Suomalaisten historia Floridassa


Kaikki kuuntelimme korva tarkkana, henkeä pidätellen, kun historian professori William  Copeland piti todella upean esitelmän Suomi Talossa suomalaisten saapumisesta Floridaan. Meidän lyhyt historia täällä Floridassa on jäämässä unholaan. Onneksi jotain tietoa sentään on tallessa. Suomi Talon suojissa on aika paljonkin tietoa, ne vaan pitää löytää sieltä ja tuoda julkisuuteen.

Tällainen kirjoitus on julkaistu 1976 ilmestyneessä juhlakirjasessa. Tietääkö kukaan kirjoittajaa?  Kenen isoäiti oli Ella Lehto?

Tämän mukaan Suomalainen Klubi, nykyisin Amerikan-Suomalainen Turistiklubi, on perustettu jo 1935, joskin rekisteröity paljon myöhemmin!

Finnish-American Bicentennial 1776-1976 booklet:

Florida March 22-28, 1976


Ella Lehto has a famous aunt Miina Sillanpää, the first woman Senator of Finland. Ella herself was born in Törmä, Finalnd and finished High School in 1915. She then went to Helsinki where she continued her schooling in the Työväen Opisto, where she studied English, Bookkeeping and a business education course for three years under the wise guidance of her forward-looking Aunt Miina.

During Ella`s earlier school years she had studied languages, which came easy for her – among them were Swedish, Spanish, German, some Russian and, of course, Finnish. She admits to be conversant in four languages but the Russian is getting rusty.

After the Business Education Course, Ella applied and got a job as cashier in the famous Elanto, a large Finnish corporation where she worked for 3 years.

But when Aunt Miina`s friends visited from America and asked Ella how much money she made a month, and explained that she could make the fabulous amount of $50 a month in America, Ella was not happy. In fact, she immediately began to make plans to leave for this Utopia.

But America did not prove to be so wonderful. In 1920 Ella accepted a position as a lowly maid – a great difference from the business field in which she had been. She was determined to do her best and progress further.

When the opportunity came for her to advance, she accepted a position at the Työväen Talo and met many charming people. Among them was Charles Lehto, a designer of furniture – a trade he had learned in Finland.

Charles was immediately attracted to this very well educated and lovely young lady,  Ella. He courted her diligently for 2 years and finally sprung the question. Ella was a little dubious because he had been married previously, his wife having died of Spanish flu, and he had three daughters by the previous marriage. She realized there would be problems being a step-mother to the 2 older girls. The youngest had been adopted by another family because her mother died when she was two.

Finally Charles convinced the winsome Ella and they were married by a Justice of the Peace in New York in 1923.

Both Charles and Ella, being people of determination to succeed at the marriage and having high aspirations for their family, really pulled together as a team.

Soon after the marriage ceremony, they bought a rooming house in the exclusive area of Central Park West in New York City. Ella was the one who put her all into it. She cleaned 17 rooms every day with no modern coveniences except a carpet sweeper.

Charles continued to work as master craftsman at the Reed Corp. of New York. They were so affluent after five years they decided to go to Finland to show off their family to relatives. They had a lovely time, but much to their chagrin, when they returned to America everyone was having problems with employment. The `Great Crash of 1929` had occurred and when Charles went back to work in the Reed Corp., his salary was reduced by half. In order to keep up their current standard of living, Ella enrolled in the famous Schrafts Restaurant to learn and work as a waitress.

Then times improved and Ella and Charles moved to Miami in 1931. He found a job as a chauffeur for a family and she worked an Epicure Buffet, owned by Finns, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Kallio.

All the time they were in Miami they looked for a business to buy but all of the ones for sale were beyond their means. However, undaunted, they continued to work and look.

Then opportunity opened its doors when a husband of a family died in Lake Worth, leaving his widow with the business. She was only too glad to sell at a price the Lehtos were willing to pay. This was in the year 1932 and their business was known as Lehtos Bar and Grill, 110 North Dixie. They both worked diligently in the business and after 7 years, John Rostan of the first Real Estate establishment of Lake Worth area suggested Charles and Ella work for his company. They both were happy to leave the daily routine of a Bar and Grill.

Ella was good in the business field, having done well in school in Helsinki. Charles, on the other hand, had joined the Palm Beach Lions and was on its Board of Directors, as well as a staunch member of the Elks. This, added to the fact that many of the Finnish descendants began to move into the Palm Beach-Lake Worth area, made Ella`s and Charles`first adventure into real estate successful.

Besides working at the business of promoting the area,  Ella and Charles helped organize the first Finnish Club 1935. The group rented a club room at No E. Street and held many activities. She admits they were a lovely couple on the dance floor.

From this original group the Finnish American Tourist Club was organized on land purchased from Wäinö and Elin Heinonen.

Kenttä Haali was built on land across the road on property owned by the Lehtos and which they subdivided. The road leading to Kenttä Haali retained the name Lehto Lane, named after the original promoters, Ella and Charles Lehto, owners by then of the Lehto Real Estate Company of Lake Worth, Florida.

Ella also was very active in many women`s organizations of the area. She has been Lion`s Auxiliary President, as well as member of Anna Miller Circle organized by the Women Elks, and Business and Professional Women`s Club, of which she is still an active member at the age of 75. In fact, in 1955 she was a delegate from Florida to the International Business and Professional Women`s Club Conference in Switzerland.

Their home on 227 Forum Drive, College Park, an exclusive area of Lake Worth, was open to many lovely parties and dinners with such distinguished guests as Democratic U.S. Senator Claude Pepper.

Charles Lehto was honored by the Lions Club for his diligent work at treasurer in 1947-1948 and continued to work at the Real Estate Business until his death in 1954 at the age of 63.

Mauno Nikander bought the business in 1954 and continues to advise Ella about her business affairs as a very dear friend.

Ella worked in the Nikander Real Estate offices 2 years after the death of her dear husband Charles and finally retired at the age of 73.

Ella has not sit still since her husband passed on. She organized the Finnish Radio program over WLIZ at Nikander`s suggestion in 1962 and carried it on until 1974. Some of the features Ella remembers were a daily poem and a `Word for the Wise`saying.

She has traveled extensively in Canada, Europe, Mexico and the U.S.A. She enjoys telling of quotes from the Jack Paar Program – `Brittish most interesting, Italians most enjoyable, Tahitians and Brazilians friendliest, French seldom smile`, and Fred Allen`s quote `French ideal is eating and shrugging shoulders. No one is as eloquent at shrugging their shoulders as the French.`Also, `French lift their eyebrow as if to say `You don`t know what you are talking about – or you`re idiotic`.

Ella continues to enjoy her family – younger daughter Orvokki (Lehto) Johnson whose husband is a postal clerk in Maryland, and second oldest Helve (Lehto) Dynan whose husband is with the New York Educational Dept. of Woonsocket Tour Lines of New York.

She is a fabulous woman who has enjoyed life to the fulliest and will continue to contribute her share to make this wonderful United States of America, to which she came so many years ago to find a fuller life, a better place in which to live, because she is our dear Ella Lehto.