Letter from Frances Keys to "Whoever," August 29, 1978


Letter from Frances Keys to "Whoever," August 29, 1978


Keys, Frances Mulkey, 1916-1987


School teacher, club woman, resident of Coleman and Wall, Texas
Letter from Frances Keys, addressed to "Dear Whoever." Letter regards her and her husband's trip to Finland to meet her long-time pen pals Aune and Pentti Parma. She details the many people she met, the plentiful food, sightseeing tours, and the many wars that have taken place between Finland and Russia.




Keys, Frances Mulkey


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15 pgs.







Is Part Of

Frances Mulkey Keys Papers

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Keys, Kay

Rights Holder

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


August 29, 1978

Dear Whoever,

I suppose we are really still suffering from “jet lag” whatever that is. It may be just laziness but it does seem hard to readjust to our time. Daylight came so early on Finnish mornings - almost 2:30 or 3:00 I think.
Would you like to hear something about our big adventure? A year ago this planned visit to Finland seemed like an impossible dream. Now, it has really happened and how glad we are that it did!
At 9:30 A.M. we flew on Texas International from San Angelo Airport to Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, changed to Braniff, and flew on to New York. Before we boarded Finnair, our first foreign airline, I called Kay at her studio apartment at 29 West 12th St for only a dime. What a bargain in phone calls!
Over the ocean we flew all night long. There were movies, refreshments, etc. but most people just slept. Sunrise was a beautiful time at 35,000 ft. up. We had a surprise landing at Amsterdam, Netherlands for fuel, supplies, and a security check. It was just wonderful to see all the green lands, lakes, trees, houses and building. There were many people around but no one left the airport - as far as we could see.
We arrived in Helsinki, Finland about noon August 3. The beautiful parquay wooden floors in the airport building really impressed me. After collecting our luggage we got into a taxi for our ride into the main part of the city. Fortunately, I had changed ten dollars American money into Fin marks in New York airport. It took every cent to get to our Hotel Marski Hotelli. Our room was on the west side overlooking hot roofs of buildings. There was definitely no air conditioning but the hotel attendant did open the windows which helped.
It was very strange being in a country where few people seemed not to speak or understand any English. After a time, Albert and I walked around looking. We managed to find the bus station and to buy bus tickets for the next day’s journey to Imatra, Finland which was about 150 miles away. We were assigned comfortable front seats on the bus with a good strong driver and a girl who took care of tickets, change, etc.
We were impressed by so much rocky land covered by thick stands of trees on both sides of the road except in the very clean, picturesque towns along the way. These trees included white trunked birches, aspen, fir, and several different kinds of tall pines. It was rainy and cool and these trees gave off a very nice, pleasant fragrance in the air. Everything looked so clean and fresh. We got off the bus at most stops to stretch our legs a bit. I even bought ice cream cones for us at one stop. The bus was full and we enjoyed watching the people, especially the children and we listened to their talk without understanding.
It was a great reunion meeting Aune and Pentti Paarma (at last) in person. They were beautiful in every way and extremely hospitable. Aune presented me with a boquet of beautiful red roses. Then, they drove us to our historic hotel, the Valtion Hotelli where we had room reservations. They saw us installed in this beautiful elegant old hotel that looks a lot like a castle near a rocky river bed surrounded by tall stately trees. Our third floor room had a balcony, open air air conditioning and near-by trees that were much taller. We unpacked and even stretched out on the beds to rest a bit.
The Paarmas left saying they would be back for us about 5 o’clock that afternoon. Our “Welcome to Finland” dinner for us in their attractive apartment was a most pleasant and welcome affair. We talked and talked, looked at her three or more cabinets of salt and pepper shaker collections. Then, their handsome blonde son, his sweet pregnant wife and their little son also came by to greet and welcome us. We visited, took pictures until a late hour. In fact, the front door of the hotel had to be unlocked for us. While we were at the Paarma apartmenta teacher and their best friend came by to bring them some smoked fish and to meet us also. The fish were delicious.
On another night Lisa and Eero Aalto, the above friend invited us to be their guests in their new typically Finnish home. Lisa is a popular young dentist and her teacher husband Eero is one of the nicest couples families we met. They had two school aged sons - Timo and Mikko. They were a very good-looking family very fond of music and the better things of life. Again, we were late getting back to the hotel.
Every day we went sight-seeing to the stores, the churches, the Town Hall of the New looking city of Imatra. On one day the city opened the flood gates so the rapids of Imatra could again be seen back of our hotel. Many people were on the bridge to see the water which we could hear and see dash against the big rocks in the river bed. The water rushed on toward Russia and by night the gates were closed and all was quiet again.
One day we drove to Savolinna where we visitied Olavinlinna Castle built in 1475. It had a bridge across the moat. Many tourist were visiting there, too. Our young tour guide from Scotland spoke English and French. We went from top to bottom up and down winding steps and stairways. I was a bit out of breath at times, but really O.K.The Paarmas presented us wih postcards showing winter summer and night scenes of the historic castle, We saw a statute of Holy Olavi, the Patron Saint of the castle, and the very large room - the Hall of the King. Before we left the castle we went to a refreshment room where we had welcome food and drinks. It was delicious after all that exercise.
