History of Salpa

Colourful memories

At Hotel Salpa’s christening event on 26.5.2017, Pauli Saukkonen told the audience about the history of Hotel Luumäki – Maisemahotelli Kastell and more.

Thanks to Paul for these interesting stories!

Hitchcock involved in motel going

Hotel Salpa preserves the rich and colourful traditions of the Luumäki Motel, which started in the sixties.

It was the spring of the early sixties when Alpo Kaukasalo, a sand king from south-east Finland, drove his car into the yard of the Kiviluomi house on the Kuutostie road in Askoläki, Luumäki, and got straight to the point.

  • Sell that waterfront lot,” Kaukasalo said, gesturing towards the ridge on the other side of the road.

Surprised by the question, Kiviluomat got an answer right away.

  • “I’m not selling anything, but you can get Mattie Strandman to sell you that potato field,” Anna Kiviluoma advised.

And so it happened that Kaukasalo and his partner in Kivijärvi Oy, Olavi Penttilä, the owner of the construction company, got the plot they wanted, which was cut off from the Pihlajaniemi farm between the Kuutostie road and the shore of Lake Kivijärvi.

That was the beginning of an unprecedented story that would break new ground for tourism in our country. Finland’s first motel was built on the site of a small potato field, and it quickly became very popular. The door was busy with buses bringing customers to the door. Among them were celebrities from home and abroad, including world-famous film mogul Alfred Hitchcock, Brazilian samba dancers, Russian prostitutes and so on. If it hadn’t been for the tireless work of the cleaner, Hitchcock’s visit would have been a lasting memory. He wrote his name on the mirror in his room as he left. The conscientious cleaner had no idea what he had done when he wiped the mirror clean.

First, a bar was set up

Construction started in 1961

The first thing Kaukasalo and Penttilä wanted was a bar. It was built by Antti Huopala from Luumäkelä without any unnecessary hesitation.

  • Antti Huopala did the job quickly and died in an accident in 1965, just about at the site, Eino Riiali, who worked as a garage contractor next door, said.

The bar did well and the owners of Kivijärvi Ltd were happy.

A few years later, Kaukasalo and Penttilä gave the business a boost by building a motel. It turned out to be an excellent investment. The new and unusual appealed to many and more and more companies and individuals wanted to hold their parties in Luumäki.

After less than three years, the initial enthusiasm faded and the flow of customers slowed down. So Kaukasalo and Penttilä rented the motel to Rauno Raunio.

  • Raunio became well known. When he gave up running the motel, some of his furniture was in our warehouse for a year, Matti Kiviluoma said.

Cadillac told whether the host was present

More international colour to Luumäki Motel was brought by Veikko and Eila Parkkari, who became motel owners on 15.2.1964 in Vancouver, Canada.

No one missed Parkkari’s big black Cadillac, which he drove to the front of the motel, where it was parked whenever Parkkari was there.

Initially, the motel had eight guest rooms and a café with a capacity of 137 customers. Initially there were no licensed premises, but these were granted by a vote of 18-5 in the municipal council, despite stiff opposition from temperance campaigners.

It soon became clear that the motel, which was doing well, needed more space. The extension was completed in 1965. More rooms were added and at the same time, a restaurant with a bar and tavern in keeping with the spirit of the times was opened. After the renovation, the level of service was raised to the level required by the times. Meeting rooms for almost four hundred people were added. The result was a spacious meeting place in Luumäki, in the middle of the Kyme region.

One of Veikko Parkkar’s first tasks was to get an orchestra. The announcement of the orchestra competition was in many newspapers, including the Helsingin Sanomat.

  • We entered the competition and to our surprise we were chosen,” said Simo Räihä from Lappeenranta, owner of Simo Räihä Orchestra.
  • At the opening ceremony organised by Parkkar, we started playing and there was plenty of it. There was dancing every weekend and the daytime dances were also very popular. There were so many visitors that we played in the foyer.

And here is the invitation from the local newspaper for the event. For example, for a bus ride:

And here is the invitation from the local newspaper for the event. For example, for a bus ride:

Due to the crowds, access was difficult on many occasions.

  • It was packed to the brim, but we were able to join in the dancing on the “wing”, Simo Räihä’s wife Ritva recalled with a smile.

According to Simo Räihä, many visitors thought that the name in large letters on the motel roof was a mistake.

  • “Shouldn’t it have an ‘h’ instead of an ‘m’,” customers pointed out.

In a large crowd, things happen. One funny incident in the past was the stomach ache of one of the waitresses.

  • The washed-up waiter pressed his hands painfully against his stomach. So he was taken to Lappeenranta hospital. The diagnosis was surprising, as the waitress had come back with a baby.

The motel did not have A-rights in the early days. That wasn’t always enough for the hotelier.

  • Parkkari sometimes wanted stronger substances. So they went to Lappeenranta to get them. I was once a driver too, Räihä recalled.

Veikko Parkkari was a man who never shied away from work.

  • For example, it was no surprise or anything if you met Parkkar’s kitchen kneading meatball dough, Eino Riiali said.

