The author, Anna Fält, nee Bäckström, was born
and died in 1990 in Oulu, Finland.
I intend to tell memories of my childhood and youth. I am the eldest
living member of my “clan”.
August Bäckström & Anna Priita Annala
brother Heikki’s children have wished for this. My father was Heikki
August Bäckström, born 19.5.1860 in Revonlahti and died of the Spanish
flu on 30.1.1920 in Oulu District Hospital. He had no sisters or brothers.
His mother was the daughter of a kantor (lead singer/choirmaster)
and brought up with the misses of the nearby manse. The stories say that
she was a pretty person. When she had this boy child out of wedlock she
could not stand the pressure around her and she drowned herself. The boy,
as far as it is known, was brought up at the home of the mother. He had a
beautiful singing voice and attractive manners. From Revonlahti, Father
moved to Oulu in 1886. He was a seaman on the well-known Snellmann’s Toivo
ship among others.
was told that in Oulu he was smitten by Anna Priita Annala who had come
into the town from Haukipudas to work and he had courted her but she
looked down her nose at him. So Father found someone else, Kaisa Marttila,
with whom he had batter luck. They got married on 17.1.1892. Kaisa was
born on 15.9.1860 in Lumijoki. Her sister had married a well-known Oulu
agricultural expert who later became a factory owner (Paasivaara margarine
factory). Father and his first wife had one son, Yrjö Hendrik, born
22.10.1892 in Oulu and died there before he was one year old on 18.5.1893.
His mother had already died on 3.1.1893.
Father went to sea and when he returned he was now accepted by Anna Priita.
They married on 3.12.1893. My mother was born in Haukipudas on 12.5.1865
and died on 13.12.1946 at her home in Oulu of pneumonia. Her name was Anna
Priita Annala and she had two sisters and two brothers. One brother Jaakko
had died in an accident when very young. The other one’s name was Pekka
but we children called him always hikieno or “sweat-uncle”
because he was always sweating so badly. If he sat on the edge of the bed
there were newspapers on the floor on which sweat was running. My
mother’s parents had a little cottage and some cows. The girls came to
town, to Oulu, as servants and Pekka inherited the cottage. One of
Mother’s sisters never married. Her name was Kaisa. The other girl,
Greta Kustaava, married Heikki Alametsä. They had a son called Lauri and
daughters, Jenni, Fanni and Nanni. All have died by now.
we were at hikieno’s in the summer. They had a foster daughter
called Hanna. We swam, picked berries, or otherwise were running around a
lot. When we got hungry we went to get some bread and butter. The
uncle’s wife baked very good sourdough and that tasted good to us. But
uncle said once that you should eat soup or stew as well so that you
don’t eat so much bread. He meant, of course, that his wife got tired
when she had to bake so frequently. At home this became a saying, “eat
stew so that you don’t eat so much bread”.
first my father and mother lived in the Heinäpää part of town in
Vanhala’s house. There their first child was born, Yrjö, on 7.12.1894.
Heikki was born on 26.10.1896 in Ainola, later the home of the gardener
that has been demolished. The building was a white two-storey brick one.
When they lived there Heikki was very sick and they had to call a doctor
called Moberg. He had said that where flowers don’t grow, there a child
will not be happy, and Mother had noticed that, indeed, plants did not
grow there. Perhaps it was too damp. Father and Mother decided to move
away from there and bought a cottage on Kurkela Beach. There I was born,
Anna, on 1.10.1898, and Maija (Marja) on 16.1.1901.
was working in Åstrom’s leather factory. Mother looked after the home
and us children. At Åstrom’s there was a sort of biggish boss, a
bachelor, a real drunkard and nasty man. Then there were lower supervisors
who took this master bottles of spirit and told him all the stories they
heard. They kept in his good books. Then one Sunday one junior supervisor
called Kurupulainen had come visiting us at Kurkela Beach. He had been
there a long time and when at last he had left, Mother had said to Father,
“Now you have spoken to him in such a way that surely you will lose your
job”. Father had said, “I spoke the truth”. Father was straight in
character and couldn’t stand any wrongdoing but so it happened that
Father’s work there ended. As Father had been at sea before, he decided
to go there again. In the Oulu barracks that were next to Kurkela Beach
there were some Russian soldiers. Mother had said to Father that she would
not stay there with young children. There were four of us and the fifth on
the way. So the cottage was sold and Father went to sea. We moved to
Rehnström’s house in Kajaaninkatu and there the little brother was born
on 30.5.1904 (Robert). He died of diphtheria on the way to the hospital in
the arms of Mother and the Alametsä aunt on 21.10.1905. His name was
Robert and Father never saw his little boy.
living at Rehnström’s the boys went to Kajaanintulli’s elementary
school. Yrjö was in the class of teacher Stenbäck or Temppu
(“trick”). That was a cantankerous teacher, famous for his nastiness.
Whatever had happened there with the boys, one day Mother could not get
Yrjö to go to school. The teacher had sent one boy to tell Mother to come
to school. Although Mother was just then in the washhouse, she went to
school with her wellingtons/rubber boots on but first went to ask the boys
what had happened. Then Temppu had ordered her over and notified
her that Yrjö had not come to school. Mother had said that she could not
get him to go to school. Temppu had then told her what a poor
mother she was. Mother had asked in what respect was she poor? Then she
had told him her own business and returned to the washhouse. Mother did
cleaning and washing jobs even at night when she had cooked our meals and
made our beds. She went quickly to clean the post office. It took a lot to
get enough money though Father did look after his family but there were
four of us to feed and keep in shoes and clothes. We never asked for any
help nor did we owe anything to anybody. After many years when we were all
already working and Mother was walking along Pakkahuoneenkatu towards the
shore, from the other side of the street Temppu had come to shake
Mother’s hand and he asked about each of our jobs. He must have been
annoyed when he had been so nasty to Mother and now must have found peace
for himself when he heard that we had become decent people.
remember my mother telling me that when we lived in the Rehnström’s
house and father was in America where he had stayed for a time to work and
even got the citizenship of the USA by the name of Henry Baxter, mother
received a church tax notification under the name of Anna Priita Bäckström
but this did not please her. She went to the church office and put the tax
notification on the table and said that even if she had made just one but
at least not five children because in those days those were called “itsellinen”
who made fatherless children. At least in Oulu this was understood to be
so even though that word apparently means people in the country without
permanent work or living on their own space/property. Mother was that
proud that she didn’t allow to be treated just anyhow. After a few days
she received the correct tax notification.
years later we all happened to be at the same time at lunch break at home
and mother said to us that if she happens to die alone so nobody can say
she owes anything to anybody. That was one worry she didn’t have. When
Heikki became a “kamreeri”/city treasurer/chief accountant,
mother told him that you cannot find from any book or notes that we had
received any help from the city council or even asked for any money to
help. "That shame we do
Rehnström’s we moved to Vasala’s house on Itäispitkäkatu. There we
lived for a long time. The owner was very good and did not mind a family
with children. There we had a large “pirtti” (big open living
area in farmhouse) or living room and “kamari”/chamber/formal
room or bedroom. In the kamari there were living two railway
workers as “korteeri”/lodgers. As furniture there were two
beds, washstand, a large and a smaller table and chairs. On the windows
there, as well as in pirtti they had curtains. In the living room
there were two beds and a dressing table, table-cupboard (dresser), chest,
tables and chairs. Mother cooked the food in a heavy iron pot (pata)
and saucepans and when we ate we needed nothing else than everyone putting
food onto their own plate and so we ate.
two lodgers were very clean men. One was ordered elsewhere so then we only
had one whose name was Ranta. He was a bachelor and always took me with
him when he went to Holapa’s shop to buy food for himself. He bought
sweets for me. He had a very good singing voice and was always singing in
the kamari. I learnt one song and I wanted to go and sing it to
that uncle and to tell him that now I know it but mother wouldn’t let
me. But I did sneak in there and I sang it to him. Uncle said that now we
go and buy some sweets but I didn’t eat them by myself. I gave some to
Maija and the boys. That song was:
"A shy flower in the forest there I saw"
and I have remembered it the rest of my life.
Vasala the post was brought by a postman called Tolonen. He was a very
cross and nasty man. Always when we asked him for a letter he said that
those Bäckström’s brats were always whining for a letter. Of course we
could ask if we had received a letter from our father.
Vasala we moved to Tuoppala, Kauppurienkatu 25. There we only had one room
but we managed very well. In the winter we had to sweep the snow from the
streets. Mother worked long days. I remember when I received from mother 5
pennies of Christmas money. I ran to Oman Kannan Bookshop and with that
money I bought Maija paper dolls. They were not big presents but we
couldn’t even long for them. Everything was good that we had at home.
From mother’s workplaces we received Christmas parcels that had
foodstuffs and all sorts of goodies.
Sunday nights mother took us to the Rukoushuone/prayer house/hall.
She wanted to give us something to remember our childhood by. It was a
good and beautiful custom.
