Kaleva Historical Society
Kaleva Historical Society
Kaleva Historical Society
Dedication of the Sculpture Tree
The Sculpture Tree Honorees
This tree symbolizes the development of the community of Kaleva.
The roots were established by the Finnish pioneers in the early 1900s.
The trunk became strong as they built a sustainable economy.
The leaders reached out as do the branches to develop business, government, and important institutions.
This sculpture honors those whose endeavors and service were of long-lasting importance to the village of Kaleva.
William Makinen —written and presented by Doreen Makinen Yonkman
"I’m the daughter of the late Willliam (Bill) Makinen, whom I call the Difference Maker. I want to tell you about my dad Bill.
At a young age Bill was whittling out his own fishing plugs on the family farm north of Kaleva on Makinen Rd. He tested them out on a lake across from the farm to see how fish reacted to different shapes and colors.
Around 1933 he was in the wholesale beverage business and running a mink ranch. However, by 1939 Bill Makinen had decided he should put his knowledge of what kinds of baits attracted fish into a tangible business and he called it Makinen Tackle Company. By 1940, with 3 employees were making wooden fishing bodies in his garage behind our home in Kaleva. They were painted and assembled in the basement of our home! (You might guess) my mom got into that conversation!
The new enterprise provided income for many people from Kaleva and surrounding areas. Many people took baits home to sandpaper them down to a smooth finish in their leisure time. The early wooden baits were made of cedar, poplar and basswood. By 1945 business had grown to 14 employees.
Soon after a building was built or moved into our backyard and 57 workers were employed there! The tackle business was growing and growing, in our backyard!
Then came another expansion. A large new plant was constructed in 1946 on Nine Mile Rd. in Kaleva which then housed the business. The building is there yet today. A grand opening of the business was celebrated with a party of 400 people. It included food, drink, speeches and even a three piece band called The Washtub Wallopers. The musicians were dressed in bizarre garments and were made up, so it was hard to distinguish some of Kaleva’s best known citizens!
Many articles were written about the Makinen Tackle Co, here and afar. A nationwide contest, called Name this Lure, was conducted to arouse the interest of sports-minded men and youngsters. The contest ran for one year allowing people to buy and try out two of the fishing lures. They were called The Merry Widow (female) and the Wonder Lure (male). The ad read like this, “The Merry Widow had a baby and it looks just like his daddy the Wonder Lure. Give this cute fly rod rascal a name!” Contest entry information was available in all sporting goods stores. I’m not sure what the prize was, but I imagine it was one worth having! Bill and his salesmen traveled to various cities and states to showcase his lures. On one trip my sister, Mavis, and myself got to go to Chicago where his baits were on display at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Wow! I remember staying at the Chicago Palmer House Hotel. What an experience for small town girls.
Many years later the Heddon Co. from Dowagiac, MI, contacted Bill Makinen. Heddon made items for the government and also their own baits. After negotiations an agreement was made between Makinen and Heddon. Makinen Tackle Co. would keep making their own baits plus finish Heddon’s wood and plastic lures, and also make bamboo and glass fishing rods. Employment reached its highest with nearly 100 people working. Later Makinen Tackle Co. was purchased by Heddon and Co.
After Bill Makinen and Heddon Co. parted ways, my dad formed a new business called Mak-Craft Creations. They made furniture and wildlife themed table lamps. The base of the lamps could be deer, black bear, polar bear, moose or trout. The new company employed 60 people. Workers were turning out 400 pieces a day. Mak-Kraft Creations remained in business until 1959.
Memories I have of my dad are all about fishing vacations in the Upper Peninsula and on the Manistee River. Bill wanted his daughters to have an interest in fishing. I’m sure we took home a catch as always with Makinen Tackle baits!
Bill’s ideas and accomplishments made an impact near and far. A great communicator and storyteller, he told stories that were true and laughable. He was an inventor and respected man in the community. (Sadly) The “Difference Maker’s” life ended at the age of 59 years old.
I invite you all to see the sample box of baits and wildlife lamps we have here tonight. The complete collection of Makinen tackle is on display at the Bottle House Museum. There you will find more of the Makinen Tackle history as well.
I will always remember the Difference Maker and maybe you will also after what you’ve heard tonight. Thank you. Now I would like to introduce members of my family who are here tonight."
Doreen’s children present: Betsy, Steve and Tracy
Mavis’ family present: Wayne, Wendy, Sherry and Brian
Weikko Pihl - written and presented by Wayne Pihl
Dad started his working career at the Union Store, owned the Cities Service Station and a Ford sub dealership from 1936 until the mid-forties. He broke ground and built the Kaleva Hardware in 1946. Working to help in the store were: Fred Jouppi, Johnny Widgren, Gene Bahr, Harry Kaldahl, Bill Johnson, Sandy Sandell, Russell Hilliard, Dick Whitum. It was sold to Skip Ward in the 70s.
