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Pelo village during 1920 and 1930 2/2


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Land Redistribution Divided the Village

When one looks back to the 1920s and ‘30s, they were very different compared with Pelo village of the 1990s. Formerly there were16 houses plus 5 at Harju with a population of 160-170 people. The buildings then were situated differently from the way they are today. From the bridge there were houses lined along both sides of the road, as well as about 20 animal sheds for 170 cows, plus a sheep shed and a piggery. There were no tractors then and the men used 30 horses for farm work. There were 11 smoke saunas, and smiths in three or four places because there was a need for them. The village was an agricultural village with all of its grain sheds and wood sheds.

Each spring and fall the road through the village was muddy because of the large herds of cows who tramped through twice a day, and the dung carts with steel wheels that churned up the road while taking the dung to the fields. Our village was a typical farm village with Gustafsson’s tannery which gave work to many people. (The Mukluk boots which are popular in the northern US are made of leather from this tannery.jp) The tannery bought all the willow bark that small boys gathered and dried. At that time the best leather was tanned using willow bark.

There were also craftsmen in Pelo, such as Johan and Evert Nyman and their fine carpentry work as well as that of the Aurén boys. We had our own shoe-maker, Viktor Nyberg, who also played the accordion at village dances. Olof Högnäs was the village tailor. Countless are the homespun trousers and jackets he sewed on long into the night. Junell’s Otto and sons Tyko and Atle dealt with the slaughtering of animals. They also bought and sold horses. Hansas Kalle was an original with stories told in his dialect. At that time the district police residence was in Pelo – Karl J. Pelo, but he had an easy job. I remember him in his police uniform.

We young boys had someone else we were afraid of besides Antas Kalle (Karl Pelo), and he was Hugo Gustafsson; they were confirmed bachelors. For example, during the summer we were out on the road looking for automobiles to come by. Karl had errands to take care of and when he saw us he gruffly said: “All small boys go home. What are you doing here. It is 9 o’clock, so go home and sleep.” He slapped his black leather boots with a stick and that was enough to send us thudding bare-footed over the bridge. One who looked out for us was Evald Nyman. He arranged ski races, cross-country running and other free sports events.

Another fun event during the summer was riding the big logs floating down the river where we proved our daring but luckily no accidents happened. Pelo residents are and have been a singing people. They could gather 20 singers in a mixed chorus. Neighborliness was good and very seldom was there bickering. But if anyone from outside came and tried to walk over us, the village united as one.


Each summer big weddings were held with nearly 700-1,000 guests. That was when the villagers began to get ready for the celebration several days in advance. They baked and brewed drinks. Sheds and outhouses were swept and cleaned, large cooking pots were lined up and long tables were set up. When everything was ready and the sunlight shone from a cloudless sky with the flag flying on the morning of the wedding day, Hugo (Plogman) called out: “Start the music” (brass band) as the guests arrived. They were invited to have coffee at a beautiful covered coffee table. The dance area was covered with birch branches. This was a great celebration at Pelo which lasted 2-3 days that exceeded anything else and it will never happen again. (I was told that the village had an enormous set of china that was used for celebrations of this type. After the 1960s large gatherings were no longer held and the china was auctioned off.jp)

We small boys had plenty to do to take the guest’s horses to the enclosed pasture, and we tried out various bicycles as well as drank lemonade. There were very few automobiles, ie, at Ester and Arne Åstrand’s wedding in 1927 there were 4 automobiles.

When one looks at the village today, the differences are great. The land redistribution divided the village into many parts and created a certain discord that is best forgotten.

The land our forefathers cleared and used is good. One remembers the big fields of oats, the billowing acres of rye and the cornflowers that covered the fields at harvest time. Now all sowing and harvesting is done by machines but the land is the same, and one hopes that the people who remain will have their livelihood as during the 1920s and 1930s.

Erik Högnäs, Ågliide 1992

English translation by June Pelo

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