The period between 1905 and the first World War was a time of turmoil also in Ruokolahti, where August Hartikainen lived with his family and from where he went to work at the cellulose factory (Vuoksenniskan tehtaat) located in the neighboring community. There were strikes and long periods of unemployment, and the Hartikainen family, who already had three boys born between 1904 and 1907, could not easily tolerate any break in continuous income.
The economic situation was very difficult, but the family owned the small house in which they lived. They managed somehow to survive with the irregular income of August and with the potatoes and other vegetables that his wife Lydia, like all women in the countryside, grew during the summers. Despite their difficulties, they had not given up hope of still having a little girl. They seemed to get their wish in 1911 when Lydia became pregnant after an interval of four years. The pregnancy was difficult and Lydia was ill most of the time, not only because of the child she was expecting, but also because of other illnesses, probably caused by poor nutrition available to her. The needs of an expectant mother were understood at that time, but a poor family could not provide for all her and her baby’s requirements. When she was some seven months pregnant, she became very ill with bronchitis and started to have labor pains. The midwife of the village was called to the house and with her competent help, Lydia soon started to deliver, and gave birth to a very pre-mature girl of about 1.5 kg (less than four pounds). Nobody believed that she would survive.
Lydia was ill for long time, remaining in bed for several months. The little girl was christened as “Aino” immediately at birth, because she was expected to die. Aino is an old Finnish name, already mentioned in the national epos Kalevala (that is as old as the American Hiawatha), and in Finnish it could mean “the only one,” although nobody thinks of the meaning when it is a name. But she did not die; she struggled to breath, she struggled to nurse, and very early when the mother’s milk became too scarce because of her illness, she struggled to digest other milk and soon also other nourishment. Many a time her father, awake at nights and listening to her little girl, thought that she had stopped breathing. But Aino continued her struggle against all the odds and survived. In a few months’ time she was like any other baby, only smaller.
Small she was but full of life. She was cherished and pampered like the youngest child will always be, especially if she is a girl among several older brothers. Those years were very difficult for the working class in Finland in many ways. First there were strikes and disturbances in Finland that wanted to have independence from Russia. Then Russia entered the First World War, which followed by a revolution and Civil War in Russia. Unemployment struck the Hartikainen family often, and during these periods there was not enough food on the table. However, everybody tried to make sure that Aino had some.
Aino played with her brothers, and they made sure that nothing bad happened to her. But she did not become a tomboy, because there were many girls in the neighborhood at Kuusansaari island, in the center of the Ruokolahti Church Village where they lived. And there was the mother, Lydia, who was eager to teach her only daughter everything that she knew about keeping a household, everything she had learned from her mother, and what she had learned from practice and other women in the neighborhood. Early on Aino became quite knowledgeable about everything that women did in a poor household, from mending socks to preparing nourishing food from few ingredients.
The political scene in Finland turned ugly when Aino was only seven years old. The division of the population, the workers and smallholder farmers on the one hand and the better-off, more educated people and larger farmers on the other hand, formed their militias, the Reds and the Whites, and both groups wanted to take over power in Finland when Russia had its internal troubles. Although Aino’s father’s sympathies were on the side of the Reds, he did not actively participate in the Civil War that followed in 1918 immediately after Finland had declared independence from Russia. August belonged to a trade union, and he had often suffered from unemployment because of his loyalties to his fellow workers, but he was not so committed to the cause that he would have joined the army of the Reds and looked for a chance to fight. Aino’s brothers were fortunately too young, between 11 and 14 years of age, to participate actively in the war, although Aukusti Junior helped the Reds in one way or another, probably as a courier.
But Aino, already seven years old at that time, always remembered the scare and terror that the family experienced when the Whites passed through the village and carried out house-to-house searches, looking for Red warriors. Her father was arrested too, although he had not participated in any actions of war. Aino and the whole family were dreadfully scared for him, because they heard about the atrocities that the Whites had done in the neighboring towns. The civil wars seem to be the ugliest wars there are, and the one in Finland in 1918 was no exception. Both sides killed innocent people with little or no reason, and the stories circulating about the other warring party’s cruelties inflamed the other party to do the same or worse. However, August Hartikainen was released after some tough interrogation, but Aino never forgot those times. Her sympathies for the Reds and their socialist cause were set for life.
The Civil War took place during the year when Aino would have started her schooling. However, surprisingly soon after the war, only a couple of months after it ended, schools started operating quite normally, and Aino was able to go there, too. How exited she was and how she was eager to learn! She already knew how to read and write; her older brothers and her own eagerness to do what they did had taken care of that. But there was so much else to learn.
Aino was the smallest girl in her class but not the slowest. She was full of energy, “pieni mutta pippurinen” (“small but full of pepper”), as she used to say. She was known for that quality throughout her life: she was eager to observe and participate and not be left behind because of her small size. In no time her teachers noticed these qualities. And they noticed that she was clever, too, clearly the best in her class. When she finished her six years of primary education, she was the valedictorian by a wide margin, with almost all grades, except for sports, rated as 10 (A+). As Aino mentioned later, the headmaster had told that he could not remember anybody having received as good a certificate from him.
It was no wonder that the headmaster recommended that Aino be allowed to continue her education and be sent to secondary and high school. The father August would have liked to offer this opportunity to her beloved daughter, but the mother Lydia was more traditional, and possibly rational: girls did not need any more education than Aino already had. Even if they wanted to give her more education, where would the money have come from? The schools were expensive, the Hartikainen family was very poor, and only the rich people could afford schooling for their children in those times. And even then, they very seldom sent their daughters to receive higher education. (How surprised would Lydia have been, if she knew that already in the 1980s, 70 years later, there were more girls than boys graduating from high schools in Finland, and that the majority of university students were girls!) While August would have liked to give the best he could to his still small-sized daughter, he had to agree that thee family did not have the money needed for sending Aino to a boarding school, or even to live with somebody else to go to school in the nearby town. So, the idea of Aino’s further education had to be dropped. For Aino it was sad, because she had already had dreams about the school and she wanted to learn more. The lesson from this experience for her was that she developed a positive attitude toward education as a stepping stone for better life, an attitude that she held the rest of her life. That attitude was very important when she had her own children and fought for their education years later.
A lively and extrovert girl as Aino was, she made a lot of friends in Ruokolahti. She met some of them later in Helsinki, but most of them stayed in Ruokolahti. One friend was the neighbor’s son, Iivari, with whom she played a lot when she was in the pre-school age. His second name was Hikipää, and years later whenever Aino mentioned the name Iivari Hikipää, her sons always had a good laugh; Hikipää had a clear meaning, and could be translated as “Sweat Head.” For Aino the name was not funny at all; she was used to it from her childhood and for her it was just a name like any other name. But she realized the reason for her sons’ laughs and used these occasions to repeat one of the Finnish proverbs: “Nimi ei miestä pahenna, jos mies ei nimeä” (“the man’s name does not make him worse if the man does not make his name bad”).
Aino was very good with these sayings and proverbs and knew hundreds of them. Many of them she had learned from her own parents and they came from Savo from where the parents originated. But as a girl with an excellent memory she also learned the schoolbooks well and they contained a lot more of the proverbs. She used to say these to her sons in different life situations, and they still echoed in her sons’ heads decades after she had died. This was the kind of national inheritance that all nations have and that has been transferred from generation to generation for ages. While there are similarities between nations, each always has its own peculiarities depending on the conditions. In Finland, many proverbs and sayings come from the forest, game and hunting, as well as from the agrarian lifestyle that the Finnish people had followed for millenniums. A good example is: “Ei oravanpoika kauas puusta putoa,” which could be translated as “the baby squirrel does not fall far from the home tree,” meaning that children resemble their parents.
Among the other friends that Aino made, one was probably closer than the others. She was Hilja, of the same age as Aino and almost equally petite. They played when they were small and they remained friends when they attended school together.
While growing up, these two friends planned their future, read books, and dreamed about their life in adulthood, although adulthood had still some time to come. After they finished school at the age of 14, they were expected to stay at home and help their mothers, or go to work for some other family, like other girls in the working class to which their parents belonged. Aino stayed at home, because there was enough work for both her mother and Aino in looking after the father and the family’s three sons who now all worked in the nearby factory. Hilja’s family was smaller and she found work as a maid [“piika”] in a bigger house nearby. When the girls were young, they knew that this was all they could do, but soon they had bigger plans: together they would go to Helsinki, which sounded so exciting from the papers and magazines they read and the stories they heard from others who had been there.
