Bio  Finntown Sports    IWW Centennnial    Lorain, Ohio
“Free Thought and Secularism in the Finnish Diaspora”    Tuomioja Document
US–Finn History     Harry’s Scans *


I worked for many years with Harry Siitonen at the SF Chronicle before his retirement. He was always a stand-up man, with true principles of justice. He was a loyal member and activist in the union, while never holding back on his views if he disagreed, or agreed(!) with the leadership.

Even until very recently, thanks to the devoted help of Antonio, he would come o the lunches of our Typographical  Sector Retirees’ Club. His long life, Finnish pride, socialist convictions, radical  unionism and theater activism were just part of what made him a working-class  hero. — Gloria



Harry Antero Siitonen, of Berkeley Kaleva Lodge #21, passed away on May 7, 2017, in El Cerrito, Calif. He had been in declining health for some time.

The beloved poet, translator, actor, historian, secular humanist, peace and human rights activist, freethinker, atheist, vegetarian, teetotaler, democratic socialist, and union activist with a strong interest in the Finnish-American labor movement, has moved on.

Harry was born in Worcester, MA on March 18, 1926, to Finnish immigrants, Antti and Hanna Siitonen, nee Saikkonen, from Karelia, then the eastern part of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Russian Empire. They arrived in the US in 1915.

Harry grew up in a vibrant Finnish immigrant community near Fitchburg, the great Finnish Mecca once referred to as the Helsinki of the American Finntowns.

Harry did well in school and became editor of Trade Winds, the Worcester Trade School student magazine. Besides printing it was at Trade that he first started writing and editing. He regularly hung out at the Raivaaja newspaper. He was encouraged to choose a printing career by the editor Oskari Tokoi, the first Finnish democratic prime minister, in exile in the US.

After graduating, Harry enlisted in the Navy. On July 21st, 1945, USS Little Rock set out of Newport, RI, with destination Guantanamo Bay.

On August 6, 1945 a message was received through the radio about a strange bomb no one had ever heard of, dropped on Hiroshima. Nagasaki followed after 3 days, and on August 15th, WWII was over. After a 5 month cruise on USS Little Rock around South America, he returned to Fitchburg and, thanks to the GI bill, enrolled in the State Teachers College. However, half way through college, he felt restless and decided that teaching was not the right thing. He was accepted at Michigan State College.

During his college years he became involved in campus politics, even joining the Communist Party. He graduated with a degree in journalism. After a stint in Chicago, Harry continued to Los Angeles in 1954 following the legendary Route 66. He got a job as phone book proofreader for the Times-Mirror Press, and joined the International Typographical Union and the local Socialist Party Chapter.

The Democratic Convention in 1960, where JFK received the Presidential nomination concluded Harry’s political life in Los Angeles. Shortly afterwards, he quit his job, loaded his Plymouth and left to seek his fortune in San Francisco, leaving family and good comrades and friends behind.

On his first day in San Francisco, Harry was hired by the San Francisco Chronicle as a proofreader, starting the same evening. Soon he moved to Berkeley and continued his political and union activities. Harry took up endurance sports, running 26 marathons, and participated in many national and international Masters Championships. He was employed at the Chronicle until his retirement at age 60.

In 1979 he joined Berkeley Kaleva Lodge and helped revive cultural activities at the Hall including directing plays with the Kalevala theme.

After his retirement, Harry started taking classes in acting. He was occasionally hired as an extra in Hollywood films shooting in the Bay Area, and joined the Screen Actor’s Guild (the body that votes for the Oscars).

He was a sought-after lecturer on Finnish-American labor history at many FinnFests, and for many years, was the sports reporter for the Finnish American Reporter. He participated in events at the Finnish Hall and wrote regularly the Antinpojan blogi in Finnish Hall 21 newsletter about past events in the Berkeley Finnish community. Harry started writing his memoirs in 2002 and posted them online at He posted his 38th and last installment just a few months ago.

He is sorely missed by the Finnish Hall members and a large circle of friends. A memorial is being planned, likely in July at the Strawberry Lodge in Berkeley where he resided for many decades.

By Kaj Rekola, Harry's friend at Kaleva Lodge #21


A NOTE from the webscribe to those of you who are following Harry’s Memoirs: If you understand that there is a new installment, but the old webpages come up, they have been stored in cache and your browser needs to be refreshed! Here is a website that will tell you all about it:

This photo was taken by Harry’s good bud & comrade Antonio Salas at the Bay Area Typo Union Retirees Club at Double Play Bar & Grill in San Francisco on October 17, 2015.

Finn Hammer (USA - 1957)
Honoring the Finnish Labor Movement

Welcome to Harry Siitonen’s “Finn Labor” Website.

We begin with Harry’s memoirs, which you may view by clicking on the link above. He also has a brief history of the Finnish-American labor movement he’s delivered as a paper on a couple of occasions, and other articles he’s written could appear here.

Harry had often thought of doing an on-line newsletter, which he would name “Finn Labor”, as that is part of his proletarian activist identity. It would be devoted mostly to information on the Finnish radical and labor movements, which are of special interest to him.

Those are things in store. Harry is a fascinating individual, with a long and rich and radical life, with stories to share. I urge you to visit from time to time, just to see what’s up.

I’m Daniel ben Avram, the Webscribe, but you may e-mail the Finn by clicking on the e-mailbox below:

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting link, just to get started: SASK — Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland.

Rauha, Yhteistoiminta & Ihmisoikeudet,

  10/23/2015:  Here is an article from Helsingin Sanomat that Harry just translated, an interesting piece about the attempts of a young woman pastor who is trying to modernize her Conservative Laestadian religion which is a very fundamentalist branch of the Finnish Lutheran Church. Click on: “Burst Open the Bubble of Shame

3/25/2014:  Harry has completed the sixth installment of his memoirs. Click HERE.

