[ End of article ]
My mother, Lyyti Hemmingintytär Huhtala, was born July 10, 1894, in Lappajärvi, Finland. She was the first child of Hemminki Huhtala and Liisa Hernesniemi. The house where she was born was next to an inlet that flows into Lappajärvi lake. It was no longer in existence during my visit in 1965. She was followed by a sister, Aliina, born September 15, 1895, and 2 brothers, Oskari November 13, 1897 and Hemminki July 29, 1899.
I know very little about her life while she was growing up in Lappajärvi. Time has erased what she had told me when I was a child; also what I had learned while visiting our relatives in Finland in 1965 since I did not keep a written record. Tragic. I do know that she attended grammar school and had learned to read and write. She also attended church. It was custom during this period of time that girls from age 5 to 10 were expected to help their family doing simple jobs. Then after age 10, their responsibilities increased as they approached the age of confirmation (15-16). Also parents at the time were obligated to instill in their children's various norms: it was wrong to lie, swear and steal, or to lose one's temper, while the virtues of thrift and tenacity were stressed. Children were also taught good manners, which meant the observance of certain customs such as how to behave at the table, in the sauna, in other people's homes, and in dealing with adults and strangers. Girls especially would be taught how to cook, bake, sew, knit, take care of children and in other chores that would prepare them for marriage. Being the oldest, I'm sure that she had to spend considerable time helping her mother in the daily chores and taking care of her younger sister and brothers.
She married Hermanni Erkinpoika Laurila, my father, on February 2, 1912 in the church in Lappajärvi. She was 17 years old. My father had migrated to the United States in 1907 and worked in the iron ore mines of the Princeton, Marquette County, Forsyth Township, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, and had returned to marry her in 1912. He also was born in Lappajärvi and whether he knew my mother, or her parents, before he went to the United States, is unknown. He was 21 years old when he departed Lappajärvi. My mother was then only 13. It could very well have been an arranged marriage.
My father departed Finland in 1913 by himself. My mother followed, traveling alone, leaving Lappajärvi around the 1st or 2nd of November 1913. My aunt Hilma Laurila Pylkaaho told me she remembered when she left. A neighbor had picked her up with a horse and carriage to take her to the railroad station. She did not remember which one but it would probably been Kauhava which is the nearest town that is on the rail line. She journeyed by train to the Port of Hanko, which is southwest of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Records of the Institute of Migration show that she was issued Passport #6220 dated October 22, 1913 by the Province of Vaasa, under the name of Lyydia Laurila (note the difference in spelling of her first name); that she was going to America for 5 years; that the ticket from Hanko to Princeton, Michigan cost $66; that she was 18 years old and the wife of a farmers son.
She departed Hanko on November 5, 1913, in steerage class, aboard the Passenger Steamer Arcturus for Hull, England where she boarded a train across England to the Port of Liverpool. She departed Liverpool, again in steerage class, on November 12, 1913 aboard the Corsican of the Allan Line, arriving in Quebec, Canada on November 22, 1913, where she cleared customs (US immigrant inspectors were stationed at Canadian Ports of Entry). From Quebec she traveled on the Canadian Pacific Railway to Sault St. Marie, Michigan, arriving there on November 24, 1913. The Immigration Records show that she was traveling to join her husband, Herman Laurila, Box 23, Princeton, Michigan; that she was 5 feet 1 inch tall, had brown hair, grey eyes, fair complexion and that she had $25.00 in her possession. She went by train from Sault. St Marie to Old Swansey, Michigan, which is some six miles from Princeton. Although a rail line existed between Old Swansey and Princeton, no passenger service was available. A stagecoach pulled by four horses traveled between Princeton and Old Swansey three times a day to meet the train. It was a side seater which held 20 passengers on each side. In the winter, an open sleigh was used. It was a four seater that held four passengers in each seat. The road was terrible, especially during the spring and fall. It took two hours just to travel this short distance. I do not know how Ma traveled to Princeton. Edna remembers Ma telling her that she lost all of the hair on her head on the ocean journey; from what cause was never determined. It grew back shortly after her arrival in Princeton.
