Transcript of Finnish American Lives

Transcript of Finnish American Lives


Running time: 45 minutes, 15 seconds (including 2 minutes of credits). This does not include the 13 minute Epilog.

Narrator: Voiced over historical photos of immigration, while the mandolin music of "Mustolainen" performed by the Third Generation accompanies the narrative.
In Finland when I was a young boy, I was thinking about the America. Always. I was looking where the sun sets, and I was wondering what kind of….how this world looks on the other side.

Erkki: Farm there was too small. We were very poor and we had nine kids. There was too many feet under one table. Older sisters they go away first. One go America and she write home saying, "lots of work here in America." Many young people they get America fever and I think that I get some of that money fever too.
(Voiced over historical photos)

Irene: I always said that "Mina menen Amerikaan (I’m going to America); Mina halluan menna Amerikaan. (I want to go to America!)

(Voiced over historical photos)

Narrator: I know what everybody comin' here and get lots of work, and food, good food, and clothes and everything.

Irene: They always tell me that money grows on trees, so that's why I came here, and I never see money--money growing on trees. You gotta work hard here.


When I was a little girl in Finland it was my job to watch the cows. We took the cows 7:30 a.m. in the morning to the woods.
They had lots of good hay there. There were three or four families that went together. We took a lunch with us. And, also we got some kind of hand work. We stayed from 7:30 a.m. till 6:00 p.m. in the evening. We were having lots of fun there. Thats what they call in Finnish: "Paimen tytto." (cow-herd girl). (Music fades down.)
I hate to get up in the morning. I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. to milk those cows. My mother used to say that, "Oh there’s some nice coffee I just made, so come on girls, wake up." I still hear my mother wake me up in the morning. Then I thought: When I can move here, I thought I would get away from cows. For about two years we were without a cow, and then we got a cow. That's what I’m stuck with.

Harold: Dad and Mom were both real pleased that I had a Finnish girlfriend and finally did get married. And, they wanted me and my wife to move down to the farm to take care of them in their old age, which we did--take care of mother till she died. She wanted to die at home, and my Dad's wishes are to die at home too, so.

Erkki: (Irene is helping the old man sharpen the scythe.)
I was born in Toyssa, Finland in 1888. Sixty years now I live here in Ironwood, Michigan working this farm. Her, Selina and I we raise fourteen kids. The we getting old and last year Selina die. So I asking my young boy with good Finnish wife to come work this farm with her.

Irene: In Finland it was a custom that always the older person would stay with you and that got in my mind.

David: (The young man is perched on top of the tractor.)
Well, my Grandfather Since we moved onto the farm here we've been taking care of him. And, I remember when I was a lot younger, my Grandfather used to let me drive the tractor, which I thought "wow!" This is a big thrill and everything--driving it. And, he showed me a lot of stuff, you know, like making hay bales and tying knots in the potato sacks. Because every time I saw him put potatoes in the sack I would move it over and I’d try to put a knot in it, and it would fall over. And, there would be potatoes all over the ground. And, he showed me all these short tricks that he’s learned; and, he’s taught me a lot.

Paula: And, its fun having him here. He'll come in and he’ll ask you a whole bunch of questions, you know because he wants to find out what everybody is doing, because he's mostly in the house.

Maria-Lisa: Sometimes, when I come home, you know, he just goofs around. And, he'll be sitting at the table or something. I just act like I’m someone new or something. I just come in and say Paivaa! Paivaa! (Hello! Hello!) And, he’ll get a kick out of it. He starts laughing, you know, at the table. And, then he always asks….I say that, "today I got pay day at work." And, he gets a kick out of how younger kids can make that much money.

Irene: (Irene is sitting with the old man on the picnic table.)
What did you think? Did you think there would be plenty of money and that money grew on trees?

Erkki: Yah! I was thinking that I would shovel some of that money. A big pile of money!

Irene: But it wasn’t like that?

