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Centennial Monograph: Finnish Saunas


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Centennial Monograph: Finnish Saunas


A history of the Finnish saunas in Maynard


Birger Koski (w/William Salo and John Helander)





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The one and only claim to fame that the Finnish people that removed themselves to these shores have is the steambath. The word "sauna" is part of our English language, so we descendants of those early Finns hold on to that little bit with iron grip to satisfy our vanity.

The sauna was, and still is, we presume, an institution in Finland. Every household from peasant on up had this little building, separate from any others, on the premises. In it they not only bathed themselves, but gave birth to their offspring - it was warm and water was available in plenty.

The building was small - 8ft. by 12 ft. or so - split one-third dressing room, two-thirds steam room, The firebox was built from the floor up with an 8-12" layer of river-washed small stones on top. This fire box was fired from inside the steam room for some unaccountable reason, causing gases from the flame and smoke to escape into the room, smarting and burning the eyes of the first occupants in great style, One small window after awhile allowed these gases to escape. Two barrels of water, which were filled by pail from the well, one cold, one hot, were used which was ladled into pails - the proper mixture for comfortable washing.

Along one wall was a three tiered seating board. The lowest was the coolest, the third, where your head nearly touched the celling, was the hottest. After three to four hours of burning wood in the fire box, the hardened river stones were heated to we know not what temperature - suffice to say, when a ladle of water was thrown on them sometimes they would crack, and that’s hot.