Monday, March 2, 2015

Kathryn in America: Life in Duluth

Duluth – 1925

Location of Duluth, MN

We came to Duluth and we rented a large room on the 3rd floor of 124 W. 3rd St. where we lived the winter. Ike found work with a collection agency and I tried waiting on table at a couple of Greek restaurants. I also was counter girl at Miller’s Cafeteria. In the spring of 1926 Ike began selling to stores for the Brach Candy Co. of Chicago – his territory was upper Minn., Wis., and parts of Michigan. He built up the territory, calling on all Co-ops etc. by sheer Finnish “risu” and long hours and the product was good. Those were “depression days” and candy was a luxury – so his initial earnings were not much. Strictly commissions. In the meanwhile I had rented a “cold water flat” at 25 E. 3rd St. and bought the few pieces of necessary furniture. Ike always left such decisions and purchases to me. He said, “Your eyes are as big as mine, you know what we can afford and what we can’t.” By “cold water flat” is meant exactly that. There was no bathroom (just a toilet) we heated with a coal stove and coal and wood stove in the kitchen, plus a gas stove – apartment size. Rent average $11-$20 per month. At that time we heated the water on the stove in a copper boiler, for washing clothes, which I did on a washboard, two galvanized tubs on a wooden wringer stand. Fels Naptha yellow laundry bar soap. White clothes were boiled in the boiler – and everything dried outside – or in rainy weather I strung lies up in the kitchen! I liked washing clothes and taking pride in getting them clean. For baths, we went once a week to public saunas on S. 1st Ave. E. (We always took plenty of brown wrapping paper to walk and sit on.) No plastics yet then. We had no telephone, no radio – so I read a lot, getting books from the Library.

Ike was away much, so I rented the other bedroom to Mae Huikkenen (Nummi) and Linda Peterson (Eskeli.) They worked on S. 1st Ave. E. and Michigan St. in Finnish restaurants. We had fun, once we even had jobs “breaking eggs” at the Cold Storage Plant – near where Jeno’s in now.

Eggs were separated (yolks from whites) and frozen, to be sold to large bakeries. One had to smell them so that no bad ones were mixed with the good.

So, life went on, and we decided to start a “family” of our own. On July 18, 1928, we had our first son. He was born in St Mary’s Hospital in Superior, Wis. Dr. Sincock officiating at the birth. Somehow, I knew it was going to be a slow process – so we even stopped in Superior on our way to the hospital to watch a parade in which two Presidents rode, Coolidge and Hoover. They were fishing on the Brule R. at the Pierce estate. That was a Big Time in Brule, everything was newly painted, etc. Jim was born after three days – I won’t go into details – but I have thanked the Creator for saving him from birth defects. He was baptized, along with his cousin, Helen, who had been born in Jan. Jonas Ojala did the honors. He had “confirmed” both Ike and me.

That Fall, Ike’s father and mother had decided they were becoming too old to farm. So, a deal was made, as they had two sons and a daughter, all married. My father-in-law’s name was Isaac Uusimaa and his wife was Maria Elizabeth (Leinonen.) He had “homesteaded” 160 acres of wild forest in Oulu, Wis. Four “forties.” One, he had sold to Sakri Konu.

So, a deal was made where the old folks would spend four months of each year with each child – the oldest son, Eino (and his wife Saina) remaining on the old home place. He paid $1000 to his sister Elaine and to his brother Ike – as he got all the buildings, livestock, machinery, etc. Also, the other two forties were given to Ike and Elaine. In return the children agreed to give full support to their parents for the remainder of their lives. The summer months they spent in Oulu, June, July, August, and September. Then, to their daughter’s in Superior until February when they came to Duluth to stay again until the end of May. (In town the “bathroom” was indoors.)

That worked out very well as the old folks never became helpless. Grandma Uusimaa was a very industrious and clean little woman, very religious and always had a knitting or patching work in her hand. She took care of Grandpa Uusimaa, who had very stiff legs and used one or two canes. Also, she kept their own room clean and liked to do the dishes. Grandpa liked to read and without glasses! He said glasses were only “vanity.” He read and re-read all the Finnish books, which I would get for him from the Duluth Public Library and also the Finnish paper. He was a great talker, grandma, again was quiet – she always said that “Sin was not far away when talking too much!”

That’s how Jim learned to talk Finnish, talking with his grandparents in their own language. They adored him.

Grandma Uusimaa died in our home in March of 1937 of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in Oulu, Wis. in the old Pioneer Cemetery (now called Oulu Lutheran.) They had been married 49 years that month.

Grandpa died in his old home in Oulu, July 18, 1939, as he had always wished. He was then about 87 years old, grandma was 83.

They had married at not too young an age, so they were only survived by their 3 children and their wives, Elaine and Robert Alto had 4 children, Mary Elizabeth, Arthur (the oldest) Helen and Raymond. We had only Jim – named also for his dad and grandfather (Isaac.) Eino and Saima had no children.

In March 1931 we were expecting another baby. But, it was not to be. The birth was more difficult than my first in 1928. The doctor told Ike that he could not save both, Ike had to make the choice. So we lost a little boy, who we intended to name Richard William. That was the first time I saw my husband cry bitterly, as we were told to get any future children from an orphan’s home. So our only son became very precious to us.

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