Erkki: (The mandolin music of "mustolainen" is faded in over this narrative.)

No, it wasn’t that way. I was twenty years old when I
coming America. I work in many of those Finnish towns. Then I
hearing that: Selina, she was in this Munising lumber camp. And, I having eye on Selina already in old country. So, I drying dishes many times late at night. Oscari Waltonen, my good friend, he say that he play music free for me if I married Selina. But then he say that if I don't marry her, he marry her! That no good. So, I quick asked Selina, "You marry me?" And, we had big wedding; two days wedding. All together, Selina and me, we had fifteen cows and fourteen kids.

Harold: (Harold and Nilo are shown chopping firewood.)
There were twelve of us boys and two girls. Starting from the youngest was: Kenny, Lori, Neilo, me, Toivo, Sulo, Wille, Arvo, Oivo, Ilmi, Lillian, Johny and Eino.

Nilo: There was a lot of lunch pails. Mother used to bake bread. She used to make eight loaves of bread and it was all gone when she got through with the lunch pails.

Harold: Some of these (wood blocks) are hard splitting. Must be crazy Finlanders here--making this much wood. Must be yet a hard winter.

Nilo: They're really crazy when fish are biting were making wood.

Nilo: We didn't have much to eat.

Harold: There was potatoes, meat, and milk. And a lot of venison that we ate when we were kids. And fish.

Nilo: Then, if you didn' got sick and tired of eating the same meals every night.

Harold: But, the next day you had the same thing: milk and potatoes.

Nilo: And, if you didn't eat it they used to say, IIWel1 you'll eat it when you get hungry?"

Harold: That's right! One day you had milk and potatoes, next day you'd have milk, potatoes, and meat. Two, three days: potatoes and meat! And, the fourth day you had potatoes and milk again.

Nilo: A little salt fish, and homemade bread and butter. We used to keep the butter down in the well--no refrigerator.
There were no televisions. No telephones. If you wanted to do something--talk to your neighbor--you had to go over there to visit. Or, they came over and visited you.

Harold: And, you would carry a lantern when you'd go visiting.

Nilo: And, every time you went visiting you bring something: either a biscuit, or a loaf of bread, or some cookies or something. Always something. We'd all get together and have a big blast once in awhile.
House party scene. Grandpa's 92nd birthday. We hear the ambient sound of party conversation. Folks are drinking and dancing.

Nilo: You've got to put that evil, fancy step into it.

Irene: (a toast)
Kahvi pannusta piisaa pankkista saa elaman huoletavaa mukavaa. (General translation: The coffee pot forever! From the bank you cannot get life's carefree pleasures.)

Everyone: Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday dear father
Happy Birthday to you.

Oscar: (singing in Finnish)
Guest) Translation: She was always good looking and straight forward. The trip home was joyful, even the horses mane was swinging. Young lad, if it is a fight that you want, then a fight this vagabond wi1l give you.
Young lady, you can sit at this vagabond's knee and listen to the pleasantries. You can sit at this vagabond's knee for a long time.

Irene: (Irene is weaving Finnish rag rugs.)
When I was a little girl my mother always showed us what to do, She always said that you're not supposed to waste your time that you gotta do something. So this carpet weaving was our evening work. We worked all day at the field and then in the evening my mother, Started making rugs, and so she said, "come on girls now you gotta come and look how I'm gonna make, because you're gonna learn to do this after when I'm gone. So, we used to come and sit next to her, me and my sister. She always told us that when you learn when you're young, you never forget that. When you make them home-made it's going to last you forever.

Irene: Pull real hard (weaving instructions to her daughter,) You think you gonna learn this someday?

Harold, Well were kinda fortunate to have Dad here, cuz' when I was a kid, or when me and my brother were kids mother and Dad used to always say that, "Talk Finn!"

Harold: Heinat on sisalla. Kato Suomen olutta, Isa. (The hay is in [the barn.] Look, Finnish beer Dad.)

Harold So with Dad here now I guess my kids have a better chance of learning Finn, and of keeping up with the Finnish language.

Macla-Lisa: No I can you know, I can manage, you know I can.

Paula: But some words we don't know.

Maria: Maria-Lisa is behind the bakery counter serving a customer.)
Sometimes, sometimes I get stuck on a word, you know, I don't really know what to say so I just try saying it in a different way, When people talk I can understand them but some of the words like "of," "the," and all of those little words I just skip over them and say the rest of it.

Customer: Kuinka se menee, Maria Lisa? (How's it going?)

Maria-Lisa: Hyvin. Kuinkate se otte? (Good. How's it going for you?)

Customer: Hyvin. Ja Kuinka hyuin isoisa Erkki voi? (Good. And how does Grandfather Erkki feel?)

Maria-Lisa: Se on oikein hyvin. (He is very fine.)

Customer: Pari pastia (A couple pasties)

Maria-Lisa: Ne on Kaikki myyty (They have all been sold.)

Customer: Mina ostan pari pussia niita Suomalaisia binania. (I will buy a couple of bags of those Finnish bananas.)

Maria-Lisa: Kaks pussia? (Two bags?)
Customer: Joo (Yes.)

Maria-Lisa: Kiitos, kiitos (Thanks, thanks)

Customer: Don't mention it.

David: I gotta lot of friends who are of Finnish ah Heritage, but they lost their language throughout the years. Its that they haven't been really close to people who spoken the Finnish. And they're sorry about it. They try to learn the Finnish language, but its hard after you haven't spoken it for awhile. At work sometimes that they try and say Finnish words. And, you know I can sit there and (pretending I can't understand) say, "What? What? ," you know "I cannot understand you." And, then they ask me the true scene. For two or three hours here, I just hear this one Finnish word, you know, all through the day. That's all they do is holler at me this one Finnish word. And their all proud, you know.
When I went to kindergarden school, the only language I knew was Finnish. And the teacher sort of got mad. She sent me home many times during the first week 'cuz I didn't know no English words. That's all I was doing was sitting there chattering in Finnish, and I was getting little temper tantrums. I started screaming in Finmsh. Teacher didn't know what to do so they had to send me home.
And, my sisters they speak Finnish; but, I think, overall, I can speak a little better than they can 'cuz I've been around my Grandfather more and you have to speak the Finnish language to understand. And, now throughout the years; haven't spoken as much as I used to, and I'm kinda sorry. I try and make a little habit out of it that whenever I can I try to speak as much Finnish as I can.

Irene: When you come from Finland, and you only know the Finnish language it’s hard to start learning English. And, that's why I think my Father-in-law and Mother-in-law they haven't really learned that much English. But, those days they really didn't have to learn no English, 'cuz there's too many Finnish people around them. Every place they went--even in the stores here in Ironwood--they could talk Finnish. And, they could ask in Finnish, so it wasn't so important to learn English.
In the evenings; just sneak here I don't even tell anybody where I go because everybody is watching T. V., and, in summer evenings I just make, ah, rugs in the summertimes because I don't know where to put this in the wintertime. These carpet looms take up so much room. So, then after a while the come outside, and they hear this pounding so they know where mother is, that she is pounding rugs in the garage there. But, in Finland, we used to have it in the house, ah, two or three sets of carpet looms and there was lots of noises then, so nobody could even to sleep.
My mother and father they had a farm its not very big, but there were six seven milking cows. We were poor people I remember when We would all go out into the field. We used to cut the oats and the barley.
My mother always said, "do this, do that." I always remember when she took the knitting along. When we walked through the field we had to walk pretty far so she was always knitting. And she never had to look while she was knitting. And, she said you should take the knitting with you when you walk, and you walking always with empty hands. My daughters and my son are now the same. They have to work home. Everybody has their chores.