Dad would no doubt be most proud of the time invested and his accomplishments on the school boards of Kaleva and the Manistee County. He had a good relationship with the various superintendents: Dixon, Vanzo, Baron, Mayfield, Sharon and Hoeh. I think he hunted or fished with most all of them. Our schools are very good and spawned many Magna and Suma Cum Lauds at various colleges and universities: Jack Harrigan, Bill Swart, Jack McDonald, Dick Asiala, Gail Makinen and I am sure I missed someone.
And yes, the singing: the church choir, the Harmony Singers, and as a barbershop quartet with Ferd Kaskinen, Oliver Kuuttila and Toivo Makinen. Not sure if he sang at more—weddings or funerals. I still get a lump in my throat when the Lord’s Prayer is sung in a particular composition reminding me of Dad’s voice.
An athlete, he played basketball in high school and baseball for many years for the Kaleva teams. He took up golf after retirement and won his flight handicap championship at Bear Lake.
Behind every successful man there is a good woman and Mother would be just as proud as are my siblings: Helen, John and Janet and their spouses.
Art Luhtanen - A short Biography by Richard Schafer
Arthur Theodore Luhtanen was born on the 20th of April, 1913, the youngest of 4 children. His sisters Linda and Aina both died in their first year. Art was the son of Jacob and Aina Luhtanen. Other famous people that shared his birthday, April 20th were Hunchy Niemitalo and Adolph Hitler.
Art graduated from Kaleva High School in 1931. If you check the school picture at the “Bottle House” you will find him surrounded by seven girls in the same row. After High School, he worked on the family farm then for Rengo Brothers as a service manager. The 1940 census has him living on the family farm and married but his wife, Eva is not listed as living there. The census lists Art as having worked 43 weeks in 1939 for a total income of $699.00. Art enlisted in the Army at the age of 29 on May 28th after WWII started. He served until discharged on Oct 8, 1945 with the rank of Staff Sargent (E-6). Art saw combat in North Africa and Italy with the Army Air Corp in the 20th A.D.C. Returning from the army, he was one of the Charter members to form the V.F.W. Bear Creek Post 6333 and was elected as the second commander of the post in 1947.
After his military service he went back to work for Rengo Brothers as a service manager until 1958 when he opened Luhtanen Appliance Store and operated the store for over 30 years until transferring it to his nephew William “Billy” Luhtanen in the early 1990’s. One story I heard is that kids could bring a sack of old clothes to the store and he would then pay them a dollar so he could have rags to use on appliances or a furnace when they needed to be repaired.
While operating the store full-time, he managed to help form and became a charter member of the Kaleva Lion’s Club in 1961. He was very active with the Lion’s Club and in 1966 was selected as Lion of the Year. He also was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship, one of the highest awards that the Lion’s International have.
Art helped to organize the Kaleva Fire Dept. and later worked with Maple Grove Township to start the Township Fire Dept. He also joined the Fire Dept. and responded to all fire calls. This was also when he was elected to the Bethany Lutheran Church Council for the first time.
The VFW, Lion’s Club, Church Council, and Fire Dept., along with the store was not enough to keep Art busy, so he worked with a Caucus committee to incorporate the village. On Feb 15, 1960, all positions for the village officers were filled for the first time and Art was appointed as a trustee and Water Dept. superintendent. Art worked hard to have the Village of Kaleva purchase “White’s Woods” —with the discussion at every council meeting. After six months, the purchase was approved for $2,850. “White’s Woods” is now known as “Kaleva Village Park” located at the corner of Nine Mile Rd. and High Bridge Rd. He served as a village trustee until 1992. Art was one-month shy of 79 and decided not to run for re-election. At that time, he offered to resign as Water Dept. superintendent as well, but the council refused to accept it. As a certified drinking water operator he was “grand-fathered” in so the requirements of continued education classes and renewal were not required but he took the classes any way. “If you don’t stay current, people could get sick or die,” was a quote I heard often. I started working with him in 1982.
He was the first person I know that had a snowmobile with a reverse gear. This was in 1982 and I was not interested in anything that involved the words “wind chill factor.” He also loved to fish. Anytime, anywhere, but on a boat with John Troppi on the big lake was time well spent.
In January of 1998, at the age of 84, he was supervising Mike Draper in the replacement of a damaged fire hydrant at the corner of Nine Mile and Osmo St. when he caught pneumonia and died on the 9th of January. After his death, he still helped the community by leaving his estate, including his house, to Bethany Lutheran Church.
