Ottawa Sportsmen's Club History

Arnold Juntunen and Ed Aho on the Laird Conservation Club

Transcribed by Carole Williams

Arnold Juntunen Arnold Juntunen Ed Aho Ed Aho Ray Juntunen Ray Juntunen


On Wednesday, June 20, 2001, a small group of interested members got together at the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club, on very short notice, to listen to Arnold Juntunen tell about the building of the Laird Conservation Club at Courtney Lake. His father, Arthur, had been contracted to build this facility and Arnold had some memories to share. Ed Aho, our last living Charter Member of the O.S.C. had been invited to come and share his memories, also.

Present were Arnold Juntunen, Ed Aho, Ray Juntunen, Mike Mickus, Wayne Heikkinen, his grandson Ryan Fisher, and Carole Williams. A tape of the conversation was made and what follows are excerpts from that conversation.


"They organized it at the Alston Town Hall. They picked out the name "Laird Conservation", then. They decided they should have a clubhouse of their own and find some property. Someone had a contact with or knew that they should get in contact with Von Platten Fox Co. because the company had property at Courtney Lake. They approached this company and got a forty of land. It was supposed to be seven acres on the shore and the rest of the property was on the lake bottom.

They had the property, then; it was donated to the club. They had their eye on certain buildings they would like to move to the property, but they didn't seem able to make a connection. A man named Bancroft was to find a building, but what was selected wouldn't stand the move.

Then they found a log cabin somewhere near Pori where a fellow was building this cabin for a bunch of hunters from Lower Michigan. The hunters had gone broke and it had been sitting there for some years. The hunters hadn't even paid the man for the work he had done on it. When the guys started to take it apart to move it, they found it had started to rot on the corners.

Then they began to talk about getting some pulp poplar logs and build a clubhouse out of that. They started working on that and split the logs and started on the inside walls first. It was double logged and then they put tar-paper on it. The joints overlapped each other. They had to split that log, each stick of pulp, and then edge it.

They had an ordinary buzz machine that he (father) sharpened the blade on for ripping purposes instead of cutting cross grain. And it had a "v" trough so it didn't make any difference what size it was. Then they would push it through by hand. That's what split that, one stick at a time. Then they had another machine that they did the edging with; cut the edges off. This was done with a one cylinder gas engine, a hit and miss engine that we used for grinding feed and cutting fire wood. I can't remember if they had another engine (for edging) or how they did the edging. I just made trips out there in the evening to see how it was being done. I'd try to talk to Uno or Swantti (spelling?) or someone out there to see the progress on it.

No, they didn't get the logs there (from the site). I can't remember where they got the logs, but Harold (? sounds like Fritag) hauled all those logs in one load and he said it was the biggest load of pulp he'd ever hauled in his life. He's the one that hauled them from wherever they got them, but I can't remember where.

Our dad (Arthur Juntunen) was the main contractor. I don't know what he got paid, if he got paid very much, but he was out there, steady. And, then, it was donation labor. Each club member was supposed to work out there three days. Dad's cousin, Bill Hiltunen, was working at our place and he took three days off to go and work three days over there on the clubhouse.

The whole thing was made in one summer. But then, the porch was made the following year, a deck with a roof over that. The porch was two sided on the west side and the south side. The kitchen was on the east end. It was 40 x 40. It was built around 1940, I think.

Bill Hiltunen was at our place, working. We were making firewood up on top of the hill out there, cutting poles. Then he had to go and register for the draft and he was the first one called, Fred Hiltunen's Bill. He worked quite a few summers for us, and there was even one winter when there wasn't much work in the woods out there. So he worked for dad and that's when they made that playhouse for us (the Juntunen children) out of spruce logs.

The clubhouse was one story and there was no ceiling; it was open ceiling. They were all out of poplar poles, those rafters.

The Laird Conservation Club started in 1937, because I could have joined the 4H Club in '36, but I was a little bit bashful about going out there then until '37. They had their first meeting when we had our 4H Club meeting at the Town Hall. It was '37 when they started the club.

I don't know how many members they had. They might have had in the 30's when they organized it, but then it was up to about 70 at one time and I was secretary there for one spring then. They had a by-law in there that any member who got caught violating a conservation law, he got kicked out of the club for six months. And Laurie Kiviranta got kicked out because he had his traps too close to the dam. I got a kick out of it when he had served thirty some years as Secretary and never missed a meeting.

When Laurie got kicked out, well, they appointed me secretary, then. I was a member of the Club already then. This was in the spring of 1944 and I was in high school. At that time, they were trying to get the State to buy that Porcupine Mountains tract over there for a state park.