David: Mother and Dad, they both have worked ever since they, you know, got out into the world. They always worked. And, they still work, they work really hard. And, now when I work too, I’m working on the farm here. And every time I come home from my regular job, I always seem to be pushing it, to do this and to do that – like plowing the fields and feeding the dogs. The chores get kind of tiring after a while; but, this is a little challenging, you know, plowing the fields, cutting the hay. It just keeps you in shape, and you’re out in the out doors actually, that’s where I like to be.

Harold: Dad started farming here he started off with two, or three animals, and he gradually brought his herd up to maybe fifteen head. Regulations got tougher; it costs too much money to invest in machinery. So the farming started to drop off. Dad cut down on the milk cows; and finally, his age gave out, and he sold his cow. And, so I took over and I got one cow. I’ve worked in the lumber mills all of my life. I love to be on the farm. I never want to move out into the city, but I’d never farm for a living. I’d want to work out and hobby farm.

(We see Grandpa putting wood in the stove.)

Irene: I go to work and my husband go to work, kids go to school, so Grandpa keeps the fire going. That’s his job. He feels that way that we need him yet.

(Grandpa is eating alone at the dinner table, while he reflects over his life. Historical photos are supporting his account, the music of "Mustolainen" is faded up to accompany the narration.)

Erkki: When I coming to America I go working those ore docks in Marquette, Michigan. That very hard work. Then I get the job at Quincy Mine at Hancock. I working ten hour days, three years I mining that copper. No good that job.
I go to Munising Lumber camps, and there I working in woods, swinging that cross cut saw.
Then I hearing that many Finnish people, they working in Ironwood (Michigan). S, then we moving there. 1920 I borrow that money and buy that Victor Maki 40 acre farm. When clearing this land I borrow that neighbor’s horse to pull those pig pine stumps. We working day and night. We built sauna, and barn and house. Wintertime, I go back working those lumber camps. And, all the time, Selina, she back on farm with those cow and kids. Just to think that this is our farm. I was thinking back in Finland about having my own land, having my own farm. Then I getting old. Woods take back my land, and I can’t work no more. (Music fades down and out.)

Irene: (We see the interior of a nursing home.)
I’ve been working now at Hautamaki’s Nursing Home. So many people Finnish people come there. They came from Finland, and I met a few people from my hometown even. And, it’s so interesting to talk to them and they get so close to me because I always like to talk to them from Finland, and ask them a question about what it was like when they came from Finland. A lot of them, they’ve been her fifty, sixty, and they’ve never gone back to Finland. They didn’t have enough money. I suppose to go back for a visit, or maybe they had some bad feelings about why they left, and why the came here. Many never wanted to go back.
Sunday morning they gather around the T.V. and watch that Finland Calling, Suomi Kutsuu. (We wee the elderly Finnish immigrants gathered around the television.)

Narrator: This is "Finland Calling," America’s only Finnish language program featuring the sights and sounds of Finland including the Finnish devotional. Here’s the host of Finland Calling, Carl Pellonpaa.

Pellonpaa: Hei, monet terveiset teille ja hyvaa huomenta; tas on nain se "Suomi Kutsuu" ohjelma, nain elany tassa telvisio ohjelmassa ja aseman puolesta nyt yli yhdek santoista vuotta. (Hello, Many greetings to you and good day. This "Finland Calling" program has been brought to you live from this station now for over nineteen years.)

Irene: It’s nice to hear that Finnish language, the real Finnish language, because mine is like everybody elses; it’s broken to Fingliska. It’s not real Finnish nor is it good English either.

Pellonpaa: Tapsa nyt esitaa niin Kuin Tapi Ruotavaarakin "Kotimanni Ompi Suomi" (Tapsa will now present Tapi Rautavaari "My Homeland in Finland.")