11/6/2013:  Harry has just eompleted the fifth chapter of his memoirs. You can go directly to it by clicking here. Or, you may go to the beginning. I have re-formatted to two columns. It reads more easily, and has a better look. Harry’s Memoirs

10/31/2013: This just in! Here’s a photo of Harry with Karl.

6/17/2013: Harry found his father, Antii’s thoughts on the existence of a god, written when he was 23 in 1912 (& Harry was just a gleam in his Mama’s lovely eyes. Read AJATUKSIANI, and Harry’s English translation.

10/3/2012:  Here’s a new cartoon from Harry:

    From Fingerpori, a cartoon strip appearing in the Finnish newspaper Helsigin Sanomat. The playground atterndant points to a sign reading (in English): “Do not let your dog do its duty in this yard area.” The man on right responds: “No problem, this is a mountain wolf.” —h

 6/8/2012:  About 4 years ago Harry returned from FinnFest in Minnesota having delivered "Free Thought and Secularism in the Finnish Diaspora", one of the best talks he feels he’s ever given. There is a link at the top, in the navigation bar, but you can access it HERE.

6/4/2012:  * I received a slew of scanned documents from Harry, various notes to writings and lectures. As of now they are just a collection of papers, and will be better organized in the future. Meanwhile, those wishing to read them may click on:  Harry’s Scans

3/25/2012:  Harry appeared as “Marx in Soho” (official website for the play: on Saturday, March 24. He was terrific! There is a chance he will reprise his role in the City. Stay tuned.

3/4/2012:  Here’s a photo Harry took of the statue of Karl Marx, with grafitti, in East Berlin.

I took this photo on May 8, 1991 at the Marx/Engels Plaza in East Berlin, discovered when walking along Unter den Linden, two years after the Berlin Wall fell. Note some wilted flowers at the base probably placed there on May Day, only a week before to honor Marx and Engels. The grafitti at the base reads in English, "We Are Innocent". This will go well with the Stranius blog and on the purpose of Marx returning to life in the play Marx In Soho – "to clear my name!"  Harry


Translation: “These are dirty dishes!”

 3/26/2012: Harry offers his translation of “When the Soviet Union Collapsed” By Finnish blogger Pentti Stranius.

 3/5/2012: Postings appear all too few and far between, but here’s one you did not want to miss. Harry did a dramatic reading of Howard Zinn’s “Marx in Soho” Saturday, March 24, 2:00 pm om Berkeley. He may reprise the role, so stay tuned for new developments. (You may click on flier below to view full size:

10/27/2010:  Two Finns in a bar ...

        “Darling, I won't be home until morning. My flight has been cancelled.”

“My love, the Metro station here is way late ...”        

“Repair work on the Kulosaari Metro has been delayed.”

Harry writes: “The cartoon of this conversation as translated by me is attached from the online Helsingin Sanomat. The cartoonist is Karlsson.”

10/5/2010:  United Finnish Kaleva Brothers and Sisters Berkeley Lodge No. 21 Invites You to: An Afternoon of Finnish-American Poetry. Sunday, October 24, 2:00 pm. For details in PDF, click on: Poetry Reading.

8/9/2010 — Harry writes, “Hey Daniel: I wrote a little item on a Finnish anti-war song "Veli, Sisko", (Brother, sister) including its history briefly and its lyrics written by Elsa Rautee in 1936, plus a 2006 English translation by Tuomas Kaikkonen. Reijo Frank popularized it around 1969-70.”  Check out: Veli Sisko.

7/8/2010 — Harry writes: Production has begun on a feature film, “Big Finn Hall” in Thunder Bay, Ont., about Finnish Canadian immigrant radicals in the early 20th century, directed by Kelly Saxberg, a descendent of these immigrants. Two Finnish professional film actors have been brought in to play the leads. The film will be based on actual historical events.
      Recently, the centennial of the Big Finn Hall was held, which still exists and includes a cooperative restaurant called “
Hoito" . Finnish-Canadian members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) owned Big Finn Hall for many decades.
      Plans are for a public showing of the film in the fall of 2011. See the online
Helsingin Sanomat for a Finnish language story about the this film project.

Hey, Harry’s in a cartoon!

For those who don't know Finnish:

1. The balloon in the upper-right corner reads: “Maximum retirement age to 70 years.”
2. Harry (in the foreground with the walker) asks: “Have you lived long in this old age home?”
3. The woman with the walker responds: “No, I'm working here.”

Here’s a very fine poem by Heidi Komulainen – Utopias, Part IX

Abe Lincoln got it right:

Harry writes, “Here’s a picture of me at a Golden Gate Racewalkers holiday party yesterday in Oakland, CA. Photo by host Mort Landsberg”

  More from Harry’s Poetry Corner: “Name In Vain” Check it out.

 Harry’s been back to the aulde country. Check out this photo: Harry @ Suomenlinnaon. Cheers!

  Harry’s poetry corner.  (Check out his recently-penned: What’s Immoral – (An alphabetized laundry list aspiring to become a poem).

 Sadly, Utah Phillips has taken the High Rail.  Read Harry's Obit.  'Twas a wonderful send-off was given him at the Ashkenaz August 1st.  Harry was there, and spoke, and was much music & merriment.  His music and legacy live on.

The music you hear is from a wonderful Finnish fiddle group, Frigg. Its reproduction is unauthorized (for now), so please visit their Website and support their outstanding musical efforts: