Finland Street and Finn Hall
A long time ago there was a Finn Hall in Pittsburgh. A reminder of it is still there, a small street named Finland Street. We do not need to go far to find places where Finnish people have built homes, halls and churches.
Sylvia Rinne sat in her wheelchair almost all day waiting for someone to drop by for a visit. They were nice visits with her being happy to have company. She had lived in Pittsburgh all her life and remembered what life was like during her childhood. This story about Finn Hall was taped during one of those visits. The hall was there when she was a child; it was not clear when it disappeared.
Activities in Finn Hall in the Hill District in Pittsburgh
By Sylvia Rinne
I was about 10 years old when I started to go to the Finnish dance with my parents on Saturday evenings. I was one of five children, about the same age, who came there before the dance started. My mother was in the kitchen where the women made coffee and prepared cardamon sweet bread, "pulla", and red salmon sandwiches, "lohivoileipi". We children went to the kitchen and were offered a big cup of coffee, "kuppi kuumaa", as was said. We drank our coffee and then we went to the hall, a large room on the second floor of the building. There we played until the musicians, Helen, Heikki, and their young brother, Lauri, came to play. Helen played the piano and Lauri played the violin. Then came a loud "pum, pum, pum," when Heikki hit the drums. The father of the two girls whom I was playing with came and danced with us children. We danced all over the floor and had fun. Especially we enjoyed when the musicians played the polka. More people arrived, and the dance had started. Young men and women, wives and husbands, came to dance. Every Saturday they came there to meet each other and to dance. The music played beautifully, and the people had a good time. Then came a man who had an accordion, "hanuri". He started to play. The music came out and one felt like the feet would dance almost by themselves. However, we, the children, had to sit aside when the big people filled the dance floor. In the kitchen there was a big coffee pot always hot and Finnish "pulla" and lox-sandwiches were available. Once tired of dancing, people came there and had a "kuppi kuumaa", a cup of hot coffee, and a chance to sit down and talk with friends. My parents did not dance. Mother was in the kitchen and served coffee. Father had a good singing voice and was often asked to sing. "Matti !aula meille!" people said. And father sang. It was beautiful, and we all enjoyed listening. Then the music started again and the feet carried on and on. The music stopped at eleven, and about twelve o'clock the rooms had been cleaned and we were ready to lock up and leave for home. However, the warm and happy feeling which had surrounded us in that place stayed with us, and it still brings back happy memories to remember these Saturday evenings now when there are only a few Finnish people left in Pittsburgh. In the summertime dances were not held regularly. Instead people often came to our house in Brookline. My brother had built a sauna underneath a garage building in our backyard. On Saturdays many Finnish people came to get a good sauna bath. The sauna was heated hot and people sitting on the benches threw water on the kiuas-stones. Hot steam filled the room and the bathers hit themselves with leafy branches. Finally they ran to a cold refreshing shower and, after having cooled themselves, they got dressed and came up. There in the house were coffee and bread and of course Finnish coffee pulla. It was the "kuppi kuumaa", a cup of hot coffee, which was always ready when the people gathered together. If there was a dance that night, the sauna bath was taken early and we went to the dance afterwards. Summer was also a time for picnics. The area around our house was mostly unbuilt forest and nearby was an open place for games. About the second Sunday of the month the people came again. The cars were parked on the streets near our house, and from our backyard we went through the forest to the picnic area. There people played games, baseball and horseshoes. A campfire was built on stones, and everybody had fun. We children could run freely in the woods and the time to go home in the evening came always too soon; even so, we were tired and ready to go to sleep.