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LOCAL HISTORY - Rural Roots # 4

‘Rural Roots’ is drawn largely from my book ‘*Sisu – The Finnish Determination of a Canadian Family’.

Copies are available ($30.00) by calling me at 577-7484, cell 621-6621 or email: leoh@tbaytel.net









Rural Roots
by Leo Hunnakko
Issue #4 (Published in 'GrassRoots' (July, 2008))

‘Sisu’ at Birth

I intended to include the story of the birth of my sister Diana in the previous issue (June) however, because it is one of the most fascinating and gritty events in the history of my family, I decided to dedicate an entire page to this example of Finnish ‘Sisu’.
On page 48 of my book is a photograph of a tiny log cabin with the sub-text—“Mamie, Violet and Diana at Whitefish Lake Cabin (April 2, 1935)”. Violet was not quite two yet and baby Diana, seen in my mother’s arms, was born in that very same one room cabin in the midst of a snowstorm less than three months before on January 11th. My father had built that cabin the previous year. Although long gone, it stood on a site that is today across from East Whitefish Resort, not far from where my brother Wesley’s more modern day cabin now stands, on the north side of Cedar Sites Road.
At the time, we must remember, no such road existed. When I spoke to my parents about those events I began with the question, “How did you get around?” My father answered- “By walking or on skis. In the winter we might hook up the team to a sleigh and go that way for visits further on. But mostly by walking”. My mom added. “Three miles was nothing for us to walk back then”. I then turned to the birth of Diana.
In my mother’s words—“The roads weren’t any good and there were few cars. You’d have to go by train and that’s how I was going to go in a few days but the baby started coming before I had a chance.” How long a train ride was it? “The train ride was from Whitefish to Port Arthur. It was not a very fast train but I thought I’d get there a few days before the baby was born”.
She continued- “Father happened to have a team of horses and it was snowing a lot that time. My brother Arvo happened to be working with us cutting pulpwood. We woke him up in the middle of the night and he hooked up the team and went with the horses to get the midwife. Arvo had some trouble seeing the trail through the bush and across the lake because of poor visibility during the blizzard”. My father added, “Arvo made it but it was a struggle. There was a huge snowstorm and the snow was up to the belly of the horses”. Again mom. “All the roads were closed and there were at least three roads that Arvo could have taken and he didn’t really know which was the right one. So he took the first one he saw. That was a distance of at least three miles and somehow he found her”.
Thankfully the midwife got there before the baby was born. Mom continues--“That was Mrs. Katri Hovi. She delivered many babies. Many new mothers didn’t go to town to deliver their babies. Diana Lydia (after her maternal grandmother) was born early the following morning”. Were you sick at all I asked? “Yes there was some trouble at first and those around me thought I would die. I myself didn’t fear for my life. In a couple of days I began to feel better. The baby was perfectly healthy and everything turned out fine”. I remember how she described those events in a seemingly casual, matter of fact way. But I’m sure it took plenty of ‘Sisu’.
(July, 2008)