Tuoppala’s neighbours were an older couple known by our mother and
father. Vimpari was working at Åstroms and the Täti (auntie/old
lady)had a very sore leg, an ulcer, so that she could not go to the shops
because the foot always had to be on a chair. In the summertime when Maija
and I came out, this aunt always yelled, “Little Anna and big Maija,
come for an errand”, and so we did her errands. As payment we sometimes
received a lump of sugar, a slice of bread and butter and sometimes even
25 pennies. Another neighbour was a widow who had one son, very tall and
not very young anymore. This woman asked us also to go on errands and we
ran. Our shoes weren’t wearing out because we were barefooted in the
summer. Sometimes it came to our minds that we’ll buy from Juvani
licorice lollies (lit. 'niggers heads'). They cost then 5 pennies for 4.
At night when mother came home we told her that we had taken 5 pennies
from her purse. Mother wasn’t cross but we didn’t do it many times.
father sent to mother and us girls, dress material from America, to mother
dark blue and to Maija and I slightly pale brown. From them we got pretty
dresses. One beautiful Sunday mother let us put them on. On the street we
met a woman that we knew (Täti) so we curtsied to her. She went by
but then returned and came to look at our dresses. She lifted my skirt and
asked that where have those washerwoman’s girls received such beautiful
dresses? I told them that father had sent them to us. Then she left. When
we came home I told mother what that woman had said. Mother said nothing
but I’m sure that she thought that poor children obviously should have
nothing (according to that woman). I have never forgotten this; it was so
Tuoppala we moved to Rautatienkatu to Uksila’s house. There we lived
only three months and nothing special happened there. Then at Hätälä in
Kauppurienkatu 28, some rooms were for rent. Heikki was then 13 years old
(1909). He went to rent the rooms, obviously on mother’s orders. There
we lived then 23 and a half years, at least Maija and mother lived there
as we others had married and moved away from home. It was a good house and
there was a good landlady (emäntä). Hätälä himself had already
died when we moved there. He had been a bricklayer by trade and he had
been somewhere in the north working and had got a bad chill and, as I
remember, got meningitis and died at 41. Hätälä’s brother was a
little boss in Oulun Osuuskauppa. When he had died he came straightaway to
tell his widow to sell this house but she said she would not. The sister
of the Hätälä landlady was married to the baker, Lähtevänoja, and she
taught the landlady to bake pulla, etc. and with that she tried to look
after her four girls and herself and in the end that is how it happened;
she managed very well. Hätälä had had a horse and two or three cows and
fields but all had gone when Hätälä had gone as a guarantor to a
bricklayer called T_____ whose house was near the Osuuskauppa’s dairy.
This man was very crooked. I remember him - he had black hair and a beard.
Hätälä landlady was often in difficulty; because of this she owed money
to the bank and the interest had to be paid twice a year. Once she had not
got sufficient money and had gone to the bank to talk with the bank
manager, Rehnbäck. He had told her, “We’ll wait but do not sell your
house”. He was a good bank manager.
the Hätälä family I know their birth and death dates:
- Abraham Hätälä
- Anna-Liisa Hätälä
worker Anna Dagmar
bank cashier Elin IdaAugusta
clerk Helga Susanna
clerk Salli Albertina
married rovasti/dean, minister in charge of a large parish, Väinö
Hätälä’s we had a large kamari/living room, vintti kamari/loft
room and kitchen. In the big living room were two men as lodgers and we
lived up in the loft room. Mother was still working. We weren’t good for
any work as yet. Father cared but nothing in excess came from America.
Every Sunday we went to sing in a nursing home; we were Elin, Helga, Salli,
Maija and I. The singing was very pleasing to us. On summer evenings we
sat in the yard and sang because we were not allowed to go anywhere.
People came to watch us when the songs were beautiful and the singing
voices were good; we enjoyed that.
neighbour was a bricklayer, Foss, who then sold his house and two builders
Palo and Mickelsson bought it. When the house was being built we were
allowed to take from there wood shavings and they were useful to use in
the summer. Mickelsson had three cows and we took them with their children
to Limingan Tulli (Liminka rintti); there was a guard and the cows
went to Oritkari beach to eat. At night we fetched them back. The
names of the Mickelsson children were Pentti, Mauno and Helvi.
went swimming in Kiikeli where there was a little red swimming hut. There
was a booked time for men and women. We did not go there but to Sonnisaari,
on the opposite beach; they had willow bushes and large stones on which we
put the towels. We went swimming many times a day. Once on the Kiikeli
bridge we met the Tervo girls (Maija Liisa’s mother and sisters) who
said that come and swim but we told them we have swum already ten times
today but we still went with them because they were the Kakaravaara
girls. Pikki Kakara = little brat.
With Hätälä girls we went also swimming and picking berries in
Hiironenkangas (heath). We visited the cemetery and walked here and there.
Other trips we couldn’t make when the bigger girls had no time to come
with us and we couldn’t go on our own.
had quite a different temperament/character to Heikki, When we lived in
Kurkela Beach mother had gone in to the town to do her errands because
there were no shops at Kurkela. At the other end of the building was the
Kylmänen family. They were nice people and they also had children. Kylmänen-Täti
had come to babysit while mother went to town. Täti had fed Yrjö
and he had suddenly taken gruel into his spoon and threw it on the wall
and said “syö aapa-gruel/eat ----? gruel”. When bigger you
couldn’t bear to say anything bad to Yrjö. When angry he always said to
me, “you half-fat dunker”. In Osuuskauppa they had very good
half-strong bread (puoli vahva leipa) and I enjoyed eating that
with my coffee.
my left hand I have a scar from the edge of an axe that I received when we
were playing hide and seek in Tuoppala yard. When I started climbing to
the liiteri/woodshed, I placed my hand on to the chopping block and
Yrjö accidentally hit the axe on to the block so that it nicked my hand.
called me “kahvemokki” because I drank so much of it because I
liked coffee. We didn’t have many squabbles but now and then something
happpened. I remember the Kakaravaara boys: Arttu Laaninen, Martti Putaala,
Lassi Tervo, Inkkala boys and our Heikki went to Lestadian (lestadius)
meetings at the Lestadian house. They could not be without making some fun
there. Once Arttu Laaninen had put strings behind his ears, then pulling
them and making his ears move. This made the boys laugh and they were soon
kicked out because they were disturbing the meeting.
Ohukainen house there lived a family Labbarti and they had nasty boys.
When our boys had made a snow castle in the yard these came to break it
down. We started yelling to them “rottarinkula, pahan hengen vinkula”
(--) because they were Swedish-speaking. We also yelled at them “how
much did the doctor take when he bandaged your sticks (legs)?” because
they wore knickerbockers and leg wrappings when others wore long pants.
Putaala was a genius; once when we were all together Martti came shouting,
“I know news!” Of course we listened wondering what does he know now.
In Tilu’s house an elderly female person lived and her name was Kaisa
Hollander. She had people to whom she served food. She was already elderly
and had no teeth. Martti said that when Kaisa Hollander’s lower lip
sticks to the upper lip then it is the end of the world and then he just
ran away home. When living at Hätälä, I always had to do errands. Boys
didn’t go nor Maija because she was the youngest. They said, “Anna,
mene” (Anna goes) and I went always when I was ordered to. Many
times with Salli we went with a sled to fetch sugar etc. from Siversson
shop and that lady/Täti gave us then a biscuit. That was pleasing
because we seldom got anything good, ie. sweet. Once I remember we stood
in the yard in a very hard frost. It was evening and we were supposed to
see a falling star/comet (1910). I can’t remember if we saw it but I
remember we were terribly scared. The comet we were gazing at in 1910.
turn of the century I cannot recall but Heikki’s earliest memory is of
that happening. Then all the church bells had been ringing hard and the
fireworks had been shot up into the sky.
living in Hätälä house has remained in my mind for many reasons. We
were all going to school and there we grew into adulthood and nothing
happened of which I would have had a bad conscience. On the contrary a
thankful heart and nice memories and friendships have continued up till
now and will continue as long as we live.
father was in America and we received a letter from him, there was a
postage stamp that had a very long bearded man. When I was told it was
father I started crying because I had such an ugly father. The crying
continued so that father had to have a picture taken of himself and write
to us that father was not as ugly as that and every child received his own
picture. To Maija and me he sent three silk handkerchiefs and they had M
and A on them. The boys received a pocket watch. I still have the box in
which they were sent and Velse’s Heikki has got his Vaari’s watch.
America father lived in Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. He was
going to stay there because he took USA citizenship. He had to assure that
he would give up his Finnish citizenship and especially being a subject of
Czar Nikolai II and his loyalty to him. In America he lived with a family
where there were no children and this family would have liked to adopt me.