Princeton at that time was a rough and tumble town. The newest immigrant miners from Europe could not speak English, and because of this, misunderstandings arose and many fights occurred. Knifings, gangfights and shootings were not uncommon. It was a regular "melting pot" with people from Finland, Sweden, France, Italy, England, Poland, Ireland, Scotland and even native Indians coming there to work in the mines. There was only one store where food was sold. It also sold dry goods, mining boots, horse collars, harnesses and carbide lamps that men used in the mines. The food was usually sold in large quantities such as barrels of hard tack, salt fish, crackers, cheese, beans, flour, apples, sugar, coffee and vinegar. Eggs sold for 10-15 cents a dozen while center cut pork chops were sold for 15 cents a pound. Since people did not have enough money to buy all their food from the store, they would go out into the woods to kill animals. Meat therefore was plentiful but people did not waste any of it. Hides were used for leather and the tallow for making soap and candles. A Post Office had opened in 1898. There was an elementary school located near the Italian Hall. But most importantly for the Finnish, there was a Finnish Temperance Hall where Finns could meet and socialize. This was built in 1904. They held dances every night with music provided by an accordion player. Traveling minstrel shows also played at the Hall. Other than the taverns and other outdoor sports such as hay rides, sleigh riding, skiing, and for the men, hunting and fishing, there was little to do since there was no radio nor a movie theater in Princeton (TV had yet to be invented). The Temperance Hall provided the Finns this meeting place that was safe for a family and free from alcohol.
Pa and Ma lived in a small log cabin in Princeton which is still standing and is located on Bijiki Road between Highway 35 and Princeton Drive. Pa worked as an underground iron ore miner in the Princeton #2 Mine owned by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (CCI). Underground miners (the shaft of the mines were from 500 to 2,000 feet deep) earned more than aboveground miners, earning roughly $3.00 a day. They worked 10-12 hours a day six days a week. There was no benefits, sick leave or hospitalization. Injuries could bring tragic consequences leaving families destitute. However, considering the times, the pay was very good, but the work was exceeding hard and dangerous. With Pa spending most of his time working at the mine, it fell upon Ma to do most of the work at home. She had to do the cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning, drawing water from an outdoor well and carrying it to the house, keeping the wood cooking stove burning, etc. They did not have a telephone, electricity, radio, icebox, indoor plumbing or even running water. But the plan for my parents was to build a "nest egg" and then return home to Finland. This was but a small sacrifice toward that goal.
My brother Edward Juhanus was born September 4, 1914. He was followed by my sister Vieno (Vienna) Maria December 10, 1916; brother Vilho (Wilho) Mathias December 5, 1918; and sister Edna (Liisa) June 4, 1921. They were all born at home. Sometime after Edna was born, Pa and Ma moved into a house that was owned and maintained by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company for miners and their families. This was located in Austin, approximately two miles from Princeton on what is now Low Street. There were two families to a house in what we would now term a duplex. These homes were surrounded by white picket fences and had space for gardens and sheds in the back yard. Many of the building still remain, having been sold by the Company to private buyers. My brother Wilho pointed out the house they lived in when we were selling potatoes door to door in early 1940, but unfortunately I do not remember which one it was, nor could sister Edna.
Life for Ma revolved around taking care of the family. Her first chore would be starting a fire in the cook stove, then making breakfast and a lunch pail for Pa to take to work. Next getting the kids up, clothed, fed and off to school. Then the household chores. It would have also been routine to take her knitting and visit neighbors in the afternoon for a short visit with the host providing coffee and cake, and to catch up on the latest news and gossip. And, depending upon her schedule, attending a social in the afternoon at the Temperance Hall. However, this must have been more and more infrequent with the birth of more children. And life also must have been stressful for Pa. Ma told me years later that Pa had come home drunk one night and she had told him if that ever happened again, that she would leave him. He never had a drink of alcohol again during her lifetime.
Some time around 1919, Pa was injured in a mine accident. The census of 1920 shows Ma and Pa and the four children but does not list Pa having a job. Around this same time, he built a house in Princeton. It is still standing and is located on the south side of Highway 35 just west of Minor Road. I have been unable to determine if they ever lived in the house before they sold it.