This was exactly what the girls did when they were 17 and their parents finally gave permission for them to go. There simply was not suitable work available for girls in their late teens in Ruokolahti in 1928. Aino and Hilja each had a small suitcase in hand when they arrived in Helsinki. These suitcases contained all that they owned, besides the clothes that they were wearing. They had contacted some older friends from school, who had moved to Helsinki earlier, and they were able to stay with these friends the first few nights when looking for jobs.
Soon after Aino and Hilja arrived in Helsinki, the first worldwide economic slump of the 20th century started. However, it did not hit Finland quite as badly as for instance the USA. The stock market, while it already existed in Finland, was not as important, and the disasters that its fall had created were not as great. The fall did not result in many suicides as it did in the USA, but the economy suffered for several years. In any event, the labor market in the late 1920s and early 1930s did not offer unskilled young girls from the countryside (“lande” as the Helsinki-born said) anything else than jobs as house servants or as childcares. These jobs were usually combined, and they were the jobs that the newcomers Aino and Hilja first got in Helsinki.
Aino served in a couple of short-term jobs first, but then her latest family recommended her to a Swedish-speaking family with the name Gustafson, and they employed her. The Gustafsons belonged to the old wealthy families in Finland. It was somehow more prestigious to serve them than the middle-class people with whom most of the girls in Aino’s position were. The husband of the family had a job in the small Finnish navy; he was Commander Gustafson to Aino and even his wife called him by that name. (Incidentally, Aino’s own son checked the yearbooks of the navy some 35 years later when he himself was serving in the navy, and, indeed, there was a Gustafson there, with a final rank of Navy Captain.) The wife, also from the “older families,” was a sophisticated woman, used to doing nothing at home, letting the servants look after the household, even after the children. The children, two small boys, were completely spoiled and had become terrors to the nannies, who did not dare to discipline them. The family had constantly lost their servants because of the wife’s disinterest in the house work and because of the boys’ rowdiness.
Immediately when Aino arrived in the house, the boys tried their best to also put her “in her place.” Aino, however, had received full authority from the “madam” to take care of the boys. That authority included insisting that they behave as decent children should. Aino had at home dealt with her older brothers, and she had seen at home and school, how parents and teachers developed authority. She did not give in to the whims of the two boys, but was firm with them; probably it was the first time in their short lives that somebody refused them to do the things as they pleased. They were very upset at first and ran to their mother and father, but somehow Aino had received the parents’ trust immediately when coming to the house. Also, the parents were tired of losing the servants constantly because of the boys, and they told Aino just to continue to be firm with the boys. Physical disciplining by a servant was not allowed, of course, but by being firm and explaining things to the boys, Aino gradually gained their respect and they started behaving well. They probably became good citizens for Finland, demanding in turn that their children learn the limits beyond which they cannot go in their behavior.
Looking after the children was only one of Aino’s tasks in the family. She was the only servant in the household and had to do everything from cooking and serving the dinners to cleaning the large apartment where the Gustafsons and she lived. Gradually Aino gained the family’s confidence in every respect, so much so that they even gave her the housekeeping money and let her do the shopping.
The salary was very small, but the room and food was included in the benefits. The salary allowed Aino to save small amounts and buy clothes and other inexpensive things for herself. The working hours for the household servants were long in those days. Aino worked from early morning until the dinner was served and the dishes washed, with a break after the lunch, if the children were taking their daytime nap. Half of Sunday was free, and in addition Aino could take one evening off each week. This she arranged for Friday nights, the night when her best friend Hilja was also free. Occasionally the girls were able to change the free night to Saturday and go to dances with their other friends at the “Työväentalo” (Hall of the labor movement). Aino did not make any permanent friendships with men there, but Hilja found a pleasant man, whose last name was Kapanen and who later became her husband.
The Gustafson boys grew and in a few years they did not need any more looking after. Aino had learned to love the boys as they had learned to love her. When Aino finally left the family, everybody cried. But Aino felt that it was time for her, at 23, to do other things in life than being a house servant.
Some time earlier Hilja had started to work in a clothing factory, and that was also where Aino got a job. The work was hard there, too, with long hours and a small salary. However, it allowed a thrifty girl to eat and buy the small necessities she needed, when she shared an apartment with Hilja and a couple of other girls. After a while, when Aino had learned the routine of clothes-making well, she heard from a friend about another possibility that sounded more exciting. That was a job as a trainee in a hairdresser and barbershop, and that was where she went. In the year she spent there, she learned the essentials of barbering and hairdressing, skills that served her later in her life.
In early 1936 when Aino was 25 years old, she received a worrisome letter from home. Her mother was seriously ill. Aino felt that she had to go home. Her mother Lydia had first been struck by a cough, which developed into bronchitis and then pneumonia. Antibiotics had not been developed at that time, and as Lydia was seriously ill, she was unable to look after herself, let alone the home and her husband, who had to work. It was not a good time for Aino to leave Helsinki, because she was in the process of learning her new occupation. But as the only girl of the family and because she loved her mother, she felt that she owed it to her mother and farther to look after them when they needed her. Leaving Helsinki otherwise was not as difficult as one might have expected. She had few friends but no man in her life. The friend who was really difficult to leave was Hilja, but she was now married to Mr. Kapanen and had not as much time for Aino as earlier. At Aino’s parting, they promised to write and remain friends until death. As odd things happen in the life, they met again years later in Helsinki and really remained friends all their lives.
In Ruokolahti, Aino took the household under her control. The boys had already married and moved away, but her mother needed intensive care by somebody, and also her father seemed helpless without his wife looking after him and the home. With good care, rest, and the medication that the local doctor provided, Lydia’s condition gradually improved, and in a couple of months she was able to get out of the bed and gradually also do housework. Aino was free to return to Helsinki.
By now she was no more sure that she would again like to leave her home and the friends with whom she had re-developed ties. Then it happened that the local barbershop/hairdresser needed an assistant, and as Aino had already started practicing in that occupation in Helsinki, she got the job. She could stay home!
Her life was typical for the girls of that time. Very few young girls stayed home, except in larger farmhouses. They worked outside the home, usually in some service occupations, but in Ruokolahti also at the paper and cellulose factory of Kaukopää. All the girls who found work near their homes lived with their parents until they married; they did not even try to get their own apartments or rooms outside the home. That was not done in society at that time, and their meager income would not have allowed it anyway. Also, by staying home they could contribute to their family’s income.
Aino followed the usual pattern; she lived at home and worked, listened to the radio in the evenings, and met her neighbors and girlfriends. Aino, like most of the girls waited for Saturdays, which not only started the weekend (the barbershop was open until 6 p.m.), but it also was the day when dances were held at the Ruokolahti dance hall. Dances were the main entertainment for young people at that time, and, of course, it was the place where to meet other young people. Aino had always loved to dance. She knew all the dances common at that time, including the novelty of the 1930s, the Jitterbug. She had plenty of partners on the dance floor. She had a haircut that was fashionable and she also bent her back from the waist backward in a fashionable way when dancing. The young men did not know that she got the “attractive back bend” by sleeping with a pillow in the small of her back, something she deeply regretted in her later years because of her back problems that quite obviously had been caused by that practice.
One of the Saturday nights at the dance place a handsome man, a little older than Aino, came to ask her for a dance. She readily agreed. She had seen him earlier at the barbershop, although she had not cut his hair. She had noticed him also in other places in the village. In fact, she knew that his name was Eino Turtiainen, and she had heard quite a lot of things about him. He had a reputation of being quite a charmer among the girls, and everybody knew that he was not quite an ordinary guy: he came from somewhere else, used gloves when working at the local gravestone factory as an engraver and also otherwise, and even walked differently than others (he had apparently seen some men in the city walk with their feet in a broad V-form and had assumed that inefficient style of walking that he then kept for the rest of his life).
Eino came to the dances also during the following Saturdays and always danced several dances with Aino. They learned to know each other somewhat, but Aino did not accept his request to escort her home after the dances. The reason was not only that Eino was known as a charmer of girls, but that he had also consumed alcohol before coming to the dances. Aino was of the age that knew all the reasons for alcohol prohibition that had ended in Finland only a couple of years earlier. She had also seen in Helsinki what alcohol did to some of the working men. She disliked alcohol and later she learned to hate it with all her heart. When she hinted to Eino the reason for her continued refusals to agree that he escort her home after the dances, Eino changed completely and was always sober when he saw Aino.