I would like to mention the delicious continental breakfasts we had every morning that came with our room cost in Imatra. We had cold rolls, rice cakes, holy Finnish cheese, sliced ham, cold cereal with cream, eggs, orange juice, coffee, tomatoes and various kinds of fish all served buffet style in the hotel dining rooms. There was an extra charge for the big breakfast in Helsinki Hotels. We always ate so much a regular lunch wasn't necessary - Though we did sometimes have coffee and a chocolate roll or something light.
The Paarmas have a comfortable small blue Ford and although gasoline sold for $2 per gallon, they drove us just about everywhere. The Finnish people are very patriotic and when saw mills cut down their trees they want to replantings put out as soon as possible. We had an interesting visit to their green houses where thousands of young scotch pine trees are grown to be set out where needed. We also visited a young Finnish Farmer and his family who had a small dairy herd. From their land we could see Russia best - even the smoke stacks from factories Finland used to own before Russia took them. It is said Finland has fought 42 wars with Russia - despite the fact that it has lost them all. The country’s survival has a great deal to do with “sisu” or guts.
A visit to Finland would not be complete without a visit to the different cemeteries. When Finnish men are killed in battle their bodies are brought back to local resting places near to the place they once lived in peace. The markers and grave flowers are beautiful indeed. Aune’s own brother was killed in one of these battles with Russia but his body was never recovered. There is even some doubt about this as the Russians may not be telling the truth about this young man. Aune and her mother (until she died) thought he really might still be alive somewhere in Russia or Siberia. It is a painful subject with dear Aune. She has never been to Russia but would like to learn that language.
Aune and Pentti took us to a Finnish Travel Agency and helped us make arrangements for a boat cruise to Stockholm, Sweden. It was an expensive and short adventure but I especially enjoyed the short extra sight seeing in still another country. The Paarmas drove us back to Helsinki when we were ready to depart. They also saw us settled in another hotel the “Turin” or Tower as it is called in English. In Helsinki the Older Paarma son, his attractive working wife and their cute and very smart, 5 year old son entertained us for supper in their lovely new home apartment. Everywhere flowers - petunias, daisies, corn flowers, geraniums, and other flowers were planted artistically and growing beautifully in window boxes and flower beds. Even the will flowers were colorful and beautiful.
Albert and Pentti were quite congenial and the language problem between them wasn’t too difficult. Both attended Rotary meetings together and we all had lots of fun. Aune teased Albert about his Texas accent. Pentti did learn a few English words and he knew some French, Spanish and German. Experts say the Finnish language is very difficult to learn and speak - just as Chinese is.
It was sad saying good-bye to our Paarma friends in Helsinki. Although there was still a lot more to see, our last two days in Helsinki were mostly quiet as we rested up for our return trip home.
This time our Finnair plane returned us to New York in the daytime via Montreal, Canada where we let off quite a few passengers in a hydraulic lift van.
We were in New York by five o’clock P.M. collecting our luggage and going through customs was not too bad. Soon, we were in our fast taxi traveling crowded roads and tunnels into Manhattan going to Gramercy Park Hotel North in that big, big city of New York.
Kay was waiting at the hotel. She seemed glad to have us back in the good old U.S.A. Our “welcome home” supper at a new Greek restaurant was very nice but I was almost too tired to eat. Then, Kay took us for a ride on a new, fast subway F which is air conditioned and colorfully painted to a location not far from Kay’s place of work on Fifth Avenue. We walked by the Modern Language building and the half block to her nice little studio apartment. That meant four flights of stairs to climb and somehow I did it. After a short look-around visit Kay waved down a taxi and we returned to our hotel. Kay met us for breakfast there before she went to on to work.
For exercise we walked around some before going to LaGuardia Air Port for a Braniff flight back to Dallas. At times, the pilot announced we were flying over Washington D.C., Nashville, Memphis and other areas.
In about 50 minutes we were in San Angelo Air Port met by our dear, dependable friend Eda Janek. After a short visit to a food market, we were soon at home. Prousty met us at the inside back door- looking brushed, pretty and well cared for. Despite the very hot dry weahter - home never looked so good.
What a wonderful vacation we had! How thankful we are that we kept well safe and happy to return home!
Before we left New York Kay told us she would be home on Wednesday. She took off a few days, flew to Austin on some business. Then, she and Janet Cobb drove on to Wall in Janet’s car. Kay had a dental appointment with Dr. Alexander. He advised Kay to wait until the pain was more severe and she could point to the exact spot. Then, she could go to a New Uork dentist for the proper treatment. Kay was disappointed. They went to at least two movies and enjoyed themselves. We liked having them with us. They would have liked Finland and Sweden, too. Our pictures, slides, and scrapbooks will give more details.
Bye for now,
Frances Keys




“Letter from Frances Keys to "Whoever," August 29, 1978,” TWU Digital Exhibits, accessed June 18, 2024, http://exhibits.twu.edu/ex/items/show/256.