Irene: (We see historical photos of life in Finland.)
I left my hometown, Koitesjarvi, Finland, twenty-two years ago. That was in 1959. It was hard, I’d cry many times. And, I thought I’m never gonna learn this language. It’s so hard because when you come as a small town girl, you come to this big land here and you feel like you’re lost.
I love to dance, so there’s a favorite lady who likes to dance polkas and waltzes and whatever, so I dance with her about three or four dances. And she says "now I’m pooped out till next Sunday, and then we’re gonna dance some more."
One of my best friends or I say "my best pet." We call the "pets," you know. We get attached with some of those people more than others.
That Helmi, when she came there she started talking about how she came to this country and she has a sad story. And I adopted her. I feel like she’s a little bit like my mother.

Helmi: When I was in Finland and I was a young girl I think "Never! Never! I never leave my country." But just the same things go different way. My Ma get sick and she passed away. My father he married the second time, and I don’t like that step mother. And, I said, "I’m not gonna stay home no more." I leave my home, and then I started to come to this country.
1916 and I was 20 years old. I didn’t even speak English. But, I know I had to go go do the work, to do my living. And then we put ad in the New York Times. We said that "old country Finnish girl like to have some housework, and she can’t speak English." I’ve been to many different places, and I can hardly talk in English, but I get along jest the same. I know how to work and I know how to do my living. That has got to have Sisu (will power). Nobody have to do nothing. Nobody have to come in and help. To be all alone and work. Thanks go to be Sisu. Suomalainen Sisu, that means Finnish people so tough and good fighters, something like that. So, ne on riskia, Suomalaiset on hyvia tappelee ja riskia ihmisia. (They are energetic. Finns are good fighters and an energetic people.)

Irene: (Voiced over scene in the Ironwood Lutheran Church)
A lot of people ask me, "How come you work eight hours, then you come home and you do lots of hand work?" And, I just say that, "I keep going."

Pastor: (Shown preaching from the pulpit)
Olen’ suuresti iloinen siita, etta vanhempani ja Suomesta tulleet monet opettivat minulle ja monille muille minun sukupolveen kuuluville taman sikkaan ja rakkaan Suomenkieli. Tama Suomenkieli on ollut kautta elamani minun hengellinen kieli. (I rejoice that my parents and others who arrived from Finland, taught my generation the rich and priceless Finnish language. Throughout my life Finnish has been my spiritual language.)

Irene: My mother always said that Mita hyvaa toiselelle teet sen edestas loydat. That means: Whatever you do for other people you gonna find in front of you someday.

Pastor: (Shown performing Holy Communion Ritual)
Herramme Jeesuksen Kristuksen ruumis. (The Body of Christ given for thee.)
Herramme Jeesuksen Kristukeen veri. (The Blood of Christ shed for thee.)
Herramme Jeesuksen Kristuksen ruumis ja veri katkekoon teidan ruusiinne ja sielunne iankaikkiseen elamaan jakka Hanen rauhaan. Amen. (May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your bodies and souls unto everlasting life. Remain in His peace. Amen.)

Irene: When I work hard and a get bright, nice crown when I die. When you look back at your life what kind of memories come to you? Would you live it over again?

Erkki: No way! I was too poor when I was young. I don’t want to go back. You see that sauna over there? When I was building that I worked day and night, no sleep hardly at all.

Harold: Well a vihta is a sauna switch. My dad makes the vihta for us, but he’s getting old. He don’t go out. He probably wouldn’t pick better material than me. But he told me, he said I get good vihta material. I pick out the young chutes and then they got to be uniform. You can’t just take any cedar branch off a tree and make a vihta out of it. My dad takes time tying it. He trims it and I think he makes the best vihta. Anybody can make a vihta with binder twine and tie it but he ties it like Finlanders do in Finland. He ties it with a white birch branch, and he does a good job of it. I haven’t, ah, quite learned how to tie a vihta but I intend to before dad passes away.

David: Someday I’ll be telling my grandchildren about my grandfather and what he was like. What he did and he’s seen a lot and I wish I could see the same things he has. He’ll tell me about the stuff he did. It just makes you start to think and wonder what it would have been like. But I suppose in my generations I will be telling my grandchildren and that about how it was and they’ll start to wonder and just want to keep all their thoughts too.

