My Maternal Grandparents

Charles and Minnie Wayrynen
Charlie’s birthplace.

Suomussalmi is a municipality in Finland and is located in the Kainuu region. The municipality has a population of 7,881 (31 January 2019)[2] and covers an area of 5,857.60 square kilometres (2,261.63 sq mi) of which 587.03 km2 (226.65 sq mi) is water.[1] The population density is 1.5 inhabitants per square kilometre (3.9/sq mi). The municipality is unilingually Finnish. Ämmänsaari is the biggest built-up area in the municipality.

Suomussalmi is the second southernmost part of the reindeer-herding area in Finland. Kalevala Russia is next door, grandpa always said, Can’t trust those Russians.”

During the Winter War of 1939–40, several battles were fought in the area around Suomussalmi, the most important ones being the Battle of Suomussalmi and the Battle of Raate. In these battles Finnish forces defeated numerically superior Soviet forces.

The Battle of Suomussalmi was a battle fought between Finnish and Soviet forces in the Winter War. The action took place from around December 7, 1939, to January 8, 1940. The outcome was a Finnish victory against superior forces. Suomussalmi is considered the clearest, most important, and most significant Finnish victory in the northern half of Finland.[3] In Finland, the battle is still seen today as a symbol of the entirety of Winter War itself.

On November 30, 1939, the Soviet 163rd Rifle Division crossed the border between Finland and the Soviet Union and advanced from the north-east towards the village of Suomussalmi. The Soviet objective was to advance to the city of Oulu, effectively cutting Finland in half. This sector had only one Finnish battalion (Er.P 15), which was placed near Raate, outside Suomussalmi.

Suomussalmi was taken with little resistance on December 7 (only two incomplete companies of covering forces led a holding action between the border and Suomussalmi), but the Finns destroyed the village before this, to deny the Soviets shelter, and withdrew to the opposite shore of lakes Niskanselkä and Haukiperä.

The first extensive fight started on December 8, when Soviet forces began to attack across the frozen lakes to the west. Their attempt failed completely. The second part of Soviet forces led the attack to the northwest on Puolanka, that was defended by the Er.P 16 (lit. 16th detached battalion), that had just arrived. This attempt also failed. On December 9, the defenders were reinforced with a newly founded regiment (JR 27). Colonel Hjalmar Siilasvuo was given the command of the Finnish forces and he began immediate counter-measures to regain Suomussalmi. The main forces advanced on Suomussalmi, but failed to take the village, suffering serious losses. On December 24, Soviet units counterattacked, but failed to break through the surrounding Finnish forces.

Reinforced with two new regiments (JR 64 and JR 65), the Finns again attacked on December 27. This time, they took the village, and the Soviets retreated in panic over the surrounding frozen lakes. A large part of them managed to reach the Russian border along the Kiantajärvi lake. During this time, the Soviet 44th Rifle Division had advanced from the east towards Suomussalmi. It was entrenched on the road between Suomussalmi and Raate and got caught up in the retreat of the other Soviet forces.

Between January 4 an The battle resulted in a major victory for the Finns. If the Soviet Union had captured the city of Oulu, the Finns would have had to defend the country on two fronts and an important rail link to Sweden would have been severed. The battle also gave a decisive boost to the morale of the Finnish army.

In addition, Finnish forces on the Raate-Suomussalmi road captured a large amount of military supplies, including tanks (43), field guns (71), trucks (260), horses (1,170), anti-tank guns (29) and other weapons, which were greatly needed by the Finnish army.

Alvar Aalto sculpted a memorial for the Finnish soldiers who died.[5]d January 8, 1940, the 44th Rifle Division was divided into isolated groups and destroyed by the Finnish troops (in a tactic known as motti), leaving much heavy equipment for the Finnish troops.

The Battle of Suomussalmi is often cited as an example of how a small force, properly led and fighting in familiar terrain, can defeat a vastly numerically superior enemy. Factors which contributed to the Finnish victory included:

Finnish troops possessed higher mobility due to skis and sleds; by contrast, Soviet heavy equipment confined them to roads.