Norman Kaskinen - by Dan Holtz, Village of Kaleva President
"I am honored to be here to talk to you about Norman Ferdinand Kaskinen. Norm was born May 26, 1924 to John Ferdinand and Saimi Kaskinen and grew up with a sister, Ila, and two brothers, Les and Mike. He graduated in 1942 from the Kaleva Rural Agricultural School, and later that year attended Suomi College in Hancock, MI. From 1943 to 1944, Norm attended Ball State Teachers College where he took part in an Army Specialized Training Program. He then served his country in Europe in WWII and was decorated with various medals and honors.
After the war, he returned home and his passion for cars led him back to the family business, Kaskinen Motor Company. Norm worked with his father and brothers for a time until his brothers went out on their own and started their own successful automotive related businesses: Less in Bellaire and Mike in Beulah and Manistee. At some point in time, Kaskinen Motor Company became a Chevrolet dealership.
On September 20, 1947, he married Martha Agnes Harju and settled down to start a family. Even though Norm and his wife were busy raising 4 children (Ann, Barb, Deb, and Rick) Norm found the time to give to numerous organizations and hold various offices including:
Charter member and past President of the Kaleva Lion’s Club
Past President of the Northwest Region of the Antique Auto Club of America
Past member of the National Automobile Dealers Association
Member of the Bear Creek V.F.W. Post 6333
Past Treasurer for Maple Grove Township
Volunteer firefighter on the Maple Grove Township Fire Dept.
In March of 1969, Norm was elected a trustee to the Kaleva Village Council and served until 1984, and according to the records, he never missed a meeting.
Served on the Village Planning Commission in his later years.
My family and I moved here from Grand Rapids in November of 1989. Norm and I probably didn’t get to know each other until sometime in 1992, when I was elected President of the Village Council. His first impression may have been to ship me back to Grand Rapids?! However, over the course of time, we would see each other around town and talk. He was a great resource about the history of Kaleva. You could ask him why something was the way it was, and he usually had the answer. He was a great storyteller and every once in a while, he would write me a letter, or drop off a note telling me of his concerns for Kaleva.
And to this day, every time I see a small red pick-up truck, driving at the posted speed limit or below, I think fondly of him. Norm was proud of his family, his community, and his Finnish heritage. I am grateful to have known him."
Art's first glimpse of Kaleva was in August of 1944 while on furlough from the United States Army. He and his brother Sulo ventured to Kaleva to look at a farm to buy to establish a poultry farm. This farm was located outside of Kaleva and owned by Solomon Pihl. Plans were made to purchase this farm and it would become Kaleva Poultry Farm and Hatchery.
Art was born in the Upper Pennisula of Michigan. His parents had immigrated from Finland to work in the copper mines in the U.P. After graduating from high school in 1942 Art ventured to Detroit to look for factory work. He ended up working at a dairy company washing cream cans. This job lasted for a month. He got tired of the mundane job and decided if that was his job he might as well go back home as his father operated a dairy and poultry farm and he could do the same thing there. But instead he went to Lowell, Michigan where his brother worked for a poultry farm and hatchery - operated by a world-renowned breeder of laying chickens. Art got a job there and gained valuable experience that set in motion the groundwork for their future venture in the Kaleva Poultry Farm and Hatchery business.
However, this was war time and in the Fall of 1943 three of Art's brothers were already enlisted. Art was able to get deferment because of this. But, Art requested his deferment be revoked because he felt guilty not serving his country and by December 1943 he was enlisted. In the fall of 1944 he was shipped overseas to Europe. During the Battle of the Bulge - on December 19, 1944 he was captured with thousands of others and taken prisoner. Art would spend 5 months in a Labor Camp outside Dresdan, Germany with 38 other prisoners. Art worked 8 hour days, seven days a week in a horse feed mill. He existed on one quart of soup or stew made with rutabaga, horsemeat and allotted a hunk of bread for the entire day. The war was coming to an end and by May 7, 1945 the German guards evacuated and Art and the others were liberated.
On June 29, 1945 Art arrived back in America via the Pierre Marquette Railroad arriving at the Kaleva Depot as his brother Sulo was now living in Kaleva.
On one of his visits to Kaleva he went to take a Saturday night sauna at Weikko Pihl's and he spotted a lovely young woman coming out of the sauna - Mildred Jouppi a local girl. The Fred Jouppi family was one of the early Finnish founders of Kaleva. Art would go on to marry Mildred and raise a family of four children. Art and Mildred celebrated 65 years of marriage before her death and remained in Kaleva all of those years.
Mildred's father Fred Jouppi was the manager of the Kaleva Mercantile and Produce Co-op from 1920 until 1944. He encouraged Art to get involved in the KMP. He was eventually elected director in 1964 and served in that position until the KMP was sold in the early 1980s. The KMP is one of the longest running businesses in Kaleva and still exists in its original location on Wuoksi Street now called Kaleva Meats under the management of Dave and Beth Barrett.