It must have been in the early 1920's that my parents abandoned their dream of returning to Finland. They had been sending money to a bank in Finland but Ma later told me that most of it became worthless as the result of World War I. Still neither of them applied to become Naturalized Citizens, nor did they make any effort to learn to read, speak or write English. We all learned to speak Finnish first, then English at school. Finnish was spoken at home to Pa and Ma, English amongst ourselves.
On November 6, 1924, my parents bought an 80 acre farm near Trenary, Alger County, Mathias Township, Michigan from John H. and Hilda Gatiss and August A. and Emilia Anderson of Chatham, Michigan, for $3,000. It was located 3.5 miles north of Trenary on Highway 67 and described as the North One-half (N1/2) of the Northeast quarter (NE1/4) of Section Sixteen (16), Township Forty-four (44), Range Twenty-one (21), Alger County, Michigan. Ma told me that the reason they bought the farm was that mining was too dangerous since Pa had been hurt several times. Trenary was, and is today, a farm town. At that time it had three stores (Holmquist, Davis, and the Farmers Coop), two churches (Catholic and Methodist), three bars (Maki's, Trenary Tavern and Herbs), a creamery, three gas stations, several garages, a Post Office, a movie theater (Opera House), bakery, bank and a school. Actually the farm was located closer to Winters, Michigan (1.25 miles vs 3.5 miles to Trenary), which also had a Post Office and one store. Winters preceded Trenary as a small settlement but with the advent of the railroad being built through Trenary, Winters withered away with the Post Office closing and eventually the lone store.
Of the total 80 acres, approximately 50 acres was cultivated, the rest wooded. It had a large house consisting of three bedrooms, a dining room and kitchen combination, a living room, a storage area and a sauna. It had an outside porch. The upstairs was unfinished. It did not have indoor plumbing nor electricity. A two hole outhouse was situated on the north side approximately 50 feet from the house. The water well was also outside, on the east side, about 25 feet from the house. It was approximately three or four feet in circumfrance, lined with stone, approximately 20 feet deep. Water was drawn with a pump operated by hand. The well had a trap door on top so that in the summer, milk and other perishables could be lowered by rope into the cool well water to keep them from spoiling. The cow barn was built of logs. It had a grain bin and a capacity for about 20 dairy animals and two work horses. Water had to be carried in pails to the barn for the animals. The hay barn was some 50 feet high, connected to the cow barn and was of frame construction. It had a trolley under the roof line that extended some 3-5 feet outside the barn with a large hay fork that hung underneath the trolley. One end of the barn had a large door high on top that could be opened and closed. During haying season, the wagon with hay would be situated under the large door. The hay fork would then be pulled down with a rope and then inserted into the hay. The hay would then be pulled up into the barn by a team of horses using a system of pulleys and rope. There was also a pig stye, a root cellar and a small chicken coop. A small apple orchard was situated on the west side of the house.
Beginning their life on the farm for my parents was hard work. Edward was now 10 years old, Vienna 8, Wilho 6 and Edna 3, so they were of little help except for simple chores. They had some cows, pigs, chickens and a sheep or two. The milk, except that needed for the family, was sold to the local Trenary Creamery. The pigs and chickens (and their eggs) were for home consumption although some were sold for cash. And at times some of the cattle were slaughtered to provide for the table. The sheep were raised to provide wool that Ma made into yarn on a spinning wheel and then knitted into sweaters, mittens and socks. Ma also made carpets on a loom. The spinning wheel and the carpet loom were "community property" that went from house to house in the Finnish community. She had a "Singer" sewing machine that she used to make clothing for the children and to patch any clothing that had become torn or worn. There was also a summer vegetable garden. Ma grew tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, peas, beets, cabbage, lettice, carrots, rurabagas, turnips, rhubarb, strawberries and potatoes. Ma's daily life was consumed with work both in the house and outside. While Pa did most of the farm work, Ma did help in milking the cows and making hay during the haying season.
My sister Viola Lydia was born on the farm February 11, 1925. I was born 3 years later on May 28, 1928, also on the farm. Edna remembers when I was born. She said Ma had told her to get Mrs. Johnson, our neighbor across the road, who was a midwife. When Edna got to the neighbors, Mrs. Johnson had said to wait - that she had to put on a clean apron first!
