History written by Mrs. Lila V. Davis and Mr. George Mattila
The House of Finland owes its birth to the Finnish Relief Dance of January 20, 1940.
To the best knowledge of the historians of the club there were no Finnish Clubs in San Diego previously, although Finnish people have resided in San Diego since the old sailing days. They joined the American churches and clubs, attended the affairs of the various Scandinavian groups, and frequently put on Finnish picnics and dances. If there was a need of any kind, they formed committees and, whether financial or otherwise, took care of it immediately.
During the winter of I939 their native land Finland was in desperate need of help.
Plans for helping Finland were being discussed when the group was approached by Mr. John Johnson, member of the American Red Cross. He had come to solicit the aid of the Finnish people for the San Diego Chapter of the American Red Cross who wished to sponsor a Finnish Relief Dance.
The response was instantaneous, and a committee was formed with Mr. Johnson as advisor.
The Finnish Relief Dance was a huge success, and the committee was happy to present a check of nearly $400.00 to the American Red Cross.
The spirit of cooperation that prevailed during the planning and hard work of the Relief Dance inspired a desire to form a Finnish Club. Mr. John Johnson, president of the House of Pacific Relations, suggested that the Finnish group form a club and join the House of Pacific Relations.
On January 25, 1940, the Finnish people met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Prairie, 950 Cedar Street. They formed their club, and called it the Suomi Club. There were 22 charter members, and the first officers were Mr. Gust Ruana, president; Mrs. Lila V. Davis, vice-president; Miss Ellen Enlund, secretary; and Mr. Emil Heckman, treasurer.
A petition to join the House of Pacific Relations was drawn up, and Mr. Ruana presented it on February 7, 1940.
It was unanimously accepted by the House of Pacific Relations, and a cottage to be called the House of Finland was assigned to the new club.
The Suomi Club held its first official meeting in the House of Finland in Balboa Park on February 18, 1940. Then began nearly three months of planning and hard work to get the new cottage ready for its dedication. Efforts to obtain furniture, rugs, and drapes from Finland were unsuccessful due to the Finnish Russian War, but the Finnish motif was followed as closely as possible, and many articles from Finland were donated by the members.
May 12, 1940, was the big day. The dedication was held on the lawn surrounded by the 15 cottages of the House of Pacific Relations. The Suomi Club members were dressed in the traditional blue and white colors of Finland and made an impressive sight as the blue and white Finnish flag was raised over the House of Finland.
Mr. Johnson, president of the House of Pacific Relations, gave the address of welcome, and introduced the officers of the Suomi Club. Mr. Gust Ruana, president of the Suomi Club, responded. A program followed including group singing, accordion music by Miss Ellen Enlund, Miss Ruth Pearson, and Mr. John Hamlin, Jr., songs by Miss Marjorie Ann Enlund, Mr. Russell Honka, and Mr. Allan Davis, trumpet solo by Mr. Hubert Johnson, and folk dances by the Scandinavian Folk Dancers. Mr. Ruana then presented the key to Miss Irene Johnson who opened the doors of the House of Finland to the public.
Abiding by the rules of the House of Pacific Relations, the House of Finland was open to the public every Sunday afternoon. This proved a means of contacting more Finnish people in San Diego, and increasing the membership of the club.
Many pleasant and important occasions were celebrated in the House of Finland, and the members thoroughly enjoyed their cottage. Being organized they were able to help Finland a great deal, and in November 1940 the Suomi Club adopted a Finnish war orphan. She was dropped from the orphan list in November 1946 after her mother remarried.
After the United States declared war, the members of the Suomi Club worked harder than ever. Many dances were held for the benefit of the Red Cross, and for two consecutive years the club was able to donate $100.00 in cash each year. On October 22, 1944, the Suomi Club served dinner to 435 service men and women at the 5th and Ash Streets U.S.O. Club.
Meanwhile help was being sent constantly to Finland. The best results were attained during 1946 when 5,235 pounds of clothing and food were sent directly to Finland at a cost of $630.54. This does not include individual packages sent by members to their relatives.
In January 1942 the cottages in Balboa Park were taken over by the U.S. Government. The Suomi Club continued to function without the House of Finland by meeting regularly in the homes of the active members. They managed to retain the interest of the inactive membership by holding a dance each month. The net proceeds from these dances were used for Finnish Relief and the benefit of the Red Cross.
The House of Finland has always taken part in the fiestas and other activities of the House of Pacific Relations and feels highly honored to bea member of such a worthy organization.