Finnelson School

grandberryragsYes, for a while, there was a school named after my grandfather up there in the frozen northern Yooper outpost of Sault Ste. Siberia. It wasn’t really called Finnelson. That was the most common way that people would mispronounce our family name and The Commander hated it and I just wrote it like that to bug her because she reads this here blahg. It wasn’t always easy growing up trying to be a hooligan under her watchful eye. If you felt like saying something like, “I ain’t got none,” you had better darn well be over in the schoolyard or someplace where she couldn’t hear you. I figgered I’d escape that as an adult but no. Not only does the Comm *still* correct my grammar, my blasted *daughter* does it too! For the record, my grammar is pretty dern good, fer kee-reist!

Anyway. I don’t know that Grandberry did anything specific to earn the honor of having an elementary school named after him. He was an old-school small-town bank president who came from pretty much nothing. He wasn’t too proud to take the ferry to Sugar Island (on foot) to collect collateral in the form of a cow. And during World War II, long before I was even thought about, he was a member of the Chippewa County Draft Board and he felt so guilty about sending other people’s boys to war that he told his own sons, who were in college and medical school at the time, that they had best get their effects together and voluntarily enlist. And so they did.

As I mentioned in that sorta tacked-on coda to yesterday’s rambling bunch of blather, Finnelson Finlayson School is now a charter school run by the Native Americans. It isn’t called Finlayson any more and I’m too lazy to google the current name. I can only guess, of course, but I think that Grandberry would have liked that idea. As all of my cuzzints, etc., know, he spent the earliest years of his childhood in northern Saskatchewan (Kinistino), where his parents were homesteaders and his dad and uncle were fur trappers for the Hudson’s Bay company. This was in the late 1800s. They had many friends amongst the Native Americans in the area and were given many artifacts from those friends. Alas. My great-grandfather and his brother died on a fur trapping trip much farther north in the wilderness. No cell phones in those days. My great-grandmother and her three small children did what you had to do back then, which was to live with relatives somewhere else, and somewhere else turned out to be Sault Ste. Siberia, Michigan.

There are only two public elementary schools up there in Siberia any more, Lincoln and Washington. I don’t totally understand the business rules surrounding all this but I’m guessing it is now cheaper to bus kids to larger buildings than distribute the schools around the area? I don’t know. I am thinking guessing that Grandberry probably had vague memories of his life in Saskatchewan and I think he was very interested in Native American culture. I have to guess that he would be happy that his namesake school went to the Indians when it was no longer feasible for the public schools to own it.

6 Responses to “Finnelson School”

  1. Pooh Says:

    The Saint Louis City Public Schools are selling off schools to try and ease the financial crunch. They have stipulated that no school building can be sold to a charter school for one hundred years. Some of these buildings are already close to 100 years old! The city schools don’t want to make it easier for the charter schools to take their DOLLARS, I mean students, away. The charter school that I taught at so briefly, was an old catholic school. You could still see the stone plaque over the entrance, “Our Lady of Perpetual Need.” Somehow, it seemed very appropriate for its second reincarnation too. Lord, hear our prayers.

  2. kayak woman Says:

    I think that all flavors of schools (public, charter, private, etc.) run the gamut between excellent and horrific, like the one that Pooh taught at. Even here on the planet Ann Arbor where the schools are supposed to be wonderful, some years were better than others. Middle school was horrific for one of my kids. Despite constant blathering by the administration about meeting each individual child’s needs, only one or two teachers figured out what my highly intelligent, creative, spirited child was all about.

    I’ve done some googling this morning and came up with this site that seems to be using web 2.0-ish tools to describe schools in various communities and it’s very interesting to me how much the landscape has changed in my childhood town since I was a kid. And I have also looked at the Bahweting Anishnabe charter school and I have to say I am rather impressed.

  3. Jan Miller Says:

    Grandaddy was the president of the school board for a long time and I think that was why he had the school named after him. Our great grandfather was also asked to be the Cree Chief when the Chief was not in the area. Quite an honor for a white man.

  4. jane Says:

    cool pic of grandaddy!

  5. Margaret Says:

    I think middle school (junior high) is horrible for lots of kids, one of mine included. It’s a hard age and stage of life. You couldn’t pay me enough money to teach at that level!! I’m off to take a look at that charter school. I’m not very familiar with them.

  6. kayak woman Says:

    First, thanks Jan for commenting. Jan is one of my beloved Fin cousins. I was hoping someone who knew more than I do would comment. Of course, she’s right that Grandaddy was a long-time school board member. And so was her father, my uncle Don, who handed me my diploma when I graduated from high school!

    And then my aunt Bubs called to mention the whole “suspected foul play” aspect of the story. Bubs says that the brothers did *not* work for the Hudson Bay Company, rather that they were in business on their own. There has always been a suspicion that there may have been foul play on the part of the Hudson Bay company. Evidence that points in this direction includes the facts that their cache of food was not far from where they died and that their dog was found alive.

    I don’t think anything has ever been proved and I didn’t include this before because my knowledge was very murky on these points.