Eino continued to show interest in Aino during the following months, and they started going out together. Finally Aino introduced Eino to her parents. Aino admitted to herself that she was in love with this man and agreed readily when he proposed to her. This was the man of her life and life would not be boring with him. How right she was in that respect, but in a different way than she had thought!
The first exciting thing after the marriage was to move to Kemi, in Lapland, 1,000 km from Ruokolahti and in a region that sounded interesting. Still Aino was hesitant to leave her home village, but her mother was again reasonably healthy and could look after the household. Eino had told her about his dreams and Aino agreed that Ruokolahti did not offer opportunities to implement those dreams.
In Kemi, the first thing for Aino was to arrange their first home. They had saved some money and could buy the furniture and other things the small family needed in their rented apartment. Unfortunately, Aino could not find the type of work she had hoped for, but in a few months’ time she became pregnant, and the exiting time to prepare for their first child started. That child, a boy of 50 cm and 3.8 kg, was born at full pregnancy on May 12, 1938 in Tornio, the neighboring town to Kemi where the family still resided.
Aino was as happy as any mother could be with her first child. In giving birth she had suffered much, but it had been worth the trouble. Also the father was happy with his son, but he was not happy in his work. He started looking for a new job in other parts of Finland. Soon Aino got a letter from Eino from the other side of the country: “I have found a good job and a nice house for us to live in. Pack the things and come here. I had to start immediately and cannot come to get you.” Aino was not happy about packing the household alone, but there was not really anything to keep her in Kemi except for a few friends. Having friends was typical to Aino: she seemed to make friends anywhere. But she had no job in Kemi and could indeed leave almost immediately.
In the new place, Viinijärvi village of the Liperi County in eastern Finland, Aino had no difficulties in settling down. She knew the accent, which was almost the same as her own in Ruokolahti (Liperi belongs to the northern Carelia Region, while Ruokolahti, some 200 km south, is part of the southern Carelia). The neighbors were open, lively, and talkative as the people in Carelia generally are, and they soon became her friends. Again, there was no work available in the area, but Aino soon learned that in the Viinijärvi village there was no barbershop. She decided to establish one, thus creating her own job. She found a small vacant room in the village center and a few months later she was in business on her own.
Aino had become pregnant the second time only seven months after the birth of her first son. In September 1939 Aino gave birth to her second child, a boy who at 4 kg and 52 cm was even bigger than the first one. Like Aino’s first son, also this boy was too big for Aino to deliver, so she had a cesarean section. The new boy was baptized at Liperi’s church and given the name Orto.
It did not take long before Eino became restless again and wanted to find new opportunities that he was always looking for and that had missed him until now. Aino saw that a reason for the restlessness was the rootless life he had had when he was young. He had never lived in any place longer than a few weeks or months, but still it was difficult for Aino to accept the sudden changes in life that Eino’s moods seemed to require and for which her opinion was not asked.
Aino had learned soon after her wedding that Eino had a dominating character. From the age of 13, he was used to doing his own things and in the way he thought best. By the time they moved to Viinijärvi, Aino already knew that she had no say in the family decisions, not even in the major ones such as moving to another region. During their married life, Eino became more and more dictatorial even in daily life. The way to have peace in the family was that Aino did not argue, but yielded to Eino’s will. That was not easy for Aino who also had been able to manage her life and successfully run households before meeting Eino.
The next “opportunity” Eino found in Varkaus and he decided that the family will move there. Typically for Eino, he had decided the matter during one of his gravestone sales trips without asking Aino’s opinion, and only when he returned to Viinijärvi, he told Aino that “now we will move to Varkaus, where we will buy a house.” Aino was again very unhappy about this move, because she had a barbershop in Viinijärvi and had developed numerous friendships there. One of the reasons for the move to Varkaus was, according to Aino’s later stories, that Eino was jealous of her male customers. However, the move was made easier by Eino’s promise to buy a house, the first one for the family.
It seemed that there was no other way for Aino than to accept that Eino was driven by his urge to look for better opportunities, make deals, trade the things that the family owned, and change residencies. In the Varkaus area they moved four times in as many years. It had always to be Aino who had to carry the main burden in these moves. Eino organized and participated in the moves, but Aino had to spend weeks packing and unpacking the family belongings, as well as taking care of Eino and the children in every other respect.
In a way, Aino had to agree that the moves in Varkaus, first from Puurtila to Kuoppakangas, then to Kurola, and finally to Luttila, seemed to make sense. The first move to Kuoppakangas elated Aino as much as it did Eino; the family had purchased its first house. It was not grandiose, but it had a substantial yard, with a forest in the background, and the shopping facilities were less than a kilometer away. And it was completely their own! In those days it was not possible for ordinary people to go to banks and borrow money, but the only source for borrowing was from the relatives and occasionally friends, but those Eino and Aino did not have nearby. Even if they had, Eino was too proud a man to ask for a loan. No, they had to earn the money and save it for the full price of the house, only then could they buy it. And that was what they had done!
The second move to Kurola was more difficult for Aino to accept as a good deal. The place was at least 6 to 7 km from Varkaus, no mean distance when you usually had to walk it or use a bicycle. But the house was rather new, larger than the house in Kuoppakangas, and there was a cooperative shop nearby. The small garden with its small apple trees and several berry bushes appealed to Aino, and when her small boys almost immediately found playmates in the neighboring farmhouse, Aino was content with that move.
In the next move to the other side of Varkaus, to Luttila, Eino probably also saved some money between the sale price of the previous house and the purchase of the new, and that was a good argument in the times of war. Also, while Aino first was upset about the cow shed and horse stall in the lower end of the lot and about her accompanying duty to look after the animals that Eino brought home for fattening, cleaning, and further trading off, she learned to like these animals. She fed them, brushed them and gave them simple medications, and really brought them back into such a shape that they could be sold. What she afterwards often wondered was that where did Eino find such miserable, run-down, and hungry animals. Of course she understood the business aspect of Eino’s operations: he bought what he got cheap and sold the same items some time later for profit. The other things that Eino did not reveal were the details of the deals. Aino often thought, or even knew, that some deals had been made when Eino had been drinking and the deals were not necessarily good. There were cases, when the morning after drinking Eino sat on the edge of the bed, holding his smarting head in his hand and cursed the deals he had made. He was able to criticize himself, but seldom. Usually everything that did not work was Aino’s fault.
The house in Luttila was not large, but the two rooms and the anteroom or porch were of sufficient size so that the small family did not feel cramped. In 1944 or 1945 it became more tight when Eino had to bring his mother to live with the family. But as Aino said, using one of her numerous proverbs: “Kyllä hyvä sopu tilaa antaa” (good fellowship will make room), and that was also the case here. A corner of the relatively large kitchen was reserved for “Mummo” (Grandma), and the rest of the family lived in the end-room of the house. Aino took good care of her mother-in-law, who was a rather silent person in her old age and did not demand much. She was easy to get along with, and to Aino’s liking, she often took Aino’s side if she heard her and Eino quarreling. This made Eino of course upset. “You get even my own mother to stand up against me,” he told Aino after these quarrels.
During all these moves the boys were growing and learning. As Aino worked at home, she spent much of her time with them, and provided them with guidance and teaching them the practices of daily life. When Eino was at home, he spent time with the boys, too, made toys for them and played and fooled around with them; he did not want them to become too dependent on their mother. That was good for Aino, because also to her, “boys were boys” and should also learn things other than what women did in the household. One thing in which neither one of them was not much of help for the boys was the need for constant adjustment to new surroundings and finding new friends. But as the saying goes, “practice teaches.” The two boys gradually learned to make friends easier, although they had been quite shy to contact other children during their first two moves. They learned that they were actually interesting to other children because they had lived in different places and had some different experiences to share.
Aino had been troubled by Eino’s drinking and smoking already before their marriage. She had never tasted alcoholic drinks or smoked and did not understand at all people who wasted their money on these “pleasures.” Even later, she often used such phrases as “drinking away your income,” or “blowing your money to the winds of the skies.”
Eino said that these were things the men did and he could not give up smoking. However, before he got married, he had reduced his trips to the pubs of the nearby town. He had even promised to give up alcohol completely once Aino and he were married.
Eino’s abstinence did not last long. Already in Kemi he was back in drinking, not necessarily very heavily, but enough so that Aino was able to smell alcohol on his breath and start her sermons about the waste of money and the promises not kept. Eino did not take these sermons and reproached lightly, and quarrels followed. These quarrels broke the drinking habit for a while, but never for very long. Eino could not resist the call of the pubs and “friends,” and always returned to his old ways after a few weeks. A few times Aino tried to go with Eino to the restaurants to meet his friends and “enjoy the life,” but being with drunken people is no fun for a sober person, and soon Aino gave up going to these restaurants. Another reason for refusing to go to restaurants were the boys, whom she did not want to leave in other peoples care just to “celebrate some good business deal” that Eino had done.
