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Highlights in the History of the United Co-operative Society in Maynard

Frank Aaltonen


A number of Finnish men and women decided to organize a co-operative grocery store as a result of conversations carried on at the Finnish Steam Bath House on River Street, where people congregated while waiting for their turns to the baths. A drive for membership pledges was organized and more meetings held at the Bath House and elsewhere, resulting in the enlistment of 187 members, who subscribed $1,600 for initial capital. The new organization was named the Kaleva Co-operative Association.


The stock and fixtures of a private store were purchased and the Co-op Store started in January in a part of the building on Main Street, which later became the Co-op Building. First manager, Matti Hekkala.


The Kaleva Co-operative Association becomes one of the member-societies of the Eastern Finnish Co-operative Educational League (Idän osuustoiminnallinen agitatsiooniliitto), made up of all the Finnish co-operatives in Massachusetts. This league was a forerunner of the Co-operative League of the U. S., and for a number of years carried on a campaign of education in the Finnish language among the eastern Finnish settlements. The league was absorbed by the "million dollar co-operative" at the time of its organization.


The Kaleva Co-operative Association purchases present Co-op Building at 56-62 Main Street on a time payment plan for $16,000.


A lot of land was purchased on Powder Mill Road and a combination bakery and branch store erected. The bakery employed four bakers and one helper. Two young ladies served at the store.


The Kaleva Co-operative Association becomes a Charter Member in the Co-operative League of the United States, sponsored by Dr. James Peter Warbasse and other early leaders of American consumers' co-operation.


a. Meat department added to the Main Store.

b. Co-operative restaurant established on second floor of the Co-op Building. Meals served to 80 regular boarders. During peak years as many as 250 people were regularly served at this restaurant.


The Maynard Co-operative Milk Association, independent co-operative organized in 1914, decided by a majority vote to affiliate with the Kaleva Co-operative Association to become one of its departments. At this period the milk plant employed five workers and made deliveries with one truck and two horses. Forty-two members of the Milk Association refused to follow the majority and set up a rival cooperative, known as the First National Co-operative Association.


The so-called "million dollar Co-op" is incorporated, pooling all assets of the Finnish co-operatives in Maynard, Fitchburg, Gardner, Quincy, Worcester, Norwood and New Ipswich, N. H., under joint management with main office in Boston.


a. The million dollar Co-op dissolves and the capital is apportioned back to the various local societies.

b. Kaleva Co-operative Association re-incorporates and changes name to the United Co-operative Society of Maynard.

c. Bakery moved from Powder Mill Road to the rear of the Main Store.

d. New bakery oven and machinery purchased.

e. A coffee roaster purchased to roast own blend of Co-op labelled coffee.


Due to dissatisfaction over the methods of local coal distribution the Society purchases a lot of land on the railroad siding at the rear of the present K, of C. Hall on Summer Street and begins the distribution of coal and wood. Siding and coal storage building erected on this site.


New building erected at the rear of the main store building running through to River Street. This building sometimes referred to as the "first annex". Was built to house the dairy, garage, and warehouses.


Branch store building and stock of merchandise purchased at the corner of Parker and Waltham Streets (land not included), for $10,000.


The United Co-operative Society of Maynard becomes a Charter Member of the Eastern Co-operative Wholesale of New York City.


Restaurant business on the second floor of the Main Store building discontinued on February 1.


Society establishes a Farm Service department, handling grain, feeds, fertilizers and other farm supplies. Warehouse built on the coal yard property.


Society establishes the range and fuel oil department for the distribution of petroleum products. Purchases truck and tank for $2,000.


a. Ice delivery service instituted in the Spring.

b. Two lots of land purchased at tie corner of Parker and Waltham Streets.

c. Auto service station built at the corner of Parker and Waltham Streets.

d. Three 10,000-gallon capacity tanks erected at the coal yard property for the storage of gasoline, fuel and range oil.


Main store remodelled and new modern display cases and fixtures installed in meat, bakery and fruit and vegetable departments. Also new Fish department started. Main store floor covered with rubber tile.


On April 15, the new, modernistic branch store building completed, with facilities for meat market, grocery and bakery store, Soda Fountain and Restaurant. This was one of the greatest days in the history of the Society. Over 3,000 people visited the store on the opening day. Dedication ceremonies held at the High School auditorium to a capacity audience. Dr. James P. Warbasse, President of the Co-operative League of the United States, was the principal speaker.


New Annex constructed in the fall at the rear of the Main Store, preparatory to a great expansion of the Society's facilities. Bakery moved to new modern quarters, reconstructed out of a part of the first annex, adjoining the Dairy Plant. New gas oven and much new machinery purchased for the bakery.


On February 17th all construction and remodeling, costing more than $50,000, were completed and the Co-op Super Market opened to the public with festivities extending over a period of six days. More than 7,000 people inspected the new Co-op plant during the opening celebration. Dedication Exercises on February 23, at the Parker Street Hall, attracted a capacity audience. Dr. James Peter Warbasse, President Emeritus of the Co-operative League of the United States, delivered the Dedication Address. Other speakers included Mr. Donald A. Lent, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Maynard; Postmaster Frank C. Sheridan; State Senator Louis Connor of Waltham; Rev. Matthew A. Vance of Ashland; Mr. Leslie E. Woodcock, Manager of the Eastern Co-operative Wholesale of New York; Mr. Waldemar Niemelä, former manager for 14 years of the Kaleva Co-operative Association, and Mr. Wäinö Pernaa, Manager of the United Co-operative Farmers, Inc. of Fitchburg. A large delegation representing co-operatives in Quincy, Marlboro, New Bedford, Norwood, Fitchburg, Templeton and other New England communities, brought their felicitations to the Maynard co-operators for their oustanding contribution to consumers' co-operation in America.


On June 14 and 15 the New England Annual Co-op Summer Festival was held at Vose's Park, Maynard, which may well bring about a new unity to the New England movement. While the Festival was the twelfth in succession, this was the first time in history when many of the "American" Co-ops participated by some of their members in attendance. Total attendance reached about 3,000. The principal addresses were delivered by Hon. Hjalmar J. Procope, Finland's Ambassador to the U. S., and Anthony Lehner of Pennsylvania. The United Finnish Symphonic Band of Maynard presented a Concert, with Tauno Hannikainen of Finland, as Guest Conductor. The Anchor and Ark Glee Club of Maynard, Frank T. Holland, Conductor, also participated in the program by a Concert. The Festival was a great success and may inspire the Co-ops of New England to set aside a day when all members will come together for a day of festivities and recreation in co-operative fellowship.


During these years a great number of social students and other visitors from all parts of the country and many foreign lands have visited the Society, to study at first hand its economic achievements. Many of these have returned home with inspiration to set up co-operative societies in their own home communities.

In the olden times every Finn was said to have come to life in a Sauna. The Maynard history proves that even a Finnish Co-op can be born in a bath house.

Page 67-71 in: Maynard Weavers ... the Story of the ... United Co-operative Society of Maynard, written by Frank Aaltonen. Maynard, Massachusetts 1941.

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