South Norwood was a multi-ethnic neighborhood. Immigrants from Syria, Poland, Lithuania, and Italy first settled here; followed later by people from Portugal, Brazil, Egypt and Ecuador. Like the residents of Norwood’s other ethnic neighborhoods, Germantown, Swedeville, and the Irish of Dublin & Cork City, many of who came to Norwood because they already had friends or family living here – chain migration. It would seem natural that these newcomers would settle in a neighborhood where they already knew people and where people spoke their native language. This is also the same scenario for the people who lived in South Norwood. However, the residents of South Norwood were not viewed equally as other residents – including some other Norwood immigrants. It appears, the immigrants who came to Norwood from Scandinavia, Ireland and the Germanic countries, had been accepted into Norwood Yankee society by the second generation. In a 1916 article in the Norwood Messenger stated that “a great number of people have never visited this part of town.” Win Everett, in writing about infrastructure improvements that were slow to be brought to the area, after the Influenza epidemic in 1918, said that the area could no longer be ignored, and viewed as “a dumping ground of the peasantry of Europe.” In 1918, the Civic Herald, the newspaper of the Norwood Civic Association, published a full-page advertisement that pictured twelve babies, each labeled by nationality that encircled an inspirational poem that notes how all Norwood children are born without prejudice – thus, encouraging parents to raise good citizens and to build a better Norwood. Although the Civic Herald took an interesting stand, racism and ostracization continued for several more decades as the “uptown” Norwoodians viewed the residents of South Norwood with a jaundiced eye. However, for those who lived in the South Norwood neighborhood, they had pride for their tight-knit community, and though they may have spent Sunday worshiping in the Temple or in one of the three ethnic Catholic churches in the neighborhood, they socialized, played and celebrated with each other the rest of the week.
Today, South Norwood remains a culturally diverse community with the largest groups being from Brazil, Central America and from the Middle East. Recently when the Balch School was celebrating Norwood’s 150th anniversary, they displayed a bulletin board that celebrated Norwood cultural heritage. This bulletin board noted the children in the school had roots in 40 other nations….but, as the bulletin board points out they all “learn together in one school. The Balch.”