HAULI HUVILA: JOHN HAULI’S LASTING LEGACY

photograph & composition by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb: all rights reserved

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – REEDLEY
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN DIEB

This mysterious Finnish man left his small eastern Finland town of Kuusjärvi at the turn of the century. After decades of exploring, traveling and creating a career for himself as a tailor, Hauli found his little slice of heaven near Reedley in Central California. It was a half an acre grape farm alongside Kings River. His little farm grew into a gathering place for Finns from all over California. In his will Hauli left the parcel to all Finns to enjoy. Today the place is known as Hauli Huvila (Villa Hauli), and it is still very much a part of Finnish history in California.

Finns had first settled in Reedley, the lush San Joaquin Valley in Central California around 1905. They had given the areas names such as Astoria Kontri, North and South Kontri. Kontri is, of course, a Finnish version of the word ‘country’. Reedley was indeed a home for hundreds of Finns. Even as late as in the 1930s the place was known as ‘New Finland’.

Kings River view from Hauli Huvila

In the early 1940s, a Finn known as John Hauli arrived in Reedley. He purchased a small parcel of land along the Kings River, just outside the city limits. His intention was to grow grapes there. Soon after, John Hauli erected buildings and a stage where sing-alongs, theatrical performances, and  events that promoted worker rights were held.

The political climate of the early 50’s America was marred by anti-communist hysteria, and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunts extended all the way to the remote half acre of land that John Hauli inhabited. People, who visited or did any business at Hauli’s ranch, were spied on by informants, their car license plates were recorded and the information given to the FBI. It was then that, according to local legend, the FBI got wind of a Finnish man who often visited Hauli Huvila and was known to travel from one Finnish organization to another, and recruited a local businessman who went by the nickname of ‘Bozo’ as a spy. Bozo was a local businessman who held many important positions in Reedley and spoke both Finnish and English. The legend tells that Bozo would go to Hauli Huvila and patiently listen to what people, and particularly to what the suspected Finnish man spoke. He would then write down all he had heard and reported back to the FBI. But, as it turned out, Bozo’s reports did not contain any mention of subversive activity or anything to do with overthrowing the government. In fact, the mysterious Finnish man was not a communist at all, but a union activist and a member of the Democratic Party. Even though Bozo himself proudly told the story of his one-time gig as a spy until the end of his life, the FBI denies any involvement. They responded to my freedom of information request by saying that Hauli Huvila was never under observation.

A picture from Hauli Huvila from October, 1962

John Hauli continued to run his grape farm, relinquishing much of the work in his twilight years to trusted workers. John Hauli died in 1956 at the age of 73. Hauli had offered his place to Los Angeles Finns who thought it was too far away (over 300 miles) from LA since, at that time, there were no interstate highways. The only Finnish group that showed any interest was the based in Berkeley and was called the 10th Street Haali Finnish American Cultural Society which leaned towards absolute socialism. The Berleley Finns, as they were known, built a club house and a new two-story main building. In the evenings they would showcase films that praised their far-left ideology on an outdoor screen and even hold political rallies. Such activities only added to Hauli Huvila’s already tarnished reputation amongst the conservative townsfolk of Reedley. By the 1980s, 10th Street Haali Finnish American Cultural Society was a defunct organization the whole place started to resemble a retirement community. Members lived on the grounds in their RV’s and trailers for months or even years at a time and held notorious drunken parties that didn’t go well with their neighbors. Then things literally exploded: One of the men living at Hauli Huvila (who was not a Finn), who suffered from depression, went into his trailer, turned on the gas oven and stuck his head in it. And explosion followed, but the man miraculously survived. After that incident, long-term living was banned at Hauli Huvila.

