The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

A trip out to Finn Creek for the annual celebration reminded me of several things regarding my experiences here with people of Finnish origins. Some of those  experiences I had when I moved up here in ‘73.

I worked for the local Coop, which was the Co-op back when we were improperly educated as to the use of the hyphen. Back then, the Co-op brand was on lots of things. One of the antiques on display in the general store there at Finn Creek was a container of coffee. Back in ‘73, it was rumored that if you scraped the Co-op insignia off, there would be a Russian hammer and sickle beneath it.

That was because The Central Exchange had either sponsored Co-op organizations around this area, or absorbed cooperative ones already in existence. The Central Exchange was by any other name a communist endeavor to gain a foothold in the politics of the USA.

My neighbor here, O.H., was himself quite old in ‘73, and was active back in the ‘30s and ‘40s in the town of Heinola, which is about a mile and a half from this farm where I am. He told about his supposed sales trips to the Twin Cities, sales trips that were more brainwashing in the ways and means and goals of the communist party, than were they anything to do with selling stuff.

Incidentally, the Central Exchange? It turned into Cenex, and became fully Americanized.

A visit to the old country school building at Finn Creek reminded me of my country school back in Iowa, Douglas # 8. I went all the way through to eighth grade, which was the end of the country schools in Iowa.

Any memories of that one-room schoolhouse primarily circle around how cold it was in there in the winter. No insulation anywhere, of course, and the school teacher, an elderly Miss Martin,  still subscribed to the old belief that germs hated fresh air. Cold as it was when we got there in the morning, after the coal stove going out overnight, she opened all the windows to “let that stale air with all those germs out.”

We would in the winter take turns going up to that brown, porcelain-covered metal framework around that five-foot-high stove, to try to thaw our feet out. Country school education? Always my first memory is how cold that floor was.

The second memory was getting up to some mischief during our turn to the stove. Of course, beneath that shiny covering, there was a metal belly that got pretty darned hot. Around this time of the century–the fifties–cap guns became quite popular. All us kids had them.

And we had caps. A lot of education was involved thus in knowing exactly when to throw a couple of paper caps up on top of that stove. You had a fixed ten minutes to warm up, usually, and then had to leave. You had to know someone was going to come up after you, otherwise….

You sure didn’t want those caps exploding when you were there. So we would time it as best we could and throw a few paper caps surreptitiously onto the top of that hot stove, and be back in our seats. That way, when they went off, whoever was sitting up there would get the blame, which mostly involved a nasty look from Miss Martin.

Although there were some knuckle slaps she delivered on occasion with a wooden ruler. I don’t remember ever getting any of those, but then again….

Spring was a better time to be a country school kid. To get there, my brother and I had to cross a small creek, which in the summer turned into a three-foot-deep river. We showed up for school wet and muddy to our knees once too often, the temptation of messing around in that river just too much to resist.

Back then, discipline of children was easy. The teacher sent a note home with you, detailing the exact misbehavior that had to cease. Country school teachers were very difficult to replace. That meant that the teacher had the overall authority of The Lord God.

As I hear about discipline problems in the schools of today, it becomes difficult to compare that with what we went through back then. And no more showing up muddy.

And no, it wouldn’t work now. If a teacher even waved a wooden ruler at a student, law suits would fly. Teachers would be removed. Parents would protest.

One would think that there would be some happy medium between what my education was, and what it is now, especially regarding behavior.

But I guess not.

I’m always happy to remember mine, though.

Back when.