Brief Historical Sketch of the Finnish Farmers Club

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The Finnish Farmers Club has traditionally observed its beginnings as 1935, when Finnish families in Monson, Maine decided to preserve their cultural heritage in a formal organization, sometimes referred to as the Monson Finnish Club.  The earliest documentary evidence of the club is a deed from the inhabitants of the Town of Monson to the trustees of the Finnish Farmers Club dated August, 1938, conveying the Long Schoolhouse, so-called, consisting of the schoolhouse itself and a rectangular lot of land 16 rods along the road and 20 rods deep.  The trustees were Mauritz Palm, Oscar Suomi, Toivo Mutanen, Otto Aalto, Heikki Vainio, William Ranta, and Urho (Andrew) Kurki.  The Kotimäki brothers, Eino and Sulo, made gifts of land to the club in September, 1940, increasing the land to its current size of 594 feet along the road and 440 feet deep, exactly six acres. 

 

For a few years the Club was very active until WWII took away so many men.  Also, after the war many younger families moved to other parts of New England for better employment opportunities and by then older members had passed on.  By 1979 the Finn Hall needed to be rescued from property tax liens and from the obscurity of having had no Finn dances in the preceding years.  Thanks to a lot of dances, suppers, raffles, events and yard sales the Club recovered as a going concern.  The building was then painted, a drilled well and yard light and a handsome new roof added, and an addition to the main building for a coffee room was built adjoining the kitchen.

 

As more interest in the Finnish hall was generated it was decided to seek funds for rest rooms and for finishing the coffee room.  The project involved another major addition to the hall including bathrooms with indoor plumbing and hot water, a septic tank and drainage field, an updated electrical entrance, increased storage space and a rear exit.  At that time the largest single contributor was the Finlandia Foundation.  It was heartwarming to experience the standing ovation received at a dance early in the season when the Foundation’s support and the Club’s intentions to continue with the washrooms were announced.  Though it was too early to measure the expected increase in attendance, it was obvious to everyone that the spider infested outdoor privies had been a definite deterrent.

 

The Club has been active in past years sponsoring performances by groups from Finland (Soittovat Sarat, Myllarit) and holding festivals promoting Finnish culture (foods, dance and folk music primarily) both at the Finn hall and other locations in the southern Piscataquis county area of Maine.  The Club has been helped immeasurably by the generosity of accordionist Veikko Honkala, a friend from Ashburnham, MA who has driven that distance to provide the music.  Now the Club has its own “house” orchestra, “Woodsong” (Metsälaulu).  Its members have a profound interest in Finnish folk music though none is of Finnish descent!  They have acquired from a variety of sources and people quite a repertoire.

 

Unquestionably the primary mission of the Finnish Farmers Club is the preservation and promotion of Finnish folk music and dancing with the fellowship of a country dance hall replete with coffee and pulla and an occasional potluck supper.  Attendance at dances averages 40 - 50 adults.  In addition a half dozen or so children are often there and are being introduced to Finnish polkas, schottisches, waltzes as well as Raattikko and Kerensky.  Of course, the chicken dance is a necessity too!

 

Evidencing the interest in the Club is the $29,000 donated to the Club’s building fund by its members and friends over the last eight years, many of whom are no longer residents of the area.  Besides a new kitchen and brand new electrical entrance and wiring, the coffee room, bathroom, new doors and windows were completed.  Although the entire building is now sparkling white, it still maintains the ambiance and friendliness of a “not perfect” old building.

 

 

 

 By Ethel (Kurki) and Don Higgins, February, 2012


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