Day 85 - Cedar Avenue
For a long time Cedar Avenue was known as Snoose Boulevard because of all the Swedes who lived there and all the snuff (snus) they consumed. The historic "Swede Hollows" Riverside area's rows of tenement buildings were inhabited by Swedish immigrants who spoke Swedish in the stores and at all the other businesses in the area.
Seven Corners, at Cedar and Washington Avenues, was the district’s hub. Here the famous Swedish American Hjalmar Peterson, known as the “peasant comedian” Olle i Skratthult (Olle in Laughterville), entertained his countrymen. Dania Hall, at 427 Cedar Avenue near Riverside, hosted cultural events and Scandinavian performers. Built in 1886, the large red-brick edifice was destroyed by a fire in 2000.
Olle i Skratthult was the stage name of Hjalmar Peterson (1886-1960) who was the country’s most famous Swedish comic. With his red wig, blackened teeth, long scarf and a never-ending supply of gags, he never failed to pack in the Swedish immigrants wherever he went. “Farmers who never went anywhere came to see him.” Hjalmar came to Minneapolis in 1906 from Munkfors, Värmland. Originally a brick-layer, he soon turned to singing and toured his native Sweden with the Swedish American Quartet. He studied the best of the Swedish travelling vaudevilles and later performed their acts in the USA with songs and jokes of his own. His version of Nicolina sold over 100 000 records. Olle from Laughterville performed at the Scandinavian entertainment centers on Cedar Avenue and toured to many Swedish settlements on the continent. He was joined by other performers and Miss Olga Lindgren, “well-known and well-liked for her beautiful singing” whom he later married. Towards the end of his life he joined the Salvation Army and only sang with its band.
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