Anna Szentgyörgyi is an undergraduate student at the Institute of English and American Studies, University of Szeged, Hungary. Email: email@example.com
This paper aims to analyze the ethnic identification of the first and third generation Hungarian-Americans in the Birmingham Ethnic Neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. As ethnicity may be expressed in social practices, my essay aims to show how their ethnic identity was expressed in three areas of these practices, namely, in architecture, festivities and foodways. In this essay, my goal is to compare the ethnic heritage of the first and the third generation Hungarian immigrants on this ground. My choice fell on this community because it still strongly maintains its ethnic heritage, unlike other Hungarian communities in the United States that fell victim to the Americanization process.
In my paper, at first I will introduce the key theoretical works which framed my investigation. Then, in order to carry out my analysis, first, I will investigate the way ethnicity was expressed by the Old Immigrants, in their architecture, festivities and foodways in Toledo. Furthermore, I shall also investigate to what extent their Hungarian cultural heritage was modified as a result of the new cultural context.
In the following section of my essay, I shall turn to social practices maintained by the third generation immigrants. In this part of my essay I will argue against Marcus Lee Hansen`s idea of spontaneous interest as the reason for the third generation’s turn towards their ethnic heritage. I will show that the revival of ethnic heritage was not the result of a spontaneous interest, as Hansen claimed, but of a community reaction against state plans. Finally, I will analyze the expression of Hungarian identification of the third generation Hungarian-Americans pointing out significant changes which have occurred since the first generation arrived.
To write my essay, I relied on such primary sources as the issues of the local newspaper, Toledo Daily Blade from 1907, personal accounts of locals recorded by John Ahern (at the end of the 1990s) and edited in the book entitled Roots in Birmingham. In my argumentation I also relied on secondary sources such as cultural and ethnographic studies by Linda Degh and Susan Kalcik, and the works of John Ahern provided the historical and cultural data on the ethnic Hungarian community in Toledo from the end of the 19th century until the late 1980s.
2. Underlying concepts
The focus of my investigation is cultural heritage – mainly a selected range of social practices performed by the first and the third generation Hungarian-Americans as ways to express ethnic identity.
In order to determine the group of the Hungarian-Americans as an ethnic community, I drew on Barth’s essay entitled “Ethnic Groups and Boundaries” (1969). He defines the term ethnic group as a population “which is largely biologically self-perpetuating; shares fundamental cultural values, realized in overt unity in cultural forms; makes up a field of communication and interaction and has a membership which identifies itself, and is identified by others, as constituting a category distinguishable from other categories of the same order.” (in Sollors, 1996, p.296) On this basis, we may argue that members of the same ethnic group share a common lifestyle.
Anthony Giddens suggests in his work Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (1991) that social practices are expressive of self-identity, including ethnic identity. He sees these social practices as constitutive to lifestyles: “a lifestyle can be defined as a more or less integrated set of practices which an individual embraces” (1991, p.81). He further argues that: “lifestyles are routined practices, the routines incorporated into habits of dress, eating, modes of acting and favored milieux for encountering others…” (ibid.) Albert Wass de Czege supports this idea by claiming that “our Hungarian heritage”…, which makes us what we are” is expressive of social identities, including ethnic identities (1975, p.5). Therefore, an analysis of the social practices performed by a given community may prove a successful method to map identification, as part of that, its ethnic component.
Hansen`s law, The principle of the third generation interest (1938), claiming that “what the son wishes to forget the grandson wishes to remember” (in Sollors, 1996, p.206) framed my decision in choosing the 1st and the 3rd generation and their practices in the analysis. Hansen claims that the first generation parents insisted on retaining their language, religion, customs and paternal authority – they were not to be modified simply because the home had been moved four or five thousand miles westward. When the second generation children refused to conform, their actions were considered rebellious. The generation gap widened and the family spirit was embittered by repeated misunderstandings, as Hansen asserts. (in Sollors, 1996, p.204) Contrary to the attitude of the second generation, the third one showed a renewed interest in ethnic cultural heritage: “whenever any immigrant group reaches the third generation stage in its development a spontaneous and almost irresistible impulse arises which forces the thoughts of many people of different professions, different positions in life and different points of view to interest themselves in that one factor which they have in common: heritage…” (in Sollors, 1996, p.208-209)
3. Presence of the first generation Hungarian immigrants in Toledo, Ohio (1892-1920s)
In this section of my essay, firstly, I attempt to outline the origins of the first generation Hungarians of Toledo. Secondly, I intend to elaborate on the various social practices they brought with themselves to the new world. These social customs, in the new cultural context, soon turned into their markers of (ethnic) identification. Finally, I shall draw on the influence of the American context made on the practices of the Hungarian immigrants.
3.1. The origins of the Hungarians in Toledo
The history of the Hungarian Neighbourhood, the so called Birmingham Ethnic Neighborhood (BEN), in Toledo started with the relocation of approximately one hundred families of Hungarian immigrants (200 workers) in 1892 from Cleveland, Ohio to the BEN. These families came along with the National Malleable Castings Company which they originally worked for in Cleveland. For the company, the nearest source of reliable labour was the already skilled Hungarians. Local Records – The Sacred Heart Catholic Church Registers- show that most of the Hungarian workers came from the peasant stock of the so-called Palóc counties of North-central Hungary (_Figure 1_) : Heves, Abaúj and Gömör Counties (now in Slovakia). (Ahern, 2002 p. 12-14) The local newspaper, Toledo Daily Blade, (January 26, 1907) explained the motivation of these Hungarian immigrants: “The exchange of an environment of old country grain fields and bowing herds for one of grimy American factories and strident whistles often proves a rude shock to the “greenhorn” Magyar, who emigrates for just one reason – the almighty dollar.” Though most of the Hungarian immigrants, mainly single young males, only came to Toledo as sojourners, still, a significant number of them decided to settle down. Local census data from 1900 shows the rapid population growth of Hungarians in the BEN it arose from 647 to 3041 by 1920 (Ahern, 2002, p.14).