Over the years the drinking became worse. Drinking was not an everyday activity for Eino, but like many other Finnish men, he had to have his weekend bottle and after a while even that did not suffice. The drinking had to continue in some restaurant and gradually it started to continue for the whole weekend and then for even longer periods. Eino became a “kausijuoppo” (periodic drinker). He probably had the propensity for excessive use of alcohol. Later studies have shown that this type of propensity can be the main cause of alcoholism.
At one time Aino, probably when the family was living in Kurola Village in Varkaus , had decided to leave Eino and return to Ruokolahti. During one of Eino’s drinking spells she picked up the boys, packed her bags, left a note for Eino, took a train to Imatra and a bus from there to her home village Ruokolahti. There she stayed with relatives, probably her brother Augusti, if not with her father (the time of this action never became very clear to Turto, who was only 4 or 5 years at the time). In a week’s time, Eino followed the family to Ruokolahti. He came with flowers, charmed Aino again with new promises, and took the family back to Varkaus. But as earlier, the promises did not hold for long.
In the wartime in Finland, following the period of prohibition of alcohol sales that had ended in the mid-1930s, the legislation regarding excessive drinking and selling of alcoholic drinks was quite strict. The family or society could request social authorities in each town or county to take an excessive drinker into custody and send him (the offenders were indeed almost always men) to a rehabilitation center for alcoholics. When Eino’s alcoholism started to show violent features and Aino felt that he was a danger to the family, she requested that the authorities take the necessary steps to rehabilitate Eino. Eino was taken to a center in a remote area a couple hundred kilometers away from home, kept there behind locks, and given the treatments known at that time. But he did not stay long at the center, because one of the treatments was discussions with a priest, and Eino became religious almost immediately. In a month’s time the priest and other center staff were convinced that Eino had been fully rehabilitated and could safely be returned home. When he returned, he did not spare his anger toward his wife for sending him away for rehabilitation, and in a few weeks he was back to his old ways.
When Eino was drunk, he became abusive and aggressive. A related aspect, apparently an illness or at least bordering it, was a paranoia that Eino had and that came out during his period of drunkenness. He suspected all people, especially Aino, of thinking and talking badly about him. It could have happened to some extent because Aino had friends and neighbors who were aware of their troubles. Whenever Aino was trying to avoid a quarrel by keeping silent and not responding to his accusations, Eino cried out: “I know what you are thinking!” But even worse for Aino was the paranoia of jealousness. Eino always harbored suspicions about Aino’s faithfulness! Those suspicions started when she was working as a barber, and continued throughout their married life. It did not help that Aino tried to explain that how could she be unfaithful when she was at home alone with two small children all the time. Eino suspected everybody, even the pedestrians on the road passing the house.
The aggressiveness came out in the form of threatening to kill Aino and the boys. Eino had a handgun and a knife always with him when making his different business deals. They now included, besides selling gravestones, contraband trading of agricultural items as well as horses and cows. The trading of horses in particular was quite tough business and the traders and buyers often became violent when they felt that they got a bad deal because the trade had been concluded under the influence of alcohol. When Eino returned home drunk after these episodes, he brandished his weapons, shouted, and made threats. There was no physical abuse except possibly an occasional slap, but it was no wonder that Aino was afraid for her own and her children’s lives.
Finally things got so bad that Eino did not seem to accept anything Aino did. To him she was not able to look after the animals! She wasted money and was not taking care of the household properly! Once when he brought his drunken friends home and ordered Aino to give everybody food, he angrily shouted “where are the assorted cold meats? I have told you that we always have to have assorted cold meats in the house.” It did not help much that Aino tried to argue that from where could she have got meat and sausage cuttings just after the war when everything was sold by coupons given out by the Ministry of Supplies. It was all Aino’s fault!
Eino seemed to have some kind of urge to put Aino down, as if it would increase his power over her. He repeated so often that Aino would not be able to manage on her own that gradually Aino started to believe it also herself: she was dependent on Eino. And, admittedly, Eino was a good provider. The family never starved like so many other families in Finland during the wartime. The food might have been simple, but there was enough of it. However, Eino conveniently forgot that Aino sold in the neighborhood part of the items he had smuggled, looked after the animals, and in addition took care of the vegetable garden that also helped supply for the family’s needs.
And Aino wasted her time reading novels! Aino, an intelligent and imaginative person as she was with excellent reading skills, used to borrow books from the neighbors and friends and make her time at home more tolerable by reading. That Eino could not digest. (Interestingly enough, he became quite an eager reader later in his life, but not of novels but of religious books.) One night when he came home and saw a novel that Aino had borrowed from a neighbor, he grasped it and threw it into the slop pail, in which the children’s evening urine had already been poured.
That action, the quarrel that followed, and Aino’s flight with the children into the bushes and a neighbor’s house was the final straw for Aino. The next day she went home with witnesses and informed Eino that she was going to divorce him. Eino, now sober and regretting his actions, and possibly also because of the witnesses, accepted Aino’s decision.
In the 1940s, a divorce was still very rare, an action that only a few people took. It might have been more common in Helsinki and other larger cities, but in Luttila Village, Turto and Orto were probably the only ones whose parents were divorced. It had never happened in the Turtiainen’s or Hartikainen’s families. (In the next generation it happened twice when Eino’s forth son Jari divorced his first wife in the 1970s and a cousin of Turto and Orto from their father’s side, Anja-Liisa Lipasti, divorced her husband in the 1980s.) Aino’s action was indeed a brave one!
A divorce was regulated by law and made quite difficult, involving consultations and court dealings, except if the reason was unfaithfulness. To avoid “washing their linen” in the public more than necessary, Aino and Eino agreed on a probably invented story for the court that Eino had entertained some other woman in the small room that was in the stable building of their Luttila residence. The divorce was granted with only a short court appearance by the parties involved, with one neighbor appearing as witness. What made Turto later almost sure that the reason for the divorce was invented was the fact that he never heard his mother to mention unfaithfulness to her friends in their discussions about the divorce.
Eino had suggested that the alimony for the children would not be discussed in court (Aino did not want anything for herself), because he would pay much more for the children’s care than what the court would order. He paid what he promised, but later Aino heard about the amounts the courts usually ordered, and they were much higher than what Eino had promised. Eino had again done a good deal! But not for long; Aino went to court another time and easily got a decision for a higher child support.
It was to Eino’s credit that he took care of his commitments in regard to his children, whether the commitments were his own or court ordered. The alimony payments did not always happen exactly on time, but the reason for delays were always genuine. In addition, he provided his sons with different kinds of presents from time to time, such as bicycles and watches, and usually gave them a little money when meeting them.
Aino was bitter about her nine years with Eino, but she was not unreasonable. She was happy about having had two boys with Eino, and she always admitted that Eino had been a good father to his sons. He had loved them and had never abused them. He was not usually the one to punish the boys, except very rarely with the birch twig when it was really necessary, and he spent time with them when he was at home and not drunk, making toys for them and teaching them various things.
Aino understood that the boys needed to have a father, and at the divorce process she did not try to limit the father’s visiting rights. Also in practice she never refused any contacts between Eino and the boys. She even encouraged the boys to write to their father. Consequently, Aino never told her sons most of the history relating to the divorce and its reasons, but what they did not remember themselves, they later learned when she explained her divorce to her friends and the boys happened to hear the stories through the thin walls. To say something about the walls having ears!
In the moments of better memories and reflections, Aino tried to explain, not only to her sons but also to her friends that the drinking and other behavioral problems that Eino had were the result of Eino’s difficult and partially missed childhood, apparently hoping that the problems were not genetic and transferable to her sons.
Building her own life and identity.
Once she had made a firm decision to divorce Eino, Aino planned her future well. One of the first things she did was to change her surname. She did not want to continue to carry her ex-husbands name, Turtiainen, and remember through that name the state of humiliation, in which she felt that she had been during most of her nine-year marriage. She wanted to be herself. Change of name was absolutely necessary for that! It required a court decision, and with the help of some local person somewhat knowledgeable about the law, Aino prepared an application by hand to give to the court. In a couple of month’s time the decision came back, according her maiden name back to her. From then on she would be Aino Hartikainen. She felt that she had gained a grand victory! But open-minded and psychologically astute as she was, she did not want to change the surname of her sons. They were partly Turtiainens and would continue to carry that name.
