Jerry Krase
Professor of Sociology
Brooklyn College


Photo of Lute Fisk Sign in Store Window

Much of what I do today as a Spatial Semiotician and Visual Sociologist, documenting signs of class and ethnicity in urban neighborhoods, is an intellectual version of an childhood game, that despite my advancing age (fifty-seven at last count), I can vividly remember playing. The game was usually played on days when the weather made it impossible to go outside and the rules were simple. After we had left the room one of my playmates placed an object in "plain view" somewhere in the room. Then, we would come back in and look for it. It always amazed me how much trouble we had finding something that was literally staring us in the face. A few decades ago this part of Sunset Park, now considered "Brooklyn's Chinatown," was an old Scandinavian (Norwegian) neighborhood and was referred to by locals as Lapskaus Boulevard. Lapskaus is a Norwegian beef stew. Today one has to search very hard to find signs of their eighty-year long dominance. One ethnic fossil is a small variety store on Eight Avenue that has a lute fisk sign in the window. On field trips to the neighborhood, I had to explain to my students that lute fisk is a dish, served especially during the Christmas holidays, that is made from salted dried cod. Other signs of this senior ethnic group are the Protestant (Lutheran) churches in the neighborhood that, now in Chinese characters or en Espanol, announce religious and other services. In a few instances, students also found Scandinavian names such as "Larsen" displayed in the front of neatly landscaped single-family houses on some of the side streets.