3.2. Town structure and architecture as ways of representing ethnic identity
As Linda Degh points out, the strong and proud identification that [the first generation] Hungarian immigrants maintained towards the homeland resulted in the formation of a complex Old Country image that contributed to self-identification of Hungarian – Americans. They built the replica of their homes, churches with the same interior decoration, the traditional flower garden in front and the vegetable patch in the back of the house according to the Old Country forms. “Thus, the peasant dream village appeared as a pathetic survival kit, blurred by the haze of industrial pollution.” (Degh, 1980, p. 265)
3.2.1. The structure of the BEN
First, if we take a look at the BEN on a map (_Figure 2_) and survey the streets that it is made up of, we can see evidence how first generation Hungarian immigrants marked their ethnic presence on the physical landscape of Birmingham.
By looking at the structure of the BEN, we find systematically organized straight streets, highly resembling the typical American city-concept, the grid-structure. In contrast, according to Dezső Malonyay, the Paloc villages consist of one single street and some small alley-ways. The streets are curvy, following the particular landscape (1922, p. 198).
In the BEN we find Kossuth Street, Bogar Street, Yambor Street, Magyar Street, Juhasz Street and Nagy Street, many of which were named after well-regarded residents of the neighborhood. As Izabella H. Janda asserts in her essay entitled “Hungarian Place Names in the United States”, the naming of streets in the New World was quite different from the Old Country`s tradition where places were generally named either after their ethnic dwellers (eg. Nagyoroszi) or after the occupation of their residents. However, in the United States, they named their new homes after already existing places, such as New Buda in Iowa or after locally well- known individuals. Among the above listed Hungarian street names the Magyar Street and the Moravan Street existed during the first generation, according to Thomas L. Garey (2001, p. 57).
3.2.2. The architecture of the BEN
“Housing is an outward expression of the inner human nature; no society can be fully understood apart from the residences of its members.” (Jackson,1985, p.3). As for BEN`s architecture, Ted Ligibel concluded that it reflects the ethnicity of its resident-builders of Hungarian ancestry (in Ahern, 2002, p174). He found that the majority of the buildings found in the BEN were built between 1895 and 1920, and fall into three major categories according to their functions: religious/educational, commercial and residential structures.
188.8.131.52. Religious structures
As in every Hungarian village of the “Old Country” it is the church and its tower that captures the sight of the visitor first. The architectural style of the churches often signs which religion its community identifies with. In the BEN, the shape and the decoration of the churches not only clarify the certain religious dominion they were (and still are) used by, but they also express the ethnic belonging of the users.
The St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church, established in 1898, has been holding its services in the basilica-like massive brick structure, completed in 1914, that is located at the corner of Genesee and Consaul streets (_Figure 3_). Here, the material needs to be emphasized. Throughout America, the common building material at that time was timber that was cheap and widely available, while in Hungary, brick or adobe brick was the common building material instead of wood that was rare and expensive (except in Transylvania) at the end of the 19th century. The Basilica was built by Joseph C. Huber, a native Toledoan.
The church has many cultural references to Hungarian religious life. As Ted Ligibel points out, there is a series of six murals on the walls of the two side isles and a seventh one is situated behind the main altar. These murals and the stained–glass windows depict the lives of such Hungarian saints as St. Stephen, St, Emery, St. Ladislaus, St. Elizabeth and St. Margaret (_Figure 4_). These saints were commonly depicted in Hungarian churches as well (_Figures 5, 5a_). At the bottom of each stained-glass window the old coat-of-arms of Hungary as well as the American coat-of-arms can be found. Stained-glass windows depicting the above mentioned saints are quite common in Hungary, especially in those places which have some connection with the life of these saints (_Figure 5b_). As Ligibel asserts, “The[se] symbols are important cultural components as well, in that they express the often dual nature of immigrant loyalties in pre-war America, serving as constant reminders of the past and present” (in Ahern, 2002, p.154). In this case, it is interesting to see, how the strong cultural heritage of the first generation Hungarian immigrants start to mix with the new cultural context, which not only affects their everyday life, but their ways of thinking and feelings as well.
Another reminder of Hungarian religious background is the Calvin United Church (_Figure 6_), previously named as Magyar Reformed Church. The church building was designed by Toledo architect T. W. Matz and was completed in 1901. It is located at the corner of Bogar and Bakewell Streets. It wears the typical features of Hungarian village churches; it is built of brick in Neobaroque style. Similar reformed churches can be found in Kazincbarcika or Padány. The tower has the usual shape of Hungarian Neobaroque church-towers; it has four round arced windows and round-shaped clocks pointing to each cardinal direction. The stained-glass windows also suggest Hungarian ethnic presence, as Ted Ligibel reports; the Hungarian coat-of-arms can be found on the bottom of each, furthermore on the interior wall surfaces, painted atop the pilasters, just below the ceiling.
184.108.40.206. Commercial Structures
Commercial buildings are located on nearly every block in the BEN. They served the needs of the residents for dry goods, shoes, tailoring, groceries, legal advice, bakeries, cleaners, butchers, building supplies, taverns, restaurants and recreational pursuits, as Ligibel asserts. These stone or brick buildings are generally two-storey buildings, having a shop on the ground floor and family apartment on the upper level. Here, it is important to highlight that this architectural design is a typical urban American structure to which first generation Hungarians adopted themselves. These commercial structures in many cases reflect duality in terms of their design and décor. While the main structure is built in American-style, the façade of these buildings contain the surname of the owner, a clearly identifiable Hungarian ethnic marker. The Orosz building at 2126 Consaul Street (_Figures 7, 7a_), the Kolibar building at 2044 Genesee (_Figure 8_), the Richardsonian Bertok building at 1920-24 Front Street (_Figure 9_) and the Playdium Tavern at 1956-58 Front Street (_Figure 10_) all feature façade name plaques. As Ligibel draws attention to, “the plaques identify each place as culturally bound to the area’s predominant ethnic group.” (in Ahern, 2002, p.158) The name of the owners or the date when a particular house was built was commonly put on the façade of Paloc homes. (_Figures 11, 11a_)
Among these buildings the most interesting and notable structure is that of the Playdium Tavern. It was the public counterpart of the church; the hall not only served as the major tavern of the neighborhood, but as a recreational “center” as well. It included a meeting hall on the second floor with a stage and balcony, and a basement bowling alley. Here, it is interesting to see how bowling, a purely American game, became incorporated among the Hungarian past-time activities.
