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One summer day in 1991 when our grandchildren (and their parents) from Coulee Dam were visiting us, Heidi came to me with a beat-up book and asked if she could look at it. I had seen the "book" in the basement shelves but never examined it, nor could I remember how it got there. I had several Finnish books in my collection, some on religion given me by a Finnish Minister in Minnesota and I thought this was one of those. I didn't read the books because it took too long using my Finnish-to- English dictionary. Besides, some are written in old-fashioned script making it difficult to decipher unknown words. Anyway I opened the cover of the book Heidi handed me and was surprised to find it was a gift to my dad from a pastor in Finland.
We talked about the book and someone suggested I write about my parents and how they met. I think of my Finnish heritage sometimes and realize I really know very little about my parents especially their life in Finland. I thought if I researched a little, I could create a "document" and maybe recall some events and stories related by my parents, aunts and uncles. The book was my fathers and so I'll write primarily about him.
The inscription in the fly leaf of the book, "Uusi Testamentti ja Psalteri" (New Testament and Psalms), was in Finn and read, as near as I can interpret: "Teudor Pettersson (sic), born January 2, 1888, has received this book in remembrance of his baptismal covenant strengthening (signed) Pastoori Hekstrom, Reposaari" No date was given when my dad received it, but he must have been less than 15 since he came to this country when he was about 16.
Until this time, I had believed that my dad's name had been changed to Peterson when his father (my "iso issa" or grandfather) applied for citizenship papers. This he did in Worcester County of Massachusetts on 19 December, 1896, when he was 36 years old. He was born 12 December, 1860, in Bjarneberg, Russia, Finland. He received his final citizenship papers in April of 1903 in Carlton County, Minnesota. I have his papers. Once when I was in high school, dad, mom and I made a trip to the New England states and to Ontario, Canada, where we visited relatives. One family in Norway, Maine, was named Hekstrom or Helstrom and I thought my dad said that this was his family name or maybe he was thinking of Pastor Hekstrom. The book Heidi brought forth says my father was born a Peterson.
As I said, my dad was about 16 when he came to America, and because of his age and his father's citizenship and laws of the land at that time, he became a United States citizen. No one ever questioned it, and I know that he voted in all elections--he seemed to favor the Democratic party. My grandfather had settled in Aberdeen, Washington, and that was dad's destination. Aiti, (my grandmother) was also there, and it's possible all of dad's family came to this country at the same time including aunts Hilda, Mamie and Saima and uncle Verner. Mamie, Saima, and uncle Vern stayed in Aberdeen but my dad and Aunt Hilda settled in Mullan, Idaho.
I remember nothing of my paternal grandfather and only the funeral of my grandmother. In 1925 we lived briefly in Aberdeen in a house boat and Aiti lived with Uncle Charley and Aunt Mamie next door to us.
I was in the first grade of school when we moved to Aberdeen and one of my thrills at the time was to ride on a Finnish freighter as it was moved from one pier to another. My dad knew the Finnish Captain, perhaps because he worked on the ship or knew him from days in Finland. The Captain was nice and gave me a candy bar which I ate but didn't like because it was bitter chocolate. It seems that I never did like bitter chocolate--give me the cream type anytime.
We bought a Star touring car that summer, loaded it with our belongings and returned to Mullan. It was at least a two day trip then, but now it's about a seven hour ride not counting stops for meals. It was the last time we saw Aiti alive. She died when I was in the third grade. We were visiting with friends on a farm in Enaville, Idaho, (so dad could do some hunting) when somebody brought us a telegram reading, "Aiti's dead and can't find Ted." We got into our first Oldsmobile and drove to Aberdeen for the funeral. I often wondered how my dad was able to find his way on the highways of that day and even when my parents came to Bremerton to visit Betty and me and to attend our wedding in November of 1952. Maybe he could read a map, too.
Dad worked at many occupations like lumberjacking, butchering, longshoring, and mining. He had no schooling in America, but he learned to read and write the English language. I have a photograph of a Finnish school class picture with my dad standing in the back row, so he did have schooling in Finland. His spelling was derived phonetically and had drawbacks, since many of the words he used he pronounced as he heard them, such as "good luck" which came out "good look" and "Ben Gay" which came out as "Ben Jay". As a shift boss in the mines, he had to make out accident reports, of which there were many, and would bring his papers home for me to prepare the report for him. Mining in those days was a hazardous occupation. There were many reports to be written and I learned about mining terms before being exposed to the "diggings".
