We have all attended functions where we’ve listened to a speech by a particularly dynamic or entertaining presenter who shared anecdotes, information and insights that we later wish we could recall. Following are two speeches— one recent and one memorable one from an IDDD celebration years ago. Excerpts of these speeches appeared in our December 2012//January 2013 FFSC Newsletter.
In August, Dr. Greg Jacobs, PhD Emeritus Professor, PSU, author of “Fundamentals of Grammar and Writing” and “Fin, Finns and Astorians” spoke at the 52nd annual United Finnish Kaleva Brothers and Sisters Grand Lodge Convention in Portland.
It is indeed an honor to be the guest speaker this evening in celebration of the 52nd convention of the Grand Lodge, and I wish to thank Bob Waine for asking me if I would like to speak on this occasion. Last December I spoke at the Astoria Lodge’s 125 th anniversary. Even though my last name is Jacob, I do have some Finnish roots on my mother’s side. Dorothy Luoma, was born in Svenson and raised by her grandmother Lillian, who was born in Oulu, Finland. Finnish to me as a young boy on the farm in Svenson was paha poika and paska housut and voi, voi, sentään, minne vesi kannetaan. We grew up in the west end of town where most of the Finns lived, and our mailman, whose name was Willie, was Chinese. Willie delivered our mail for thirty years, and there were so many Finns living on his route in Union Town, he taught himself Finnish. He loved to speak Finnish to my mom, and once I heard him say, “Dorothy, it’s a cold day in hell when a Chinaman speaks better Finn than you do.”
“Moments in the Life of the Grand Lodge”
The Grand Lodge was established in 1900, but before I talk about it, let me say a few words about the Astoria Lodge, established fourteen years earlier in 1886. As many of you know there was a sizable Finnish community by the 1880s, but there were few opportunities for social and civic activities, other than the boarding houses and the saloon business. Rough and hardy Astoria did have 54 saloons and 35 brothels in 1890. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Finnish Temperance Society, both established in 1883, did provide some cultural activities, but the Finnish people “sensed the value of an organization which would serve the needs of the tightly-knit group of immigrants, that would offer some material guarantees and cultural activities in keeping with the customs of their own people” (from the History of Astoria Lodge #2, 1937). The first meeting of the Finnish Brotherhood in Astoria had 50 charter members, and their by-law states that the purpose of the lodge is to help the sick and needy members, to provide for burial for deceased members, and to promote and enhance the reputation of the members and of the Finns in general. [December 6, 1886 reveals that $412.50 was in the lodge’s treasury. Charles Larson was president; Jacob Moore, vice president; Walter Helmstrom, secretary; Emanuel Maunula, treasurer.]
The initiation fee was $10.00 and the monthly dues were $1.00. Sick benefits were to be $1.00 for the first week and $9.00 per week for a maximum of 30 weeks per calendar year. One had to be a member for six months before benefits could apply. By 1890 membership had risen to 198 members. In 1892 the Finnish Brotherhood extended a helping hand to Finland during the winter famine by collecting money to send flour to Finland on behalf of the US government. The Brotherhood also promoted athletic and social events, partly as an incentive for young men to join the lodge. For New Year’s Eve programs the lodge sent invitations to the young Finnish ladies, thereby putting “pressure on a young man to hurriedly seek membership and social acceptance.” How tragic would it be if a young man lost his lady love to another at the New Year’s Eve program because he failed to make an appearance.
The first Finnish brotherhood lodge was originated in San Francisco on January 4, 1882, the “Suomalainen Veljeysseura.” Later in the year the name changed to “United California Finnish Brotherhood, San Francisco Lodge N. 1.” Like Astoria Lodge No. 2, the organizers were motivated by a desire to arrange for funeral benefits and sickness expenses for Finnish immigrants. In the year 1900 there were four lodges: San Fran, Astoria, Fort Bragg (1896), and Eureka (1899). On November 15, 1900 these lodges met in San Francisco to discuss affiliation through a central organization. It was not a smooth start because the San Francisco and Astoria lodges based their foundation on the Bible, but the Fort Bragg (1896) and Eureka (1899) based theirs on the Kalevala. After two days of negotiation, the four lodges could not come to an agreement. The Fort Bragg and Eureka delegates departed for home, but the SF and Astoria lodges on November 17, 1900 in the Winchester Hotel agreed to form a grand lodge called United Finnish Brotherhoods Throughout the World (Yhdistyneet Suomaliaset Veljeysseurat Ylimaailman). Conventions were to be held every 2nd year on the anniversary date of the organization. Fred Wickman was chosen to be the chairman, P.G. Sundberg the vice-chairman and John Toikka, secretary. The first four conventions were held in Astoria in 1902 and 1906 and in Seattle in 1904 and 1908. Thirty-two delegates representing 11 lodges attended the 1906 Grand Lodge convention, and in 1908 there was discussion about purchasing 180 acres near Woodburn, Oregon for “Oma Koti,” a home for aged members unable to provide for themselves. It was an issue of dispute for ten years before being sold in 1918.
As for Portland, Oregon, in 1890 there were enough Finns to organize “Tyyni Valo,” a chapter of the Finnish Society Brotherhood with headquarters in Ishpeming, Michigan. Twenty members joined that year, and the purpose was “to shield and prevent our countrymen from sinking into alcoholism,” to be wary of the notorious Finnish Erickson’s Bar. On the contrary, I can’t help but think of the quote I used in my book: “too much cannot be said of the steady thrift and perseverance of these people. Idleness to them is unknown. They are wide-awake, sober, and intelligent” (Col R Fishermen’s Protective Assoc).
I should mention that in 1892 Finnish women in the San Fran bay area formed their own Sisterhood “Kointähti” (morning star), and in 1894 a group of women in Astoria formed the sisterhood lodge and named it Toivon Lähde, Fountain of Hope. They based their charter on the same principles as the Brotherhood Lodge and became well known in the community for their planning of social events and annual programs. Eventually Kointähti merged with the San Fran Lodge a few years later, but it took the Toivon Lähde twenty years to merge with the Astoria Lodge. It wasn’t easy for the Astoria Brotherhood Lodge to convince the skeptical Sisterhood Lodge that they would be received as equals. For years both parties worked on unification, and on January 17, 1917, 64 members of the Sisterhood were initiated into the Astoria Lodge. “Each Sisterhood member shall have the privilege of paying the same dues she has paid in her lodge, namely, 50 cents a month, and the same rights and privileges as the Brotherhood members. A Sister paying 50 cents a month dues shall receive sickness benefits of $5 per week and $80 for funeral benefits.”