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Written by Rev. Les E. Niemi

Raittiuskalenteri (Temperance Almanac)

Amerikan Suomalaisen Kansallis Raittius Weljeysseura (S.K.R.W.), (American Finnish People's Temperance Brotherhood).
First issue: 1897.

Raittiuskalenteri 1907The following material, beginning with the 1897 issue, is compiled in 1995 by the Reverend Leslie E. Niemi, Au Train, MI 49806 (906-892-8113), then Director of Planned Giving at Suomi College, 1983-1994. He is a third generation Finnish-American, now retired, having served 29 years of parishes living in Trout Creek, Republic, and Munising MI, have the final 11 years in the Development Department of Suomi College, the only existing institution of higher learning in America established by the Finns.

The following volumes are not contained in the alphabetical compilation: 1933, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, and 1942. The almanac was not published during the war years, 1937-42.

The movement as a purely Finnish enterprise began on Heikin paiva 1888 in Republic MI, under the leadership of a man named J. Heikki Jasberg. Finns had been a part of movements sponsored by other ethnic groups previous to this in Alluoez and Hancock, however, and had organized a few local groups prior to 1888, such as those in Republic, Ishpeming, Ironwood, Bessemer, Atlantic Mine and Negaunee.

By the end of Prohibition (1932) the publication went to soft covers and diminished in size. There was no 1933 issue. It may indeed have been a matter of economics. With the exception of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, no other Canadians were represented, and it was basically an U.S. effort.

An English language section appeared for the first time in the 1944 issue, continuing for a time, but eventually discontinued into an entirely Finnish-language product in spite of the Americanization of the Finns.

The material is alphabetized in the following categories:

Leaders and notable persons

Where only initials occur for authors, these articles are not included in the listing of authors. The translation of titles of articles is a loose translation as befits a third generation Finnish-American. Hence some translations leave something to be desired.

Raittiuskansan kalenteri 1962With articles and authors, the last column are the year of the writing and the page number.

The U.S. communities mentioned are the primary residence of the individual. I have chosen not to use their place of birth in Finland (or America), but those places are included in each article. Both with leaders and obituaries, I have tried, as best I could, give the persons primary occupation.


I was awestruck in the early years to note that where "miner" is designated for occupation, that in approx. 80 % of these persons were killed in the mine, or in connection with their job. I was awed also in the early years how young were the deaths, both with men and women, and consequently how brief the marriages were. Medical science has indeed come a long way since the turn of the century.

The Temperance Movement, or SKRW, of the Finns, was in a sense the Finnish counterpart of Alcoholics Anonymous, which began the year that prohibition ended. Yet it was more than AA to the Finn. It was a haven for the lonely, far from his home or homeland, the single lumberjack or dock worker, place for socializing when the only other options were the tavern or the church. There were more temperance halls than churches among the Finns. (See also Reino Hannula's album of Finnish Halls.)

For a time the S.K.R.V. Seura published a monthly paper (on the 15th of each month) entitled "Koitto" from its office in Ishpeming, and edited by Minnie Perttula-Maki. The cost was 75 cents a year. Articles and announcements had to be in by the first of each month.

My grandfather, Heikki Sipila, from Lapua's Tiistenjoki, and an alcoholic, probably belong to the group in Cooks, Michigan, where he was also a member of the Metsisto Congregation, under the care of Pastor J.J. Hoikka. Upon moving to Louds Spur, south of Eben Junction, a group was no longer available. He died in April 1947, hit by a automobile driven by a young man in high school, on a rainy night upon returning from Eli Lampi's New Moon Tavern in Eben, at the age of 69. Most of his six sons were also afflicted by this malady.

Alcohol was not a part of the lifestyle of my paternal grandparents, Emanuel and Alma (nee Jarvio) Niemi, of Juupajoki and Halli.

Some interesting insights: It was reported in the obituaries, 1959 issue, that John Karhunen of Warren OH was an avid Temperance man and a Suomi College supporter. He reported, having been a speaker in Fairport Harbor, that the issue of use of tobacco was a hot topic. It happened that anyone breaking their pledge of not smoking was fined $50.00 with the money sent to Suomi College. Maybe Suomi needs more of such loyalty.