The building is divided into three floors, among which the second and the top floor are the most interestingly decorated ones. These floors show a high resemblance to Hungarian Neobaroque country mansions with their pale yellow-colored walls, “the graceful arches with quoined surrounds and Renaissance-inspired cornice” (Ahern, 2002, p.160). One might wonder, learning the background of these Hungarian builders, why this particular style of architecture was chosen instead of their native country-style. In my opinion, one reason for choosing this style might have been that with the rise of their economic position in the New World (compared to the one in the Old Country), they felt the need to express this change. I imagine that for a Hungarian peasant the power of the landholder was also expressed in the grand architecture of their country mansions. Therefore, this elevated style might have been appropriate to express upper social standards (here, again, we can only talk about it in comparison to the situation of peasants in the Old Country). The Playdium Tavern stands out from most of the buildings of BEN with its rich ornamentation. László Dám points out that the decoration of the façade with flowers and leaves around the windows and alongside its bottom is a typical feature of the South-Gömör architectural style. The most striking feature, however, is the national coat-of-arms including the crown of St. Stephen, the double cross, the Arpad-striped flag and the three moulds. (_Figure 12_)
2.3.3. Residential Structures
Birmingham as a residential neighborhood consists of mainly one-and-a-half story houses. Most of the Hungarian residential homes were built of brick and have the following features: gable fronts framing two windows and a door facing the street generally the door is placed offset from the central angle, making the façade asymmetrical and a fence surrounding the whole house. Ted Ligibel emphasizes the importance of the fence, he claims that elaborate iron fences surround dozens of homes built in the early 20th century defining property boundaries no matter how small they were. Building fences around one’s property was (and still is) a generally applied Hungarian custom in contrast to the American way that leaves the front garden open (for the sake of reduction).
Ted Ligibel makes a connection between the houses of Magyar Street and that of Átány village, Heves County, Hungary. He points out the similarities between the two structures: “The size, scale, setback, roof type, fenestration, and placement are strikingly alike. The unusual arrangement of houses on Magyar Street – two homes side by side with an open space in between is found in Átány as well (_Figure 13_). This arrangement reflects the importance of yards in Hungarian village life.” (in Ahern, 2002, p.171) Edit Fel and Thomas Hofer elaborate on this issue in their work Proper Peasants: yards served as a space of domestic activities – boiling soap, making plum jam, drying fruit, rendering fat and pig sticking – in the summer. Ligibel asserts that such residential structuring in the BEN is not accidental, but a clear example of Old-World, ethnic-based form giving. A further example to this claim is the striking parallel of double-rounded arches found on five homes in Birmingham and the Hungarian country style. (_Figure 14_) Similar houses can be found in Fertőszéplak, as in the BEN, having two windows on the front of the house and an offset entrance through the double-arched veranda. These homes were built of brick and the saddle-roof is covered by clay roof-tiles. The front and the façade of these homes are only gently decorated, such like the houses of BEN on Whittemore Street.
These double-rounded arches are oversized on the Birmingham houses and serve as a corner entry (in most of the Hungarian villages the arch as an entrance is part of the veranda). Two houses, 222 Whittemore St. (_Figure 15_) and 2143 Bakewell St. (_Figure 16_) have rounded arches serving as the entrance of the house. Both homes were built entirely of brick that is quite an unusual building material in American architecture. The house at 2143 Bakewell St. has the traditional saddle-roof, while the house at 222 Whittemore St. has two gables, but still maintains the traditional elongated roof-form. Homes 402 and 404 Whittemore St. (_Figure 17_) are almost identical; both of them have flattened arches at the right corner of the front side serving as entrance. Eighty percent of these houses were built of brick; the rest (the top floor) is covered with wooden panel on the front – this technique was also widely applied in Northern Hungarian villages.
Edit Fel and Thomas Hofer in Proper Peasants give the ground of comparing the houses of Átány village and those of the BEN. (_Figure 18_) Traditional house design is described as follows:
Houses at Atany are one-storey buildings, like those of other Hungarian villages. The walls are constructed of adobe and the roofs are thatched with reeds. Traditionally these houses consist of three or four rooms: a living room, a kitchen, a pantry, and a loft above. Usually, one end of the building faces the street. The rooms are arranged linearly with the living room, “the House”, at the street end and the pantry at the other and with the kitchen in between. Many houses have a veranda on the entrance side of the building; thus people do not enter directly from the yard, but through the veranda. From the veranda one enters the kitchen. (in Ahern, 2002, p.171)As Ted Ligibel asserts, a few changes were made in the houses of the BEN compared to the original ones, these changes include roofing material – the thatched reed roofs are replaced with clay roof tiles the entry is moved from the kitchen to the dining or family room, the size of the veranda is reduced – it does not extend down the whole side of the house, but is located only at the immediate corner of the house. The arches of the veranda are also larger in size than the original ones. Finally, in Átány, there is a clear sign of fencing round the property unlike in the houses of the BEN.
In this section we gained insight to the religious, commercial and residential structures of the first generation Hungarian immigrant community. We could see their attempt to build a familiar residential area seen in their home-country villages of North-East Hungary to ease the shock of a new cultural environment. Later, these structures not only meant simply churches, shops or homes, but ways to express ethnic identity and rich cultural heritage. Furthermore, in this chapter we could also see evidences of the intertwining Hungarian cultural heritage and the new American cultural context.
3.3. Festivities as representations of ethnicity
As in every community, festivities are important occasions for maintaining group cohesion, socialization and often cheerful mood. Many of the festivities held all over the world are culture specific and can be regarded as ethnic cultural markers. Most of the festivities practiced by the first generation Hungarians in Toledo were originally either religious or folk festivities strongly maintained especially in rural areas of Hungary.