Father wrote about it to mother but she didn’t accept that. Father’s
stay in America came to nothing and he returned back to Finland. He had
been 18 times over the Atlantic even on that famous ship Toivo
under Capt. Snellmann. When father came from America I was in the fourth
class. I had started school at six and being such a “halppa” I
just went straight to the first class so father must have returned in
1910. We lived in Hätälä. I had visited Salli and when I returned home
I saw that a man sat there that I didn’t know. I went straight to sit on
the chest beside Heikki. Mother was cooking food near the stove and said,
“Say hello to Isä (father)”. I went and curtsied to him. How
would I have known him when I was so little when he left in 1903? Then I
went with him to many places where there were relatives to bring greetings
from America. Father brought Maija and me pompom hats. We thought they
were very pretty, rather wide, dark brown material, the pompom black and
gray silk. The hat/cap had been knitted so that it was good to put it on
the head and it stayed there. On the edges there was long fur around the
hat so it looked like a sun. In the morning when Maija and I went to
school the boys where shouting loudly, “The Indians are coming”. That
day we wore them at school but no more; of course, at home and in the yard
and sometimes when running errands. So that was the end of the boys’ joy
at the Kajaanintulli school.
father came to Oulu he got a job at Ferrumi’s engineering shop. They
were busy there where they made farmers’ implements. Father had to be
working overtime and when I came home from school or work mother said,
“drink your coffee and go and take Father some bread and butter and
coffee”. Then the making of the farmers’ implements finished but work
did not stop for him. He became the night watchman and so he was until he
got the Spanish flu, which took him. Father always said that Manager
Sundström was a real manager who gave a workman his worth/value.
father’s death in 1920 we still lived in Hätälä and even when the
three eldest had left home, Mother and Maija lived there another few
years. Once a man had come to the yard and looked in to the windows.
Mother had known him as Kumpulainen who had got rid of father at Åstrom.
Mother had got rid of him. Perhaps that old man had become a believer and
his conscience was burning him that he had taken the bread from the mouths
of the children. `But mother had not suffered and the man could go his
way. Mother herself has always had such tight living and has suffered from
hard work. Father belonged to a sailors’ fund/society where a certain
amount was paid out of the salary or wage and after death he should have
received from them the coffin money but we didn’t get it. Mother went to
talk to Snellman who looked after these things. He had been asking about
all of us children and mother had explained how things were. Snellman had
thought a bit and then said, “You have very good children. They can put
one father into his grave." …..
warmth I remember my parents and my home. We didn’t have riches but we
had love and a good warm spirit/feeling in all circumstances. We were
taught into truthfulness and everything honest and because of that all of
us have received good positions. Warm thanks to father and mother.
little Oulu town’s Kauppurienkatu was made of cobblestones and so were
most of the other streets but the street beside Laanaoja (stream),
nowadays Saaristonkatu, even though it didn’t have a name as far as I
knew, in those days, was just black earth. Beside it were piles of crushed
stone where later there was a private hospital. Along that the drivers
brought goods to the city from the Lyötty stores. The street was
dreadful. When it rained the street was like gruel and the wheels of the
horse carriages sunk so deep that they could hardly be pulled out. As a
continuation of the present Nummikatu was Likakuja, along which the goods
to the biggest stores were taken from the Lyötty warehouse. And the
drivers of the goods to the smaller shops used that nameless street. When
we came home from Heinätori school, we always did a shortcut over these
lanes and often had to walk along the fences because there was so much mud
and other rubbish. Approximately in
the place of the present SOK warehouse in the middle of a field was
Mustonen’s sauna that we never visited. They said the gentlemen went
there to get drunk.
streetlights were coal lights on top of not very high poles but high
enough that you needed a ladder to put the light on. The man who lit them
was named Åhman. He walked to the light with a ladder on his shoulder and
behind him his son carried the coal box. Whoever had made up a joke about
this: “Father Åhmanni /massaged; the boy Åhmanni farted and the lamp
got lighted/and to the lamp came light”. - “Isa Oomanni hierasi,
poika Oomanni pierasi ja lammppuun tuli tuli”. So we have learnt it
life there was peaceful. Everyone lived in their own house. People were
dressed quite simply, skirt and straight jacket for women but everything
was neat, at least in our place. We didn’t do any visiting except on
Sundays; at Christmas and Easter we didn’t do visiting and nor did
visitors come to us. Mother always had a black dress at Christmas and a
white apron. Maija and I had blue dresses because we liked that colour.
Often visiting was Mother’s Aunt Sumen from her youth; she was widowed and her name was Hanna Sumen. She
had three boys and one daughter, Kalle, Lauri, Emil and Anna; all have
died already. The aunt Sumen visited us often. She sewed and repaired
clothes; even when Father was in America she remembered to visit us. She
was a very happy personality even though her life had never been very
bright. She always told stories. At the confirmation classes for example,
in front of her had been sitting boys and among them a boy she knew and
when he had to get up to answer, this aunt had put a big darning needle up
into his seat and when he sat down he screamed. She had been absolutely
calm as if nothing had happened. As an adult the boy became a watchmaker
and his name was Kalle Vinsten. He owned a house in the corner of
Koulukatu and Hallituskatu. Aunt Sumen’s eldest boy also called Kalle,
lived in that house after getting married. So it happens.
the corner of Kansankatu at the end of the Pukki field there was a little
water pump that was called Tippula (tippa = drop). That water was
not good enough for us even though it was close to us. So we fetched our
water from Perttu Pekka’s (Pekka Perttunen’s well) that was in the
yard of a house at the corner of Koulukatu and Kauppurienkatu. That well
was big and there was good water and that was carried to every house.
Later there was a pump close to Palokuntapuisto (Fire Brigade Park)
and the water was carried from there.
we moved to Hätälä they still had no electricity or water pipes. We got
our light from oil lamps; candles were only used at Christmas. We had two
old staakaa/candleholders, possibly from when my mother and father
got married. On the opposite side the Tuoppala talo got a water
pipe to the end of the building. It had a lock and to open it you had to
fetch a key from Tuoppala and than take it back after taking the water.
Water cost 25 pennies a saavi (wooden container like half a
barrel); it took about 30 litres. When father came from America he made us
a low cart for fetching the water. The water pipe came to the Hätälä
house after I had got married but we had electricity when I was still a
girl. When we lived in Vasala there was in the Kauppinen house in the
corner of Itäispitkäkatu and Koulukatu a mangle that you had to push.
There was no electricity. Later when the Juvanis closed their shop in the
present Armas Juntunen house they made two electric mangles, which was a
surprise. We also had a very good washhouse where we did our washing. We
only took our logs with us from the Hätälä house. In the summer the
clothes were dried outside and in the winter up in the loft. That was good
in our house. It had a timber floor and two large windows to the yard, one
to the yard and one to the side passage and two small windows towards the
street. It was useful to have big windows because you could haul furniture
up with ropes to the loft rooms if they hadn’t fitted in to the
passageway. I have sometimes come down the stairs, “running the
rapids”; such happens when you are rushing like me.
did the cleaning on Saturday; then all floors were washed and rugs shaken.
At Midsummer and Christmas there was a great cleaning. All bedding was
beaten and aired. Ceilings and walls were dusted. On top of the kakluuni
(wall oven for heating) all the soot and dust was wiped. For Christmas
cleaning even the smallest items were washed. All drawers and cupboards
were emptied and cleaned and new lining paper put in them. Then all the
rugs were shaken in the snow on Pukki’s field. Then we put clean rugs on
to the floors, clean curtains into the windows and cloths on the tables
and so the festivity could begin. The sheets were changed once a month. We
had no nightdresses; we slept in our singlets or vests. When in 1913 at
Handicrafts School I made a nightdress and made one for Mother and Maija
as well, From then on we used them. For the boys I made nightwear when the
patterns started coming into the shops in 1921. In Handicrafts School I
made them underpants and singlets.
when at night I can’t sleep I start wandering from house to house, the
old home area, Kakaravaara. First is Mickelsson, then Korvela, then
Putaala, then another Korvela, then Tervo-Pasanen house, then another
Tervo (so-called Taka-Tervo/back Tervo), then the sailor’s widow
Maatta’s little brown house where there only was a kitchen and a room
that was very old, then city bailiff/overseer
Laaninen’s house, then bricklayer Viitanen, then again
Tervo-Pasanen - a brlck house with a common yard and a gate with the next
door Holmström, then beside Holmström Berggren’s house, then Selma
Loukkola’s house in the corner, the sea captain Ålander’s house, then
Inkala’s house and then Hätälä.
