We would like to welcome everyone interested in our community to browse through the pages of the Oulu, Wisconsin website.
Browse the Historical Society pages, search for information about Oulu families past and present, start or join a discussion on the Message Board or search for information about current township demographics, happenings, places of interest and more!
We hope that over time, OuluWis.us will become a useful tool for current residents as well as anyone interested in their roots and this special community we call Oulu!
I bet a lot of you folks reading this have memories of the old days growing up in Oulu and the surrounding area.
Going to school at one of the old schools or at Oulu Elementary. To Gitchee Gumee 4-H club meetings. Church doings, weddings, funerals. Going to the Oulu Branch, or Lehtos Store/Purnells/Harrys Corner for groceries. Haymaking in the summer. Shoveling manure in the winter.
How about the Juhannus Juhlat of past years? Oulu BlueJays baseball games? A lot of stuff comes to mind..
Contributing Reporters can write news articles or submit short stories for publication on the "Old Days" pages. Click here for more info.
Or if you prefer, you can ask a question or start a new discussion on the "Message Board".
Things sure have changed in Oulu over my lifetime. A lot of new families have moved in. A lot of young folks have moved out. But it seems no matter how long you have lived here, or how long you have been away, there is some strange, almost spiritual connection we all have with this place.
So come back to OuluWis.us often to share some "Kahvia ja Pulla" with the rest of us.
OULU IN THE 1950s
The 1950s are nostalgically portrayed on television and in the movies as a carefree era marking the birth of television, rock and roll, modern homes and the "Father Knows Best'' style of family where dad goes to the office and mom stays home.
Anyone who grew up in Oulu during the 1950s would not recognize that picture.
Mom, Dad and the kids were likely all working in some capacity on the small family dairy farm. In addition, at least one person was usually working another job. Most of the homes were original to the farmstead and were just getting indoor plumbing. The authentic Finnish sauna was still a prime contributor to the family hygiene. Television was finding its way into the living rooms, but initially there were few channels and snowy black and white images.
The world was recovering from the effects of World War II. The Korean Conflict and Cold War fears had Americans on edge and prompted Civil Defense planning and training. In fact, Oulu and the surrounding area had actually been looked at as a location for working on hydrogen bombs.
Fortunately, this dubious honor did not become part of Oulu history. Communist threats throughout the world, including the Korean conflict and the McCarthy hearings in Washington were not lost to Oulu residents. Within the community was the mystery of the empty Oulu Hall, which had been built first as a community social hall, but later succumbed to its reputation as a meeting place that had divided the community a generation earlier. According to the "Historical Sketches of the Town of Oulu, Bayfield County, Wisconsin 1889-1956", "For nearly two decades life went on harmoniously, and then came the big riff. Neighbors became strangers, opinions differed and the house was divided."
The community building had been built in 1910 on an acre of land purchased from Nestor Johnson and was initially used for community-wide social gatherings. Complete with stage and kitchen, it was the center for meetings, cultural, social and recreational events. In its final years, however, it stood vacant and was a reminder of the interim years when many in the community disparagingly began to refer to the place as the communist, not community, hall.
By 1950, Oulu's population was 725. This was down from 910 in 1940. Many young adults began leaving the community after graduation. They left either in search of more schooling, marriage or for industrial based jobs, frequently in the automobile industry .
The family farms were no longer able to sustain all the adult children in the families.
Oulu's Economy in the 50s
Throughout the 1950s, daily farming was the center of Oulu's economy. For profitability, farms needed more acreage than had been the case earlier in the century.
County records showed that the Oulu Township had the most cattle in the county, often with the highest valuation throughout most of the first half of the century. In 1955-56, the number of cattle in Oulu peaked at 2414. After 1958, Oulu gradually lost the rank of primary daily producer in the county to the townships of Eileen and Kelly.
In Oulu, farming was at its peak in the 1950s. Cattle, milk and hay were important products of the farms.
Although the farms were small in size, they were the foundation of the local economy. However, as was true in earlier Oulu, many of the families also had a second income off the farm. As vehicles were becoming more affordable and roads more passable year-round, it became possible to commute to work outside the community.
Throughout the decade, the five mile “retail district'' along highway B included three stores and one garage. The Oulu Branch of the Iron River Cooperative continued to operate on the West side of Oulu at the intersection of county B and FF as it had since opening in 1916. The Oulu Branch of the Iron River Cooperative continued to provide necessities to the residents. Earlier managers of the store had included: Andrew Lauri, William Lauri, Bill Wentala, and Frank Mehtala. Reino Makela managed the store throughout the 1950s and continued to serve in that role for over three decades, until his retirement in 1980.
The former Oulu Cooperative Creamery building served as storage space at the location next to the Oulu Co-op. The creamery had been organized in 1910, but it closed in the 1920s and reopened in Iron River as the Iron River Creamery in 1923. The creamery then merged in 1949 with Twin Ports creamery. So, by the 1950's the milk was being shipped out of the community to Twin Ports, the Furhman cheese factory or Bridgeman Russell.
The second store operating in Oulu in the 1950s was the Northern Cooperative Store. It continued to operate until 1957 at its site on the Laukkanen farm, located on what is now known as Boulevard. Paul Woimala was the manager at the time it closed.
The third store - Oscar Lehto's Corner store - was located on Oulu's East side at the intersection of County B and Airport Road. After the death of Oscar Lento in 1959, his family operated the store until selling to Jack and Mary Ann Purnell. The Purnells would purchase and operate this store until the late 1960s, when Harry and Leanna Pudas assumed ownership. Along with providing gas and food supplies, it was a popular location for catching the bus to school athletic events.
The one auto repair service in the Oulu "business district'' was built by Hans Sauvola in 1946. In 1952, Axel Lento purchased the garage. The Lehto family provided car repairs for the community for the next two decades. It was located about a mile west of the Oulu Elementary school on County B.
Read more about Oulu's more recent history in "The Second Fifty Years: The Continuing Story of Oulu, Wisconsin 1950s-2004", available at the Oulu Mall