The early 1930's brought the great depression. While the farmers were not effected to the extent that other people in non-farming occupations were, it did not help our family considering there were now six children to feed and cloth! Although Ma did not like to accept anything for free, she did accept Government welfare in the form of flour, lard, sugar, margarine and various canned items. When Edward brought these items home, Ma made sure no one saw him unloading them and had him hide them in the attic.
Although times were hard, life for Ma was getting somewhat easier. Edward, Vienna and Wilho, now in their teens, were a great help, the boys with farm chores and Vienna, and Edna, to a lesser extent, helping Ma in the house. She no longer had to work in the barn. The girls were especially a big help to Ma. One of the toughest weekly tasks was washing clothes for the family. Water first had to be heated on the cook stove and then placed in large wash tub. Often the dirtiest barn clothing had to be soaked (and sometimes boiled in a large cooper kettle) first (this was before the advent of Clorox), then scrubbed using a washing board, and finally washed in the washing machine operated with a crank. A wringer was attached to the washer that was also hand operated. Clothing would be fed between two adjustable rollers to squeeze out the water. Next they would be rinsed in clean water and then hung outside on the clothes line. It is interesting that there was a particular method of hanging clothes. The whites were hung together (sheets & pillowcases), towels in one bunch, the undies in inner lines (for modesty's sake) and men's shirts upside down - never by the shoulders. Then came the task of ironing. This was the time before permanent press or wash and wear, so everything (except barn clothes) had to be ironed. But first they had to be sprinkled with water, wrapped and then let sit for awhile so they were uniformly damp. The girls also helped cook, set the table, carry wood for the stove, feed the pigs and chickens, pump and carry water, churn (make butter), clean the house, sweep and mop the floors, gather eggs, work the garden, and help in the field during haying season.
The second busiest work day of the week was for baking - pies, cake, rolls, cookies and, of course, bread, and lots of it. It was eaten three times a day at meals, and also for snacks. Ma would mix the dough, and then let it raise before baking. She baked wheat and white bread. Pies were of all kinds, depending upon the season. One of my favorites was mincemeat pie. Another favorite was cinnamon rolls with raisins. We also ate limppu (rye bread), hard cinnamon toast and hardtack that was bought from the Trenary Home Bakery.
The seasons of the year dictated when the hardest and busiest farm work was done, and in many ways how it affected Ma. During the winter, because of the deep snow, farm work was restricted to feeding the cattle, cleaning the barn, and milking the cows twice daily. This was the time for Ma to knit, make clothes for the girls, mend clothes and to make carpets on the loom. And also to administer to all the different illnesses of the kids associated with winter. We all went through measles, small pox, mumps, sore throats, colds and fevers, in particular, because of inadequate heating. The house was heated by a wood burning heater and the cook stove but was terribly inadequate since none of the walls were insulated. I only remember one of Ma's medicine remedies: a mustard plaster (made from powdered mustard placed between sheets of cloth) that was placed on your chest with liberal amounts of Vick's vapor rub and lots of covers to induce sweating to break the cold and fever.
Spring brought more farm activity. Fields were prepared for planting of potatoes and oats and barley. This consisted of plowing, disking, harrowing, spreading manure, and picking rocks that had surfaced from the frozen land. 3-4 acres of potatoes were planted, most as a winter cash crop. Usually 4-5 acres of grain, oats and barley, were planted for feeding of the cattle. Summer brought the hardest work. The haying season occured in July. After the field was mowed, the hay dried and raked, it was necessary to stack the hay into "shocks"or piles so that if it rained, the hay would not mildew or rot before it could be hauled and stored in the barn. This was a chore for all members of the family, including Ma. I remember being in the hay field when I was 6 or 7 years old, with my own short handled pitch fork. The haying season was followed by the harvesting of the barley and oats. We would arrange for a neighbor who owned a combine to cut the grain. We would then stack the bundles in the field that had been cut and tied by the combine into shocks. After the grain had dried, a threshing machine operator would come to the farm and set up, usually next to the grain bin. Neighbors would come to help load the wagons to bring the shocks of grain from the fields to feed the thresher, and to bag and store the grain. Other neighbors would help Ma prepare hugh meals for the threshing crews. The threshing season was one of the busiest for all farmers. We would be busy for 1 to 2 weeks going from neighbor to neighbor to help in the harvesting. For Ma, summer was the time for canning vegatables from her garden and wild rasberries, strawberries and blue berries picked on the plains and near the woods behind the fields.