that Pukki’s field, I remember that there was no field; it was part of
the town. Perhaps sometime earlier it had been used for grazing but now
there was only some grass that nobody had looked after. At the start of
the Kauppurienkatu and Uudenkatu was the Ylikoski house, then Riiperi (Riberg),
then Pukki’s house. They had cows and we fetched warm milk from there
from which we got good cream. Then in the corner was the Hiltunen house;
in the next block the Leinonen house beside which was director Leander’s
house. Opposite these where now these days is Keskuskanssakoulu there was
the gardener Lahdenperä’s house, a large cultivated area of vegetables
and flowers. Every spring when Laanaoja flowed over, everything was under
youth went to Oulunsuu Pirtti and Latokartano beside Liminka road to go
dancing. I have also seen at the Pirtti the Merikanto opera Maid of the
north (Pohjan neiti) that Aappo Similä directed. I have danced
also at Latokartano. Those dances were organised by postmen and everything
was so clean with no drunks around there. I wasn’t a good dancer and I
suppose that’s why I have left it behind but instead I sang in the
Osuuskauppa choir “Savel”; as first soprano and later alto. We
performed in Osuuskauppa festivities and the directors were first Olli
Palovaar and then Otto Dahlqvist. In my youth there were quite a few
cinemas in Oulu - Germania was in the VBK’s (Fire brigade’s) building
on Pakkahuoneenkatu, Urania in Puistola (nowadays a fashion boutique, Jääskeläinen
Fashion Stores place), Ivalo in Kirkkokatu in Vanhala’s house (now the Säästöpankki’s
accommodation building and Tähti in Asemakatu between Kirkkokatu and
Isokatu. Sometimes we went to these. At first we always went to the front
row whatever it cost, sometimes from 5 to 15 pennies, and when Mother gave
money for it then we went. At Ivalo I saw The Dying Swan possibly
performed by Anna Pavlova. At home it was checked what kind of movies we
could go and see. I went with Maija and the boys went their own way. Yrjö
said to Mother often that he will be taking Mother to the movies but she
said that she will point with her finger and ask what that is, so she was
never taken. At Hätälä we had a cobbler Juho Puolakka living who was in
the Työväenteatteri actor. They showed an Iso-Matti and Pikku-Matti
piece and Puolakka asked Mother if Maija and I could go to the choir of
the show where there were other little girls. Mother allowed that and so
we were there even on the first night but it was such a long show that
mother came at 2 o’clock in the morning to fetch us and found us in the
corridor of the theatre in our undershirts because we hadn’t had time to
put our own clothes on after the show. That was the end of our theatre
job. This Juho Puolakka then moved to America and before leaving he went
to Dufva’s photographers in Pakkahuoneenkatu to take of himself very
typical actor’s pictures, with a straight back and the look - “away
from before me the poor and the ugly-looking”. On leaving he asked us to
go and get one of his pictures as a memento. We did that but had to pay 2
marks because the actor had forgotten to pay for them. Our interest in
theatre did not stop. It just went on to the other side. As young girls
and young marrieds we often went to theatre especially to watch operettas.
I remember the Gipsy Princess, Polish blood, Daughter of the Regiment,
the Doll, Merry Widow, Bajadeer, Dollar Princess, the Death of Elina.
In Oulu theatre they had many well-known actors at that time like Eine
Laine, Hulda Keskinen, Jylhäkankaat (Viitaset), Aare Linnala, Aatu and
Otto Dahlqvist, Väinö Kemppainen, etc.
Fält (nee Bäckström)
even at primary school in our games I always wanted to be a sales person
or a shopkeeper. There was a piece of timber on which we had placed things
for sale and I was selling them behind that piece of timber. Others came
to buy from me and as money we used small stones or bits of porcelain. I
knew that when I became an adult I wanted to be in a shop. When I was in
the upper primary I was allowed to go in the late afternoon to practise at
the Juvani’s shop. It was a small corner shop on the other side of the
street. It was a low shop and the loaves and goods on the shelves, the
sausages on the counter and on the side the dairy produce. It was very
clean even though in those days they had no inspectors around. Juvani
himself was blind but his wife ran the shop. As they had no help in the
shop, the wife had me there with pleasure. Of course I didn’t get any
wages but I do remember that at Christmastime for instance I was given a
beautiful violet woollen dress material of which Jenni Alametsä (my
cousin) made me a beautiful dress. As a memento from this time I have on
my right hand a dark blue crooked line. The blind Juvani had gone to the
shop’s storeroom and with his hand had knocked the oil lamp, which
broke. Later I went to fetch potatoes from there and then when washing my
hands I got this bad wound from the broken piece of glass onto my hand.
They put some Vademecum cream on it and it healed but I do have the
memento from it forever.
primary school in 1912-13 I went through (käsityö koulu) the
school of needlework or handcrafts that was in the corner of Kajaaninkatu
and Uusikatu, near the present Lavistajankatu. Ester Aarnio, later
Palovaara, was the teacher. I remember other students
- Eeva Aitto (later the matron of the county hospital - Lääninsairaala’s
matron), and Martta Moilanen (later Nykäsenoja), Ida Ockman (later Asukas),
Alli Ammunetti and Hilda Jaakonaho. The time there was very pleasant. One
day I was away from school when I had a dreadful toothache. I just could
not go there. Teacher Aarnio lived close to us and on her way from school
she came to ask what was wrong with Anna when she wasn’t at school. I
was just stirring the porridge and explained to her the reason and she
said, “I can see it when your cheek is so dreadfully swollen”.
my confirmation class I got in 1914 to Oulun Osuuskauppa as a girl friday
(odd job girl). I went through the confirmation class while working and my
confirmation pastor was Pastor Uno Wegelius. I was confirmed in the
remember when for the first time I went in the morning to Osuuskauppa,
Mother and Father told me that lying and stealing are the greatest ills in
a person and when they are sending you anywhere you must not stop to watch
anything or chat with anyone but you must do the job in the time given to
you. This sort of “food” was given from home and it was good. The
Osuuskauppa did not have their own bank or safe (kassa) but
Kansallispankki was their bank. I remember when for the first time I had
to go to the bank. I had a little black bag that was called a satchel (setseli).
In it were money and the papers and it was locked in the shop and in the
bank there was another key with which it was opened and the money taken
into the bank. When I left from the office I ran there and back. In the
office was Mrs Venholm who was the cashier and when I returned she said,
“Have you already been there?” I told her that I ran the whole way so
that I wouldn’t be away too long. And she said, “Child, there is no
I went to Osuuskauppa I was put to sweeping the flour loft. I was pretty
dusty after sweeping. Then I went to the downstairs bakery where I had to
lower the spiced rusks into a large wooden barrel that was sent to Liminka
Osuuskauppa. Also I had to pack half-sour rye breads that were placed in
boxes, 30 in each, to be taken to other Osuuskauppa shops. Every job was
done by hand but before that you had to wash your hands well.
the second floor was the wheat bread and other bread bakery and cake shop
(konditori), The master baker was Matti Salopuro in the bakery and
Aleksi Salopuro in the konditori. They were brothers and very nice
men. Aleksi Salopuro had his coffee fetched from Työväentalo and always
gave me some coffee and bits of cake. He was very nice and I have good
memories of him. In those days there were no cars but horse carts carried
the goods to different places. There were different sorts of drivers. I
remember the brothers Hyväri. They were always very helpful. When we
brought the loaves from the second floor that had been baked and packed
there we put two boxes on top of each other. Then a man walked ahead and I
behind him and I held on to the handles of the boxes. Some men went fast
like they were heedless and I couldn’t keep up with them but these Hyväri
brothers always said, “Let’s not go so fast”, so I could keep up
storeroom master Heikki Puhakka was a very good and a nice man. Then I was
also practising in the milk shop. That was nice too. The person in charge
was Maikkola Täti who was a good person. The milk shop was on the
Koulukatu side near the gate. The horses brought the milk from the station
and got through the gate between the buildings because it was wide enough.
Matti Meskus who was a one-eyed (silmapuoli) old driver was
pleasant to me. He always asked me to fetch coffee for him; so we got
coffee for nothing.
I went for practice in the grocery shop. I was the youngest one and I got
to do one job and another. Nobody ordered me to do anything in particular
but then I noticed that I could look after the bags, paper and strings so
that on Saturdays when we were busy I didn’t have to go and fetch them
from the outside storeroom. So I made space there in the storeroom and I
carried bags from 10kg to 1/4 kg; the same with wrapping papers and the
strings. Saturday was always a very busy day and then we had from the
office other helpers. In those days generally there was no electricity so
a lot was bought. Because I was the permanent filler of the oil lamps, in
every finger there was an oil lamp.
were four in the shop. The department head was Moisela, the sales people
Miss Helin, Miss Lassila and I. One day I came from my lunch break and put
my coat on the peg. There was Jenni Lassila crying. I asked her why she
was crying but she didn’t answer. Moisela turned around from her desk
and told me she is crying because my (K’s wage) had risen by 5 marks. I
had not asked for it but this was due to Moisela. She must have spoken to
the manager and so I got the increase. That Jenni cried from envy. There
was another event when a man came to the shop and Moisela went to serve
him but could not understand what he wanted. Then it was Naimi Helin’s
turn to go with the same result and same happened to Jenni. Then Moisela
told me, “Nyt, Anna, is your turn”. I went and looked at this
man’s mouth and he asked for two bars of Vaasa Prima washing soap. Maybe
for spite he had not spoken clearly. He had no problem in talking. He was
a manager at Åstrom. I think he was teasing us all.
I was young I had country-style red cheeks. An older man often visited the
shop but he wouldn’t buy from anybody else but that red-cheeked girl and
I had to go and serve him. Once in the shop the syrup in the can was
finished. I took the can into the cellar and I let the syrup run and it
ran very slowly because the cellar was cold. Two always went for their
lunch break. It was my turn to go and so I put a note on top of the till
that the syrup is running in the cellar but nobody took any notice of it
and it went all over the floor. When I came from my lunch break Moisela
said to me, “Oh, poor Anna - what has happened! The syrup is on the
cellar floor.” I told them that I had left a note on top of the till
that the syrup was running. Moisela said, "Oh yes, but we forgot.