When dad came to America, he first settled in Aberdeen where he had jobs in a butcher shop, and in lumber camps around the area. I have snapshots of uncle Vern and him getting ready to go on a longshorman's job during the time we lived in Aberdeen. He must have tired of longshoring or maybe there was a shortage of work, and we returned to Mullan for him to work in mines.
Dad and mom were married on March 22, 1915, in Wallace, Idaho, when he was twenty seven years old. Both had moved to Mullan. Dad knew of Mullan through his sister, Hilda and her husband, Isaac Freisting. My mother came to Mullan from Ontario, Canada, because her brother, Isaac and his wife Hilda lived there. It seems that there must have been some match-making plans by my aunt and uncle. However, my aunt made the prediction that the two wouldn't stay married more than three years. She changed her mind when I came along just before the three years were up. Incidently, one of the witnesses to the marriage was my uncle, Isaac.
We lived in Mullan most of the time, but sometimes we moved to other places where dad could work. I wrote about Aberdeen. We also spent a half year in Butte, Montana, when I was in the fifth grade of school. Dad worked in the Tamrack Mine but I guess he wasn't happy, because we moved back to Mullan before I started the sixth grade. I remember my dad displaying mechanical abilities while we were in Butte. He replaced the clutch in our car and it seemed he had parts all over the yard at 123 Locust Street. He got them all back in the car and very carefully tested the car by driving in the yard. When he put it in low gear and let up on the clutch, the car went backwards! Reassembly corrected the problem--he said he preferred "standard shift" in his car.
I don't know why dad would leave his jobs in the Morning Mine. One time he worked on a lease at Snowstorm mine near Larson and he and his partners found out why the mine had ceased operations and decided that they would never get rich by digging further. I don't think he was ever fired or laid off from mining because whenever we returned to town, the mine bosses asked him to get a card from the "King" and come back to work. The King, located in Wallace, did the hiring for most of the mines in the area, based on requests from the mine officials.
Dad was a shift boss most of the time and when I worked under him one summer during college years, I found that he really knew the ins and outs of getting the lead out--ore that is. He was always called to catch up cave-ins and I saw one instance where he got a cave-in "well under control" in just a few shifts. After he felt that he couldn't hack climbing up and down stopes to check out miner progress, he got a job of weaving and installing flat cables for the hoists. These were made up of quarter (?) inch cables, woven into 5 or 6 inch wide belts, and were about six thousand feet long, more or less.
I mentioned that there were many accidents in the mines and before the advent of hard hats dad would often come home with cuts and bumps in his head. Once when I was a freshman in college, a hoist cable broke, sending about ten men to their death. Dad had just been brought up to the main station on the hoist before the cable break. Safety devices on the cage were ineffective when about three thousand feet of cable came down on top of it and it dropped to the bottom of the shaft. After the accident (and maybe even before) the cables were removed periodically to the cable shop and inspected for "bad" spots. The cable was then repaired or discarded. Cable work was one of my father's later jobs in the mines.
I read a school report that Linda had written about her grandmother in which my mother used snow skates in Finland. These were made of wood, with a metal runner, and were tied to the feet with ropes. My dad knew all about the skates and once made me a pair. I can't remember having any success on them but I do remember my friend, Vilho Lehto, using them on a road down from Brock's Addition (a section of Mullan). He was coming down the hill pretty fast when he flipped over and slid down the rest of the hill on body parts other than his feet. He took the skates off, handed them to me, and said, "Here, you try it." He went home. I think he didn't want me to see he was hurt physically and emotionally and needed to cry.
My dad made a lot of toys for me. I remember a box scooter made from two wagon wheels, a couple of pieces of two by fours and some wide boards to make up the body. I had a lot of fun with the scooter, even though I had to push it more than I could ride it. Learning to ride the scooter made learning how to ride a bicycle easier. I also remember a crossbow with arrows or darts fashioned from white pine. I can't remember why I didn't use the crossbow very much--maybe it was a dangerous weapon and it took a lot of time to whittle replacement arrows.