The fall season started with the picking of potatoes. This was another neighbor assisted project. Since we did not own a potatoe digger, Pa would contract to have the potatoes dug and then everyone would pitch in to pick, bag and haul the potatoes to the root cellar. Again Ma would prepare meals for the pickers and then later, as in the threshing season, we would help our neighbors pick their potatoes. The potatoe season was followed by preparing for winter. Pa, Edward and Wilho would go into the woods to cut fire wood for the stoves and haul it back near the house where they were cut with a "buzz saw"into approximately two foot lengths. These were of varying circumfrance that required spliting with an axe so they could fit into the stove. This was also the time for Ma to can "venison" that was shot by Edward and Wilho. Another chore was to shear the sheep, clean, card and spin the wool into yarn that she would then knit into socks, mittens and sweaters.
We ate three meals a day with a coffee break around 3 PM. Breakfast consisted of many choices: oat meal, creme of wheat, milk, eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes & syrup, bread and butter, and coffee. Lunch would generally consist of leftovers from the previous nights supper - potatoes, meat, vegetables with bread, butter, coffee, milk and a piece of pie or cake. Supper was the main meal and eaten after the cows were milked and the outside chores done. Ma would prepare roasts primarily, beef and pork, with boiled or mashed potatoes with gravy, vegetables, either fresh or canned depending upon the season, and of course bread, butter, and milk. She also made a stew (meat, potatoes, cabbage, onions, carrots, spices, etc.) that is very similar to an Irish Stew. Chicken was also high on the menu, either baked or fried. Fish was not served too often, but she would prepare it whenever Pa, Edward or Wilho would catch some in nearby Dexter Creek or in one of the lakes. And lastly, venison (deer meat). There was plenty to be had as Edward and Wilho were excellent hunters. Ma would usually roast this. Deserts were mostly home made. Pie, sweet biscuits and cake. I also remember I loved "viili" which was made by leaving milk sour, something akin to yogurt. I used to sprinkle salt on top. It was great. We mixed Kool-Aid for our soft drinks since regular soft drinks were too expensive. Ice cream was a rare treat and since we did not have any refrigeration, we had to travel to Slambo's gas station in Trenary. A cone sold for 5 cents.
Ma had a high activity level. When she worked it was always at a fast pace. She was physically strong even though she was of small stature. She never was sick that I remember. She never visited a Doctor nor was she ever hospitalized. She had a favorite rocking chair. I remember my sister Vienna saying that when Ma breast fed the babies, that she used to pin their blanket to her clothes so that when she fell asleep, the baby would not slip off her lap. During the hot summer evenings, she would put the rocking chair on the porch and relax after a hard day. Our neighbors, the Johnson's, had a large apple orchard. Often times we would watch bears with their cubs feeding on apples. Also deer.
Discipline was now Ma's job for Viola and me because she felt Pa had been too harsh in meting out punishment to the older kids. It didn't seem possible to me because if I misbehaved, Ma would grab me by the ears or the hair and give me a swat or two. And if that didn't suffice, she would get out her birch branch whip, take my pants down and give me a good whipping on my bare bottom. Most of these occurred when I didn't come home from school. My best friend was Leo Syrjanen, whose parents Jorma and Elsie owned the Trenary Home Bakery. Leo would ask me to stay after school and play. I liked that because he lived in town and we could play with the other town kids - there was no one for me to play with on the farm. Also Leo had all the toys to play with - I had very few. Leo's mother would always ask if I had permission to stay and I would lie, and tell her I did. When I wasn't on the school bus, Ma knew where I was and would send Edward or Wilho after me. When I got home, I would always be punished.