Take your shoes and socks off and go and clean the mess up.” Well, what
can you do? I had to do as I was ordered. It was a cold job, first with a
ladle scooping the syrup into a dish and then having to wash the floor
with cold water because the syrup doesn’t come off with warm water. It
was a job! I can’t remember that I would have got sick although my hands
and feet were so cold.
the town’s main shop I was until March 1917. Then I was moved to the
Oulunsalo shop. The manager of the shop was Tyyne Savilaakso. We lived in
the shop’s other end in the kitchen and living room. There was one of
Jenni Lassila’s acquaintances, a customs man, who had seen me somewhere
and heard from Jenni where I was now working; he arrived on skis from Oulu
with a box of small fancy cakes (leivos) and other things to see
me. Once then I received a letter that said he would buy me a brand new
bicycle if I would start going out with him. I answered, “I am no item
of trade that you can buy me with money or a bicycle.” The man had gone
sadly to show the letter to Jenni who then told about this to Mother and
then had said that Anni treats a decent man like that! Mother who didn’t
know anything about this asked further about what sort of man he was and,
having heard that he was in his forties, said that he would have been good
enough as a father for Anna.
I wanted to go to trade school and Father and Mother told me to apply
there. So I asked for a reference from Osuuskauppa and they gave me one
Bäckström has been at Oulun Osuuskauppa as a shop assistant for 3 years
and three months and during this time has shown satisfactory behaviour and
ability to work and in every way has done her work to our full
satisfaction. She asks to be relieved of this work to apply for a place in
Oulu trade school.
8 August 1917. Oulun Osuuskauppa - Otto Karhi”.
was at that school two semesters and I got two certificates. The principal
was Mikko Lindqvist and the class coordinator was Kalle Oravala, who
taught bookkeeping and mathematics. The teachers were nice except the
German teacher Ida Hägg, who I remember having told me, “You are not as
good as your brother (meaning Heikki), who had been at the school before
me." Teachers in those days used the formal ‘you’ (te) to
students. My classmates were nice: Terese Böhm, Aili Suorsa, Aino Olsson,
Anna Kyllönen, Signe Väisänen, Aira Karhi. The boys were usually not
from Oulu but from the country. Viljo Liljeblad was from Oulu.
January 1918 the school ended, like all the other schools at the start of
war (Finnish civil war). I stayed at home. Regarding these happenings I
remember I saw from the window, especially the loft window, how the Whites
neared from the south from Liminka and jumped over fences in the snow
seeing quite clearly and how they were shot at by the Reds. I also saw
from the side of the Whites, when they shot along Kauppurienkatu at the
end of which was a small building in the railway area and then from the
gate opposite us, a man Jussi Rattala was peeping and he was shot in the
head and died there. The boys were wherever but we girls were with Mother
and Father. One day I was out in the centre of the town when it was
peaceful but Yrjö saw me and yelled, “Girl, home straightaway!” And
so we ran through the Palokunta Park and then they started shooting from
the Lääninhallitus (county government) buildings to Työväentalo. That
was the headquarters of the Reds. We ran from one gate to another and in
the end we got to the Sarkkinen’s yard and then to Juvani’s yard and
then across the street to Hätälä. At home father moved the bed away
from near the wall and ordered me to go to lie down definitely away from
day we got men from Haukipudas unknown to us with their weapons and they
asked to have permission to rest awhile. Father allowed them to lie on the
floor and as soon as they were down they fell asleep. They were so
overtired. Whether they were Whites or Reds I don’t know because they
didn’t wear any armbands. It was notified that if the troops from Lääninhallitus
are not going to surrender, the Russians would shoot with cannon from the
barracks. Father woke the men up and told them and so they went to the Hätälä
timber shed and hid their weapons under the wood and then they left. By
this we thought they were Whites. We never heard anything more from them.
After many years the Hätäläs found the weapons and gave them to the
the living room window we saw how they had raised the white flag on top of
the Työväentalo. It was a relief to everyone. Because I had such a
timid/sensitive nature (came from “arkkala”) I didn’t dare to
go and see things for myself. The boys were teasing me but Mother said,
“It’s not Anna’s fault” because when she herself was carrying
Anna, she herself was very timid when the Russian soldiers were so close,
so that she had always kept all the doors and windows tightly locked and
stayed inside until Father came home from work. I still remember how we
were all very scared of the Russian soldiers on the streets of Oulu and
when seeing them we always went to hide in somebody’s gateway.
time seemed very long during spring when school hadn’t started. Then I
noticed in the paper that Arina was needing a sales person. I talked with
Father and Mother like Heikki told me to decide about things myself and so
I went to ask them about that position. The manager Järvinen was a sharp
man and I couldn’t get it clear what was my chance of getting this
position. In a few days the Arina’s delivery boy brought me a letter
notify you that you have been chosen as a sales person at our shop and you
can start straightaway.
Osuusliike Arina r.l. Y.W. Jarvinen. Oulu 11 March 1918.”
was at the beginning in the shop in the old blacksmith Jokela’s house
and then at Pallas-Arina. My workmates were, among others, Anni Kovala,
Martta Särkinen, Tekla Haapaoja, Martta Vuori, Ester Karinkanta, and Edit
Korkeakangas who was the cashier. As some sort of a boss was Grönblom who
lived at Tilus near us so we usually in the mornings happened to go
together to work. I noticed in that shop that all had not carried on with
the advice, which I myself had received from home when I started work -
You have to be honest and fast. And a little pinching happened now and
then, sometimes an apple or something else. The manager Järvinen happened
to come once when one of the people had taken an apple and bitten a piece
off it. Noticing the manager, this guilty one threw the apple on the
ground. Manager Järvinen picked it up, weighed it and ordered the girl to
pay for it. We talked about these things with Grönblom and I think that
this impressed him in regard to my reference in which it said I had worked
at Arina honestly and behaved very well and done my work properly.
Osuuskauppa they wanted me back at my previous work. They kept on
bombarding me continuously. They even raised my wage by 50 marks at a
time. In the end I decided to go there and leave Arina. That happened on
30 June 1919. Manager Järvinen told me they would wait two more weeks in
which time I was welcome to come back and I didn’t go and I have always
the beginning of July 1919 I went to Oulun Osuuskauppa, at first as a
salesperson to Haukipudas from where after three years I came back to Oulu
to Isokatu 45 as the manager of the shop. In Haukipudas I lived in the
room next to the shop. My assistants were Tyyne Savilaakso and Impi
Martinkauppi. At the Isokatu shop was an apprentice Betti Runtti (Piirainen)
and in the next door meat department the person responsible was Maija
Haukipudas I felt at home but the house was so far from the road, from
that point of view it wasn’t very nice. If I didn’t go home on Sundays
to Oulu, I went to relatives in Haukipudas.
Oulu the workmates were nice, Betti always says when we see each other
that she remembers me with warmth.
these times I moved about with the youth groups and I even went out with a
fellow from Hietasaari. He was an engineer. My girlfriend Saimi Koskinen (Alenius)
who also worked at Osuuskauppa, went out then with an engineer called Knut
Fält. We four were often together for a couple of years even when I was
in Haukipudas. Then we separated and the boy went to the Hailuoto ship as
an engineer and found from there another girl though he had said to one
woman in Haukipudas that the pretty Oulu girl actually belongs to him. So
this other pair separated. Knut Fält had been in Helsinki and there Saimi
Koskinen had met him with Leo Mäkelin and then that going out broke up
like the flight of a chicken. And so these two then found each other.
went out together for some time and on Christmas Eve 1921 we got engaged.
On November 22 1922 we got married at the manse. Yrjö and Maija (Täty)
were the witnesses. The pastor Yrjö Vallinmaa performed the ceremony. At
home we served coffee and the guests were Hätäläs, Knut’s sisters
Alma and Tyyne and Tyyne’s husband Juuse Patala.
moved to live in Hietasaari where Knut bought a cottage and there we lived
for 12 years. Knut’s father lived there nearby. The trip over the ice in
winter into the city was pretty laborious. I was there in the Isokatu shop
and we always had to carry all the food with us to the island. During the
thaw (luppoaikana) we had to walk to Toppila and go over the
strait/sound (salmi) with a valikara/boat trip, and you
still had to put one boot in front of the other on the way to town. Knut
looked after the luggage/items/stores from the shores of the town to
Johansson, Oulasvirta, Merikoski and Huotari shores in Hietasaari. In the
winter this income didn’t exist. Sometimes he was near Viipuri getting
ships repaired and fixed and at times he did jobs at home.
15, 1931 I left Osuuskauppa. It was very difficult in the Depression and
people who had their own homes or other possibilities were put out of
work. I got a certificate saying:
“Mrs Anna Fält has been
in the service of this firm from 15.5.14 to 8.8.17 and 1.7.19 to 15.9.31,
at first as a sales person and the last 12 years as manager of the shop
and during this time has shown praiseworthy behaviour and great diligence
which we certify as she is now leaving this service.
Oulu, 15 September 1931, Oulun Osuuskauppa r.l. Otto Karhi, Kauno
think I felt a bit low but what can you do. The times were like this.