Another toy he made was a wheelbarrow to haul wood to the back yard. Dad and his friends would go to the hills (with a forester's permit) to cut up fire wood and have it hauled to the homes. At our house the wood would be dumped in the street in front of the house where it was cut up for the kitchen range and the living room heater. I got to haul the cut up pieces to the back yard with my wheelbarrow, not knowing if it was fun or work. Another use for the wheel barrow was to give smaller kids rides on the school street sidewalks. With roller skates on my feet, I could give the kids a thrill (?) going down the walks. It was safe, because to stop, all I had to do was to put the barrow down--built in brakes.
He was a handy man around the house and did jobs like putting in new foundations, painting, shingling, plumbing and electrical wiring and wall papering. He was a rough carpenter, and made things strong enough to withstand mine cave ins. He used eight inch timbers where two by sixes would do and four nails where one or two would have been sufficient. He built a two car garage with a flat roof and after the first winter snows, modified it into a gabled roof structure. Come to think of it, he also built me a garage at 1100 C Street in Bremerton when he and mother came to visit me one summer. It took a lot of grunts to tear down any structure he had put together after it was no longer needed.
Dad and me at Brock's Addition
My dad had what I considered to be two vices when I was young. One was smoking up to three packs of cigarettes a day. The time I was most aware of his smoking was when he "lit one up" after finishing his meal while I was still eating dessert. He did quit smoking for about seven years once and we all noticed that he stopped his coughing spells. During World War 2 when cigarettes were being rationed, he started smoking again and I think it was because he wanted to show his friends he could get all the smokes he wanted. His coughing returned.
Another of his vices was drinking. I don't know if you would consider it excessive or not, but once or twice a year, starting on a payday, he would go on a three-day bender, and wouldn't come home. Occasionally mother and I would take the car (I learned to drive at 14,) and visit some friends on a farm to get away. I guess it really wasn't too bad to go on the binges--friends told us that some of the miners that worked under him, or some of his peers would invite him into one of the twelve or so bars in Mullan to put one down, and he couldn't stop until he had been to all of them. During prohibition, he helped his brother-in-law distill some hot stuff. Isaac was quite ill from "miner's con" and so brewed or distilled what the miners craved for to provide for the family. I don't know what happened to the project for there were no signs of stills on the Freisting farm when us kids played in the woods. I just happened to think, maybe I never took up cigarette smoking or drinking because of dad. By the way, I always called him "Pa pa" with an accent on the first syllable.
The book that Heidi handed me indicated that my dad had studied the Bible, at least in Finland. Many years ago, while I was rummaging around our home, I did find a Finnish Bible with his name in it, and some of the families we visited during our tour of the New England States, Canada and Minnesota said table prayers before we sat down to eat. However, in Mullan, our spring and summer Sundays were usually spent at some fishing stream or lake. My dad was an avid fisherman and could usually catch a meal of fish, if fish were to be caught. On rare occasions I would catch a bigger one than he did and enjoyed telling him he could throw his "minnows" back into the water.
Another of his hobbies was watching baseball games--not professional games, but games between teams sponsored by mines and businesses around the Inland Empire. We would watch the games from the hillside above the ballpark, and sometimes would even splurge a little by sitting in the bleachers or in the grandstand. The games were just as exciting to us as professional games would have been. The ball field no longer exists since the government decided that the area was needed for Interstate Highway 90. Mullan didn't gain notoriety for having the last stop light on the Interstate, like Wallace did. The fact is, Mullan had no stop lights and it was easier using the ball field and tearing down a few homes including my mothers to build a modern Interstate Highway 90.
My dad liked little children and I'm sorry he never had any young ones around to call him grandpa. He worked his final years at mining and died December 5, 1952, just three weeks after Betty and I were married, without ever having lived a retiree's life. Betty had only seen him twice, once in Mullan and once when we were married. We had returned from our honeymoon and because of a ship departure deadline and my work in the Navy Yard, I was testing overhauled equipment on a Sunday. One of the fellows looked me up and said my dad had passed away. I drove to Mullan alone since Betty was still in the Navy and unable to get leave.
He had been feeling ill, and was in the doctor's office when it happened. He and mother were in Wallace for his doctor's appointment and my mother did some shopping. She was waiting for him in the car, wondering why he was taking so long when a friend who had been in the doctor's office found her and gave her the word. On my way home, I stopped at the funeral parlor in Wallace to be a few moments with him. I remembered the expression he always used when I was leaving for school or Bremerton, or Chicago. I said "good look" as I left the parlors.