Ma's social life was attending church held at the homes of Finnish families. Church services were always followed by the hostess serving coffee, cake and other sweats. This was not a frequent occurance as the congregation did not have a church building. We never had Church services at our home and I suspect the reason was that Pa was not a true believer. Also her and Pa would visit friends, especially on Saturday nights for a "sauna." The sauna was followed by the host serving coffee and sweets. And the coffee was strong and hot. A pinch of salt and the white of an egg was added to the coffee and then boiled or "perked." It was drank from the saucer! The saucers were deeper than present day saucers. The coffee was poured from the cup into the saucer. A lump of sugar was then positioned on the saucer next to your lips and then tipped so that the coffee would flow through the sugar. It took some time to master this without spilling. I remember drinking coffee this way at the John Forsberg's, close friends of Ma and Pa. Other close friends were the Paul Kallio's and Jacob Seppa's. Ma and Pa also visited the Ahola's, Rautio's, Van Hala's, Wirtanen's, Hill's, Savola's, and Aho's. They still traveled to Gwinn, Michigan to visit the Niemi's and Vertinen's (Mrs Vertinen was Pa's cousin), to Palmer, Michigan to visit the Lehtinen's, to Rock, Michigan to visit the Oja's and the Nykanen's in Chatham, Michigan. Since Pa (or Ma) never learned to drive, Edward or Wilho would do the driving.
The other form of entertainment was the dances held at the Trenary Opera House and later at the Town Hall. Ma enjoyed dancing, and she was really a good dancer. She would dance with Pa but mostly with other wives. She was truly happy when she danced; laughing, smiling and talking. In those days the dances were waltzes, polkas, schottisches, and the two step. One of the most popular musicians was Viola Turpeinen who played the accordion and her husband who played a trumpet and a violin. They traveled throughout the northern United States playing Finnish music. The local musicians were Hugo Mariin who also played an accordion and Arnold Hill, who played a guitar.
Every summer the family went blueberry picking in the plains past Trout Lake. It was like a big picnic. Edward would drive the Model "T" Ford. Just past the Trout Lake Bridge, the road went up a hill that was narrow, rutted and sandy. The Model "T" was unable to negotiate this hill going forward. Edward had to back it up the hill. Ma would make a hugh basket of food and we would enjoy a good meal while picking berries. Also wild raspberries and wild strawberries were plentiful in the surrounding woods behind the farm. Ma would prepare and preserve these for the winter meals. She also canned meat, vegetables and fruit. And when a pig was slaughtered, she would make sausage. In the spring, Pa or the boys would collect maple syrup from the many maple trees on the farm.
Another annual event was the picnic held on a Sunday in August at Farmers Lake, located about three miles from Little Lake, Michigan. It had a cook shack, picnic tables, a wharf with a building where you changed into swimming suits, a large open sleeping dormitory and, of course, several outhouses. This camp was owned by the Farmers Co-op Stores, of which Trenary Farmers Coop Store was one of many. There was music, games for the kids, swimming contests, softball and horseshoe pitching, and plenty to eat. It was free to all the members of the Farmers Cooperative Stores. The Trenary Store was the primarily place we shopped. It carried all types of merchandise including groceries. And it extended its members credit! Without this benefit, farmers would have found it exceedingly difficult to survive.
Life for Ma took a tragic turn for the worse when a son was born dead on September 3, 1934. He was never given a name. Pa built a small casket and laid the baby in it wrapped in a blanket. Ma had wanted to dress the baby in clothes but for some reason Pa refused. He was buried in the cemetery in Trenary. Ma's health began to deteriorate. She suffered a nervous breakdown shortly after the death of the baby. She lost interest in taking care of the household chores. I still remember she would start walking down the road to visit the Seppa family a mile away at Winters or just walk to Trenary. Pa would tell Edward or Wilho to give her a ride in the car but she often refused. She visited the Seppa's often, walking all the way in all types of weather (Jacob Seppa was from Lappajärvi and a first cousin of Pa - they shared the same grandmother). Other times she would walk down the lane that lead between the fields toward the woods.
Another tragic event occurred in 1935. Our house burned to the ground. Pa had bought a washing machine with a gasoline motor. It was located inside the house next to the cook stove. While Ma was washing clothes, the washer ran out of gas. So Ma filled the tank up but accidently spilled some gas on the floor. It ran toward the cook stove and hot sparks from open grating on side of the cook stove ignited the gas. Fire quickly spread onto a rack of towels hanging near the cook stove to dry. The fire then ignited the wood door casing but all was quickly extinguished. Smoke filled the inside of the house, so they opened the doors and windows to let the smoke out and went outside. There was an explosion and the entire house was engulfed in flames. Apparently several embers had remained in the door casing which, with a new source of oxygen, ignited all the dust and cobwebs inside the walls which caused the fire to instantly consume the entire house. Ma was devastated. She had lost a son and now she lost her house and everything in it. The only things saved were the clothing on our backs and her bible, which she had left in the car.