The Soviet objective to cut Finland in half across the Oulu region, while appearing reasonable on a map, was inherently unrealistic, as the region was mostly forested marshland, with its road network consisting mainly of logging trails. Mechanized divisions had to rely on these, becoming easy targets for the mobile Finnish ski troops.

Finnish strategy was flexible and often unorthodox, for example, Finnish troops targeted Soviet field kitchens, which demoralised Soviet soldiers fighting in a sub-Arctic winter.

The Soviet army was poorly equipped, especially with regard to winter camouflage clothing; by contrast, Finnish troops’ equipment were well-suited for warfare in deep snow and freezing temperatures.

The Finnish army had very high morale, resulting from the fact that they were defending their nation. Soviet troops, however, possessed exclusively political reasons for their attack, consequently losing their will to fight soon despite continual efforts by Soviet propagandists.

An additional factor remained Soviet counter-intelligence failures: Finnish troops often intercepted the Soviet communications, which relied heavily on standard phone lines.

The Finnish tactics involved simplicity where needed, as the final assault was a simple head-on charge, decreasing the chances of tactical errors. Rough weather also favored comparatively simple plans.

Formula One racing driver Heikki Kovalainen is from Suomussalmi, as well as the author Ilmari Kianto and the composer Osmo Tapio Räihälä, in addition to the ice hockey player, Janne Pesonen.

Suomussalmi hosted the 2016 World Berry Picking Championship

Moving the Swedish Covenant Church 1908

Charlie made his living farming and doing custom work with his big steam engine. He moved buildings, did custom sod plowing and grain threshing. He and his wife Minnie had nine children, five sons served in the military. The church was moved into Lake Norden, South Dakota on huge wooden rollers from two miles out in the country, notice the railroad ties were new,

Christmas 1946


For this week’s challenge, preserve something ephemeral by transforming it.


Christmas 1946
I’m not sure if families were closer together 70 years ago or if I was just lucky to be born into a family that was close to each other. The two pages in this story are excerpts that I transcribed from my mother’s diary. A book from Finland with wooden covers and linen paper pages. The first page describes Christmas Eve and Day of 1946, the second page is the 26th’ through the 29th. of that same year. I feel fortunate as I read this today, I remember that Christmas quite well, I was six years old at the time and caught my uncle Edmund half way into the Santa Clause suit. There were real candles on the tree, this was before we had electricity. It was a very merry, magic, Christmas for about two dozen people that night at the home of Frank and Frances Olson.

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The second world war ended in 1945. All of my mother’s brothers served in the military during the war. That is one reason this was such a special Christmas for her dad. They all got together for Christmas in 1946 except Wayne who was still in Japan and Art was stationed in Alaska. Charlie Wayrynen got to see his sons return alive, none were killed in battle.

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Thanksgiving Day



Thanksgiving Day

This picture was taken at my grandparent’s home on Thanksgiving Day 1937, a few years before eight of us cousins were even born.
I would like to share some of my recollections of Thanksgiving day at my grandparents home. Andrew and Minnie Olson lived in a very small farm house, near Lake Poinsett, South Dakota, USA. Grandma always had about two dozen people for Thanksgiving dinner. She would set up a long table in the dining living room area and another long table in the kitchen. I don’t know how she seated that many people but she figured out a way to do it.

One thing about grandmother Minnie she never sat down to eat with the family. She was always busy bringing food to the table and doing the serving. Everyone had a very memorable banquet at her Thanksgiving meals. They later moved to a different farm, the house there wasn’t a lot bigger but the Thanksgiving dinners continued them for many more years.

I recall at their old farm the snow being so deep we could slide from the edge of the house roof, down long snowbanks. There weren’t enough sleds for all the kids so we also slid on scoop shovels. It was a very fast, exciting, crooked ride on a big old scoop shovel.

