Letter to Frances Keys from a Finnish pen pal, July 5, 1953


Letter to Frances Keys from a Finnish pen pal, July 5, 1953


Keys, Frances Mulkey, 1916-1987


School teacher, club woman, resident of Coleman and Wall, Texas
Letter to Frances Keys from a Finnish pen pal that she connected with from a magazine ad. The pen pal's name is illegible and the letter is very dense and difficult to read. Much of it appears to be about the sender's home in Finland, her husband and family, her education, and hobbies. She also mentions that she knows her English may not be good and asks for corrections if it isn't too much trouble.




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5 pgs.





Is Part Of

Frances Mulkey Keys Papers

Accrual Method



Keys, Kay

Rights Holder

Woman's Collection, Texas Woman's University, P.O. Box 425528, Denton, TX 76204


Imatrankoski, Finland
July 5, 1953

Dear Mrs. Keys,

Thank you so much for your interesting letter. It was much to my delight that I received it and realized at last I had found a good American pen friend. And I imagine how wonderful it is that a few lines in a magazine can make me acquainted with people living so very far away. I at once took my map of the United States and was able to find the place you called San Angelo but Wall did not appear on my map. I noticed many interesting names as Crystal City, Eden, Archer City, Corsicana and Alice. The last name reminded me of the novel “A Town like Alice” by Nevil Shute which I liked very much. Have you read it?

I am almost sure you will not be able to find Imatrankoski on your map and so I try to draw a very rough map of Finland putting there the geographical names I mention here.

Imatra is the biggest of the small country towns in Finland and Imatrankoski is a part of Imatra. Imatra is a manufacturing district and has a population of about 28,000. There are many big factories which refine lumber and saw mill. Besides them we have an iron works, a brick factory, and a factory producing methylated spirit and turpentine.

In spite of this being a manufacturing district it is very beautiful. We have a river here, called the Vuoksi and a big lake called Saimaa and a number of smaller lakes. Actually we have only a part of the river Vuoksi because the lower part now belongs to Russia according to the peace treaty made after the last war.

We were very fortunate when we could keep the upper part of the river because it has the famous Imatra rapids and is therefore most important to the whole industrial life of our country. By the way, Imatrankoski is the Finnish for the Imatra rapids. Near the rapids there is a big power station which has been the biggest of Finland so far but will not remain so for very long because they are building a bigger one in northern Finland. It is called the power station of [unreadable] and I just read in the newspaper that Mr. McFall, the minister of the United States in Finland happens to visit it today. The power station of Imatra can generate about 210,000 horse power.

Near the power station there is an old and rather big hotel surrounded by a beautiful park. It is there my husband Pentti attends the meetings of the Rotary Club of Imatra, which has only thirty members so far. There are two other hotels at Imatra and some restaurants and a couple of cafés. We have lots of good shops here, too. Then we have a church and three chapels. For general education there are eleven elementary schools and four high schools. For cultural interest we have the theatre of Imatra, the orchestra, the College of Music (it started last autumn) and numerous choirs. The top floor of one of our latest elementary schools is reserved for a small collection of paintings and works of sculpture. There are only about 130 pieces of art so far. It is there we very often have art shows, too. We have four movie theatres but we usually cannot see the latest films at once. When the foreign films reach Imatra they are rather old. It was not until last spring I was able to see the famous film “Gone with the Wind’ which I enjoyed very much. The Finnish films we get pretty new here but I do not like them very much because their standard is not very high.

We are living very near to the frontier as you can see on my “map”. It is only about four miles to the iron curtain. We do not know what the people are doing on the other side. We can only see smoke coming from the pipes of their factories which once belonged to Finland. It makes one feel strange. We have only been living here for five years. We lived in the neighborhood of our capital Helsinki before we moved to Imatra.

My husband is a dentist by profession and I have graduated from the University of Helsinki where I studied languages literature and sociology. We have been married ten years and have two little sons. One is five and is called Tapio and the other is two years old and his name is Kallin. I think it is not very easy to bring up boys and consider you a lucky mother when you have got a daughter. I have always longed to have a sister but did not get one and now I have hoped to get a daughter but it seems to be equally hopeless.