We moved in with the Orova family in Winters, a mile from the farm. We occupied the 2nd floor. Later we moved into the David Stevens house that was a quarter mile south of the farm. Pa and Ma and my brothers traveled back and forth to take care of the cattle and the farm. Pa bought two buildings of a closed lumber camp and he and my brothers tore them down, transported the lumber to the farm and began building a new house and a sauna. The sauna was built first. We moved into the house in 1937. It was a two story frame house with a inclosed porch, kitchen, dining room, living room and a bedroom on the first floor and three bedrooms on the 2nd story. It also had a full basement. It was unfinished as was most of the inside of the house. Plaster board separated the rooms and covered the walls, which were not insulated. Later the walls downstairs were plastered and the entire house wired for electricity, which had just been extended to the farms by the Rural Electrification Association (REA). An electrical pump was added and water was plumbed into the kitchen. Later pipes were laid from the well to the barn so that the cattle could be watered without having to carry it in buckets.
We also got our first radio and a telephone. And we traded in our Model "T" for a 1928 Chevrolet 4 door sedan. The radio was a Zenith floor model. The telephone was mounted on the wall near the front door facing the highway. It was on a party line like all telephones were in rural areas. Our ring was three shorts and two longs. Others on the party line would have different rings, for example, Maki's one long, two short; Johnson's two shorts, two longs, and so forth. But the disadvantage was that the telephone would ring whether it was for you or not and you had to listen to make sure you didn't miss your ring. The other disadvantage was that any one along the party line could pickup their telephone and listen in on your conversation. I do not recall Ma ever talking on the telephone.
One of the high points for Ma was when she received a letter from Finland. She would read it out load and she would laugh and cry, depending upon what it contained; mostly she would cry - she was still homesick for Finland and her family! She would tell me how she wished she could go back and visit but she knew she never would be able to because of the expense. In 1939 the war between Finland and Russia had begun and she worried what would happen to her relatives. She sent packages of food and clothing to both her and Pa's relatives as the situation in Finland deteriorated, and this in spite of the fact we were still very poor.
At the beginning of 1940, Edward was 26 years old and had already left home; Vienna was 24 and was working at the Trenary Coop Store; Wilho was now 22 and mostly helping Pa with the farm work; Edna was 19 and had left home several years previously to work in Highland Park, Illinois; Viola was 15, at home, going to school and helping Ma; and I was 12 years old, going to school and helping with the farm chores. We now had a 1936 Chevrolet automobile and a 1929 Chevrolet truck, but we still farmed with a team of horses. Ma's life was now somewhat easier than it had been in the past. Edward had an outside job and did provide some money. Vienna, with her job at the store, was particularly helpful in bringing food and clothing home for everyone. Viola was a great help to Ma in doing the preponderance of the household chores. In spite of this, Ma still had bouts of severe depression. She could not function normally and her solace would be to take her long walks to the neighbors or along the lane to the woods behind the farm.
In the early morning of March 2, 1940, while sleeping, Ma suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. She died shortly after 11 AM. She was only 43 years old. Services were held at the Trenary Methodist Episcopal Church on March 4, 1940. She was buried the same day in the Trenary Cemetery.
I remember very little of Ma. I only knew her for a very short period of time being
only 12 years old when she died. I know that she was a caring, loving and affectionate
person, yet she never displayed her love for us in a physical way. I don't remember her
ever hugging or kissing any of us, but then that was the nature of the Finnish people of
her generation. I have often wondered if Ma had been happy with her life considering the
hard times she had endured. She must have taken great comfort in rearing six children
because she truly loved children. It was, I'm certain, why she could not cope with the
death of her son in 1934, even though she was a religious person and true believer in God.
Life for her from then on was of lessening importance and with the everyday stresses of
trying to make ends meet, contributed to her hastened death.
© Donald Laurila, October 26, 2000
[ Beginning of article ]