Community spirit through sport

Works football. Championship match on Jämsänkoski mill pitch in 1945.United Paper Mills' own sporting activities got under way in the mid-1920s. Sport was intended to increase the sense of belonging in the community and to improve physical and mental fitness. At first the activity was attached to civil guard activity. The first company sport was shooting, and to this end, each factory village was provided with its own shooting range. In 1935, a shooting contest between United and the Kymi company was watched by President P. E. Svinhufvud himself.

Popularity of cross-country skiing, which was also a part of civil guard activity, grew throughout the 1930s. Factory skiing races became great winter sporting events. Women, men, pensioners and children of company employees all had their own races. Participation in the races often approached 100 percent. Inter-factory skiing championship contests were launched after the war. The company supported skiing by sending around twenty young female employees on a skiing holiday to Pallastunturi every year from 1937. After the war, the courses continued at Yllästunturi.

United skiing race at Jämsänkoski in 1936. Start of the women’s race. Starter Hilkka Tähtinen.In 1935, the first athletics contest was organised between the company's mills in Jämsänkoski. Before the wars, only competitors who were members of clubs under the Finnish sports association, SVUL, were permitted to take part. The company established a sports committee with representatives from each factory unit. Jämsänkoski was represented by Antero Nyman, M.Sc.

Sport also played an important part in the curriculum of the company vocational school. Indeed, the Lotila school was called a sporting institute. In addition to shooting and skiing, company sports included athletics and football. Of summer sports, swimming was particularly prominent in the course and competition programmes of both United and other paper industry towns and villages. The Koskikeskinen swimming centre was built in the mid-1930s.

The company supported sports clubs and built facilities

The company was closely involved in setting up sports clubs in its mill locations. The gymnastics and sports that had started within the fire brigade were organised in the early 1930s under the title Jämsänkosken VPK:n urheilijat. In 1933 the club adopted the name Voimistelu ja urheiluseura Jämsänkosken Ilves. The club was led by Antero Nyman throughout the 1930s. In Jämsänkoski, as in other mill villages, the sports activities were divided into clubs for the bourgoisie and the workers. The workers' sports club was Jämsänkosken Jyry and the club supported by the company Jämsänkosken Ilves.

In 1953, the sports club Kaipolan Vire was founded in order to support physical activities of staff at Kaipola mill. At the same time, they wanted to encourage top level sport within the company, as its own successful sportsmen increased the sense of belonging and the village community spirit. The company funded and supervised the club's activities, and its financial affairs were taken care of by the company welfare services office. Of Vire sportsmen, particular success was achieved by the runners of 'Kaipola stable', among them Olavi 'The Tank' Salonen and Jouko Kuha. Alongside Kaipolan Vire, the rowing club Jämsänjoen Soutuveikot was set up in 1959.

United orienteering contest at Korpilahti in 1962. Olympic skiing champion Veikko Hakulinen.As well as supporting sporting clubs, the company built sports facilities in its mill locations. In addition to the premises already mentioned, the larger facilities built in Juuso Walden's time were the Jämsänkoski shooting range, bowling alley, Oinaala playing field and stand and the Pitkävuori ski jump. An indoor sports hall was completed on the first floor of Kaipola mill in 1958.

After the wars, sporting activity took new forms and new sports emerged. Top athletes were acquired on the company payroll, and results targets were reached by training even during working hours. Top sportsmen brought fame for the company. Focus on various sports was divided between the company locations. Centralisation was sought in supporting top level sports. Jämsänkoski concentrated on skiing, footballers and athletes were collected at Valkeakoski and endurance runners at Kaipola. One of the most famous company sportsmen is possibly Olympic skier Veikko Hakulinen, who represented not only Jämsänkosken Ilves, but also Valkeakosken Haka. United discontinued its support of top level sport in the early 1970s, and the emphasis was transferred to developing exercise to improve staff fitness.

Link: Kaipolan Vire
Link: Jämsänkosken Ilves
Link: Jämsänkosken Jyry