Porridge has never been a favourite of Erkki Tarvainen. Never in his long life. “I had it for breakfast every day at the logging cabin. I got so fed up that even today, I won’t touch it unless I absolutely have to”, says Tarvainen, who will be 80 years old in Ponsse’s 50th anniversary year.
He gives his rocking chair some speed while thinking back.
“They were quite the times, as I recall.”
We are talking about where it all started. The story could start like this: “There were once two boys. They both lived in Nieminen, Vieremä. The houses where they lived were located next to each other, surrounded by lush fields and dark forests. It was a time when boys followed their fathers to the worksites with red cheeks, to learn new things and to grow up.
One of them was one of the Vidgren boys. His name was Einari. The other boy was from the Tarvainen family.
“We played a lot of games together, fooling around in the same places”, Erkki Tarvainen says. “All the things kids used to do back then.” There were no video games or other devices. They played volleyball, participated in sports contests, and did whatever there was.
And as an older boy, the next thing to do was to go to a logging site and start forest work.
“Right after confirmation classes, I started working in the forests of Haapakulju. I had to walk 11 kilometres from the main road to the logging cabin. The men from neighbouring houses were working there, and I joined them. I first worked for a summer, and that was the start for me. It was quite rough during that time. There were no chainsaws, we had just bucksaws to work with.”
Of course, the youngsters were interested in machines. Erkki’s friend Einari already had his own chainsaw, which he was using at the logging sites. The two were eager to get more work, and they started off for their first longer work trip together. The state’s Forest Administration had a large logging site in Kuhmo, and the boys from Vieremä went there to find work as haulers.
“I had only just been released from my military service. We had a farm tractor and a trailer for it. We hauled logs in Kuhmo, there was a distance of about 18 kilometres to the place where the logs were unloaded, on the ice of a frozen lake. There was a place to sleep nearby, and we worked throughout the winter.
We worked in two shifts – when one of us was driving, the other one was resting. We earned quite well. The payment was based on horse rates, which meant that the earnings were a bit better.
Later, the rates were changed when people realised that a machine had a much larger capacity.
After we had reached a good pace, we held on to it. We continued working at the same logging sites, and kept the tractor and trailer running. Then, following Einari’s military service, we got a start with skidders. That was what really gave us the spark.”
Soon, a workshop was built in Nieminen. It was late winter in 1969, when the busy work at the workshop settled and the world’s first forest machine constructed in Vieremä was unveiled.
“People called it ‘the Juicer’”, Tarvainen says, still laughing.
“The machine had a loader on the roof, and it leaked a bit of oil. It was dropping on the operator. At least you didn’t need any hair cream after that!” However, the most important guideline when building the Juicer was to make it is as simple and durable as possible.
“The hauling work was really something. The trailer had no brakes, and once, our lorry broke down on the Ronkelirinne hill. It stopped right there. The transfer pump diaphragms had come loose. It was a cold winter. We had to fix it then and there, on the road, but we did get the machine to the destination.”
How would the original name, the Juicer, work on the forest machine market today, if it had stuck? However, the machine was eventually named Ponsse, inspired by the best hunting dog in the village. It was a mongrel dog, famous for its skill in hare-hunting. It was probably Einari’s father, Jooseppi Vidgrén, who came up with the name Ponsse for the machine. After all, it would go after everything without hesitation!
Erkki Tarvainen was involved in the many stages of Ponsse’s growth throughout his career. Eventually, a factory was built to replace the village workshop, the factory was expanded and Tarvainen’s work tasks changed along with the development. When the first service facility was completed, Tarvainen became a supervisor at the repair shop. With the factory expansion, Tarvainen left the repair shop and moved to the assembly department, as the senior member of the team.
Whenever skilled workforce who fully understood forest machines was needed, Erkki Tarvainen was the man for the job. Later, new models were created at the prototype workshop under Tarvainen’s management. He retired from a supervisor’s position there at the age of 65.
“I had a great job there. Even though we started straight from the ground up.”