On or about 1907 or 1908, a group of Finnish people organized the Detroit Finnish Educational Association. Their meetings were held at the Finnish Educational Association Hall — 5969 14th Street in Detroit, Michigan.
Because they enjoyed outdoor activities in the summer months, they would rent and use various beaches and parks for camping, swimming and other activities. From 1920 to 1924 they were at Wing Lake and Walnut Lake in the present Birmingham area.
In April of 1925, the D.F.E.A. decided to elect a committee to seek a suitable permanent location. The chairman of this committee was Pekka Juvonen. The secretary was Elmer Makela. The other names of committee members have been lost to history.
The first site selected was an 80 acre farm near Pleasant Lake. The full price was $40,000.00. A $50.00 deposit was made. The site was cancelled. The reasons were not noted in the minutes of the committee.
On June 21, 1925, a caravan of between 20 to 30 automobiles left Detroit to hold a picnic at Site No. 2. Upon arriving at Sears Lake, they found it most unsuitable. Among other things, the Lake itself was a shallow mudhold. Sears Lake near Milford was a 40 acre farm. The price was $16,750.00 A $500.00 deposit had been made.
The caravan left Sears Lake and continued on to the 3rd site which was a 100 acre farm on Loon Lake. The price was $32,000.00. After looking over the Loon Lake site, the group became very enthusiastic about its possibilities.
At the following meeting the committee held another confer- ence at which it was decided to organize the DETROIT FINNISH CO-OPERATIVE SUMMER CAMP ASSOCIATION. This association was to be a separate organization from the D.F.E.A. as the D.F.C.S.C.A. would be too large to be affiliated with another organization.
The aims and goals originally desired were:
1. To maintain and promote social, physical, cultural and recreational activities.
2. To take care of the spiritual and physical well-being of its membership by arranging lectures, picnics, programs and meetings.
3. Also to secure for its members — facilities for ball games, athletics, swimming and bathing.
4. For the purpose of maintaining and developing physical education.
5. To provide its members a peaceful site for summer homes.
The only requirements for membership were: to be of Finnish descent, Finnish speaking, of good character and to live in the Detroit area.
With the charter signed, this enthusiastic group began a building program that has spanned 50 years. The organization continues today with 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations of people who have not lost the spark of the original members.
MEMORIES OF FIFTY YEARS
I am one of the first members of the Detroit Finnish Summer Camp. My husband, Toivo Aho, bought his share in 1925. Toivo died in
1946. The share was put in my name, Katri Aho. In 1948 I married George Larson, then the share was changed to Katri Larson.
I remember so clearly the Sunday we went on a picnic to Sears Lake. Young as we were we simply had to go swimming. But we sure got out of that lake in a hurry! The water was muddy and long, black snakes were swimming in it. We all left that picnic spot and came to look at Loon Lake. Everyone was delighted with this place. We walked around what today is the kentta area; it was covered with brush, bushes and long grass. We found a narrow path to the beach; following the path we found an old row boat in the water.
Toivo was one of the first building workmen at Loon Lake. He did many different jobs. He was caretaker with Kusti Maki. It was in the 1930’s when construction work was at a standstill. Toivo was a mason, or brick layer by trade, so he was out of work.
The Caretaker lived in the old farm house. Heat and light were provided along with the living quarters. He received no salary. At that time the Caretaker’s chores were: heat the sauna, clean the sauna and the beach; clean the kentta area; clean the dance hall; clean the toilets (they were known as outhouses); keep the pumps in good repair; burn the trash; and any other chores that were to be done and chores were always to be found.
Toivo also put in his term on the Board of Directors. He was always ready to give a hand where it was needed.
Our first camp was put up in 1926. During those days the camp area had no electricity. In fact the camps didn’t have electricity for a long time. Toivo made a brick stove outside; it was large enough for our neighbor ladies to use. Later on we purchased an oil stove. The first camp had canvas roof and sides. The roof didn’t last too long, as the sap dripped from the trees and burned it full of holes.
The first years were happy times at Loon Lake. Everyone knew one another. We were like one big family. Of course there were differences of opinions and ideas, but as in any large family not everyone thinks alike.
We talked over our ideas and opinions and matters were settled and this is how they have always been settled. When the hard years came along many members had very little money. In the long run every member had it in his heart to save this place. Be- cause this was all our very own summer resorts We had our cele- brations and week-end affairs with total member support. This is how we fared the hard years with great pride. Our debts were paid and we built onward.
For my own part I wish to say this Loon Lake has been my very life and a cherished place. I have been in Ohio over four years. As yet I have not been able to give up my share — so dear this area has been to me. I have made visits in the past and hope that I can come to the 50th Anniversary celebration.
I wish the new members the same work strength that the first members shared. – Katri Larson (Aho)