John Hauli dreamt of Hauli Huvila as a place where Finns and friends are always welcome

By the early 1990s, it was time for a change. By this time the Berkeley Finns were too old and feeble to be able to maintain Hauli Huvila. In 1991 a new generation of Finns from Los Angeles and San Francisco took over the place. They bought Hauli Huvila for 25,000 dollars. A non-profit organization with no ideology behind it (except the Finnish identity) currently runs the place. Under the new treasurer Henry Aspen, things improved considerably as he got the finances in order. That in turn made it possible to start a large scale construction project. The old cabins, worn out by termites and slugs were torn down and were replaced by four brand new cottages. They were mostly by volunteers and were completed last year. One of the cottages has a living room and a bedroom, a small kitchenette and a toilet; the other three cottages are divided into two identical separate rooms. They all are modern, bright, furnished with Nordic-style furniture and adorned with beautiful photographs. Hauli Huvila also has a sauna and a club house that houses a bar and a dance floor. The grounds can accommodate tents and RV’s. The only original things left from John Hauli are grapevines he had planted.

Hauli Huvila comes to life at summer time. The season opens at the end of May on Memorial Day. Other major events are the Fourth of July weekend, a golf weekend in August and the end of the summer season celebrations on Labor Day in early September.

I spent a couple of days around Christmas time with my friend photographer Jonny Kahleyn at Hauli Huvila. We were greeted by the resident caretaker Randy Cameron and his brown Labrador retriever Candy. We were the only visitors and basically had the place to ourselves as winters are quiet there. Everything was spotless and the sauna was heavenly. It was relaxing and atmospheric to walk along the banks of the foggy Kings River surrounded by large bare cottonwood trees in a temperature of about 13 degrees Celsius (59 Fahrenheit). We made a day trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains which took a good hour drive. The mountains were covered with snow as we reached 6000 feet/two-kilometer altitude. We got to see the gigantic, 3000 year-old Sequoia trees. They are so large that we could even walk through the trunk of one fallen tree. Back at Hauli Huvila, we checked out the clubhouse walls and viewed photo collages from decades past. In the pictures, Finnish folks with their families are shown in different kinds of get-togethers, having fun. As I said in the beginning, Hauli Huvila is indeed the only place in Reedley that reminds us of the town’s Finnish background. And most importantly, it is still there for all of us to visit and enjoy.

THE RETURN OF JOHN HAULI

When I started to investigate John Hauli’s background, hardly anything was collectively known about him. We only knew he was born in 1883 and died in 1956 (only because his tombstone says so). Not much else was known. Through a considerable amount of research and the help of many, I was able to put together a comprehensive view on John Hauli and his enduring dedication to the Finnish people.

John Hauli

John Hauli’s birth name was Juho Hakkarainen. He was born August the 29th, 1883 in Kuusjärvi, (now Outokumpu). It is a small mining town in Northern Karelia near the Russian border. Hauli’s parents were Maria and Mikko Hakkarainen, and he had at least one sibling: a sister named Mari. Hauli studied in Liperi and St. Petersburg to become a tailor and then worked in Helsinki. Hauli first traveled to the United States in 1906 with eight other tailors. He lived for a while in New York City and then later in the often cold and foggy San Francisco where he became afflicted with severe rheumatism.

Kirvu Sanatorium in Karelia (now part of Russia) where Hauli was treated for severe rheumatism

Hauli decided to return to Finland for treatment and was interned in a sanatorium located in a part of Karelia that now belongs to Russia where he fully recovered. He returned to America in 1915, this time to the more pleasant climate of Hawaii. He adopted the name “Hauli” from Hawaiian natives, a nickname for white man. In his 1918 U.S. conscription card, Hauli gives his home address as 159 South King Street, Honolulu, located near the Honolulu harbor. He worked in Honolulu as a tailor for a Scottish national whose name I believe to have been Leo McInerney.

Grape vines surrounding Hauli Huvila

Hauli had pale blue eyes and light brown hair. He was of normal weight, and medium height. Hauli names his sister as his closest relative – Mrs. Mari Leppänen. She lived in Finland, first in Lahti and later in Savonlinna. Hauli traveled very frequently between the U.S. and Europe which was rather unusual for those times. Consider that at the time it took a week to cross the Atlantic by ship. Between 1923 and 1934 John Hauli would sail regularly from New York to Gothenburg, Sweden and then back. From 1934, he traveled about once a year either from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Vancouver to Honolulu and then back to the west coast.

During World War II, Hauli donated money to the Finnish war effort, and shipped as many wooden crates filled with raisins he could to the Finnish Army’s headquarters in Helsinki.