Another memory of Thanksgiving day was after dinner and everyone was done with their pie and other desserts, names were drawn for giving Christmas presents. Christmas Eve was at our house. The tree with real candles was an unforgettable memory. This was in the days before electricity, real candles were used on the Christmas trees. Christmas day dinner was held at Edwin and Alice Wayrynen’s home. A large two story house, room for kids to run, there was a bunch of kids.

During the war years, many of the aunts and uncles were home on leave for different holidays. Families seem to have been much closer back in those days, lifestyles were different, everything moved at a slower pace. It sure was a peaceful loving relationship in most families. Or people faked it real good!
Happy Thanksgiving Day to everyone.



Get inspired by Andrea Jarrell’s post “A Roar for the Ages,” and tell a broad story using a series of short, focused scenes.



The three Olson boys, left to right are Leland, Corky and Harlan. We grew up on a small farm in eastern South Dakota. It was located in northern Brookings County right near Lake Poinsett. This was shortly after the dirty thirties, the dust bowl, times were still hard, we were poor, but we had lots of love.


The attack on Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941. Almost everyone’s sons were drafted and sent off to war, many daughters joined the women’s Army Corp, or the Navy or Marines to serve their country. Six of my uncles were in the Second World War as it spread to become a World War. Patriotism was never higher, my mother got these hats for us and made us uniforms too.


We grew up with a hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. In this picture my brother Corky holds his first gun with pride, a single shot 22 rifle. When times were bad you might say we lived partly off the land. Somebody hunted or fished most of the time. Wild furs became an income supliment many winters.


This picture of my parents and brother Corky was taken at Bovey, Minnesota in 1949. They got divorced in 1950. My dad had been beating my mother for years. She finally could not take it anymore. The farm was sold, she moved us boys to Watertown, South Dakota in 1951. My brother Corky was accidentally shot and died in 1952.

The following picture is of my brother Harlan in his Marine uniform in 1960 with my mother at Watertown. Harlan passed away on March 8, 2016 after undergoing a quadruple heart by-pass operation. He is gone but many fond memories remain.


Prehistoric Objects

Daily Prompt
Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. Not sure how to participate?

Prehistoric Objects
My brother spent a lifetime collecting prehistoric objects. I was beginning to think He and I were becoming prehistoric objects the way we aged in the past few years. He had a quadruple by-pass operation done close to two months ago. I appealed to all of you for prayer at that time. He was doing well and expecting to go home in about a week. Yesterday March 8, 2016, he had been walking, felt he should sit down and there his life ended at about 3:00 PM. I thank all of you for your prayers and concerns.

In the early 1940’s my brother, Harlan Olson was the object my undivided attention. He was born on December 17, 1939. I was born on December 1,1940. As I said, “he had my attention in those early years”. I looked to him as my Davie Crocket, a guide to what we could do and that we could not do on the farm where we lived. He was very good at showing me early on, what was off limits, we respected off limits areas. We obeyed dad’s laws because he believed strongly that if you spare the rod you will spoil the child. I must say, we were not spoiled and we certinly did not have any problems with attention disorder. Dad had our full attention 24/7/365. If we knew we had crossed the line one look from our dad sent us looking for our running shoes. We soon found out that didn’t work because we had to go home for supper sooner or later.

The good old high school years, my brother Harlan managed to have the best grades in his whole class. Somehow I managed to come up with C-‘s and D+’s.I just did not seem to enjoy learning from books as much as he did. Shop and drawing I got A’s, shocked the teacher. I believe Harlan read every book he got his hands on.

At good old Castlewood, High School he pole vaulted, high jumped and ran the mile run. I played football and made a free wll offering of my front teeth early in the first season. Also ran the half mile run and anchored the medley relay team. His legs were about a foot longer than mine! We were about even on the golf course.

When he graduated from high school he joined the Marine Corps I was very proud of my patriotic big brother. Enlisting in the Marine Corps showed me he had an oversupply of guts. I could not begin to top that, so I quit High School and joined the U.S. Air Force where I could sleep in a barracks with a roof over my head. Sleeping in a tent just did not appeal to me.