Already during the period before the actual divorce took effect and when Eino had moved away from home on Aino’s insistence, she had taken the first steps toward a new future. First, she had to get for her boys and herself a new place to live in. Finding such a place was quite a harrowing task in Finland which had accommodated hundreds of thousands people who had escaped from Carelia overrun by Russians and where nothing had been built during the years of war. The place to live had to be in Luttila where Turto was already in school and Orto about to enter it. It took some time and a lot of effort from her and her friends, but finally Aino found a one room apartment in the neighborhood in the same village where she had now lived for two or three years. The new place had a room sufficient for her and the boys, but, of course, just like any other house in the village, it had no running water or an indoors bathroom. But then, only two houses in the whole village had these facilities. Aino was, however, very happy to have her new lodging.
Eino and Aino had agreed to sell the house in which they lived. That gave Aino some capital to start her new life. But sooner or later she had to find a job; for that Aino had made plans early enough. During the marriage she had often helped Eino to fill in the forms required in the sale of gravestones, and she had even sold a few gravestones herself when Eino was away from home and somebody came to buy one. She was fairly familiar with the business, and so she went to see Eino’s old employer, Mr. Rautiainen, at his gravestone yard and proposed to become a traveling agent for him. Mr. Rautiainen knew her well, he and his wife had actually visited Aino’s and Eino’s home a couple of times. He could not refuse the proposal, although Aino was the first female agent that he or anybody he knew in that business had ever had. At that time, Eino had already stopped working in this field; the market had declined because the war had ended, and there were better opportunities for him in trading horses and cows and doing other business.
Aino was a good agent. As an open and talkative person, she had always been able to get along with people and very soon she knew the business of selling gravestones as well as anybody else. It helped her that in people’s eyes she was still pretty at the age of 35. The fact that she was rather plump did not do any harm in those days. She had not been able to gain her slim body back after the birth of the children, but in those days a thin body was not highly appreciated, as was the case some 20 to 30 years later. After the war, people in Finland were eating as if to compensate for the years of starving, and nearly a whole generation of Finns became overweight. Nobody had heard about the dangers related to cholesterol and excessive weight. (Later, despite all the efforts of advanced medical science, that generation experienced all the harms that excessive eating, smoking, and drinking did, and no doubt died much earlier than they would have without those excesses.)
Aino earned her living and more importantly, she gained full confidence that she would be able to provide for the needs of herself and the boys. The work was not easy, however. There was competition, and Aino knew that to beat it she had to be earlier than other agents in the home of a family where somebody had died. This required alertness and being up to date with the “market.” Aino found ways to be informed about the deaths and pending deaths, and did not miss many chances. Of course, the business she was in was quite horrible in many peoples’ eyes: to go into the homes of mourning relatives and to talk to them about looking after their dead ones in the form of a suitable gravestone that they could sometimes ill afford. Often she had to be a counselor to families in sorrow. The work was physically very demanding, as well. In townships such as Varkaus and Kuopio, burial houses or gravestone yards took care of selling the gravestones, and the market for agents such as Aino was only in the countryside. To get there, Aino used busses and once she got near the place where she needed to go, she used a bicycle (busses had racks for bicycles in those days), or she walked. Her meals were irregular and often nothing but sandwiches or what she could buy from the homes of her clients. Usually there were no inns let alone hotels in the small villages that she visited, and she had to stay overnight in the mourning house or some other house by the roadside.
With her new profession that required traveling, Aino had to resolve a big practical problem: how to care for the boys. Turto was eight and Orto only six and half, and they could not be left home without somebody looking after them for the extended periods that she was away. Friends and neighbors helped at first, but it could not be a permanent solution. Aino advertised in the local newspaper for a nanny, but after the war when Finland had to pay to the Soviet Union very large war reparation compensations, the employment situation was very good, although the salaries were not high. There were no women willing to work as nannies, especially at the salaries that Aino could afford. However, finally Aino succeeded in getting an older woman to look after the boys. The woman had no accommodation and had to move into the one-room apartment the small family had.
That helped for a few months. However, once when Aino came back from her trip that had lasted a couple of weeks, she found the boys alone at home. They told her that the woman who was supposed to look after them, had not been there for two days. She had told them that she was going to a restaurant with some friends and she had not returned. Aino was angry and anxious, but the woman came back the next day, clearly with a bad hangover. Now Aino was no more anxious about her, but she was angry, did not save her words, and fired the woman on the spot.
Aino could not leave the boys alone and had to cancel the next trip that she had planned. She had to find a permanent solution for the boys! There seemed to be none. It finally occurred to her that although she liked her new profession and she felt that she was good at it, there was no way that she could continue traveling. The boys were more important to her than anything else in the world. She had to change jobs! And thus, only a half-year into her new life, Aino had to make another drastic change: leave her job and find a new one. Mr. Rautiainen clearly regretted losing his new agent who had turned out to be so good, but he understood the situation, and he and his wife remained Aino’s friends.
When completing her pending commitments as a sales agent, Aino did not have any other solution than to go to the social authorities of Varkaus and ask that the boys be temporarily accepted in an orphanage. The authorities saw her anxiety and empathized with the divorced woman, so they gave the permission requested. That solved one of Aino’s problems for a while, but Aino did not want to leave her sons in the orphanage for too long. The boys, Turto at eight and Orto, seven years old, were not too unhappy about being there, because the caretakers were friendly, there were many other children to play with, and life was organized. Of course there were many children living and sleeping in the same room. The distance to their school was quite long, however, but sometimes they could take a bus to get there. The most important thing was that their mother had promised to come get them when she had a new job; the boys had full confidence in her.
In Varkaus, the natural place to look for work was the large complex of factories owned by Ahlström Inc. The company had factories for making cellulose and paper, for sawmilling and carpentry, and housing, metal works, etc., and it employed probably more than one-half of the working population in Varkaus and the surrounding areas. Aino got a job at the cellulose factory where plenty of other women were employed. At first the job was cleaning of factory premises, but it later changed to routine work in the processing line. It required little imagination and gave nearly the smallest salary paid in Finland at that time. The salary was enough, although just barely, to keep the small family going, but what was better, it was a regular job that allowed Aino to take her boys home only a few weeks after they had entered the orphanage. Aino made some friends among the women in the factory, and adapted herself to her new life for some time.
However, in a year’s time better-looking opportunities opened up in Varkaus. Aino heard that cleaning women in the construction industry earned nearly twice as much as she did at the factory, so she started to dream about what she could do with the extra money. And although she had never worked on houses under construction, she knew how to clean both from her experience at her home and at the cellulose factory. She had to make the move to change her job. Coincidentally there was a construction boom going on after the war. Not too many women would venture into construction work that had a doubtful reputation among women, but this petite and not very strong-looking woman got a job at a site of a large apartment building that was being constructed in the middle of Varkaus. Now she was a cleaning woman who cleaned apartments after construction work reached certain stages and needed to be prepared for the next stage and finally for new owners to occupy.
Construction work became Aino’s main occupation for the next 10 years. She became what in Finnish is referred as “sekatyönainen,” which could be translated into English as “woman for mixed jobs” or “jack of all trades,” a person who does all kind of auxiliary jobs at construction yards. It still included cleaning, but also very many other jobs, such as carrying boards and bricks, mixing cement, preparing the working places for the specialist workers, pulling nails out of boards (both old nails and boards were recycled several times after the war), working on the landscaping, etc. The position had the lowest rank in the construction profession, and was thus the lowest paid, but it was still better paying than almost any other job that women without higher education were able to get.
It was heavy work for a woman of Aino’s stature, 153 cm (about 5’1”). However, hard as she worked, she started to gain more weight, of which only a part was muscle. She ended up at least 20 kilos overweight, and that was quite a lot for a woman of her size. In the construction yards she gradually got a nickname “Pullukka” (a nice description for a round person), and soon everybody in the industry of Varkaus knew her by that name, hardly using her given name. It also created some confusion among other people. For instance, some bye-passers started to ask what do these new bricks called “Pullukka-tiili (bricks)” look like. It created a great laugh, going around different construction yards, when people heard about it and when it was explained that there were no Pullukka-bricks, but that the bricklayers were calling from the upper floors for Aino to bring them more bricks.
