Friday, May 3, 2013

Finns in Michigan Goes to Delta County

I just came back from giving a talk about the book Finns in Michigan to folks at the Delta County Historical Society. The members of the historical society were nice enough to invite me to their annual dinner meeting, and I presented to a group of about 70 or so on the unique history of the Finns in Michigan. The people asked great questions during the presentation, the dinner was amazing, and the location was incredible. The talk was held at Gladstone's famous Terrance Bay Inn right on Lake Michigan.

I'm always amazed at the "legs" Finns in Michigan has, it just keeps going--through no work of my own, admittedly.

Delta County is a great place to talk about the Finns in Michigan, primarily for one reason--Rock or Maple Ridge Township. The Rock Hall, owned at one time by Finns associated with the Industrial Workers of the World or "Wobblies," is one of the best examples of a rural social hall, and a physical link with the incredible history of organizational activity in the Finnish immigrant population. In its heyday Rock, and the Maple Ridge area, was alive with the sound of working-class activism and politics, and the Maple Ridge Workers Hall (as it was known) and the community's co-op were seats of great community pride and ideology in action.

I also had the chance to talk about oral history work I did with Escanaba resident Vienna Laine. Vienna is a treasure in the Finnish American community, and had donated a wealth of materials on Finnish American legend Viola Turpeinen to the Finnish American Historical Archive and Museum. Vienna has an incredible mind and shared great memories of growing up in area logging camps, recalled stories she had heard about Michigan and Florida Finns, and had a number of museum pieces that added to the cultural history of Finns and their deep connection to music, specifically polka or accordion music.

It was truly a pleasure to talk with the folks of the Delta County Historical Society.

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