3.3.1. The Grape Harvest Festival
The source of festivities celebrated in the BEN at the turn of the century were tied either to folk or religious customs of the Old Country. One of them is the grape harvest festival, a folk custom that was widely celebrated in all Hungarian-American communities in the United States. Vintage, the harvest of grapes in October, was celebrated in regions where wine was grown in Hungary. The celebration included:
The pickers, dressed in festive costumes and carrying bunches of grapes were led by horseback riders and followed by mummers on wagons or afoot and by a band of Gypsy musicians. The group marched through the vineyards and the main thoroughfares of the community, magically-symbolically “closing” and protecting the next harvest and the land from the perils of winter. Finishing the parade, villagers gathered for a feast of roast calf, pig or lamb stew, and new wine. The bunches of grapes were suspended to decorate the dance floor where the young engaged in playing party games and dancing after the meal. A forfeit game included the stealing of grapes by young men before the watchful eyes of the girl-rangers… (Degh, 1977, p. 120)
However, in the Hungarian-American community of Birmingham, this festival was not tied to actual folk practice, but to the autumn program of the Hungarian churches. As Linda Degh asserts, “the [Hungarian] churches, like ethnic–American churches in general, are committed to maintaining language loyalty, historic awareness and folk tradition through different programs offered for leisure, recreation, and education” (1977 p.114) Some other modifications were also carried out in the American context: due to the lack of vineyards, the grapes were taken from backyard and vacant-lot gardens. It was children, not the pickers who dressed in traditional costumes and marched behind the band wagon to inform everyone that Harvest Dance was that night. The harvest dance was situated in the dance hall where grapes were strung from a temporary arbor. The adults danced the Csárdás while they attempted to steal the grapes. The children were responsible for finding and arresting the culprit. Everyone was caught and brought to the “judge”, who fined the culprits. The proceeds always went for financing an important neighbourhood cause. (Ahern, 2002, p. 28-29)
3.3.2. Easter sprinkling
Another important festivity, also tied to folk custom was Easter sprinkling or “Locsolas” which is a widely maintained peasant custom in Hungary. In the Paloc community, at Easter the houses and the horses are cleaned, the girls have a bath in the brook. On Easter Sunday the girls are doused with bucketful water or they are made to stand in the brook. If they are unwilling to do so, they are pushed into the water. After the dousing the girls give painted eggs to the boys. They are usually given a piece of ham and brandy with honey. (Malonyay, 1922, p. 296)
In the BEN, on the first Monday after Easter Sunday the boys went out and doused the girls with bucketful water. The next day was the girls’ turn for sprinkling the boys. Often, the boys were given coins or decorated eggs after dousing. Easter eggs were decorated with various methods. One method to decorate an egg was to paint it one color then carve a design in it with a pocketknife. Another, more difficult method was to start out with the white egg and develop a pattern with wax brought up by a special utensil [íróka], then dye the egg with a darker color and finally take off the wax. (Ahern, 1987 p.2, 41) (_Figure 19_)
3.3.3. Bethlehem’s Folk Play
Christmas was not only the time of celebrating Christ’s birth, but also the time of the Bethlehem’s folk play, as John Ahern asserts. It was enacted in the streets, in the bars, at home and finally at the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The players would collect donations of food, drink and money from their audiences to support the church activity. According to the local Birmingham tradition, the Bethlehem play has been presented yearly since the arrival of the Hungarians in the 1890s. Ahern points out the importance of it: “the scripts, as well as performance elements, provide virtually indisputable internal evidence of an unbroken oral tradition reaching directly back to Hungary.” (2002, p.207) Birmingham residents call the play Abauj Bethlehem play, but there are no records on any specific town of origin.
In the BEN the Bethlehem Play was (and still is today) tied to the church life. Strictly speaking, it was tied to two churches, the St. Stephen Catholic Church and St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church. The Bethlehem Play was performed by two troupes – the “Elsö” and “Második” – from St. Stephen’s congregation and one from the St. Michael’s congregation. A Bethlehem troupe at full length consisted of eight young men: three shepherds, two angels and about three öregek (regősök), but there were instances where half a dozen “öreg” played in the performance.
The costumes of the shepherds and angels were almost identical. They wore flowing white blouses with loose, uncuffed sleeves and white gatyák (a typical piece of Paloc clothing). (_Figure 20_) The only way to differentiate shepherds and angels was by sash colors. For instance, at St. Michael’s the angels’ crossed shoulder sashes were pink (right shoulder) and pale blue (left shoulder), while the sheperds’ sashes were red (right shoulder) and green (left shoulder). All troupes wore tall hats, two old photographs from 1913 and c.1914 show that these hats were fully conical and about two feet tall. A characteristic feature of these hats was the Hungarian tricolor: red, white and green stripes. Shepherds of both congregation carried decorated straight poles, about five feet long. At St. Michael’s these poles were painted in foot-white bands of red, white and green again the Hungarian tricolor; at St. Stephen’s the colors red and white were customary. These two colors might also have a Hungarian connotation; they could be reference to the “Árpád – ház”. The “öreg” players wore a fur vest jacket, a full bag-mask, made of fur, and a real axe, painted red and white. They also wore a pouch over their shoulders and one or two cowbells tied to their belts or legs. (Ahern, 2002, pp.206-225)
The particular roles were succeeded to the next generations along with the costumes, properties and memoranda passes for scripts. Continuity was taken most seriously by the troupe leaders, who generally succeeded to the role of principal “öreg”, as Ahern argues.
3.4. Traditional foodways as representations of ethnicity
Susan Kalcik asserts in her essay “Ethnic Foodways in America: Symbol and the Performance of Identity” that the process of acculturation and hybridization begins when a new ethnic group or individuals arrive in the United States and experience the push and pull inclinations about maintaining their traditional foodways. Some try to find foods similar to that of the old country, others give in the pressures and change their food habits. She further argues that “traditional foods and ways of eating form a link with the past and help ease the shock of entering a new culture; thus many struggle to hold on to them despite pressures to change.” (in Keller Brown, 1984, p.37) Susan Kalcik claims that observers have noted that foodways seem particularly resistant to change, because they belong to the earliest-formed layers of culture that are the last to erode. Ahern explains the significance of traditional food as follows: “food is, nevertheless, a vital symbol of ethnicity, and its preparation and consumption offer significant opportunities to create, reinforce, and revise group ties while enacting a sense of ethnic identity” ( 2002, p.196).
The first generation immigrants of the Hungarian community in Birmingham did not give in the pressures of acculturation in terms of traditional foodways. They maintained a wide variety of food such as kolbász, kalács, stuffed cabbage, nut and poppy rolls (_dios_ and makos), csiga seashells, palacsinta and szaluna as means of representing Hungarian ethnic identity. Out of this list of food, I would like to highlight the making of szaluna, as it is called in the BEN the “sutni szaluna” and the making of csiga (a kind of pasta) – two practices that are commonly used nowadays as well in the community.