Harold: Any winter now I, or summer, think my barns give out. I like to farm. I love animals, but when the barn goes I will definitely get rid of most of my animals. So I’ll probably end up giving up the farm – as farming wise – but I’ll still live here and, ah, I like to have my son or daughters come to the farm and maybe take care of me and the wife or mamma but I don’t think that they’ll want to stay on the farm. They’ll probably marry some other nationality. I would like them to marry Finns, but we will see.

Maria-Lisa: I don’t want to stay here not to long because if not, you can’t find that many good jobs up here, you know, that in the field that I want to go into. There’s just like small businesses up here, but there are not (many opportunities). I’d like to travel and I like to go meet new people. I’d like to go not really into the city, city, you know, like New York, nothing like that, but, someplace where there’s more people that up here. I wouldn’t mind coming back here, but I don’t want to stay here for, you know. I’d like to move and just travel and go places: Bahamas and Hawaii. Just travel and see what it’s like in other places than here.

Paula: I don’t want to stay here either when I get older, ‘cuz there’s nothing to do around hear. It’s all boring. And I’d like to go and see what it’s like in other parts of the states, and everything; and, meet new people.

David: I don’t really want to move out of this area, ‘cuz you know, I’ve been born on a farm and, you know, raised-up on a farm. I can’t give up all the freedom, you know. I can’t stand to open up my window and seeing, you know, seeing brick, and black top playgrounds and all this. No, it’s not for me. It’s just where I can relax, come home and not worry about nobody bothering me, and have my fishing and hunting and anything I want to do. It’s really nice living out here, you know, being alone, you know. I think in my future years, couple more years, if I make a few more dollars, I’ll save it up I’m going to build my own house around here. I’ll probably build right on this property, too somewhere close and I’m going to stick around here to raise up my family and right now, my girlfriend, she’s a Finlander too: And, ah, she likes this open country too. And she says she’d rather move out here so maybe in a couple years I’ll build and stick around here, and then take care of my parents and everything.

Isa paasee elokuviin. (Dad will be in the film.)

Oh, sit. Mina en tarte noi elokuvis. (Oh, shit. I don’t need, their film.)

Jo etta isakin paasee elokuviin. (Yes, so that dad gets into the film too.)

Hah? (Huh?)

Ja, meet e istumaan siihen kanssa. (Ya, you sit there too.)
Ollitko te yhtaan ulkona tana paivana. (Were you outside at all today?)

Ei, ei o porstuassakaan kayny. (No, no I didn’t even visit the porch.)

No? No?

Ei (chuckle) olenkaan. (No (chuckle) not at all.)

Jo, mutta teidan pita tulla nyt kun on nain sieva ilma, niin tulla tanne vaha ulos istumaan. (Yes, but you must come now when the air is this nice, so come outside here little sit.)

Enempi kavellemaan nain kuumana paivana, ja (Walk a more on a hot day lie this, and)

Ja. Ja.

Irene: Summertime every summer grandpa likes to come here early in the morning. When he gets up he drinks that first cup of coffee. He he comes here and sits down, and you can hear this little squeak (of the swing) here. And, then pretty soon haymaking time comes, so he comes to the house and says, "I think it’s now that we should start making hay pretty soon. That Heinat hedelmaa. Joo (The hay is already bearing fruit.) So we usually start making hay a week after the fourth of July.

Hay harvesting scene shows the family working together while the grandfather watches from the sidelines. The music "Schottische Medley" is faded up over the hay harvesting work. Irene pauses to look at Grandpa and she says (in Finnish) "We should have Grandpa up here throwing these bales." She looks again and Grandpa is gone. The symbols of Grandpa's lingering presence -- the empty swing, the scythe, the sharpening stone -- are shown. They imply his death.

The music "Mustolainen" fades up and is heard over the closing credits (which last two minutes).