The Finns in Fort Bragg and Finnish Folk Songs and Poetry

Soon after I came to Fort Bragg in 2000 I became fast friends with Hank Simonson.

Hank was born in 1917. Hank’s father had emigrated from Finland and come to Fort Bragg to join Hank’s uncle falling trees.  His father and uncle emigrated to escape from the Russian pogrom. Hake, Hank’s real name in Finnish, was born nine months after his mother arrived. Hank’s family, like many immigrant families, spoke their native language at home and he did not hear and learn English until he went to school. Hank’s father played the violin and his brother was accomplished on several instruments. The Finns were a large community in Fort Bragg and had their own Sulo band – here’s a picture of the band:

Fort Bragg Sulo Band

Fort Bragg Sulo Band

The Band had ceased to exist many years before I knew Hank. My one and only experience of Finnish Poetry and Folk Songs came when Hank and his beloved wife Flo and I attended what may well have been the last evening of Finnish Folk Song and Poetry ever held in Fort Bragg. Per Wiki, “The folk music of Finland is typically influenced by Karelian traditional tunes and lyrics of the Kalevala metre. Karelian heritage has traditionally been perceived as the purest expression of Finnic myths and beliefs, thought to be spared from Germanic and Slavic influences. ”  I was very polite and said I liked it but in all truth I didn’t understand a word of it!

Now you know how I got “into” Finnish Folk Music and Poetry.

Whilst most of our train Club members think I am a right pillock I do have an appreciation of classical music. Recently I have been listening to a VERY talented Finnish violinist named Pekka Kuusisto.  Whilst looking up his music up on YouTube I found  this vid which is both hilarious and enables you to learn Finnish.

The Book, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot with Illustrations by Ian Wallace”

I am a Canadian. I emigrated to Canada in 1968 a year after the song, Canadian Railroad Trilogy was written by Gordon Lightfoot. The song was very popular back then and I loved it. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to a Gordon Lightfoot concert a couple of weeks after I landed in Canada. At the concert in Montreal I became an instant Gordon Lightfoot fan and joined in with the entire audience singing “Canadian Trilogy” along with Gordon. When, for the first time in many years, I played it again it brought back many happy memories of the time I lived in Canada.

If you haven’t heard the song or haven’t heard it recently play the vid below. In addition to the beautiful rendition of the song by the Tempus Choral Society the accompanying Kim Ridout video brings you rare scenes of Canadian rail workers hammering, rails making their way across a great land, and modern scenic vistas crossed by rail today.

Book Cover

Book Cover

When I was purchasing my copy of the book, “Locomotive”  from local author Katy Tahja in the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino she suggested another railroad book, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot with Illustrations by Ian Wallace.” It was a great suggestion.

Gordon Lightfoot’s song eloquently describes the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway — “an iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea” — a great feat of nation building that changed Canada forever for good and for ill, as in the process many people died and were dispossessed of their land. Award-winning illustrator Ian Wallace brings the song to visual life in the book with sweeping landscapes and evocative portrayals of the people who lived the building of the railroad — from the financiers in the east to First Nations people across the country to the thousands of navvies who built the railroad.

The book includes Gordon Lightfoot’s music and lyrics, a brief history of the railroad and notes on the illustrations.

A great buy and read. Thanks Katy.