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Kokkatäti's Remembrances of Bygone Times


(Oral history transcribed by Maija-Liisa Bäckström
and translated by Telma Martin)

The author, Anna Fält, nee Bäckström, was born in 1898 
and died in 1990 in Oulu, Finland.

Here I intend to tell memories of my childhood and youth. I am the eldest living member of my “clan”.

Heikki August Bäckström & Anna Priita Annala

My 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.

It 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.

Again 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.

Often 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”.

At 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.

Father 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.

When 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.

I 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.

Many 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 not have.”

From 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.

These 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.

To 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.

From 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.

On 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.

The 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.

Once 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 unpleasantly done.

From 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.

From the Hätälä family I know their birth and death dates:

Father - Abraham Hätälä                                         b. 1865           d. 2.10.1906

Mother - Anna-Liisa Hätälä                                   b. 1861         d. 20.11.1922

*Postal worker Anna Dagmar                                b. 1891         d. 14.12.1950

*SOK bank cashier Elin IdaAugusta                       b. 1893           d. 19.2.1968

*Bank clerk Helga Susanna                       b. 1895

*Bank clerk Salli Albertina                                    b. 1898,
married rovasti/dean, minister in charge of a large parish, Väinö Laitinen

At 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.

Hätälä’s 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.

We 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.

Yrjö 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.

On 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.

Heikki 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.

In 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.

Martti 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.

The 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.

The 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.

When 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.

In 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.

When 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.

After 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." …..

With 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.


Early Oulu

The 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.

The 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 then too.

Otherwise 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.

In 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.

When 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.

Everyone 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.

Sometimes 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.

About 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 water.

The 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.


Anna Fält (nee Bäckström)

Already 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.

After 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”.

Before 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 cathedral (Tuomiokirkko).

I 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 such hurry.”

When 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.

On 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 with them.

The 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.

Then 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.

We 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.

When 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.

In 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.

Then 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 like this:

"Miss Anna 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”.

I 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.

Finnish Civil War

In 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 the window.

One 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 barracks.

From 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.

The 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 saying,

 “We notify you that you have been chosen as a sales person at our shop and you can start straightaway.

Respectfully, Osuusliike Arina r.l. Y.W. Jarvinen. Oulu 11 March 1918.”

I 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.

From 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 regretted that.

From 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 Piipponen.

In 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.

In Oulu the workmates were nice, Betti always says when we see each other that she remembers me with warmth.

In 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.

We 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.

We 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.

September 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 Sevander.”

I 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.

We 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.

Things 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,

When 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.

After 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.

Still 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.

In 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.

The 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.

Some 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).


I will tell here a little about my siblings as I remember:

Yrjö Bäckström

After 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 Piirainen.

She 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.

After 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.

When 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.

I 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!

The 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.

Heikki Bäckström

As a schoolboy Heikki worked in the summer in topparoikka.

In 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 Tuomainen.

I 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 pulled there.

After 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 to captain.

In 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.

In 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 duties.

The 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 visible.

When 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”.

From 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

Soon 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.

In 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.

The 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

Towards 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.

In 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

After 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 July 1973.

When 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.

With 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

I remember some things about the lives of Heikki's and Anni's children,

When 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 like Maija-Liisa.

Kokka-setä 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 happy.

On 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 at night.

Telma 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 joy!

When 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 mother and

father 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.

One 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.

When 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.

With 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.

Recollections on Ainola school

As an Ainola kindergarten pupil

I 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.

In 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.

In 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.

From 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 remember:

Lamb a little sweety thing a friend to all people is....

In the little sitting room below a cherry tree, next to the red gate

Little Olli’s mother has allowed him to go and play in the woods....

Truulah loo now far takes the way of the shepherd....

Now I want to be the builder of a little cottage....

In 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.

When 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.

When 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.

In 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.

In 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.

When 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.

In 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 children.

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.

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