3.4.1. “Sutni szaluna”
The folk custom of “sutni szaluna” was popular among the first generation. This custom could be practiced at weekends and during breaks in the working week. The sutni (this short form is generally applied for the whole term sutni szaluna) was carried out at a number of small fires on the ground. It did not require special attention or a great deal of time. Sutni was not only a meal, but a social occasion, a chance to sit, talk and visit. It was a group effort, ten or fifteen people gathered around the fire, each with his own nyars. During the process of sutni drippings from the bacon were combined with onions, good bread, and sometimes with strong green peppers. As Ahern draws attention to it, the practicing of the sutni-custom reinforced Hungarian identity without paying self-conscious attention to it. (2002, p. 201-205)
2.5.2 Making “Csiga”
The making of Csiga noodles was another popular element of food preparation. Women used to put them in chicken soup. Its preparation was a very time consuming process. It was taken on a board that had little grooves in it. A stick was also used that had a pointy end. A straight square noodle had to be put on the pointy end of the stick and then pulled down. It formed a seashell noodle as a result. Although it was a time-consuming process, it also meant a lot of fun, as Csiga making was usually tied to group work of church activities. (Ahern, 1987, p.1) As Éva V. Huseby-Darvas points out in her essay “Handmade Hungarianness”, “for most of the participants the very act of Csiga – noodlemaking means doing something specifically Hungarian in both the social and the cultural sense of the word.” (1991, p.194)
The period of the first generation, the pre-world-war period, witnessed the hay-day of the Hungarian ethnic community in Birmingham. It saw the creation of a stable ethnic organization, supported by strong church cohesiveness. Both church and everyday life was filled with traditions and practices of the Old Country, thus creating a friendly atmosphere, similar to the old one, on the new continent. Strong ties to Hungarian cultural heritage helped the first generation immigrants come over the obstacles of a different culture and location.
4. The third generation (1960-1980s)
In this section of my essay I attempt to compare how the first generation of the BEN preserved their ethnic identity and heritage in the early 20th century and how this generation managed to maintain Hungarian ethnic heritage in the 1960-1980s. This group is particular interest because their ethnic community and life remained undisturbed by new immigrants and this “isolation forced Hungarian-Americans to create their own folklore as a combination of memories and the new experiences of day-to-day living in their interethnic environments.” (Degh, 1980, p.270); and an overall renewed interest in ethnic heritage in the US added further to their interest in the traditions and customs of the Old Country.
4.1 The effects of the two World Wars on the BEN
Before going into any detail about the cultural practices of the third generation, I find it important to explain the cultural and historical shift between the 1st and the 3rd generation.
The First World War had a great impact on first generation Hungarian immigrants. Their homeland was now at war with their new country, forcing them to prove their American patriotism and loyalty. Most of them declared loyalty to the new country and became American citizens. As a result of the outcome of WWI, the Austro-Hungarian Empire broke into fragments. The home counties of Abauj, Gömör and the northern part of Heves became counties of the newly created Czechoslovakia. Many in the BEN no longer had a homeland to return to, thus many of the residents felt that their future had been decided by the war, as John Ahen points out. (2002, p. 20-21)
During the Second World War, the BEN witnessed profound changes in ethnic consciousness. While the old Hungarian traditions did not die out, a marked community reaction against the old country set in. Hungary was once again on the side of the enemy. Furthermore, it was the time of the second generation, the first American-born generation that broke away from the ways of life of their parents. This new generation, though reconciled to the past, became fully Americanized and moved smoothly to the American mainstream society. As Marcus Lee Hansen points out, the gap between the first and the second generation started to widen and finally became unbearable. The only solution for the sons and daughters of the second generation was to escape as soon as they became economically independent. They wanted to forget everything: the foreign language that left an unmistakable trace in their speech, religion that continually recalled childhood struggles and the family customs that should have been the happiest memories. (in Sollors, 1996) The cumulative result of the war, social mobility and the rise of the television culture marked a general decline in the Hungarian consciousness in the BEN. (Ahern, 2002, p. 33-36)
Marcus Lee Hansen stated that “whenever any immigrant group reaches the third generation stage in its development a spontaneous and almost irresistible impulse arises which forces the thoughts of many people of different professions, different positions in life and different points of view to interest themselves in that one factor which they have in common: heritage…” (in Sollors, 1996, p.208-209) However, in my opinion, this statement is highly questionable. I would argue that these two factors are not enough to force the second generation to turn to their origins. I believe, other, stronger, push factors are also needed. The case of the third generation Hungarian community in Toledo supports this idea. Moreover, if we take a look at Appendix A, we can see that out of the fifteen listed Hungarian communities, established by first generation Hungarian immigrants, only four of them still exist on the map. (Papp-Váry, 1996, p. 124-127)
As Ahern points out, the gradual fading of ethnic consciousness in Birmingham came to a sudden end in 1956 when the Hungarians openly rebelled against the Soviet occupation and repression. Suddenly, new emotions emerged in the Hungarian-Americans and self-effacement was replaced by obvious pride. The community pulled together to support the Hungarian refugees who came to Toledo after the bloody end of the revolution. Various efforts were made to settle them down and find jobs for them. This event had a revitalizing effect on the Hungarian community of Birmingham. This infusion provided new leaders for the Hungarian ethnic community, as most of the refugees were well-educated engineers, businessmen and professionals. However, this single event was not enough to revitalize the fading consciousness of the Hungarian ethic community. (Ahern, 2002, p. 37-38)
The year 1974 meant a milestone in revitalizing the ethnic heritage that had been dormant during the time of the second generation. Two major events took place in this year that renewed community ties and ethnic identity. The first event was the proposed closing of the public library. Residents organized a group, the “Save Our Library”, to keep the neighborhood branch of county library open. The other significant event was a successful protest against the widening of the Consaul Street into four lanes that would have meant eliminating one side of the Consaul Street and building an overpass above it that would have divided Birmingham and its community into two parts. Outstanding local leaders, St. Stephen’s Father Martin Hernady, Nancy Packo and other civic leaders mobilized a protest and blocked the traffic from St. Stephen’s along Consaul Street, the main tansport-line to the Maumee River. Teachers and students of St. Stephen’s School also joined the protest stopping cars and trucks. As a sign of victory, the bells of all three of Birmingham churches were rung simultaneously for the first time since the end of the Second World War. (Ahern, 2002, p. 39-41).