They wanted letters written to Hook, he was a Senator, and Bennett was a Representative from Ontanogan. I had to write letters out there. So, what do I know about it, so I wrote a rough draft and then I gave it to Miss Bernier (?), our English teacher. And she worked on it one night for me and I got the thing written out and brought it to the club, next meeting. Jim O' Meara was the president and he was gonna change the whole thing around, that it wasn't good enough the way I had it written that thing. And Waino Pirhonen got up and said, "Let's leave this just the way he's written it. So I felt kinda proud but, Jim O'Meara, for some reason, he didn't like me."

(As said by Ray Juntunen: "I remember dad telling this story. Jim O'Meara showed up one day and started hollering at a guy who was working and said, "What are you doing over here?" And the man said, "Well, I'm helping Art Juntunen." And O'Meara told him, "No, no, no, you get going." Dad came around the building and said, "What's going on here?" O'Meara said, "You don't need a helper" and dad said, "How do you expect me to get the rafters up there? You wanna do it, go ahead and do it" and he started going home with his tool box. O'Meara hollered, "No, no, no, no, no" and started to turn turkey. He was just a tough cookie, either his way or no way at all.")

Arnold Juntunen: "Oh, I was just a kid, sixth grade, Nissula School. And I'd go to my uncle's little store there at noon. He had a show case there for meat and a cooler. And Jim O'Meara, things were tight with him too, and he wanted just a two pound roast and all the roasts were bigger than two pounds in the showcase. I was told to put Uno's apron on and get a roast out of the cooler and cut it "somewhere's in there", somewhere around two pounds. So I cut the thing; it went on the wax paper. I picked it up and put it on the scale. Two pounds, two ounces. O'Meara said, "I thought I told you two pounds!" I was so proud of myself, two pounds, two ounces. He deflated my balloon in a hurry.

When he had that Algoma Trading Post, there, I was tempted many times to stop there and ask for a two pound roast!

When he moved up from Detroit, remember that Magnavox radio we had, he traded that for a cow from our place. That's how we got our first radio. He didn't have any power over there and he wanted a cow so they'd have some milk.

In the 40's, the club would have dances. There was an old dance hall when you first approached Courtney Lake. It would be like on the north side right in a low spot, there. Part of it was over the water. John Kokola (spelling?) owned that thing and they bought that from him then, too, so they had access to their property. We tore that building out and they used some of the lumber for the roof."

Ed Aho: "Yeah, they had dances every Saturday night for a long time. "Palisades", they called it".

Ray Juntunen: "Wasn't it Johnny Turanen and Roy Clish, they used to have little dances there?"

Arnold Juntunen: "Yes, they used to. I was working in Wisconsin then."

Ed Aho: "And then they had the Turkey Shoot there. I think they had the Turkey Shoot before we did here. Most clubs were having Turkey Shoots. But, when we moved here, we had it here. We used to have live turkeys for prizes. We used them (live turkeys as targets) for one year. We had it behind the Grandville (Tavern) one year and we used real turkeys in a box. Couldn't see the turkeys. Had to wait for their head to pop up! We used to buy them at Manderfield's up there, the white turkeys. We always had live turkeys for prizes then. That was at the Wolverine Club."

It was just last year or the year before, I got a call before our Turkey Shoot, from downstate. Some lady was really concerned we were using live turkeys to shoot at. That was only a couple of years ago.

There was fights all the time there (at Courtney Lake), over girls and other things".

Arnold Juntunen: "Laurie Keranen used to play (music) out there. And, Eino, Eino Keranen. And Wilbert was on the banjo and Laurie on the bass. They were three brothers. They had the Rainbow Gardens there on M-38 (and Prickett Dam Road)."

Ray Juntunen: "They tore down Rainbow Gardens, Eino tore it down. You know how that Rainbow Gardens was built? Eino told the story about it. That was when the Depression first started, you know. Him and his brother, they had sawed some logs somewhere's and they tried to sell them, but couldn't. So they got their sawmill and they cut 'em into lumber, you know. And they said, "Let's make this dance hall", and they built this dance hall. Eino said they used to charge a nickel for a pop."

Arnold Juntunen: "I made my first nickel from Eino Keranen. He had a shingle mill. He had it at his home. They had a few cedar logs. My Uncle Swantti (spelling?) went over there with a tractor and saw machine and they cut 'em into blocks and got the shingle mill set up. They didn't dig a very deep pit in underneath that. They had an old car. They put the wheels on these four pulleys and that drove the shingle mill, then. They couldn't cut maybe a dozen blocks and it was full of sawdust underneath. They were trying to reach, but couldn't because of the framework. So I crawled in there and I got all that stuff out of there and they threw it down into the gully from there. When we got all through, Eino put a nickel on that machine for me, the first nickel I earned.

There was a Nissula Co-Op Store and I went in there and there was a box of chocolates and that cost a nickel and I bought that box of chocolates and we all chocolates."

