Waino = Bob Lappala Sulo = Clifford Laho Uno = Bob Lytikainen
Aili = Jean Lappala Urho = Jack Lehto Anna = Jean (Lehto) Laity
Taisto = Tyler Harkonen Aino = Maija Stenvig Onnie = Reuben Niemisto
Teacher = Helen Stenvig Alli = Rebecca (Kuivanen) Oz
Narrator = Kay Lehto Written by Reuben Niemisto
Narrator: Let’s go back to a time when life was simpler. When all women were strong, the men were good looking, and the children were all above average. Sounds like Lake Woebegone. Here in the Pelkie area in those long ago days, children received their education in one room schoolhouses. Let’s visit one of those classrooms now.
Students are in the classroom. Aino is polishing an apple to put on the teacher’s desk. Taisto is conducting and the rest of the students are singing “Biikkisika biikkisika . . .” The teacher enters.
Teacher: Stop singing that Finn song! This is a school. We speak English in school. Now take your seats. I’ll have to write a note to all your parents stating that you always want to speak Finn. That won’t do here.
Sulo: (to a friend) I don’t care what she writes – my parents can’t read English so I get to tell them what it says. I can say it says anything I want. (to the teacher) Miss Hill?
Teacher: Yes, Sulo.
Sulo: My parents can’t read English. There’s only one person in my family that talks English and he’s in Calumet. My fadder says he ain’t learning English. He gave enough sweat to the mining company and he ain’t learning English too. He don’t need English to blast stumps and clear land. Even our cows only understand Finnish. Besides, my parents want me to sing Finnish songs when company comes to sauna on Saturday night. (Starts to sing Sauna Song.)
Teacher: No! We are here to learn English. Our courses are all in English. This not a Finnish Sunday school.
Anna: Mita? (Writes a note and sends it back. She passes notes throughout the play.)
Aili: We kids all speak English at home. My sister is even learning short hand.
Taisto: The only time my fadder was short handed was when he had to fight the Cousin Jacks, the Austrians and the Eye-talians alone in Calumet.
Teacher: Enough, enough, it’s time to take roll.
Aino? Present, Miss Hill.
A new student enters and hands Miss Hill a note.
Teacher: We have a new student. Please welcome Alli YliAlaVanhaUsiTalo.
Class: Hello Alli Ylialavanhausitalo!
Teacher: Alli is from Bruce Crossing.
Waino: Ruce’s Rossing.
Teacher: Anna, give Alli your seat. You can sit in the back.
Aino, I’m sure you will be a big help to Alli. Please see that she becomes familiar with our procedures.
Aino: Yes, Miss Hill
Teacher: Yes, Uno.
Uno: I can’t come to school for the next four days because I got to pick rocks and fix fence.
Teacher: Uno, you know that you must come to school every day. Do you want to be ignorant?
Uno: I don’t know what ignorant means, but I know if I don’t obey my fadder I won’t be able to sit down when I do come to school.
Teacher: Time for our hygiene lesson.
Alli: We studied this already.
Teacher: Part of being healthy is packing a good, nutritious lunch. Onnie, what is in your lunch bucket today?
Onnie: Hard tack and makkara.
Taisto: I have kala mojakka.
Sulo: I got riisi ryyniä
Uno: I got a venison sandwich.
Aili: I brought a fresh pasty. Anio would you like to eat with me?
Aino: I’ll share my juustoa, nisu and prune tarts for dessert.
Waino: Cold coffee and a couple of old korppuas.
Teacher: Why thank you, Sulo. That is very kind of you.
Urho interrupts, coming in late wearing one shoe and carrying the other shoe and sock. The shoes are tied together.
Teacher: Urho, you’re late again! And why aren’t you wearing your shoe?
Urho: I do too have my shoe on (holds up leg.)
Teacher: Why are you late?
Urho : I couldn’t untie my shoe laces.
Teacher: Well, why aren’t you wearing your sock?
Urho : My mother said I couldn’t get my sock dirty.
Teacher: Sit down.
Teacher: Back to our health lesson. Who would like to tell us about a good, healthy habit?
Alli: I already know this.
Aino: I take a bath every morning. My mother says “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”
Onnie: My mudder uses juntusen muorin puuroa on all our cuts.
Waino: I save time. I never change my underwear.
Teacher: That’s enough foolishness, Waino.
Teacher: Time for math. Uno. Count to twenty.
Uno: Yes Miss Hill. One . . . jack, queen, king.
Aili: That’s dumb!
Teacher: Shame on you. (to Aili) and shame on you! (to Uno.) You’re staying here after class. Aino, show young Uno here, how to properly count to twenty.
Aino: Yes, Miss Hill. (Counts perfectly –classmates make fun of her behind her back.)
Teacher: That’s perfect. (To Uno) Why can’t you be more like Aino.