Three main push factors, the arrival of the `56-ers and the two civic successes – the saving of the public library and killing of the overpass, revived Birmingham’s sense of community, its ethnic consciousness and created a cohesive unit in it. As we can see in this case, other push factors were also needed to raise ethnic consciousness among the third generation Hungarian – Americans, the development of spontaneous impulses towards ethic heritage, as Hansen argued, would not have been enough in this case to revive the Hungarian ethnic heritage of the third generation.
4.2. The structure and the housing of the BEN
The third generation did not see major structural changes in the neighbourhood. The successful protest against the widening of the Consaul Street helped to preserve the original layout of the BEN. The Hungarian street-names still proudly advertise the presence of a strong Hungarian-American ethnic community. During the time of the 2nd and 3rd generations, as a result of the gradual expansion of Toledo, new street-names appeared: Bogar St. (1928) Kossuth St. (ca. 1937), Reineck St., Yambor St., Juhasz St. and Nagy St. came to existence in the post-war era (Garey, 2001, p.69-71). The two Hungarian churches, the commercial and residential structures described in the first section are still functioning and are well maintained by the community.
As for private homes, one interesting modification was made on the houses built by the first generation, namely, the disappearance of the front flower-garden and that of the fence around the house. The flower-garden was moved to the backyard and the front became an open place of urban socialization – following the classical American pattern.
4.3. Festivities of the third generation
Festivities still compose an important element of the communal life of the third generation Hungarian-Americans. These festivities are generally organized by the church congregations and most of them also serve as an occasion to collect donations for the Hungarian churches. Festivities are not only spaces of socialization but excellent opportunities to express ethnic identity and heritage.
4.3.1. Harvest Festival
The Harvest Festival and the Harvest Dance Parade is still practiced by the third generation. However, as Margaret “Baba” Ujvagi (Director of the Magyar Dancers) points out, this tradition was only brought back by the Hungarian Dancers in the mid 1980s. She describes the event as follows: “people dress up in nice costumes, there is a band on a truck, wagon, the Hungarian gypsy band, of course, and everyone parades through the neighborhood to the hall where the dance is held. Here the dancers steal the grapes, and those who get caught are taken to the judge. He charges you a fine for stealing” (in Ahern, 1987, p.2).
Dancing has always been an essential part of Hungarian folk culture. Margaret Ujvagi felt the necessity to revive this lost tradition in the new continent. The Magyar Dancers started out as a church group at Calvin United Church in the early 1980s, and the group has members from all over the neighborhood. There are three age groups: the youngest one, members are from 5-10 years of age; intermediate group, members are from 10-14 years of age and finally the senior group whose members range from teenagers to adults. Dancing is practiced once a week on every week. The dance group, when possible, attends dancing seminars held by professional dancers from Hungary as well. Dancing is also performed in every major Hungarian festival in Birmingham. Margaret Ujvagi and her fellow leaders of the group not only teach Hungarian folk dancing but folk songs as well. They teach the junior group the “Az a szép” and the Hungarian national anthem for the senior group. (Ahern, 1987, p.2-3)
In connection with the Harvest Dance Parade, embroidery deserves mentioning as well. The beautifully decorated costumes have the handwork of Birmingham women on them. Traditional Hungarian embroidery in the BEN was revived when Irene Eber was invited by Father Hernady to teach authentic Hungarian embroidery for women of the community. Since 1978, Judy Balogh has been teaching Hungarian embroidery at Calvin United Church on every Monday. Her class particularly likes the Matyo patterns – that are the patterns brought by the first generation to the BEN – and Kalocsa patterns, because of their lovely roses, violets and paprika plants. (Ahern, 1997, p.11) Here, it is interesting to note that Kalocsa patterns were never part of the Heves, Abauj and Gömör folk tradition, they are typical of the South-Eastern region of Hungary. Andrew Ludanyi points out an interesting development of embroidery in the BEN: “you will find that some of the local ladies used their originality to change the patterns, or to combine patterns. And why not? Birmingham is not Kalocsa or Burzsák. Birmingham is not Kalotaszeg either.” (in Ahern, 1987, p.38) Ludanyi claims that as long as these new patterns are beautiful and meaningful to the producer’s sense of art, they are worthy in themselves.
4.3.4. The Bethlehem’s Play
The Bethlehem’s Play is still practiced by the third generation at both Hungarian church congregations, the St. Stephen’s and St. Michael’s. There are slight differences in the performance of the players of the two congregations. Each of the troupes has a different version of the play, although these versions are quite similar.