Kaleva Poultry Farm and Hatchery was started by the Hulkonen Brothers, Sulo, Gunnard and Art in 1945. They sold thousands of baby chicks to small farmers. In 1962 there was a big change in the poultry industry in Michigan - they started building large egg factories and so Art and Gunnard decided to build a building to house 10,000 laying hens. They no longer hatched and sold eggs to small farmers, but raised 10,000 baby pullets at a time and these were shipped to large commercial poultry farms. In 1978 this building was destroyed by a fire which ended their poultry business.
The Hulkonen Brothers, now Art and Gunnard, began growing strawberries in 1945 and continued until 1978. At that time there were hundreds of acres of strawberries being grown in Manistee County. The county had the highest yield east of the Mississippi, as much as 10 ton to the acre sold to processors. Art and his brother also started planting Christmas trees in 1945 and sold these for 50 years across the country, shipping as far as Los Angeles and Louisiana by railroad and truck. To this day someone occasionally reminds him they once worked for him shaping Christmas trees as a teenager.
In Kaleva agriculture was prospering in the 1960s. There were hundreds of acres of strawberries, potatoes, pickles - which attracted a fertilizer and chemical company to become interested in the area. Art was hired to operate International Mineral and Chemical Corporation which eventually sold out to Agrico. Art operated this fertilizer business for over 20 years. At this time Kaleva was the central hub for farmers in the area.
Art also was a director of the Manistee Soil Conservation District for 10 years. In 1963 he attended a Great Lakes Conservation conference in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Addressing this convention was President John F. Kennedy. The next morning as the president was exiting the hotel President Kennedy walked by shaking hands and Art along with Roy Howes both got to shake his hand. Art claims he did not wash his hands for three days!
Art has been an active member of Bethany Lutheran Church since 1945. The church held a Finnish language service as well as English until the late 1970s. He was a Sunday School teacher for years and served on the church council. He is a charter member of the Kaleva Lions Club and served as president. Art was a member of the school board for 10 years and was involved in the consolidation of Kaleva Norman Dickson Schools in 1964.
At this time Art is one of the few, if not the only, Finnish speaking member in the community of Kaleva. He is still asked to translate letters written in Finnish. Art served many years on the Finnish Council of America at Finlandia University in Hancock. He has always been a strong advocate of buying local and supporting local businesses. He rarely will do anything out of town that can be done locally. He believes in keeping business in Kaleva.
At the age of 92 years young, Art still recalls getting off the Pierre Marquette train at the Kaleva Depot in 1945 returning after having served his country. He remembers on the train some girls bound for Interlochen Music Camp singing "You can't get to heaven on the Pierre Marquette, we've tried thrice and we aren't there yet!" But, he found his heaven in Kaleva. He recalls being so thankful to have survived the war and making it back , bending over to touch the ground and thinking, "This is home." And it was, he spent the next 70 years actively involved in the community of Kaleva, always making church, family and this community his priority.
This story was written at the request of Village of Kaleva and the Kaleva Historical Society in September 2015 with information obtained from Art himself as well as compiled by family.
John Cribbs, President Kaleva Telephone Company
Harry "John" Cribbs was born September 5, 1923 in Grand Rapids and in 1924 moved to Kaleva Michigan, an area perfect for his hunting and fishing interests.
The following is taken from John's obituary, printed January of 2020.
"In Kaleva, John purchased a struggling phone company now known as Kaleva Telephone Co. With hopes of providing optimal services to the community, Harry worked hard to expand service offerings to new areas and provide communities with the industry's top technological advancements. This tireless commitment to the community led to the company's great successes over the years.
John's passion for community service led him to serve on the village council in Kaleva and become instrumental in purchasing the property that is now the Kaleva public park. In their generous nature, John and his wife, Charmon, gifted the Kaleva community with the Kaleva library.
John was also an active member of the Shriners, where he contributed to their mission of providing healthcare to children with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries and other special healthcare needs."
Excerpt from KalTechCo website:
"Like many of Michigan’s independent telephone companies, we have a colorful history. Kaleva Telephone Company was founded in 1924 with $750 in capital by local business people who wanted telephone service. At that time there were 18 telephone lines. John Cribbs and his wife, Charmon (Kamppinen), bought the company in December 1948. The Kaleva Telephone Company had 72 phones when the Cribbs took over, today it has about 1068."
For more information, please visit: kaltelnet.net
We have honored five people, but there are many more out there. Imagine all the emotions the first settlers from Finland must have felt when they first saw their new home? But with determination, resolve, grit, resilience (SISU) they stayed. We owe these souls a debt of gratitude for what we now have.