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Mesaba Co-op Park oral history interviews

Identifier: S6161

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of audio recordings of interviews of individuals involved with Mesaba Co-op Park in Hibbing, Minnesota, biographical information on narrators, interview abstracts, transcripts of the interviews, and photographs contemporary to the interviews. Interviews were conducted in 2012 and 2013. The collection also contains a digitized copy of one interview from 1992. All materials are in digital format.

Narrators, Part I, 2012:

David Bednarczuk

Pam Brunfelt

Anni Forsman

Oscar Forsman

John Hess and Kathy McQuillan

Bill Kosiak

Mark Lapakko and Kim Lapakko

Belinda Poropudas

Terrance Smith and Siyanda Elizabeth

Hans Trieselmann

Narrators, Part II, 2013:

Weikko Jarvi (1992)

Jim Larson

Jean Derider

Susanna Frenkel

Gail Graham

Ross Hujanen

Sue Johnson

Marilyn Lindstrom

Sally Maxwell

Margot McCreary

Vern Simula

Betty Smith


  • 1992-2013
  • Majority of material found in 1992, 2012-2013


Biographical / Historical

The Mesaba Co-op Park Oral History Project was undertaken in 2012 to record the memories and stories of narrators who had been active members of Mesaba Co-op Park over the past few decades. 10 interviews with 13 narrators were conducted. Video of most interviews was also recorded.

The second phase of the Mesaba Co-op Park Oral History Project was undertaken in 2013 as a follow-up to the 2012 project to record the memories and stories of more narrators who had been active members of Mesaba Co-op Park over the past few decades. 11 interviews were conducted and one interview from 1992 with an important park member was digitized and included in this phase of the project.

Interview questions focused on how and why each narrator (or the narrator’s family) became involved with the Park, what they knew of the Park’s early history, their experiences as a member, why they are drawn to the location and why they enjoy the Park and their hopes for the future of the Park. Many narrators spoke of the cooperative aspects of the Park operation, the idea of a progressive “Workingman’s Paradise,” “Red Finns,” labor politics and good memories of dances, swimming and education events held at the Park. The oldest member interviewed, Anni Forsman, was born in Finland in 1925, but the majority of narrators were born in the US in the 1950’s. Many narrators had heard stories of FBI and other intimidation during the McCarthy era of the 1950’s, leading to a “lost generation” when older members did not bring their children or encourage them to continue work at the Park. There was much discussion of the important era of transition that occurred in the 1970’s and 80’s when the older Finnish members were aging and younger people with progressive values from different ethnic backgrounds became active in Park operations.

Many of the interviews were conducted during the 2012 Midsummer Festival, an annual gathering of long-time and new members and guests. A few other interviews were conducted in Duluth or at the Iron Range Research Center near Virginia. One interview (with Belinda Poropudas) was conducted via Skype from her current location in China.

Interviews were conducted and transcribed by Gina Temple-Rhodes of Cedar Story Services, an oral and family history recording service, with assistance from colleague and friend Susan Taylor. Temple-Rhodes has attended Midsummer’s Festival at Mesaba Co-op Park for the past two years, and is acquainted with many Park members in Duluth.

The project was managed by the Northstar Foundation of the Mesaba Range, a non-profit organization that assists with Arts programming, etc at Mesaba Co-op Park. Project funding was provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.


72.00 Gigabytes

Language of Materials


Physical Location

This collection is located at the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives. For more information about this collection or to make an appointment, contact us at or 218-726-8526.

Physical Description

Digital Files
Guide to the Mesaba Co-op Park oral history interviews
Finding Aid Authors: Staff.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University of Minnesota Duluth Archives and Special Collections Collecting Area

Kathryn A. Martin Library
University of Minnesota Duluth
416 Library Drive
Duluth MN 55812-3001
(218) 726-8526