The players of the St. Stephen’s congregation learn their lines by rote from their fathers and older brothers. Sometimes written speeches are used to aid learning that are saved by the players’ families. At St. Michael’s, however, there are written texts, one in Hungarian and one in English. These had been mimeographed and distributed among the players. Copies are kept both at church and by individual families. Both troupes of the St. Stephen’s congregation perform only in Hungarian. Their respect to the scripts authenticity does not allow improvisation. The Második script contains the greatest number of parallels with older, native Hungarian Bethlehem plays, as John Ahern asserts. The troup at St. Michael’s is prepared to enact the play in either Hungarian or English. The mimeographed English script is not a close translation of the original Hungarian version. For instance, it substitutes carols familiar in America (O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, and Silent Night) for the Hungarian Songs. There are also a number of unwritten lines that are also considered traditional by the players of St. Michael’s. Among these lines we find the name Pedro, who is one of the Öregs. It is interesting to see how the original play is affected by cross-cultural impacts. There are also some changes made in connection with dressing. The angel’s and shepherd’s white “_gatyák_” are rarely used, and are generally replaced by a wide skirt. The high bots are often substituted with army leggings. Some Öregs wear sheepskin jackets (or jacket liners) turned fur-side-out. (Ahern, 2002, p.214-224)
4.4. Foodways of the third generation
Both in the preparation process and among the ingredients of the Hungarian ethnic food of the third generation we find slight modifications compared to the practices of the first generation. Susan Kalcik points out that “several key factors are involved in affecting changes in the foodways of an ethnic group. One is generation. Generally, the immigrant generation, especially those who were older when they migrated, hang on to their floodways longer than the second generation…”. (in Keller Brown, 1984, p. 40)
4.4.1. “Sutni Szaluna”
One example to this change over generations is the current practice of the “Sutni Szaluna” in the BEN. While in the olden days sutni was a general practice, by the time of the third generation, it has become ritualized. It is no longer a simple activity of eating and socializing. In Birmingham, process of sutni requires a “twirler”, who is usually the host of the event and is an expert on it. This person cuts up the ingredients: bread, onions, peppers and tomatoes before the twirling of the bacon would start. It is important to see that tomato has never been part of the original Hungarian sutni custom; it is a pure American influence. Another modification is the material of the nyars. In Birmingham it is strictly made of the wood of some fruit trees, preferably cherry, while in Hungary there was no such a strict rule. The place of sutni has also changed; it is done in the back gardens on a small fire and thus became analogous to the American grill, as Andrew Ludanyi points it out. Though this version of sutni differs from the original practice, Andrew Ludanyi claims that “the important thing is that the custom is meaningful and functional.” (in Ahern, 1987, p. 40)
4.4.2. Csiga making
The practice of Csiga making has also continued to the third generation. Women of the BEN get together to learn how to make Csiga noodles. It is not only fun but a chance to socialize and maintain ethnic traditions. Éva V. Huseby- Darvas asserts that
…noodle making becomes an ethnic construction of social reality on two distinct, yet related levels. The actual weekly process of making noodles redefines and rejuvenates an aging and dividing community. And, simultaneously, the shared, communal production of valued physical objects – the csiga – noodles is the material expression of that community. … And thus, through this “Handmade Hungarianness”, the generating and sustaining powers of csiga endure – in both the material and spiritual sense – in the urban-industrial milieu in North America.” (1991, p. 194).
4.4.3. Ethnic recipes
In the ethnic community of Birmingham, a wide variety of Hungarian dishes are still made. The most important way to preserve this traditional practice is by written recipes. These written recipes may include informal documents, written on notebook paper and intended for personal use; written recipes are also kept at the churches and are usually xeroxed or printed for wide circulation. Each church congregation has recipes of the most popular Hungarian dishes. The Calvin United Church has the following favorites: cucumber salad, savoy cabbage [kolozsvári káposzta], Hungarian layered sauerkraut casserole [rakott káposzta] and palascenta [palacsinta] (_Figure 21_). Among St. Stephen’s favorite recipes are the followings: pigs in blanket [töltött káposzta], stewing sauce, Hungarian nut roll, Hungarian sweet bread [kalács], chicken paprikas and dumplings (_Figure 22_).
4.5. The Birmingham Ethnic Festival – A Sunday in the Old Country
The Birmingham Ethnic Festival was originally the victory celebration of the two civic successes – the saving of the local library and the killing of the overpass – of the year 1974. Since that time it has become an annual event celebrated on the third Sunday of August every year. The first Birmingham Ethnic Festival was organized on 17 August 1975 with the following initial aims:
The Birmingham Ethnic Festival is an outgrowth of pride and enthusiasm of the Birmingham community, and its desire to share with greater Toledo a taste of the ethnic flavor which has so permeated the neighborhood. This pride has been a factor of great cohesiveness, sustaining the neighborhood through many threats to its existence. The Birmingham neighborhood has shown a concentrated and serious attention to the betterment of the community, to the projects of beautification, renovation and preservation. This festival seeks, through its activities to provide a means whereby the aspirations of the Birmingham community may be realized as fully as possible in the future. (_31st Annual Booklet of the Birmingham Ethnic Festival_, 2005, p.4)
Birmingham Ethnic Festival is interesting as it demonstrates, in a condensed way, almost all components of the Hungarian heritage of the Birmingham community. Ethnic Hungarian dances and music are performed and even the Hungarian national anthem is sung as the opening act of the celebration each year. Alongside the Consaul street traditional Hungarian dishes, such as Hunky Turkey [szalonna], kolbasz, pigs-in-the-blanket [töltöttkáposzta] or paprikas dumplings are offered. Hungarian arts and crafts are also on display (and for sale as well): embroidery, dolls, woodcrafts, jewels and ceramics.
The importance of this festival is that it maintains the cohesive unit of the Hungarian community in Birmingham, Toledo; furthermore, it contributes to preserving the ethnic identity and heritage of this proud Hungarian-American community. As Linda Degh asserts, the active and passive participants [of the festival], those who fix the food and make the costumes, and those who come to watch the show and consume the foregrounded emblems, represent Hungarianness as a shared ideology of national identity thus presented (1980, p. 282).
In this section of my essay, I tried to draw attention to the modifications and alternations that were made or inherited by the third generation. We could see how different elements of the American culture were embedded into the original Hungarian practices of architecture, foodways or festivals. Here, one might say however, these customs and practices are not authentically Hungarian. On this ground, people of the BEN should not claim Hungarian ethnic identity. As I have previously pointed out, Birmingham people were cut off the home country for a generation-time; however, they attempted to maintain their ethnic heritage in their own ways. As Linda Dégh argues, “any ethnic folk group needs a national folk tradition which to adhere as much as it needs distinctive character features. If there is none, the group is ready to choose or create one and reinforce it by a set of fictious ideas” (1977, p.131). She further argues that these people cannot be accused of fakery, because their passion and will to maintain tradition converts fake to folklore. (ibid.)
As a result of the poor economic situation and the rigidity of the social system of Hungary many of the rural peasants were forced to leave their homeland to find their brighter future in the New World at the turn of the 19th century. Many of them never returned to the Old Country and established their own settlement in America. Unlike other ethnicities, the “greenhorn” Magyar did not assimilate quickly into the American society. The strong ties of Hungarian immigrants to the homeland helped to preserve the Hungarian traditions and heritage in various spaces. Among these spaces are architecture, ethnic festivities – such as Harvest Dance, Easter sprinkling and the Bethlehem play – and ethnic foodways. These things not only helped identifying one’s self, but also gave comfort in a “foreign land”. Unlike many Hungarian communities in the United States, the Hungarian ethnic community of Birmingham managed to survive by maintaining their Hungarian–American identity through their ethic heritage. Although the old Hungarian traditions and foodways have been modified through generations, with the community’s pride to maintain them, they lost nothing from their original values.