Uno: Aino? Yeah, like I know everything!
Waino: I gotta roll a smoke.
Teacher: Absolutely not. You will learn right now that there is no smoking in school! Students, tomorrow I want each of you to give a short talk about how to store food for the winter.
Aili: I will talk about canning.
Taisto: I will talk about how to store food in a root cellar.
Onnie: I want to talk about snaring rabbits and shining deer.
Teacher: Snaring rabbits and shining deer are against the law.
Onnie: There ain’t any game wardens around here and besides, they wouldn’t put a kid in jail.
Waino: I gotta have a chew.
Teacher: We’ve discussed this (hits desk with ruler.)
Waino: I gotta use the outhouse.
Teacher: You may be excused.
Teacher: Give me that note. (Intercepts note being passed to Anna.) I can’t read this, it’s written in Finn. Sulo, since you’re such an experienced translator, would you please read this aloud and tell me what it says?
Sulo: Yes, Miss Hill. (reads from note) “That old bat looks mad. What’s her problem now? I don’t understand a word she says. Isn’t she smart enough to speak Finn? She looks like a porcupine when she gets mad.”
Teacher: Anna, you will write “I will not pass notes in school” 500 times.
Teacher: Since you’re all so fond of writing, who can write the vowels on the board?
Aili writes a, e, i, o, u.
Uno: Miss Maki?
Teacher: Miss Hill.
Uno: (Under his breath) Same thing in Finn. (To the teacher) She made a mistake.
Teacher: All right genius, show us? (Uno goes to the board and adds umlauts above ä and ö.)
Waino returns with a wad in his cheek.
Teacher: Our next subject is Geography. Who can tell the class the number of oceans on earth?
Alli: We studied Geography last year.
Teacher: No, Onnie, seven is the number of seas.
Onnie: What’s the difference between an ocean and a sea?
Urho: See is what you do when you open your eyes. Ocean is big. Bigger than Lake Superior.
Taisto: The only water I care about is the fishing hole behind the Co-op.
Teacher: The world is much bigger than your fishing hole behind the co-op.
Taisto starts whistling like a bird. Everyone looks around.
Anna: Missä lintu?
Teacher: Yes! Like Mississippi. That’s a place very far from here.
Teacher: Yesterday I asked you to go home and ask your parents why they came to America.
Aino: My mother and father came to seek a better life, cultural enrichment, educational opportunity . . .
Urho: Get a load of Miss High Tune.
Uno: My fadder had two choices – prison or America.
Waino: My fadder said he wouldn’t fight for the Czar. And besides there was supposed to be all this high paying mine work and the streets were paved with gold but boy, that was a lie.
Urho: Compared to the mine, farming is heaven.
Taisto: My folks didn’t like the church over there. Here we can go to any church we want.
Uno: My folks go to the Synoda Church.
Waino: Ya, and my folks belong to the Hall, the IWW. That’s the International Workers of the World.
Aino: We don’t talk about the Hall and the IWW at my house. That’s sinful. My friends in church wouldn’t speak to me.
Uno: My mother wasn’t speaking to my fader last night. He stayed too long at Biskaboo Saloon. She made him sleep in the barn.
Aili: My cousin from Detroit didn’t like the barn or the outhouse. She went home.
Waino: We have running water. I run to the spring and get it.
Teacher: Time for recess.
Urho: Who wants to play Anti-I-Over?
Others: I do!
As the students get up to leave Anna puts her arm around the teacher, sticking a sign on her back that says potkase minua (“kick me” in Finn.) The teacher turns so that the audience can see the sign.
Teacher: I think my parents wasted their $47 sending me to that six week course at Northern Normal College. To think I could’ve done day work or had an easy office job in Detroit. At least then I wouldn’t have to cope with these children. But hey, I’ll stick with this.
Narrator: I’ll bet you’re wondering what became of these characters. Miss Hill got her bachelor’s degree from Northern Normal and went on to teach at Pelkie Agricultural School.
Taisto became the founder of Ducks Unlimited.
Aino became a famous singer on stage and screen.
Waino became a trucker hauling freight coast-to-coast instead of milk cans to the
Pelkie cheese factory.
Onnie became a professional Finn. Last we heard from him he was a consultant to
Finn Fest America.
Urho joined the Navy and traveled the four oceans and the seven seas.
Aili practiced hard and became the fastest one-fingered piano player this side of
Anna became a Finnish – Finnish translator at the UN.
Sulo took over the family farm.
Alli wrote the “Dear Alli” column which was considered the final word in manners and etiquette It was syndicated in newspapers throughout the U.S.
And Waino? He became a captain in the Navy.
Pelkie will shine tonight, Pelkie will shine,
Pelkie will shine tonight dressed up so fine.
We washed our faces too, out for a time.
When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, Pelkie will shine.