One of the bad sides in construction work in Finland is the weather. In the 1940s and 1950s the best times for the workers were the few summer months, when the weather was good for them and for the work they were doing. There was no shortage of work during the summers when other people had their holidays (in the late 1950s, however, the system changed so that all construction sites were closed for July, and also the construction workers got their annual leaves during summer). However, as that was also the best time to improve salaries and working conditions, there were a lot of work stoppages and strikes. Not all of them included the “sekatyönainen” Pullukka, but when the skilled workers were on strike, the employers closed the construction sites and nobody got salaries, not even the non-striking workers.
In the late fall and winter the weather made construction work difficult and expensive. It also meant that there were much fewer buildings under work during these periods and, consequently, much fewer jobs for anybody, especially for “sekatyönainen.” Unemployment was a constant threat, and almost every year Aino was several months without work. Those were hard months for her and the family. The problem was not only lack of income, but even more the anxiety relating to unemployment and looking for any work that Aino could do. The futility of going around the few construction sites that were open, the anxiety of diminishing funds that Aino had saved, and the responsibility for her sons were very hard on Aino’s nerves. Often she broke into tears during these periods. But somehow she lived through the hardest time, and the family’s life and the boys’ education continued.
Sometimes the needed minimum income came from ‘hätäaputyöt” (“urgency work” in the sense that they provided urgent help for the workers). The state organized these ‘hätäaputyöt” for unemployed people because there was no unemployment insurance at that time. In these jobs the unemployed had to do temporary works, such as dig large ditches for sanitation and water pipes with hand tools, construct roads, and clean forests of smaller trees). Still, often eating and paying rent were only possible with the help of the social services of the local community, but this help was difficult to obtain. It required an interview every time (or interrogation, as Aino said) by a nasty social worker, whose name, Mr. Häyrinen, the boys still remembered almost 50 years later, because also they had to go to his office sometimes with their mother, and when teenagers, even on their own when Aino could not leave her job.
Also the trade union was important for the family; not only did the union have strike funds for is striking members, but it provided small assistance to Aino a few times when she was ill. Because of the bad weather in the wintertime, and alternating between perspiring and getting cold on the job, Aino was often ill. In retrospect Turto remembered that his mother seemed to be quite ill every winter, staying in bed for several weeks on these occasions. In those times the spirit of loyalty and solidarity came to Aino’s help. Her co-workers, not only in the construction or urgency-work yard where she worked, but in the whole Varkaus area, collected money to help their “Pullukka” over the worst periods. She and her sons felt eternally indebted to those kind people, but found no other way to pay their debt except show similar kindness to other people in their need. With these experiences and those of her childhood, it is no wonder that Aino felt strong loyalties to the trade union and socialist causes.
Especially during periods of unemployment and the heaviest winters, Aino planned to change her job from construction work to something else. She did not dare to try to go back to barbering, fearing that she had lost her skills in that profession, but she knew sewing well and tried to earn her living on a couple of occasions from that occupation. She bought an advanced sewing machine (Singer Sick-Sack), and worked as an under-supplier to a larger factory, doing piecework at home. The rates were, however, very low, making the working days excessively long. When the weather improved and the strikes ended, Aino again found a job on construction sites. In any event, the work as seamstress was important to carry the family over some of the otherwise difficult periods.
Earning income was important at all times. If construction work or sewing were not available, Aino had to try to find other ways. On a couple of occasion she worked as a farm worker on the large farms owned by the Varkaus borough for the needs of its old peoples’ homes and schools. On another occasion she started to make doughnuts at home in quite large quantities and then went around the existing construction sites to sell them during coffee breaks and lunch hours. Although the doughnuts sold well, the profit margin was not large enough to keep the family going.
A remarkable thing about Aino was that she understood the need for education. She had done well in school herself and during her few moments of free time she used to read, not necessarily something to educate herself, but to read anyway. As her own educational road had been blocked by economic and traditional obstacles, she wanted to make sure that such obstacles would not affect her sons’ chances. She often “preached” to her sons about the need to study and do well in school, and that education was the only way for poor people to get ahead in the world. Her boys had no difficulties in accepting her thesis in this respect, although no other children among their immediate group of friends felt the same way. Most of the working class seemed to think that it was important to get their children to work as soon as it was legally permissible, that is, after they had finished the extended primary school at the age of 15. Education seemed to be only for the children of the rich, because the secondary and high schools carried school fees and took so long to finish.
As the first target, Aino tried to get both of her sons into the secondary school. The school had tough, two-day long examination tests when children were 11 years old, that is, after four years of primary education. Turto was accepted without any difficulties, and he was one of the very few children in his grade coming from the working class. Orto was not as successful, however. His name was not on the list of accepted children, although he had done about as well as Turto in his studies at the primary level, and was at least as intelligent, as he later proved. Orto thought that he had been suspected of cheating, when he had asked his neighbor to lend an eraser. Any reason had to be used to prune candidates, because less than 50 percent of the applicants could be accepted due to space constraints (there was only one Finnish-language secondary school in the whole borough, and even that in an old wooden building). The following year when Orto had another chance, he refused to go to the tests. However, Aino did not forget her ambitions. She talked to Orto that once the extended primary school ended, Orto should enter a vocational training school run by Ahlström Inc. And that was what he did when he reached that age.
Even if there were no education costs, life would have been difficult for an unmarried woman who tried to bring up her two boys alone. Now Turto’s schooling required some extra money for school fees and books. However, the social consciousness in Finland had risen sufficiently after the war and possibilities to benefit from other than the parents’ income came forward. Society stepped in to help the poorest children get an education, and after the first year, once Turto had shown that he could manage secondary school, the social office of Varkaus borough paid his school fees. However, that ended when Turto had to repeat the third grade due to taking schoolwork in a too relaxed manner. Turto’s failure to pass the grade was a big disappointment for Aino, but after discussing with Turto and getting his assurances that he would start working hard from that day onwards (which promise he kept to the end of his life), Aino decided to try harder to find the money needed for the school fees, books, and other things required for school. Turto’s father Eino lost temporarily his confidence in Turto’s abilities and did not promise to help with school fees. Two years later, when Turto had proved that he could succeed in school, the social office undertook the payment of his school fees once again.
The small salary, frequent strikes and periods of unemployment, as well as illnesses forced Aino to economize in everything possible. She could no longer make clothes for her rapidly growing sons, but many were the hours that she spent in mending and repairing their clothes. Very seldom could she buy new outfits for them, but they did not miss them much, because other children were almost in the same situation (except for some of Turto’s schoolmates in secondary school who generally were better-off). Aino had to be very inventive with food to fill the hungry stomachs of her small family. She was not able to buy expensive food items, and vegetables, oatmeal, liver, and kidneys were the most common ingredients for meals that she tried to make as tasty as possible with the help of good gravy. Afterward Turto often said that he had had been brought up by potatoes and porridge, and it was only partially an exaggeration. But such a limited diet was not uncommon in the working class families after the war anyway. For Aino it was important to provide enough food even if it was in the form of basic nourishment, and almost never did Turto or Orto go to bed with hungry stomachs.
Particularly memorable were the Christmas eves and the meals that Aino prepared for the family. Because the family was poor, there never were many presents, and those that were given almost always had some practical value for the receiver. They often contained items that Aino had made, such as woolen socks and cardigans. But the food was always traditional, with the same recipes that Aino had learned from her mother, and she probably from her mother, etc. Aino prepared it in the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, after rushing home from work, while the boys fetched a Christmas tree from the forest and decorated it with live candles, homemade biscuits, and cotton wool that resembled snow. The food consisted of a small ham, rutabaga casserole, red beets, mashed potatoes, and there was plenty of each dish. But the best came last; that was a special rice porridge that Aino prepared in the oven in an earthenware pot. It was soft and had a layer of melted butter on top. There was nothing else in the whole world as good as that porridge. Later, the boys could never help but tell about this porridge to their own wives, who were excellent cooks in their own right, but who could not make quite as good rice porridge as their mother had made. (It is quite possible that Turto’ and Orto’s children, Reija, Tuomas, Merja, and Tuukka will have the same stories to tell to their spouses and their own children about their own mothers Arja and Eini.)
Another way through which Aino was able to reduce the household costs was to get rid of rents for housing. She learned that the job of the janitor at a dance pavilion, Huvikumpu, used in summers, became vacant, and she immediately applied for it. The boys were now in their teens and could help her take care of cleaning of the dance floors, the restaurant, and the yard, as well as do the other jobs that came up. There was no salary attached to the job, but there was year-round housing that came free. Since the dance season was only three months long, the 12 months’ rent saved felt like a fully acceptable compensation. The housing was in reality only a rather large room that also contained a cooking range in one corner.
