and deny it on Sunday in the Lutheran church. It’s upstairs of that auction place on 21st Avenue West and Third Street, across from a vacant lot that could use a little sprucing up (attention Mayor Don Ness).

Now that would be a red-letter day in Duluth.

Addendum: Hey, I’m kidding, OK? I used to write newspaper columns about the competition between Duluth Swedes and Norwegians. This is in the spirit of that.

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