Brothers should not be objects of competition in life, unless it is sharing their love for one another.

My family greatly appreciated all the love and support given to us during dad’s medical problems. Please continue to pray for our family as we prepare to say our final good byes to dad soon. I take comfort in that his health problems are gone and he’s walking with god now, looking for arrowheads no doubt. Thought I’d share the video, linked below, for those have never seen it. It meant a lot to dad when they made it. Love, Brian

Christmas Eve – 24 December 1944


My first seven Christmas Eve nights were spent in a drafty old farmhouse in a rural community in South Dakota, USA. This was in the days before electricity. We had a lot of relatives, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. I don’t know how we all got in our house but every one got in Grandpa and Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving and it was smaller. That was when names were drawn for Christmas present giving. There were always many very good things to eat along with oyster stew, salted herring and possibly Lutefisk (a special kind of fish!) There were apples, popcorn, and, many sweet items to eat also. Hard rock Christmas candy was in smaller bags, possibly due to sugar and the war effort. Many things were rationed during the Second World War.

There were kerosene lamps and a couple white gas lamps that had to have air pumped into them to work. Christmas Eve was the only time during the year that house was well lighted. The nickel plating on the old pot bellied parlor stove was shined up for the occasion. The fire was almost allowed to burn out, body heat would make it still too warm in the house. There would be enough hot coals down in the ashes to have new coal burning by morning.

Everyone enjoyed eating together and just sitting around and visiting and having a jolly good time. The kids were sent out to play day or night, seems like. There was always someone who played Santa Claus. I remember the surprise of Santa not being real, ended for me on that Christmas Eve. I saw my uncle going upstairs and he was carrying a bag, which I thought looked rather unusual. He was home on leave from the Army, Christmas of 1944 and had his uniform on. The War was still raging in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.

Curiosity was something I had plenty of, I quietly made my way up the stairs and uncle Edmond and a older cousin went in one of the bedrooms. My cousin was helping him put on a Santa Claus suit. I guess I expected it, there was no surprise in that anyhow. When he did come downstairs HO, HO, HO ing he had on my Dad’s five buckle overshoes and they still had some manure on them. I think someone said, “something about the reindeer and made a mess outside of the house.” Some of the older boys asked why he didn’t take the chimney right into the kitchen, guess it would have been to hot in there with the cook stove.

Everyone managed to smuggle presents into the house. They didn’t all come down the stairs in Uncle Edmond’s bag, one way or the other they all ended up under a big Christmas Tree that was set up in the living room.

The highlight of the Christmas night was about to take place. My mother and grandmother carefully started lighting candles on that big old Christmas Tree. These candles had to be very strategically placed so they wouldn’t cause a fire on the branch up above the candle. I wouldn’t begin to guess how may candles were on that tree but it was the most beautiful sight you could ever imagine. A few Christmas Carols were sung, then those awesome candles were snuffed out, They were only lit for just a few minutes and then they were put out. Christmas Eve had come and gone in our old farmhouse. I can close my eyes real tight and still see and smell the candles on that big old Christmas tree.

Christmas Day most of the same people gathered at my aunt and uncles house for a huge dinner. These were the years before homes were full of electronic widgets, gadgets games and such. Young folks headed out into the cold for sledding, or sliding on a scoop shovel if there were not enough sleds to go around. We thought nothing of walking a mile to shovel snow off the ice to go skating. The older boys might walk several miles rabbit hunting. Living in the upper mid-west, you get climitized or you don’t live.

One of our grandmothers was Sami. Us kids thought that give all of us closer ties to Reindeer and Christmas.

Sami people (also Sámi or Saami), traditionally known in English as Lapps or Laplanders, are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway.


Ladybug says:
I would like you to take three pictures in or around your home of things that are special to you. Tell me the story about it. Why is it special?

My brother Harlan his wife Carol, aunt Elma and my wife Rose Marie, my special family. I built the china hutch and shelf unit in the background and the kitchen cupboards. They are all special to me, built with my own hands.