- Ahern, John. 1997. Roots in Birmingham, Urban Affairs Center. University of Toledo. Toledo, p. 11.
- Ahern, John. 1987. The Preservation of Ethnic Heritage. University of Toledo, Toledo. p. 1-3, 11, 38-41.
- Ahern, John and Barden, Thomas. 2002. Hungarian American Toledo, Life and Times in Toledo`s Birmingham Neighborhood. Toledo. University of Toledo. p.12-14, 18-21, 28-29, 33-41, 154, 158, 160, 171, 174, 196, 201-225.
- Beecher, J. Lucas. 1907. “Magyars in Toledo”. Toledo Daily Blade. 26, January, 1907.
- Dám László. 1995. Hagyomány és építészet. Budapest. p. 39.
- Dégh Linda. 1980. “The Ethnicity of Hungarian-Americans”. In: Osmo Ikola, ed. 1980. Congressus Quintus Internationalis, Fenno-Ungaristarum. Turku 20-27 August, 1980. Vol. 4. Turku: Suomen Kielen Seura, p.255-290.
- Dégh, Linda. “Grape-Harvest Festival of Strawberry Farmers: Folklore or Fake?” In Ethnologia Europaea, 1977. Vol.10. p. 114-131.
- Dégh, Linda. “Survival and Revival of European Folk Cultures in America”. In Ethnologia Europea. 1968-69. Vol. 2-3. p. 97-107.
- Garey, L. Thomas. 2001, Sequent Occupance Analysis in the Birmingham Ethnic Neighborhood of East Toledo, Ohio, 1880-2001. MA thesis. University of Toledo. Available: www.birminghamproject.org. Access: 21. 10. 2005 .
- Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity. Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge. Polity Press. p.81.
- Jackson, Kenneth.1985. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York. Oxford University Press. p.3.
- Huseby-Darvas V., Éva. 1991. “Handmade Hungarianness: The Construction of Ethnic Identity among Elderly Noodlemakers in Michigan”. In: Hungarian Studies 7/1-2 1991/1992, p.187-196.
- Istvánfi Gyula. 1997. Az építészet története, Népi építészet. Budapest. Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó.
- Janda H. Izabella. 1976. Hungarian Place Names in the United States. Lacus, p. 220.
- Kalcik, Susan. 1984. “Ethnic Foodways in America: Symbol and the Performance of Identity” In: Keller Brown, Linda and Kay Mussel. The Performance of Group Identity. Knoxville. University of Tenesse Press. p.37, 40.
- Malonyai, Dezső. 1922. A Magyar Nép Művészete. Budapest. Franklin Társulat. p. 82, 203, 198, 227, 296, 297.
- Papp-Váry, Árpád. 1996. Világatlasz. Budapest. Cartographia. p. 124-127.
- Sollors, Werner (ed.). 1996. Theories of Ethnicity – A Classical Reader. London. McMillan Press. p. 204, 206, 208-209, 296.
- Thernstrom, Stephan. 1980. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge, Massachusetts Harvard University Press. p. 463.
- Wass de Czege, Albert. 1975. Our Hungarian Heritage. Florida. Danubian Press. p. 5.
- 31st Annual Booklet of the Birmingham Ethnic Festival. 2005. Toledo. p.14, 17.
|Original name of town or country||State||Date of est.||Existence in 1996|
|Agar||South Dakota||ca. 1890||no|
Source: Janda H. Izabella. 1976. Hungarian Place Names in the United States. Lacus, p. 220., Papp-Váry, Árpád. 1996. Világatlasz. Budapest. Cartographia. p. 124-127.
List of pictures
- Figure 1. Abauj, Gömör and Heves Counties (Thernstrom, Stephan. 1980, p. 463)
- Figure 2. Map of BEN, (Garey, 2001) available: birminghamproject.org/map.html
- Figure 3. St. Stephen`s Roman Catholic Church, Toled, Ohio (Ahern, 2002, p. 152)
- Figure 4. Stained glass window of St. Stephen`s Roman Catholic Church depicting Hungarian saints (Ahern, 2002, p. 154)
- Figure 5. Stained glass window of Basilica Minor depicting St. Stephen in Szentkut
- Figure 5a. Stained glass window of Basilica Minor depicting St. Elizabeth in Szentkut
- Figure 5b. Stained glass window of St. Margit Church depicting St. Margit on Lehel Square, Budapest
- Figure 6. Calvin United Church, Toledo, Ohio (Ahern, 2002, p. 157)
- Figure 7. Orosz Building at 2126 Consaul Street (Ahern, 2002, p. 159)
- Figure 7a. Name plaque of the Orosz Building (Ahern, 2002, p. 159)
- Figure 8. Kolibar Building at 2044 Genesee (Ahern, 2002, p. 159)
- Figure 9. Bertok Building at 1920-24 Front Street (Ahern, 2002, p. 160)
- Figure 10. Playdium Tavern at 1956-68 Front Street (Ahern, 2002, p. 160)
- Figure 11. Decorated façade of Paloc houses (Malonyay, 1922, p. 227)
- Figure 12. The Hungarian Coat of Arms on the front of the Playdium Tavern (Ahern, 2002, p. 160)
- Figure 13. Magyar Street, (Garey, 2001) available: birminghamproject.org/magyarst.html
- Figure 14. Residential structure in Fertoszeplak, (Istvanfi, 1997)
- Figure 15. Residential structure reflecting Hungarian architecture at 222 Whittemore Street (Ahern, 2002, p. 169)
- Figure 16. Residential structure reflecting Hungarian architecture at 2143 Bakewell Street (Ahern, 2002, p. 170)
- Figure 17. Residential structure reflecting Hungarian architecture at 402 and 404 Whittemore Street (Ahern, 2002, p. 169)
- Figure 18. Residential structure in Atany, Heves County, Hungary
- Figure 19. Decorated Paloc Easter eggs (Malonyay, 1922, p. 297)
- Figure 20. Paloc gatya (Malonyay, 1922, p. 80)