Excerpts from Ines Puotinen’s Memoir
I remember as a small child being all bundled up in a sleigh with the horses pulling us to Christmas services eight miles away. Church was also held in the local schoolhouse just less than 1/2 mile away. Sunday School classes were also held in that schoolhouse. Rev. Swante Luoma was our pastor for many years. He had a very sweet quiet wife who was a very talented pianist. They had one son, Reino, who was about a year older than me. He was a very talented pianist and I remember the lovely programs he would present at school. In later years he played in the philharmonic orchestra in Washington.
I attended school at the Swan Lake country school. After six years there we were transported to Crystal Falls to the Forest Park School. The transition was a little difficult at first going from a country school with four grades in one room, to the larger school. By the time I got to high school it was smooth sailing and I was on the honor roll every month and graduated with third honors.
In the country school we had not musical training and had no idea about reading notes, etc. There was no piano or organ at school. All I remember singing was “America” and at Christmas programs we were taught to sing the traditional Christmas hymns.
I remember being very interested in music as a child. Mother and father bought a used organ and I learned to play that by ear. Taking lessons was unheard of. I think they felt that providing an organ was sufficient and we should learn to play it. One of father’s pleasures was for Tynie, Ilmi and I to take the Sunday School song books and sing all the hymns we knew and I would accompany us on the organ.
As a child I joined a 4-H Club. We had a sewing project in school. We would sew at noon time and after school. Miss Hilma Slivensky was my first leader. Looking back I recall that she was so talented that we had but to show here a picture in the catalog of the type of dress we wanted to make and she was able to cut one out. After working all fall and winter on our projects we would have a county-wide achievement day in Iron River where we would model our clothes and take part in other activities.
One that I particularly remember was the “music memory contest.” They would allow each club to have a phonograph and a number of records for several weeks and the leader was to select on member from each club to participate in the contest. I was ten years old at the time and I remember going into this room of strangers, all a number of years older than me. They would place the phonograph needle on any part of a record and after playing it a bit, the contestants were to name the record on paper, its composer and the story behind it. At the end of the day in passing out awards how exciting it was when they announced the winner by saying that she was just a small ten year old and called out my name. The following year I was selected for that contest and won the county award a second time. I received a large certificate and I still have it in my prized possessions. I feel that being exposed to that beautiful music at an early age has made me appreciative of good music.
We did have a garden and dairy club and had different 4-H leaders. I never did join the dairy club. However, when I was about 16 years old they were looking for a leader for the dairy club and came to ask me to lead. I guess I was one who couldn’t say “not” and so I led that club for a couple of years. I don’t think I did very well but I tried. Looking back through the years I was one to accept challenges.
In fact, after I was married and Kully and I attended the Annual Meeting of the congregation, the lady who had been reporting the news from the church to the local Finnish newspaper asked to be relieved of her job. No one volunteered so I did. I remember Kully telling me that I shouldn’t have volunteered as my Finnish wasn’t that good. I told him that when someone has done the work faithfully I felt that she should be relieved and so I accepted the duty. Truthfully, it was not that simple and those first news releasers were accomplished with the help of the Finnish-American dictionary and also studying the news of other reporters. After a while it was not that big an effort and I felt it had really been an education in mastering some of the Finnish language.