The Smell of Money
The first thing people notice when they move here is the smell of money. It smells like a minus four foot low tide, or the four canneries processing fish or on a rare occasion herring spawning in the harbor.
When I first moved here “Herring was King!” Herring roe is the Japanese equivalent of caviar. Back in the day, the Japanese economy was booming & they needed a lot of “caviar”. Rumor says that Petersburg had the highest number of millionaires per capita of any small town in the United States. Two bands played every weekend; a rock band at Kito’s Kave and a country/western house band at the Moose Club. Some nights I didn't pay for a beer all night long. People kept “ringing the bell”; buying a round for the house
In the “Before Times” (before Covid) people didn’t send out wedding invitations instead they put a notice in the paper. You were expected to put on your Norwegian sweater and go down to the Sons of Norway hall. Gifts were piled either side of door delivered by the department stores. Over to the left was beer, wine and soft drinks. At the entrance was the buffet table for the traditional Norske dinner. On the right the dessert table full of Norwegian pastries and in the far right corner the wedding cake.
Our first big holiday of the year is May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. There is a pageant where the kids dance the old dances from Norway in traditional attire. A parade finished by the Viking ship Valhalla, her dragon figure-head breathing fire and smoke and the boat laden with kids. With street dancing, marauding Vikings and Valkyries, the Kaffe Hus at the Sons of Norway Hall with open face tea sandwiches and more Norwegian delicates. And all 4 days of celebration with everyone dressed in the bunads and sweaters from the old country.
The 4th of July is another 4 days with street games, food booths, street dances and beer gardens finished with fireworks at the ball park . My mom said our 4th July is best one she’s ever experienced.
We finish the year with Christmas and julebukking, the later being three weeks of eating and drinking our way through town. The feasting is hosted by various businesses as a “thanks you” to their customers. Some specialized in “Tom & Jerry’s”, some in buffets, some gift package, some serve meals. There is always a line to get pastrami sandwiches, which is a good time to catch up with friends that commercial fished all season and kids back from college. And I remember in the Before Times great New Years Eve parties at the Beachcomber decorated in silver and black with everyone dressed accordingly.
The town is pretty quiet then until the bait herring opening when the smell of money is in the air again.
Author - William Moulton