I was teaching English in one of our high schools here but had to give it up after the birth of Kallin. I thought it best for the children to have their mother at home with them as long as they are small and need their mother most. It is nice to be a house wife for a change but on the other hand I am afraid of forgetting everything I have learned and try to study whenever I have space time left. I read lots of English books. Every month I get a nice parcel of books from the libraries of the Finnish British Society and the British Council in Helsinki. But reading is not quite the same as speaking. That is why I always enjoy having people here with whom to speak English. It only happens so very seldom. I was very happy to have an English lady with us for Midsummer and she again was happy to be able see our Midsummer bonfires. When she came I found my English terribly rusty but before she left I think I could speak a little more fluently. It was so nice to read that you are a teacher, too. I am sure we have very much in common and should be interested in hearing about your work at school.

Our music listening is limited to the radio for the moment, too. Because we live in a flat which is too small for us we have no room for our piano, which we had to leave at my parents’ in Helsinki, when we moved here. It is a pity because both of us like to play the piano very much. And my husband’s dearest hobby is to compose nice little songs for his own pleasure (and for mine, too) and he cannot do it very well without a piano. But we hope we shall get a bigger house before long and have our piano with us again.

It is very fine of you to be able to sew clothes even for yourself. And it must be comfortable to have an electric Singer. Some people here have but I have not got one. But I was very happy to get an electric washing machine two years ago. It is a Hoover. Because of our cold climate it is necessary to have plenty of warm woolen clothes for them to wear. I like to make stuffed dolls and animals, too. I think it is more fun for me to make them than for my sons to play with them.

It is very wise of you not to give too much sweets to your daughter. My husband is very strict about that because he considers it bad for the teeth. So we have not given candy or chocolate to our sons. They get fruit instead. Of course we cannot avoid sugar altogether. They eat desserts and cookies. I am very keen on baking cakes etc. and my elder son likes to help me. Best of all, however, he likes to scrape the dishes where I have mixed the ingredients. It was very interesting to hear about the Mexican dishes. How do you make avocado salad?

We are having a real heatwave now over Finland. It would be nice to have your new air conditioner here now. It has been an exceptionally warm and beautiful summer so far. We are in the habit of going to Lake Samiaa and swim there. We do not very much like to go to the Vuoski although it is quite near by because the water is noticeably colder than that of Saimaa.

Because it is so hot I think it very refreshing to call back to my mind our cold Finnish winters and the coolness of the white snow against your cheeks. Last winter was an unusually long one. We had the first snowfall in the beginning of October already and it did not disappear at once as it so very often happens to the first snow. After there had been some more snowfall people could ski and were able to do so until the end of March. We have a very good skiing terraine here at Imatra. My friends from Helsinki like to come with their children and spend their skiing holidays here. Finnish school children have a skiing holiday of about ten days every year. It normally starts at the end of February or in the beginning of March depending on the quantity of snow.

My elder son got his first skis two years ago. Father Christmas gave them to him and he was overjoyed. He is rather good at skiing already after two winters’ practice. But we cannot take him with us for longer skiing trips yet.

I collect stamps, too. But I do not do it properly. I only collect them for my sons hoping they will be interested in them one day.

I have a small collection of old books. The oldest of them is printed in 1767 and I bought it in London in 1938. It is very stupid of me but I must ask you about those first day covers you mentioned in your letter. I am not sure what you mean by them and should be grateful if you explained them to me.

My china collection is not very big because I started to collect china about a year ago. But I have some lovely pieces mostly of English, Austrian, and Russian origin. It seems quiet impossible for me to close this letter.

I am afraid I have bored you by writing such a long one. There is one thing, however, I should very much like to ask you before I close my letter. I have an idea that all American housewives have wonderful kitchens with wonderful machines etc which make the kitchen a sort of paradise to work in. Am I right? I should be very interested in reading a description of your kitchen and your work there.

If there are any questions you like to ask me so, please, do, so I will be sure to write of things which interest you. I am enclosing a picture where you can see all of us. It was taken in May, in 1952 on Kallin’s first birthday and we are sitting there in our living room. On the wall you can see a so called Finnish rug. It is more than a hundred years old and once belonged to my grandmother and she again had got it from her mother.

I sent my best wishes to you and your family,
Yours very sincerely,
Aune Paarma

P.S. I know there are lots of terrible mistakes in my letter for which I apologize to you. If there is not too much trouble to (for?) you, I should be very grateful if you corrected them.




“Letter to Frances Keys from a Finnish pen pal, July 5, 1953,” TWU Digital Exhibits, accessed June 18, 2024, http://exhibits.twu.edu/ex/items/show/255.