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  • Writer's pictureVesa Oja

Thunder Bay 2005

2nd Finglish trip August 2005 #11

Thunder Bay, Ontario, on Canada’s northern shore of Lake Superior, carries on the heritage of the Finnish towns of Fort Williams and Port Arthur in particular. It has Canada's largest proportion of Finnish immigrants, around 10 percent of the population. The Finns first came to this port and lumber industry town, from where they went on to the small Finnish villages of the nearby region: Kivikoski, Intola, Toimela, Lappe, Tarmola, Alppila, Pohjola, Suomi.

Finnish Labour Temple

On Bay Street all matter of business could be done in Finnish. The impressive hall built in 1910 is still used actively. Until the 1960s it was controlled by the Wobblies (IWW) but it is now politically unaffiliated. Located in the basement of the hall, Hoito serves up its renowned Finnish logging camp fare – including mojakka and salt fish, as exotic to modern-day Finns as to modern-day Canadians.

Kivelä Bakery

The Kivela Bakery provides sourdough and rye bread and traditional Finnish coffee bread for the local Hoito restaurant among other clients. It is over 100 years old and Mike Setala has managed it for 26 years. There are two other Finnish bakeries in Thunder Bay. Mike’s parents came from Finland in the 1920s, but Mike has never visited the country. He grew up in the nearby Finnish village of Alppila in a family with eleven children.


A tango and humppa (fast foxtrot) orchestra plays at least three gigs each summer at the Pohjanpirtti dance pavilion and sauna built by the Keskipohjanmaa (Central Ostrobothnia) association in 1959 on the shore of Surprise Lake.

Pentti Lund

In 1932, the seven-year-old Pentti and his five-year-old brother Veikko were taken by horse by their grandfather from Karijoki to Turku, where the two little boys boarded a boat for Stockholm. From Stockholm, they travelled via Gothenburg and Halifax to join their parents at Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) in Canada.

Pentti recalls seeing his first skates at the age of nine, and became interested in ice hockey at an early age. He went to be the first Finnish-born player to score points in the NHL. In the 1940s, he played several seasons with the New York Rangers.

Next Sault Ste.Marie Ontario Canada

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