Still I was there as a Saturday assistant for about a year. From
Hietasaari we moved back to the city in 1934 and bought a house on the
corner of Isokatu and Heinätorinkatu. I started my own grocery shop,
which I kept till 1961. The house was made of timber and there was one
room and a kitchen, tupa (sitting room) and at the other end the
shop. There was running water but no WC, nor a bathroom, nor an electric
stove or such modern things. We went to Snellman's sauna in the corner of
Kirkkokatu and Heinätorinkatu and I sometimes went to another Snellman's
sauna in Nummikatu. Our yard was long and there were two gates, one to
Heinätorinkatu, the other to Isokatu. On the sides of the yard were
outhouses: a storeroom, a stoveroom
where Pekka Roininen had his cobbler's workshop with 2-3 other cobblers
under him and a 5 horse stable, where during the war the defence force
kept some horses, and an outdoor toilet. At the Heinätorinkatu side there
was a wood shed and a cold stable, where the previous owner Launonen had
kept horses during market times for a fee. In the garden we grew potatoes
and vegetables, and even flowers.
slept in the other room (kamari). Relatives visiting from
Haukipudas and elsewhere slept in the sitting room. We sold our house in
1962 to Sato Oy with the condition that we could live there till 1965.
were nearly going to be lost altogether when the company director … did
something deceitful and in the end went bankrupt without having paid a
cent to us. At the last moment when we only had a few more hours, Knut
happened to meet assistant judge S., who knew about the affair and
organised all so we received our money. The next day we would not have
received it. With that money we bought the flat, two rooms and a kitchen
in Toivoniementie 7, on the third floor. We had a perfect view from there
to the Raati stadium and Knut had a habit of watching the football and ice
hockey matches with his binoculars sitting by the window,
we lived in Heinäpää Knut was at first working in Pikisaari engineering
shop as a metal worker during the winter months. He sold his Lokki
boat when we moved into town, to the Kemi Yhtiö (building). As a young
man he had also worked as a locomotive stoker and an engineer on ships. In
those he had sailed around the world. When we lived in Isokatu he got into
the State Railways engineering shop from where he retired in the 1950's.
that he was the owner of the house and burdened with heavy snow shovelling
and the zeal of police officer Rouvinen as he was always around to
complain and grumble about this and that. He was growling about snow but
also abusing other people especially me in the shop. Once there was
something: Rouvinen came to tell us that we did not look after Heinätorinkatu
as there was a broken bottle and it had to be removed quickly. It was a
very small medicine bottle. Then I exploded! Then I put out a plate of
sweets and offered them to the man saying that now we forget the old
enmity and we eat “cat's fleas meat”! After that Rouvinen left us in
peace and always in passing he greeted us as if in a parade, even from the
other side of the street.
about the buying of the flat. We needed money for it so Knut went to the
Sampo bank where we had a fair amount of money in our account. He asked
the bank manager for a loan of 25,000 mk to buy the flat.
He was so stupid that he didn't check our account and gave us so
little that it was of no use. Then Knut announced that he was closing the
account altogether there and then and money would have quickly become
available but it was too late. We moved our account to Oulu Osuuspankki
where bank manager Erkki Haapasalo was a good friend of Velse.
Straightaway he gave us what was needed for the flat - we paid it
naturally back as soon as we received the money from Palmas.
Toivonsaari Knut or Kokka-setä (“tick-tock uncle”) as the
family called him - became ill with cancer at the age of 80 and he died
14th September 1975 and was buried a week later. I lived there until I
sold it in 1978 to a young couple called Niemisalo and I bought from Velse
a bedsitter in Hallituspuisto, the same building where they live. At first
it seemed that my things would not fit in there as we had had two rooms
and a kitchen full of furniture - but this flat is so nicely laid out that
it seemed as if there were 5 rooms and a kitchen though small: an alcove
bedroom, living room, eating area and a small kitchen.
view from the seventh floor towards the sea is magnificent. From there I
follow the ships always and “lead” them from the deep harbour to
Toppila. The bridges and my previous home are visible from there, too.
Otherwise I spend my time remembering and reading about a book a week. In
the same building lives an old good friend pharmacist Aino Viinikka who is
only a few months older than I. Together we go to the Senior's Club once a
week and once a month to the Oulu "selskapi" (
) meeting. When these clubs make trips to Hailuoto or Haukipudas or
even further we always go eagerly with them. We think about Oulu and Oulu
people as generally we both know the same people.
things I have written down: From
my Ainola memories I received a prize of 250 mk organised by the city
council and when I sang on tape an old sailor's song learnt from my father
I received a prize of 50 mk at the song contest organised by the Sailing
Club and Museum Society of Pohjois-Pohjanmaa (Ostrobothnia).
will tell here a little about my siblings as I remember:
finishing his Primary School Yrjö went to work at Snellman's hardware
store which was in Isokatu. He didn't stay there for long and went to
Rovaniemi to Auti's hardware store to work. When he returned from there he
worked for a time in Heikki's enterprise, then went to Lundberg's hardware
that later became Teräs and at the end to Oulu Osuuskauppa hardware
department, in all these as a salesman.
When the power station at Jumisko was being built he got a job as a
warehouse manager and fire chief. He died there with throat cancer on 20
March 1956 and "was buried in Oulu. The wake (memorial gathering
after funeral) was held at Heikki’s. Yrjö was married three times.
First was Jenni Mäkinen, nee Palosaari who was a widow and who had two
boys. One died young but the other, Väinö, died with scarlet fever that
he caught in the army. Jenni became ill herself and lived the rest of her
life in a mental hospital. She died in 1938. The next wife was Aino
was a waitress and Yrjö divorced her. Aino died also of cancer and in the
same year as Yrjö. The third wife was Toini Suihko who worked
in the office at Jumisko power sTätion, who still lives in Joensuu.
There were no children from any of these marriages.
Primary school Maija worked in Åstrom's shoe shop in Pallas. From there
she went to Oulun Osuuskauppa shoe department and was there till she
retired. Towards the end, at least for 10 years, she was the department
head. She lived at home with our mother till her death in 1946. As I said
before, first they lived in Hätälä house where they moved to a smaller
2-room home after we others had married. Then they moved to the Heinäpää
part of town to baker Järvinen's house, I think in Puistokatu, because
they got larger rooms, a kitchen and a sitting room as Yrjö also moved
back home when Jenni had to go to a hospital. From there they moved to
Asemakatu, the former Perttunen’s house, next to Loukkola's house,
opposite the Kajaanintulli school. There were 2 small rooms and a kitchen.
Yrjö moved away - having got married again - Mother and Maija moved to
the Osuuskauppa building opposite the Salvation Army in Pakkahuoneenkatu
with 2 rooms and a kitchen. That is where everything and all the mementos
were lost when Oulu was bombed on 21 February 1944. Mother was taken to
Haukipudas to her cousin Suutari where she remained till Maija got a 2
room flat from Osuuskauppa in Aleksanterinkatu, cornerways from the sports
centre. From there they again moved to a house owned by Osuuskauppa in the
corner of Kirkkokatu and Heinätorinkatu and where they had a kitchen and
a sitting room. I took them food there across the street when Maija had no
time to cook and mother was unable to do it. Later she had a carer, a
widowed lady. She took 500 mk a week and I paid it till mother died. After
that Maija moved to a small flat that was in the same building as the main
shop in Kansankatu 34 where she had just one room and a kitchenette. Then
she bought her own flat in the Suvantokatu building, 2 rooms and a
kitchenette, on the second floor. There she lived till she suffered a
stroke in 1968 and was at first in Diakonissa koti being looked
after. She returned home from there as an invalid and had to use a tripod
walker when moving around and to learn to write and sew with her left
hand. We tried to organise her care so that there was always someone
amongst us there during the day and at night e.g. a student nurse who
would get the other room for free just to live there and to help Maija in
the evenings and at night. If she had a day off I slept there so the nurse
could go home. But then Maija had another stroke and had to go to a
hospital for the rest of her life- at first to Kunnallis sairaala
(hospital) and then to a nursing home. At Kunnallis sairaala her stay was
difficult because all the time you were afraid she would be sent home as
one doctor did not understand that she could not manage just with the flat
alone when you could not get a carer full time and she was quite helpless.
told some things to this doctor and raised my voice and asked how he would
imagine we could take care of this situation. He suggested that together
we could look for a carer so I asked him how did he think this could be
organised for a private person when even hospitals could not find the
necessary nursing staff. He also suggested that all the relatives could
look after Maija so again I told him that all have their own jobs to do
and we who are at home - Anni and I - have our husbands with cancer to
look after and if Maija has to be looked after at home she would need by
current law 3 nurses - a day nurse, a night nurse and a lomittaja
(relieving nurse on days off or during holidays). I also said to him how
is it possible that a person who was born and grown, worked and paid taxes
cannot get a bed in a hospital when needing it. When he said that there
are hundreds of patients in the hospital queue I asked him if all those
hundreds would then fit into Maija's bed!
next day when I was sitting in the garden swing at the hospital - I went
to visit Maija every day - and was waiting for the opening of the surgery,
this doctor passed by and was so meek. Then the chief physician (head of a
hospital) tried to get Maija out of the hospital before Christmas and the
return there would have been very uncertain, but Velse phoned about the
situation and the situation was cleared up.
