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The Swedish people of Finland were not and have never been a drinking people, as most of them have been raised in a country where liquors were not easily obtained. And yet, after coming to America and living in industrial centers, the temptations were numerous. Because of that fact temperance organizations soon sprang up in many places where there had settled a greater number of Finland Swedes. Such was also the case in Duluth. A temperance organization was effected on September 5, 1904 and was given the name "Ljusstrålen", a name significant enough, when we sonsider the darkness caused in every home where liquor is used.
The group began on a rather small scale, but its membership increased, and at one time this society had no less than 80 members. Numerous members were dropped from time to time. Some of these were re-instated and new members were received at nearly every meeting. The question about increasing the membership came up frequently and prizes were sometimes given to those who secured new members. On one occasion it is stated in the minutes that Mrs. Wm. Holm had secured fifteen new members and was entitled to a prize of $5.00. A Ladies' Aid society existed for many years within the group. Socials and festive programs are often mentioned in reports from the meetings. As far back as 1910 already, this society celebrated the birthday of Finland's greatest poet J. L. Runeberg. Programs were rendered at most of the meetings. Time and again debates were held. One debate centered around the question: "Who is happier, the one who is married or the one who is not?" It seems that both sides lost. Another instance showing that humor had a place in the affairs of the "Ljusstrålen" is found in the records from a time when an outing was planned. Mr. Fred Cole was elected to make arrangements to have fine weather for the organization. The name of Wm. Holm is recorded in the minutes from nearly all the meetings from 1910 and on.
This society was asked to help in organizing a temperance group in Superior, Wisconsin, in October 1905, Two Harbors in 1912 and in Crosby in 1913. In 1914 "Ljusstrålen" was asked to contribute financially to the building of a temperance hall in Bessemer, Mich., and assisted readily. In 1920, when the question was brought up whether or not to amalgamate the two groups existing now in many of the states - the temperance and the sick benefit - it was voted in favor of such a move.
The Sick Benefit society was organized on December 13, 1912. Those present at the first meeting were Wm. Holm, J. A. Broman, G. Nyholm, Jonas Johnson, Albert Nilson, Andrew Carlson, Chas. Nyquist, Fred. Hermanson, and C. J. Anderson, in whose home the meeting was held. The group grew from this small beginning to approximately 160 members in 1920. The Sick Benefit society did not sponsor as many programs as did the temperance group but endeavored to give time and thought to the physical needs of its members. Whether or not this group was in favor of the amalgamation, when that matter was first brought up, is not stated, but at the time of the joint convention in Waukeegan, Illinois, a telegram was sent opposing such a move. But the move was made and steps were taken for joint operation.
Therefore, after the meeting held in Waukeegan in 1920, the various groups managed to join into one lodge, which was named after Finland's great poet Runeberg. The number of this lodge became 21. Mr. C. G. Frost, a member of No. 21, suggested the name which was adopted and received a monetary award for his suggestion.
In the spring of the following year, another lodge was organized among the people living in West End and in the Eastern part of the city. Several of the members in No. 21 - those living in these parts of the city - then joined with the new organization. However, in 1926 No. 21 had about 200 members and has about the same number today. Many thousands of dollars have been paid out in sick and death benefits during the existence of the two groups, first separately and then by the Runeberg lodge since its completed organization.
Mr. G. Nyholm served as the first president of the newly formed group and since then the following have served in the same capacity: Wm. Holm, Victor Johnson, Fred Cole, Herman Taven, C. G. Frost, Victor Backman; C. O. Gustafson, Walter Saari, Chas. Hannus, Louis Simonson, John Peterson, Alven Wedlund, A. J. Sundquist, J. A. Broman, and our present president Waldemar Johnson.
The lodge 21 has followed up the traditions of "Ljusstrålen" as far as entertainments and programs are concerned. On or about Runeberg's birthday, February 4, each year, programs, sometimes on a great scale, have been rendered in honor of the great poet whose name the Grand Lodge now carries. Visiting lecturers and speakers have appeared, some from the land of the North from which hail the chartermembers of the lodge. Thus the cultural life of the group has been taken care of, beside many other social diversions from time to time.
Durnig the last 15 years the lodge has endeavored to interest the growing generation in the same degree, as the older group is diminishing. For that reason the Swedish language has been abandoned and the English tongue has taken its place at the meetings, minutes having been written in English since 1931.
Progress is written in the annals of lodge 21 and with the able leadership of such men as the general secretary J. Victor Jacobson, we are certain of progress also in years to come.
Published in Official Souvenir Program for Supreme Lodge Order of Runeberg. National Convention to be Held in Duluth, Minnesota August 9-13, 1939. 1939, p. 6 & 8.
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