Cabins constructed by volunteers onthe grounds of Hauli Huvila

At some point in the 1930’s he moved back to California and worked on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles for a Finnish tailor whose name was August Ahonen. According to the legend, Hauli went to ask him for a job, but was told that there was no work available. Hauli then promised him that, if he were hired, the shop would never have a shortage of work, but to no avail. He then sat outside the tailor shop, on the curb, until Ahonen finally agreed to hire him.

By the summer of 1947, records show that John Hauli’s citizenship changed from Finnish to American, and that his occupation changed from a tailor to a farmer.

In the early 1940s, the 57-year-old John Hauli bought just over a half acre of land in Fresno County, right next to Reedley, for 1,400 dollars where he settled down. He planted grapes and turned them into raisins under the California sun. That’s how Hauli got the nickname ‘Rusina-Jussi, or ‘Raisin-John”.

View from Hauli Huvila

He had very close Finnish friends who became his adopted family since he had no family of his own, and in Hauli Huvila he had his own little ‘Finland’. To Reedley resident Oliver Vuori who is now 61, John Hauli was like a grandfather. Oliver reminisces fondly of childhood summers spent at Hauli Huvila. John Hauli used to take him and his sister Helen on his row boat on the Kings River to a sandbank to play and swim. When Oliver fell ill with polio, Hauli set aside a room in near the sauna where the boy could rest. Hauli himself slept in an old Airstream-trailer. During his years in Hawaii Hauli had taken to wearing floral patterned Hawaiian shirts and leis, especially on holidays. On regular weekdays Hauli would be seen without a shirt or wearing a tank top. He could play the ukulele, sang Finnish folk songs with his friends, and told children stories about Finland. He didn’t smoke, and as far as we know, hardly drank any alcohol.

John Hauli

In 1953, he made his final voyage to Hawaii on the ocean liner MS Lurlise. As he was aging and had no family, Hauli started to look for a successor to Hauli Huvila. He approached the Finnish organizations in Los Angeles, but they felt that Reedley, located 300 miles north, was too far away . Eventually, Hauli found a taker. The Berkeley Finnish American Cultural Society agreed to take over hauli Huvila. Hauli stipulated in his will that Hauli Huvila should always be made available to the Finnish community, specially children and the elderly.

John Hauli spent the last three months of his life in the Lone Palm Rest Home, a nursing home in Fresno. He died at 73 at four o’clock in the morning of September 6th, 1956. Hauli was buried in the Reedley Cemetery.

Hauli Huvila visitors from the early 70's.

After I had done most of my research as I prepared to write an article for Suomen Silta (Finland Bridge Magazine), I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a story about John Hauli had appeared in that very magazine back in the ‘50’s. So, I contacted the editor-in-chief Leena Isbom. She found the article which was published two years before Hauli’s death, in 1954. In the article, at the request of the magazine, John Hauli tells about his life, where he was born, about his parents, profession and about coming to America. He says:

“I’ve been to Finland seven times, and six times to Hawaii.

I have always been involved in the assistance of Finland. I went to Finland in this capacity in 1947. I belong to the association of the war blind. I have donated my ranch to the Finnish children and the elderly as a place for summer vacations and I have given a thousand dollars for a fund to support this. Now I am spending the rest of my life as a retired gentleman. The young generation takes care of the work.

I hope the best of luck and future for the entire Finnish nation. I have been lucky in America and I am very happy with my fate.”

I would like to thank the following individuals whose contributions made it possible to write this story:

Henry Aspen
Vicki Bittner
Randy Cameron
Ray Halme
Kimmo Heinström
Olli Hämäläinen
Catherine Lark
Carol Krehbiel
Ahvo Linnala
Mikko Viljanen
Tiina Purtonen
Oliver Vuori

Looking over Reedley, CA

Other sources:

The Reedley California Finns – A Verdant Haven in the Sun, by Frank Stohl 1982
Ancestry.com
County of Fresno – the Hall of Records
John Haulin interview, Finland Bridge, 1954

Hauli Huvila/Hauli Villa
Address: 8802 Kings River Road
Reedley, CA 93 654
Phone: +1-559-784-1500
www.haulihuvila.com

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