Ed Aho: (when asked how the two clubs came to be merged) "Both of the clubs were kind of dwindling down. Interest was down and the North Laird Club didn't have meetings very often anymore. The Wolverines, they were down on their meetings. We'd just call a meeting once in awhile. Ralph Jokipii and a few others, they got together, and talked about (?) Adrian Heinonen and maybe they should merge and get more interest in one club. We had a couple meetings and decided it would probably be best to merge.

There was a lot of talk about which club would take the other in, but it was finally decided to have the club and meetings here (Wolverines) because it was a more central location for a club. It was decided to have a new name; they wouldn't accept either name. So that's when we came up with The Ottawa. It seemed appropriate because the Ottawa Forest was nearby.

There was some dissension about the merger. Not really animosity, but a little bit of competition. The Wolverine Sportsmen's Club joined the M.U.C.C. right away, early on. The Laird club never did; they were just local. The Wolverines went statewide. The M.U.C.C. director came here several times to our meetings to convince the Wolverine's in joining. Onni Usitalo was secretary when we joined the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. That was l945 or 46 when we joined the M.U.C.C. They were new, then. I think they had just formed in '37 or something like that. When we joined, there was another club downstate with the name "Wolverine", so we had to go by the name "Wolverine of the Upper Peninsula"."

Arnold Juntunen: "After the clubs were merged, the club at Courtney was rented out to hunters who would stay right there for hunting season. The pavilion now is just about right where the kitchen was. In the winter we went with skis out there and shoveled the snow off the roof."

Ed Aho: "Laurie Kiviranta and I went out there one time to cut some trees that had grown up. I told him he should move his car, but he didn't. So I started the saw and cut a tree right by the car. Boy, did he move it in a hurry, then. I got a mean look that time."

Arnold Juntunen: "We played a trick on Laurie one time in front of my uncle's store. Levi went and put a bomb on the front of his car. Uno and August Keranen kept him busy in the store so he didn't see when Levi hooked that thing up. And Laurie went into his car and turned the key. As soon as he turned the key on, it started to whistle. It should do that for about ten seconds and then, bang! He had the floor mats and the floor boards out and the hood open before the bang!"

Ed Aho: "The Turkey Shoot for the Wolverines used to be held at the old Grandville Tavern. It was a clearing then, but it's all brushed in now. We used to shoot toward the woods. The Wolverine Club was formed before we had this property (where the club stands now). That was in the early 40's. Laird was formed in '37. When we formed, we had the original meetings in the Oddfellows Hall in Baraga. And after a turn of events, we had meetings at the Grandville and John Holms tavern. In fact, when we built here, John Holms lent us a $1,000.00 to buy materials.

It didn't take us long then, Rudy (?) had joined and Al Bitchenauer was here, when we burned the thousand dollar note. I think Emil (?) Pelto was the President that year. Al Bitchenauer was a barber and had the building (next to Superior National Bank) they are now moving down the street in Baraga. They lived there and had a barber shop in the front.

I don't remember exactly why we picked this property (that we have now). But Celotex had it for sale, this property here and a piece over on the hill. We dealt with Celotex and bought this property here, two forties here. We didn't pay very much for it. The D.N.R. sent a man with a cement mixer here when we poured the cement floor. They sent Fred Miron with a big mixer. We all hauled rock here.

Ted Otto and Chet Kuzner (spelling?) built the original building here. (at the present site) Chet owned the Grandville Tavern then. I was 23 when I first joined the club. (Wolverines) I think I'm the last Charter Member."

Arnold Juntunen: "I was 17. They (Laird Conservation Club) were selling life memberships for $5.00. They did that to raise money to build the clubhouse. I thought I could get together enough money for buy a life membership by the end of May when I had to resign as Secretary. I was going in the service. By the time I had it, they had cut it out on June 1st because they had enough money to build."

Ed Aho: "Boy, you guys were cheap. We charged $10.00 for a life membership. Our dues were $1.00 at the Wolverines. We (the Ottawa Sportsmen's Club) only charge $25.00 now. $35.00 the first year, $25.00 after."

Arnold Juntunen: "In the beginning, they used .22's for the Turkey Shoot. Then they had another one with shotguns. They had put a little "X" somewhere on a piece of typing paper and each person took one shot. Whoever came the closest to hitting the little "X", won the prize. Emil Santti won that one time. He said, "Boy, did I aim on that thing, and I got it!"

Ed Aho: "When we had the fire here, we had just built an addition on the kitchen. Ed Lindblom (spelling?) and I had made a big beautiful hardwood kitchen block. Never had a slab of meat on it and we had worked so hard.

We have members who come to our meetings from out in Skanee, Houghton, Ontonagon, Mass. It's really important that when we get new members, we get them involved right away."

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