This move meant a decline in the standard of accommodation that the little family had had after the divorce. After having left Luttila, Aino and the boys had first occupied a small two-room apartment in Lehtoniemi in an old wooden rental building that was quite run-down. After that, Aino had found another place in Joutsenlahti, closer to the center of the borough and only some 2.5 km away from the center. That distance was really nothing in those times when people were used to walking and bicycling much longer distances. This lodging had been the best the family had had after the divorce during their whole stay in Varkaus. The rent was reasonable, and two rooms, anteroom, and storage room that Aino rented covered the whole lower level of a two-floor building. The house was owned by an elderly couple, the Uotinens, who lived in the next house. Aino’s apartment was really ideal for a small poor family, because it also had a small vegetable garden and an outhouse for firewood. On top of the outhouse was an attic where the boys were able to sleep during the summers. However, although the rent was reasonable, Aino and the family decided to save even that and move to the Huvikumpu dance pavilion.
The dance evenings in the summer time created a lot of work for the family, but the savings made in rent were important for them. The situation improved even more when the old pavilion was demolished and a new one, with a grand name Casino, was constructed not far from the old place. It was the newest and most advanced dancing place in the Varkaus area, with large windows protecting it from winds and rain. It became immediately popular, partly because its large size allowed hiring well-known orchestras to play there most summer weekends. At the construction stage of the pavilion Aino had been able to negotiate with the owner association that the janitor’s accommodation would have two rooms (one of them was used as the kitchen for the bar of the dance hall during the summer). This was the family’s home until it left Varkaus.
The time in Varkaus after the divorce was also the one when the boys developed to teenagers and adolescents and then to adults; all this happened without having a father around, and naturally the job of educating the boys in other than school matters fell to their mother. This task she took seriously, and uncountable were the occasions when she talked to her sons about good behavior and manners, need for cleanliness both in person and at home, about how to get along with each other and other people, what to expect in life, the sense of responsibility, and the need to work together. The boys often felt that some of what she talked was too much of “nalkutusta” (nagging), but there was no other way for a small, single mother to bring up her growing sons than to talk to them and reason with them.
An important principle that she tried “to force into the boys’ heads” was that they had to “elää ihmisenä ihmisten joukossa” (live as a human being among other humans, or treat other people as humanly as they would like to be treated themselves). She also looked after the cleanliness of the boys. In those days, it was customary in the working class families that underwear was changed only once a week, after the sauna bath. Of course, the poor people did not own a sauna, but Aino made sure that she either rented a weekly “sauna-turn” in some neighbor’s sauna or sent the boys to the “public sauna,” that is, large saunas where people were able to have sauna baths against payment. The common saunas were open on alternate days for men and women.
Much of what the mother said “went through one ear in and came the other one out,” but the repeating helped and much of the good advice she gave finally stayed between the ears. Thanks to her constant efforts, Turto and Orto grew up as “good boys,” who had no bad habits, and who got along with other people. She taught the boys to respect women and thus probably broke a tradition that had lasted long in the Turtiainen family. Turto’s and Orto’s spouses may well be thankful to her that they have been treated so differently from what Aino herself had been treated in her marriage.
Aino made a large number of friends through her working contacts and also otherwise. She was always an open and talkative person, but she was also emphatic to other peoples’ problems, which made her popular among people. Among the neighbors there were always good friends, but possibly the best friends in Varkaus were an older couple, the Leinonens. Aino learned to know the husband, Väinö Leinonen, at her first construction site, and it was also he and his wife who found an apartment for Aino and her boys in the same house they lived in Lehtoniemi, a beautiful area surrounded by lakes. Although Aino moved soon afterwards to another house a few kilometers away in Joutenlahti (or Joutsenlahti, as it is mentioned in some maps), the Leinonens remained good friends. Their children were already adults, but the Leinonens had a motorboat and a small summer cottage on an island a couple of hours away from Varkaus, and some of the best times that Aino and the boys had were during the trips to Leinonens’ cottage on Saturday afternoons (the work ended at 2 o’clock on Saturdays), fishing around their island on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, and grilling the fish caught on the beach.
Aino had friends, but to the best knowledge of her sons she never had a real boyfriend after the divorce. After having finished her work as an agent for the gravestone firm, she went out a couple of times with an old client of hers, a large forest-owner between Kuopio and Varkaus, even talked to the boys about him as a potential candidate for marriage, but when she learned that the man had a girlfriend somewhere else in Varkaus, Aino got very angry and refused to see him any more: she was not going to be anybody’s reserve! She apparently gave up any ideas she might have had about a new marriage, and concentrated on making sure that her sons had a good home. What she had thought in 1936 turned to be true: Eino Turtiainen was the man of her life!
As mentioned, there were periods during the last years in Varkaus, when Aino was ill or unemployed, and the only income besides small unemployment compensation from the trade union and when the boys grew older was the salary Orto earned as an apprentice in the vocational school he was attending. Turto was in high school and could not help except in the summertime when also he worked. The little money that he earned as disk jockey at the local dance places, he had to reserve for his own needs, mainly for those that the school required. Orto’s salary was not much, it was only a small compensation meant to provide the boys at the vocational school food and some other basic needs, and alone it would not have been enough to keep the family going. But in times of need, it was of great help, and Orto brought it all home without taking anything for himself.
The mother remembered the unselfish help that she had received from Orto, and later, at the time when Orto needed support during his education at the Technical Institute, she tried to provide him with the finances he needed besides the money that he made during his school holidays. She probably also felt that since she had facilitated Turto’s high school education, she owed the same educational support to Orto, and was quite happy to provide it.
Around the mid-1950s, Aino started to think and talk to her sons about leaving Varkaus. Varkaus did not offer opportunities for her, and it offered even less for her sons and their ambitions. It was now clear that Turto would pass high school and Orto the technical school where he was receiving training as a skilled cabinetmaker and joiner. She herself wanted to return to her earlier occupation as barber and hairdresser. Over the years she had made sure that she would not lose all her skills; she had cut always her sons’ hair –their hair was always well cut–and occasionally also other people’s hair, and the neighbors’ wives had often asked her to give them a “permanent wave.”
We all must have dreams and plans in order to be able to endure life’s hardships. For Aino the late 1950s were hard years, but the dream of a new life in Helsinki, which city she had selected for several reasons, kept her going. In the spring 1958 Aino went to Helsinki by train and rented a one-room apartment in a private home in Tuomarinkylä, some 10 km from the center of Helsinki. Then she came back, rented a truck with a driver, packed together with her sons their belongings in it, and asked the driver to take them to Helsinki. She had so much of hope for a new life in Helsinki that she did not shed any tears when leaving Varkaus, except when saying good-bye to a couple of closest friends.
Years in Helsinki
Aino had decided that in Helsinki she would be a barber. She had invented a niche that was not filled and in which she thought she could do well: she would become a “kotiparturi,” a barber who cut hair at her home or went to homes of elderly people when they were too old or weak to go to the barber themselves. The accommodation in Tuomarinkylä was only one room and a sleeping “alcove” (small room where only a double bed would fit) in a private house, but it was sufficient to start with. Aino and the boys prepared by hand tens, if not hundreds of small advertisements that they distributed all over in the village, and in no time customers started to appear. There were plenty of people who did not have time during the day to go to a barbershop and who also appreciated the lower fees that Aino charged. There also were numerous sick and elderly people who welcomed a chance to get their haircut or hairdressing done at their homes. In a month’s time, the boys were also working (Orto found work for both of them at the construction site of the hydro-electric plant of Vantaanjoki), and the family’s prospects seemed to be on the rise.
That situation did not last long, however. After a few months the owners of the house came to Aino and with embarrassment asked her to move. The traffic of customers disturbed their life in the small house, and also, the neighbors started talking about the men who came in the house in the evenings. It did not matter that Aino’s sons, or a little later only Orto when Turto left for his duty in the Navy, were present in the evenings; the reputation of barbers in Helsinki was poor and the owners of the house did not want to be tarnished with that.
Aino easily found new accommodation in the same village, but it was on the second floor and not convenient for “kotiparturi.” Along with Orto’s contribution from his salary, the visits to clients’ homes provided enough income to keep the household going. After a while Aino was confident enough that she had the skills to work also in an established barber shop, and started looking for a position. She did not find any in the larger barbershops, which looked for younger girls, not for a 48-year old woman. However, after a few weeks Aino saw a small advertisement about a job in a small barber/hairdresser shop on Oikokatu, in the Kruunuhaka section of Central Helsinki, went to see the owner, and got the job.