We always fetched Maija by ambulance to all our family gatherings -
for Christmas and Easter - but otherwise she had to be in hospital and in
full proper care. Her flat was furnished as before the whole time and a
lady lived there. Velse then talked to a good friend of his, a doctor who
was a nursing home doctor, if he could keep in mind Maija's situation if
there was going to be a vacant bed and so she was transferred there and
there was no fear of being evicted from there as the doctor said. She
celebrated her 75th birthday in the nursing home. Also while there she had
to have an amputation - the right foot was removed due to gangrene but she
couldn't endure that and died soon after on 26 June 1976.
a schoolboy Heikki worked in the summer in topparoikka.
the winter after primary school he went to high school where the principal
was Mauno Rosendal. Having finished 3 years there with excellent success
he thought he would have to leave to earn money to help mother as father
stayed still in America. So that's why he decided to leave high school and
moved to a commercial college. Principal Rosendal tried to prevent him
leaving as he was such a good pupil, but he in spite of that he went to
the college. And knowing from my commercial college experiences there,
too, he was a good pupil. After schooling he was in the Sidorow's
machinery firm as an office salesman. The firm (business) was in
Pakkahuoneenkatu where Helsingin Pankki building is nowadays. After
some time he set up his own enterprise - like an agency business – with
Yrjö and it was in Kosunen's house in Rantakatu. Yrjö was there only at
the very beginning. During World War 1 Heikki was chosen as a member of
the town's provisions (food stuffs) board. The chairman was manufacturer
remember that Heikki had to have oat porridge in the mornings before going
to work and he forced Maija and me to eat it, too. Heikki, like all of us,
gave Mother money from our wages so the family managed. In the War of
Independence Heikki was as a volunteer in front line command corps and
also took part in battles at Lempäälä and Tampere. To walk behind the
red flags did not agree with Mother's or Father's beliefs, though they
belonged to the working class, and so they never took part in any first of
May marches. Poor me once took part when director Karhi announced to all
that we had to go but never again after that. At that time I was only an
apprentice and when the sense grew in my head I wouldn't have gone even if
the War of Independence Heikki remained in the regular army service and
was promoted to sub-lieutenant or vänrikki. A delightful funny
story is told about that how in those days as ranks of officers were
distributed, when Heikki's papers were checked and discussed a higher
ranking officer had said that he has to be promoted as he comes from such
a grand and cultured
family!!! We have had more than enough good laughs about this story. Then
he served as a sub lieutenant in Finland's White Guards in the Lapua
battalion until he left for civilian life in 1920. Apparently he regretted
this decision for the rest of his life. In the later war he was promoted
civilian life he went back to Sidorow's machinery store, now as a
commercial traveller. I remember how he once rode on a horse to Hailuoto
dressed in Knut's half-fur coat that had been made of dog pelts and
covered with very good quality wool fabric. Then later again he had his
own business that represented Laboria. The office was at first in Isokatu
in the house of veterinarian Henriksson in the corner of Albertinkatu and
later always at home.
1925 Heikki married Anni Elisabet Poukkanen, born 8 June 1899 and died
14 January 1977.
Anni looked after the children of her sister Tilma Lidström.
She came from Kuru and belonged to a large
family of 14. Her mother was born a Polviander, descendant of well-known
Karl Gustav Polviander who was one model in the Ensign Stool tales. Tilma
Lidström was married to Swedish smallgoods manufacturer Magnus Lidström
and needed help with many of her children (7) and the children of her
husband's previous marriage (5) as a carer.
She asked her siblings one after the other to come to Oulu and thus
got a lot of cheap help, some in the smallgoods factory, some in household
first home of Heikki and Anni was in the house of builder Palo in
Kirkkokatu towards Heinäpää, the next house following Matila's house.
There they had a sitting room and a small
kitchen. Einari (Einar Henrik) was
born there 27 September 1925. From Palo's house they moved to Kaattari's
house (to the back of Kaattari!) in Rantakatu. The third home was in
Oulasvirta's house in Kauppurienkatu. Velse (Yrjö Valter) was born there
on 14 August 1927 and the firm's office was there, too. From Oulasvirta
they moved to Kananen's house where Teppa (Telma Elisabet) was born on 14
June 1929. The office followed them. The next home was in Pelberg's house
in Saaristonkatu next to Lipponen’s. There Tytti (Maija Helena) was born
on 27 December 1931. From this event I have an eternal memento. When the
birth was imminent I went with Teppa to slide toboggans so she would be
out of the way at home. The Council's toboggan slide that was close by had
been badly frozen so the toboggan began to go around suddenly and I hit my
right foot hard against the wall so that I saw stars (reikäleipiä)
in my eyes. I ground my teeth together and didn't shout so the child
wouldn't get frightened. When we got down Teppa asked if we could go down
again but I was in no state to do it again. I took Teppa home and
thankfully I had my scooter sledge (seat on runners propelled like a
scooter) so luckily I managed to get home to Hietasaari. Next day I was
supposed to have worked as a Saturday assistant at Osuuskauppa shop in
town but it didn’t happen. My foot was so swollen that I could not fit
any shoe on it. Nobody even thought of going to the doctor about it. So
the foot was allowed to get better on its own and now the result is
I showed my foot about 5 years ago to doctor Myllylä he said it should
have been operated on a lot earlier. "If you were 40 years younger I
would operate on it straight away but now it is too late”, so I told
him, "Where could I put those 40 years?" Nowadays I always use a
stick – “the stick-gentleman” (“keppiherraa”) - as an aid
when I walk and I cannot walk very long distances. When Heikki had his 60th birthday and received a silver topped walking
stick as a present from his work colleagues, I also went to congratulate
him. Heikki came to see me beautifully swinging his new stick like a lord
so I told him, "Stick without a gentleman and snout without the
pig"… Heikki laughed.
"Where does that girl remember all those things?” So nowadays I
say, "As I have no other man at least there is a stick gentleman”.
Pelberg Heikki and Anni moved to goldsmith Pettersson's house (nowadays
Pajari's house) in Kauppurienkatu. Reino (Reino Helmer) was born there on
8 November 1933. The office followed the family again to the new home.
That finished there though, as in that year Heikki applied for a position
as chief accountant in the city (town) council that had become vacant, so
he could not have his office any more.
World War II
the family moved again, this time near Heinäpää to Raisen’s house in
the corner of Heinätorinkatu and Torikatu. From there they moved
completely to the other side of town to Tuira and bought their own house
in 1936 on Etelätarhatie. After a time the house became too small and
when he came to a decision and made a contract with builder Pukinkorva
that he would build a one meter larger house in every direction on another
town plot so Heikki sold his house to railway official Yrjö Jäykkä in
August 1939 at the most unfavourable (disadvantageous) time. While waiting
for the building of the new house
the family had to live in a flat close to Bio Kuohu. But during that
autumn much happened: first the Second World War began and then our own
winter war. Heikki had to go to the front lines. He was a Lieutenant in
Muolas, Salmenkaita and Vuosalmi - in very hard (difficult) places though
he really belonged to the command post. His officer friend from that time
Doctor Hannes Heilala, MD, has written in his book "Vakoojan
armoilla" (At the mercy of a spy) recollections of those
days and Heikki Bäckström is mentioned there many times.
the same group of officers were also office manager Allan Uitto and
agronomist Matti Ytti and these four kept in close contact even after the
war, at least as long as Heikki lived. He was a captain then.
family of Heikki Bäckström now moved back to town to the third floor of
a building in the compound of Anni’s sister Tilma Lidström, where the
youngest Anna-Liisa was born on 14 December 1941. Heikki was still in the
Continuation War in Suomussalmi as the officer in charge of stores though
he was over aged. He was moved to civilian life from there. He looked
after his own job - chief accountant - and also affairs of the Ministry of
Supply in Oulu. They rationed everything
and gave food and clothing coupons to people.
Einari & Velse Bäckström
the end of war also Einari and Velse took part in it. Einari was wounded
on 20 July 1944 North East of Laatokka from a bullet shower of a machine
gun and even though having been cared for in the field hospital and
improved enough to be able to walk to the sotapesä or mess as he
wrote in his cards, he died in the Turku Provincial Hospital 12 August
1944. This hospital was then a military hospital and Einari had been moved
there in a pretty jolting hospital train so his bleeding was considerable
from it. Anni and Heikki had reached Turku the previous night to see their
son but Velse arrived too late. Einari was buried in Oulu in the hero
cemetery. His grave is just behind the big memorial.
the spring of 1944 Velse was called up into an air raid defence unit and
was also under German command and learned to handle anti aircraft guns.
When the war turned the other way, these air raid defence units had to
fire against their old companions-in-arms.
Anni & Heikki Bäckström
the war Anni and Heikki moved a few more times, first right opposite us in
Isokatu, a house owned by the city council at no 61. When Heikki retired,
again they moved to Tuira, Valtatie 45, where Heikki became ill in 1968.
