By Tucker Henderson
Special to the Dispatch
Time is a funny thing, it really is. History is highly defined by time. Ages and eras are constrained to certain dates, circumstances, and people. My last history professor detested learning about dates in history class during his formative years, so he doesn’t teach them. The definition of history that we used for his class was “the memory of things said and done.” I think this is a good way to make history more palatable to the average college student, but I do think that the passing of time can give interesting insights into our past as well.
Many of you have noticed that I haven’t had a history article in the Dispatch for well over a month. I have been making some of my own history working at Salolampi: the Finnish Language Village north of Bemidji for five weeks. Time passes so strangely there. Five weeks went by in an instant, but that instant lasted eons. It surprised me how much history can be made in such a short amount of time. Did you know that you can make lifelong friends in only four weeks? I watched it happen this summer.
I’m sure by now you’re wondering what in the world this has to do with how City Hall in New York Mills was built, or why there’s a street named “Doc Hanson,” or why one of the predecessors to Lund Mania was called “Kesä Juhla”. Well, quite a lot actually. City Hall was built in 1939 by the W.P.A., an organization that paid workers to create public infrastructure during the lean times in the first half of the century. They also installed the first water and sewer systems in the ‘30s while they were active.
Doc Hanson Street is named after Everett C. Hanson, a longtime doctor in our vicinity. He actually served four generations of my family. He was a new doctor in 1932 when my great great grandfather, Oscar Piippo, died at the Wesley Hospital in Wadena. He was the family physician for Oscar’s son, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His tools are displayed at the Sanford Clinic on Centennial 84 Drive along with a framed photo of him donated by the family of W. J. Perala. Mrs. Perala had been a midwife for him for a number of years.
Kesä Juhla in Finnish means “Summer Celebration” which was one of New York Mill’s summer festivals. This was preceded by the Pickle Festival and the earlier Juhannusjuhla celebrated by Finnish immigrants. These festivals drew large crowds over the years and have shaped current traditions and memories. Lund Mania is similar to Pickle Festival in the fact that they are and were both sponsored by large industries in town. Theissen Pickle Company sponsored the Pickle Festival in the ‘40s and ‘50s when business was booming after World War II. Juhannusjuhla and Kesa Juhla were both ethnic festivals sponsored by the local Finnish American population.
Who knows what New York Mills will look like in the future? Will we stay a small town or perhaps grow to a larger city? Maybe Perham will absorb us and we will become a suburb. Many of those of us who love everything rural shudder at the thought. Of course IF these events happen they will be far into the future. Only time will tell…