Aino liked her new working place and the owner, an old woman ready for retirement, also liked Aino. Aino was especially happy during the harsh weather, when she thought about what she had experienced in Varkaus and what other people working outside in that wheather still had to suffer. The shop was not busy, but there seemed to be enough work for the two of them. Aino was paid a percentage of the earnings that she made for the owner, and while the total income was not much, it was enough for her modest needs. Now she was responsible only for herself, because Turto was in the Navy and Orto was working.
After a while Aino started to feel that the distance to Tuomarinkylä was too long to travel every day, so she started to look for an alternative. She soon found accommodations on the same street on which the barber/hairdresser shop was located. It was a sub-let, large room in an older couple’s home, large enough for Aino and Orto to live in and for Turto to visit during his leaves from the Navy. The old couple was very friendly and helpful; the husband even arranged a job for Orto at the Helsinki Cable Factory where he worked himself. When Orto performed very well there, he started to plan Orto’s further education in that line of work.
After a couple of years, the barbershop owner started to talk about retirement and suggested that Aino buy the shop. The price was far too high for Aino, whose savings were still small, but she became excited about the prospect. She made her calculations, knowing that she would need to pay the rent, utilities, and other expenses, in addition to paying the loan she would need to take. She became convinced that by being very economical she could make the ends meet and decided to buy the shop. She was also attracted by the idea that she could take over the small one-room apartment located above the shop, as the barbershop and the apartment were rented together.
She needed a loan and there seemed to be an unbreakable barrier there. The banks were short of funds even for sure investments, and Aino, with no guarantees, did not qualify at all as a suitable candidate for a loan. Then the old way of financing came to the rescue. Aino’s oldest brother Aukusti had done a lot of work as an independent carpenter constructing private houses during the entire period following the war, and he had by now savings besides his own house in Imatra. He would lend Aino the money she needed. They made a loan agreement, Aino got the money, and she gave it and all her own savings to the old owner against a sale contract that also contained monthly payments to her for a couple of years. Once more Aino was owner of her own shop!
During the next five years Aino lived very prudently, spending little money on herself. She hired a young woman as a hairdresser on the same conditions that she had had when she entered the shop. They had their regular customers and got gradually a little new business, and Aino was able to meet all her commitments. She paid the monthly payments to the previous owner, paid off the loan to her brother, and even helped Orto with his expenses that he now had because he had entered the Technical Institute, first in Kuopio and then by a transfer in Helsinki. And not only did she pay her loan to her brother, she also undertook to train his youngest daughter Sirkka as a barber/hairdresser. With the help from Aino, Sirkka had the required practice needed for the hairdressing school in Helsinki, she had accommodation and food, and she gained an occupation for life.
It was not only hard work and thriftiness that filled Aino’s life during these years. Aino also made friends in Helsinki, as she did anywhere. She was particularly happy to meet her childhood friend Hilja Kavanen again, after more than two decades. During this period Hilja had gone through her life by marrying, getting children, becoming a skilled seam dresser, buying a small retail shop for children and women clothes, and burying her husband. Hilja was a regular visitor at Aino’s place and vice versa. Their relationship was so good that Hilja often borrowed small amounts of money from Aino (and later from Turto) to get over her monthly problems with the small shop that produced little income. She always paid back her loans as agreed upon. Other regular friends included, surprisingly, her ex-husband Eino’s youngest brother Sulo and his wife, also named Aino. They lived in Tapiola, a planned and world-famous town west of Helsinki. Aino wanted her boys to know their relatives; her broken relationship with Eino should not affect the boys; they had the right to know their relatives.
What made Aino very happy, even proud, was the success of her sons in what they were doing. Turto did very well in the Navy, continued his studies, got a university degree and then another. He had exceeded her highest ambitions, when he got his Ph.D. in 1969. Orto did equally well: he was valedictorian in his petty officers school in the coastal artillery, and even better, valedictorian in his class at the Technical Institute of Helsinki. Both had good jobs and continued to be “good boys,” not smoking and drinking (Orto had a few passing experiments in these activities, though). They would not assume their father’s bad habits!
Aino was happy with her sons’ social development, too. She knew that they had never shunned the female company, but they also had never brought any girls home to introduce to her. Now after finishing their schooling they took the expected steps in this area: each of them brought a young, little nervous girl home to get to know her and the other way around. And soon after that, they both were engaged and married. She was very happy with her daughters-in-law and their parents, whom she also visited. And she was extremely content, when three years after Turto’s marriage she had a small grand-daughter, Reija, and a year after Orto’s wedding, another grand-daughter, Merja. There could not have been a grandmother who was more willing to baby-sit when the young couples wanted to go out for one occasion or other.
Although life in Helsinki was easier and happier than in Varkaus, there were also concerns and anxieties in Aino’s life here. The main one, besides the financial concerns, was her health. She had always had problems with her digestion and stomach, including an operations of the appendix when she was young and removing a growth of stomach while in Varkaus. In Helsinki the problems continued, possibly because of the stress resulting from her finances. Her stomach did not function: she had almost constant pains, she had heartburn and ulcers, and other ailments were suspected. She visited doctors frequently. Of course, the fear of cancer was always present.
Usually the doctors found nothing seriously wrong and concluded that: “you only have a weak stomach,” whatever that meant. Once a doctor advised her to drink a class of red wine every day to help her stomach to balance. This was the first time she had to go into ALKO (a governments’ monopoly shop for alcoholic beverages). She later told about this hard trip and what had happened there. After shyly entering the shop she had asked the clerk for a bottle of red wine. The clerk had asked that what kind of red wine she wanted, and all the clerks and other customers had had a good laugh when she said: “Are there several kinds of red wine?”
The red wine may have helped for a while, but then her stomach problems became more serious. Nothing went through her intestines and the pains were excruciating. The doctors concluded after the x-rays that she had a knot in her intestines and an operation was arranged. The operation was successful, except that she was unable to release her water after the operation when lying in the hospital bed, and the nurses refused to use a capillary to take out the urine. She suffered this pain for more than a day before Turto came to see her and “raised hell” for the nurses’ inattention. Aino was helped, and she “did not burst” as she had feared. After the operation, the large wound did not heal, and it took months of careful cleaning from the bottom of the wound upwards to gradually close it. On the whole, the operation was very painful and left Aino with a great fear for the surgical knife and hospitals.
During her last years of life Aino slept very poorly, and she tried everything from hot milk to doctors’ prescriptions to get some sleep at nights. Nothing else seemed to help except quite high doses of a relatively new sleeping pill named Halcion. Unfortunately Halcion had not been thoroughly experimented and its side effects were not known. As it was later learned, one of the side effects included forgetfulness and hallucinations. Also Aino experienced these, and not understanding the side effects of Halcion, the doctors suspected that Aino was losing her mind, and ordered additional medications without canceling Halcion. (Halcion was withdrawn from the markets in the early 1990s when doctors became convinced about its serious side effects.)
Somehow Aino got over this period, but she thought that the reason for all her medical problems was the stress of owning and running her business. She decided to sell it, and succeeded in making a similar contract under which she had purchased the shop some seven to eight years earlier. She got a lump-sum payment and an additional monthly payment for an agreed upon period. Together these funds were sufficient for her modest needs.
She did not have much time to enjoy retirement and its benefits when she was hospitalized because of an overdose of the various medications that she was taking. She died of a brain hemorrhage that had probably resulted from the medications. She was not quite 58 years old, but she died as a content person. She knew that she had succeeded in life: she had had a colorful life with many experiences, and she was the first to say that that “you have to take the bad with the good.” And most importantly for her, she had given birth to two sons and brought them up alone, with only a little help from their father. She had brought them up to be sons of whom any mother would have been proud. They had married responsible women, and she was a grandmother two times over! What more could she ask from life, except for better health, and that seemed impossible to gain.
She had not belonged to any church for a long time, and she had already earlier told her sons that she would like her body to be cremated once she died, because she did not believe in the life hereafter. Her sons respected her wish. She was cremated, and her sons and their wives were the only persons present when her ashes were buried on a cloudy September day at the Hietanummen cemetery of the town Vantaa where she lived at her death. On her gravestone the sons made engrave a sentence that she so emphatically used in many contexts and in different variations and that so well described her belief in human development: “Olkoon jokainen sukupolvi edeltäjäänsä parempi” (“May every generation be better than its predecessors”). Later the sons greatly regretted that they had not known and been able to tell Aino before her death that both of their wives were pregnant with their second children, her new grandchildren, Tuomas and Tuukka.