The Rockford Files

Life in a Border Town

The archetypical middle-sized town in the middle of the Middle West, Rockford seems about as far removed from the border as you can get, unless we count the border with Wisconsin, a few miles to the north.  And yet, Rockford has been subject to successive waves of immigration that have brought with them (if in muted form) the cultural and political tensions typical of an actual border town.  From Yankees to Scots and Irish to Swedes to Italians and Sicilians (there is a difference), with multiple waves of Germans washing over them all (and forming, even today, the largest ethnic group in Rockford), to Poles and Lithuanians and, more recently, Asians (especially Vietnamese and Laotians) and various ethnic groups from the former Yugoslavia, immigrants to Rockford have never fully coalesced into a common identity, giving the lie to the myth of the melting pot.

Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Midwestern Yankee--dom ceased to provide a common culture that all could participate in, if not exactly share.  Through-out the Midwest, the preponderance of Deutsch--landers naturally meant that an anglicized version of German culture slowly took its place, but the anti-German hysteria of World War I put serious kinks in that development, and World War II drove the final nails in the coffin (though remnants survive in such places as Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis).  Today, Rockford is described as either a Swedish...

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