Though the cancer was defeated he never really recovered from it but lived
his last days as a bed patient. Anni looked after him herself for Heikki
wouldn't have anyone else. Right at the last moments he was in the
Kunnallis sairaala hospital in the neurological ward and died there 29
Maija died in 1976 Anni moved to her flat that now belonged to Anna-Liisa
and Sinikka, Reino's wife. In the autumn 1976 she began to feel odd sorts
of pain in her stomach, though otherwise was especially bright and looked
after everything herself. In the hospital tests it was discovered she had
liver cancer that could not be operated on any more. She still did not
complain ever about severe pains though it would have been obvious she had
them. On 3rd January she went with Velse's and Anna-Liisa's families to
have a look at Anna-Liisa's new house in Rajakylä and wandered about
there quite peacefully. The next day Velse took her in the hospital and
after ten days she suddenly slept away peacefully.
Maija we both got pet names from Heikki's children - Maija was Täty
-obviously the children couldn't say täti (aunt).
I am Kokka-täti (tick-tock auntie) and Knut is Kokka-setä
(tick-tock uncle). That is due to the fact that Knut had a winding pocket
watch and by pressing a spring you could open and close the cover of the
watch. He had shown it to the boys and said "klocka" as he
himself was bilingual (Swedish). The boys had to blow on the watch very
hard and - amazingly - the lid of the watch sprung open. Knut himself, of
course, pressed the spring. Pure Finnish boys couldn't understand that
word klocka so they twisted it to kokka and so Kokka-setä
and Kokka-täti were born. I am known by this name everywhere and
many strangers don't even know my real name and look in the telephone
directory for something like Kokkala or so.
Heikki & Anni’s children
remember some things about the lives of Heikki's and Anni's children,
Teppa was born, Heikki brought the big boys, Einari and Velse – or as
they were called then Poju and Velu - to Täty and her mother that night.
When the boys had slept the night there, in the morning Father came to
pick them up and told them that a little sister had been born in the
evening Both boys had their pyjamas under their arms and holding father's
hand they went to see their sister. They were fairly yksituumainen
quiet and not-saying-much type of boys even when older. When Täty was on
holidays they came to play in the Hätälä yard as there were playmates
always had a dog when he went hunting- a lovely placid dog with the
children. We could never understand or find the pocket behind the dog’s
ear where he kept the sweets. Kokka-setä tried to show the
children how to pat the back of the ear and gently dig into the pocket
where the lollies were but try as they might they couldn’t find if, yet Kokka-setä
always did and found lots of sweets for the children there and they were
Sundays when the weather was nice and warm they all came to Hietasaari.
There they could eat red- and black currants from the bushes, run around
and go on the swings. Time for them went quickly there and they went home
and Tytti were good little girls and very pleasant. They were always so
happy when Täty and I visited them on a Sunday and took a big bucket of
ice-cream to them. They didn't get it very often but when we went, oh what
Christmas was getting closer the girls had some business with us. One came
to whisper in Täty's ear what they would like for Christmas and the other
came to my ear to do the same, that they wanted a doll that closes its
eyes. So we bought one each, one had a pink silk dress and brown hair (for
Tytti) and the other had a pale blue dress with fair hair (for Teppa). How
very thrilled they were to receive such beautiful dolls. We also bought
some other things for the boys as well as the girls, nor did we forget
either. (Telma’s note: these were about the first kind of new dolls on
the market and we had only heard that such were available.). Another
Christmas we bought a doll's pram for the girls to share. It was pretty
but rather expensive. They took turns to push the pram and so the dolls
had a ride in it.
summer Sunday Mother, Täty, Einari, Velse and I went to Haukipudas. We
went in the Tauriainen taxi. Haukipudas' church caretaker, Erkki Erkkilä's
wife Liisa was Mother's cousin and we stayed there till the afternoon.
Then we went to Jokikylä to Vanttila's house where head of the house
Jaako was also Mother's cousin. There time went so quickly. As the house
was close to the river the boys had a great time.
We ate inside and for dessert there was sweet cheese that was
excellent, but the boys had never tasted it so they didn't want it. It is
the festive food of the country people in Ostrobothnia and you use a lot
of milk in making it. Mother had to tell the lady of the house, Liisa that
the boys could not eat it because they had not got used to that sort of
food. Tauriainen was with us the whole day and ate a lot and liked the
sweet cheese. When evening was drawing closer we drove back to Oulu.
Heikki lived in Tuira then and was meeting us at a specified place to take
the boys home and we continued to ours.
Einari was in Heinätori school in his first year, one day after the
recess he could not find his class line where he was supposed to have
gone. So he ran home quickly as it was close by at Raisen's house and told
his mother that he had not found his line. So when his mother came with
him together they found the line and Einari continued his schooling.
Täty we always bought together whatever Heikki's and Anni's children ever
wanted or needed, and they have always remembered that and are so caring
about me, too, as I am alone now from the whole family. I have no problems
as long as I can be healthy.
As an Ainola
am an old Ainola pupil and here I try to remember what it was like then. I
was born in 1898 and I was four years old when I started my
"schooling" Ainola school began in the gate cottage that was
close to the bridge. It was small and, as I remember it, had two rooms
only. They were already building a childcare centre at Kiikkusaari where I
got into with my sister about a year later. They took to this
“school" mainly children of Åstrom workers. My father was working
there and mother was a former Åstrom maid. Father and Mother had even
lived in a house owned by Åstrom, that white two storey building that
later became the gardener's dwelling. My brother Heikki was born there.
When they lived there Heikki was in ill health and they had to call a
doctor in. His name was Moberg and he had said that where a flower does
not grow that is where a child will not thrive and mother had noticed that
the flowers did not grow either very well. Perhaps it was too moist.
Father and Mother bought a cottage at Kurkela beach and that is where I
was born, so I did not go to school from the next-door house.
front of the gate cottage was Kallinen stream, which was a very dangerous
place, but the stream was fenced so you couldn't get near it and so the
parents did not have that worry. As the gate cottage was so small there
was not much food preparation, so we took our own with us. The gate was
always closed so the teacher let us in. There wasn't much yard to play in
only some green lawn and paths that were well looked after.
big Ainola where we moved to in a year's time there was more yard and
though it had a green lawn we were allowed to play there in good weather.
This big kindergarten had an entrance hall, a large kitchen, then a room
where the children hung their coats on coat racks, the teachers' room, and
a large living room (pirtti), where huge logs were burning in the
fireplace and so it was warm.
the living room stairs went up to the next floor where two teachers were
living. There were six sections (classes) and the same number of teachers.
The principal was Hanna Åstrom who had it built and owned it - this
beautiful kindergarten. Other teachers were Miss Snellman, Miss Borg, Miss
Rosendal, Miss Frede and Miss Anthoni. With these teachers we learnt to
sing and were kept busy and we also played and sat on the floor and
everyone enjoyed it. These are a few of the songs we learned that I still
a little sweety thing a friend to all people is....
the little sitting room below a cherry tree, next to the red gate
Olli’s mother has allowed him to go and play in the woods....
loo now far takes the way of the shepherd....
I want to be the builder of a little cottage....
the big kindergarten they also served food and as a cook was auntie Löfgren
who had a daughter called Irene. This auntie was very happy and good so
all children liked her. Food was good - porridge, gruel, meat soup - and
everyone was full after a meal.
Christmas was nearing we learnt Christmas songs and made Christmas
decorations. When Christmas arrived a big and tall Christmas tree was
brought into the living room. The fire burnt in the fireplace and fathers
and mothers sat on benches and chairs and the children on the floor around
the Christmas tree. Santa
Claus came and he brought such joy; we sang and the brownies/elves (tonttu)
played and gave each child a packet that had gingerbread (piparkakku)
and a bun Santa (pullapukki) in it. Then we sang again and the
Christmas celebration (juhla) was over. Everyone had a great time.
Shrovetide arrived again it was a busy time. Six horses took in their
sleigh a teacher and her pupils each and we drove to Kastelli rack (häkki)
and back again.
the kindergarten hot milk and buns (pulla) were waiting for us. For
many a child it was a wonderful kindergarten with such a warm atmosphere.
Sometimes we went with the teacher to Åstrom's villa, the
"gingerbread house", but only downstairs so we had been there
and were also given something to eat there.
Ainola they also had mothers' evenings once a week. There they sewed and
knitted because there were so many children who needed warm socks and
clothes. That was a good thing to do and all this came about due to the Åstroms.
the Ainola teacher, this Miss Åstrom went on a trip so she always sent a
postcard to each child. I have still got a card where she says "greetings
to Annu from Ainola teacher". When she turned 50 there still were
a few of us that had been her pupils and we remembered her on her
memorable day. When she died we sent her family a telegram of sympathy and
her husband sent a thank you card that is still in my safe keeping.
1939 we old Ainola pupils founded an Ainola Mothers' Club and others also
joined it. For many decades we did handicrafts and held sales or fetes
with money from which we bought more play equipment and toys for the
children. It is not a small amount of money or work that we did for the
Even now after many
decades I remember and think of the childhood time with great warmth. I
don't think there are many of us adults from that time living any more. We
have left a tradition with a very thankful heart.