Another bizarre case was the story of the first Finn-owned bar in Marquette County (in Negaunee), as told on pages 170-172 (with picture), of the 1902 volume and written by SKRV leader J. Heikki Jasberg.

Read Salomon Ilmonen's excellent 1915 article of the coming of the Finns to the Keweenaw Peninsula in 1865 from northern Norway's mining communities (pp. 128-135).

As the course of history would have it, and like most Finnish language groups in America, the number of active local temperance groups dwindled by the mid-1950s. In 1958 (the 72nd year of organized Finnish work) the five basic regions had 22 local societies remaining. They were: East: Worcester, Quincy, Maynard, Rockport, Lanesville, and Gardner, all in Massechusets. Ohio area: Conneaut, Cleveland, Burton, and Warren. Waukegan in Illinois. Michigan: Marquette, Crystal Falls, Toivola, Hancock, and Dodgeville. Minnesota: Soudan, Ely, Palo, Eveleth, Hibbing, and Virginia. There existed the umbrella of the SKR Brotherhood, and the Finnish-American Temperance Central Committee. Regional leagues existed in Ohio, Michigan, Marquette Area, and Minnesota.

A 1967 copy of the "Kalenteri" disclosed a nostalgic scenario of the typical Finnish existence in America. It was a penciled in daily log by Heikki, using the blank pages opposite the calendar and name days. He recorded the weather faithfully. "Lunta, pilvinen, aurinko," and the temperatures. Occasionally he had visitors, Otto ja Maija, Oksanens, on April 3 Matti Niemi was buried, visited Turpeinens, etc. Suddenly on May 6, and by a different handwriting it recorded: "became ill; brought to the hospital" (tuli kipeaksi. vietiin sairaalaan). May 7: Henry died. Buried on the 11th (Heikki kuoli. Haudattiin 11 paiva).

So brief. So matter of fact. No frills or extra unnecessary words. It sort of reminds one of Toivo, dying in the upstairs bedroom. Hilma was already baking for the funeral, and the aroma wafted upstairs. Toivo's sense of smell was not yet dead, so he called out: Hilma, bring me some. She replied: No, they're for the funeral. So it goes.

Another insight was how many Finnish women had the name Fanny or Fannie. It puzzled me, reminding me of that joke of the three women attempting to get into heaven, named Penny, Brandy, and Fanny. Fanny, having observed how Penny and Brandy were rejected from entering heaven because of the implications from their names, walked away dejectedly surmising what little chance she'd have with a name like hers. Fanny. What's with all the Fannys among the Finns?

Based on the number of authored articles, the outstanding Finnish-American leaders in the Temperance movement were:

Henry Moilanen of Virginia MN, Kalle Ojajarvi of Conneaut OH, Yrjo Tamppani of Ishpeming MI, Alfred Laakso of Wakefield MI, the Ruotsalainens of Ishpeming, the sainted Minnie Perttula-Maki of Suomi College and Baraga MI, Alex Pantti of Ishpeming, Mikko Mikkola, Jaakko Kaminen, Kalle Hanhisalo, Hilma Hamina, Frank Mattson, John Lauttamus, Ed Komula, Matti Johansson, Kustaa Kujala, and historian Salomon Ilmonen. The list goes on.

These innovative and stalwart Finns provided a remedy for the seemingly nationalistic weakness of lonely and discouraged immigrant Finns in hostile and strange land, escaping the poverty, forced draft into the Russian army, or simply looking for the excitement of the New World. The movement provided much more than sobriety and temperance. It was also social, perhaps meeting a girl from my hometown in Finland whom to marry, and often led back to the Lutheran church in which one was confirmed years earlier.

The information contained in the Temperance Almanacs (as well as the Suomi Synod/Suomi Conference yearbooks which I indexed a year earlier) will make a wonderful source of material for dissertations and books of the future. Enjoy.

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