Washing in American style

Lappeenranta-based Arja Tuomela is one of those who personally experienced Luumäki Motel's rapid rise to the top.
  • After graduating in 1964, I got a job at the accounting office of entrepreneurs in South Karelia, where I managed the accounting of Luumäki Motel for a year, Arja Tuomela said.
  • In February 1966, Veikko Parkkari, the motel’s managing director, who did not justify the title but preferred to be called the host, came to my workplace and said, pointing at me, “I want this girl to work in Luumäki right now.” The head of the accountancy office replied that no one can just leave at the time of the accounts. That didn’t stop Parkkar from saying, “It’s a question of organisation, and it will work out when we do it the American way”. And so it happened that I left with my skirts flapping and was at work in a motel the very next day. The 21-year-old young woman from Luumäki was a little apprehensive, but I didn’t hesitate to go to a new and unpredictable job.

At the motel, Arja Tuomela’s duties included a lot more than just managing the accounts.

  • I started in the morning at reception with the room billing. Then I took care of the centre until I moved to the office side, doing all sorts of paperwork including bookkeeping and calculating staff salaries. At the same time I took room reservations. Order books and rooms were constantly full.
  • I also worked at the cash desk. When the till was emptied, the banknotes were put in bags to be taken to the bank.
  • Even the liquor counter was a job, as it had to be used to make statistics for Alko.
  • And to tell the whole story, I also walked Parkkar’s dog every now and then.

Tuomela’s working day at the motel was recorded in the contract as starting at 8 am and ending at 5 pm.

  • The start time was correct as the bus arrived just before eight o’clock. Of course, the work finished at about the agreed time, but there was some flexibility on both sides. On a few occasions, the motel was unable to serve businessmen who needed telex in the evening. So a handsome white Impala picked me up from Lappeenranta to take care of business. At that time, telex was a device that was still rare to use.
  • With a large number of customers, there were visitors everywhere. Of the local celebrities, Irvin Goodman is best remembered, who always threw a handsome volt before greeting the receptionist.

According to Arja Tuomela, Veikko Parkkari, who ran the hotel, was straightforward and demanded absolute honesty.

  • Parkkali was a good employer who knew how to be tough. I had no difficulties at any stage. He always called me ‘girl’ instead of ‘name’. “The girl will take care of it” was a saying I heard many times.
  • On the other hand, for example, callers got yelled at if the schedule didn’t fit and the call didn’t go as agreed.

The demand for precision was understandable in a place where just about everything was on offer.

  • In addition to the restaurant, rooms and saunas, the motel had its own bakery and barbershop. It was also a community of its own, with a diverse and knowledgeable staff,” Tuomela said.
  • The restaurant’s standing table was the latest innovation in Finland in the sixties. It was admired and praised.

Although Arja Tuomela adapted well to the hectic pace of the motel, it was not what she expected from her working life in the long term. So she applied for a job at a construction company in Lappeenranta and was selected.

The owner of the motel and her hostess Eila were sad to lose a conscientious worker, but they understood why the 23-year-old young woman wanted to get on in life. This is also reflected in the certificate of employment issued on 31 May 1968: ‘Arja Tuomela has shown commendable workmanship and diligence. With her honest character and pleasant demeanour, we can recommend her for even the most demanding assignments’.

In her new job, Arja Tuomela was promoted to branch manager. She then set up her own accountancy firm, which she ran for 35 years.

Franco Poverin has experienced it all

The real wizard of the Luumäki motel, later Maisemahotelli Kastell, is Franco Poverin, an Italian who served the company for 32 years.
  • I started in a motel in the sixties. The good times lasted for thirty years and I worked full time. In the last two years I only worked a couple of days a week , Poverin said.

The motel owner who hired Franco Poverin, Veikko Parkkari, was a good employer and supervisor, according to the new employee.

  • Parkkari and his wife Eila were very good employers. Veikko ran the business with a firm hand and Eila looked after the staff, always asking what was going on and what was needed.

Veikko Parkkari made a big impression on a young Italian getting used to life in a new country.

  • Parkkari did not shy away from any work. Among other things, he slaughtered pigs, which were reared in the motel’s own piggery.

In the sixties, everything was going well and the motel was very popular. There were many guests and a staff of about 60 people in the summer.

  • Even though work was constantly busy, my hours were regular
  • For the first three years or so I lived in the staff dormitory attached to the motel. Then I moved with my family to a detached house 20 kilometres away from the motel.

Franco Poverin started working in the motel café, doing all the work involved in running the café.

  • My first month’s salary was 500 marks. Apparently, I took care of

because my next account was 600 marks.

  • I worked in the café for just over two years. Then I took a bartender’s course and after that I became the manager of a popular drinks bar. By then the motel had become Maisemahotelli Kastelli, and the manager was Pekka Heikkinen.
  • I did well as a bartender, but I was in a hurry as I worked alone.

Kastelli was not as busy as in the early years of the motel, but there was plenty of work. And there were some problems.

  • I took over the running of the restaurant when I became the butler. I received customers, brought them to the table and took their orders.
  • There were no problems running the restaurant, but the opening of the sex bar caused problems. There was a fee to pay and the business had to be carefully monitored.
  • The sex bar was opposed by women from Luumäki, who found the business to be vague.

Poverin, who was by all accounts tactful and well-mannered, did not like the sex bar.

  • I was, and still am, proud of my service profession. I wanted to serve customers, but not in the way that came with a sex bar. So I stayed out of it and concentrated on running the restaurant. It was enough work, as there were 4 or 5 waiters working in the summer, in addition to myself.

In addition to the usual restaurant business, Poverin had to organise the catering and coffee for various meetings and training events.

  • For example, Kaukas often held his training sessions, which could last several days, in the motel’s well-established premises. The participants and their teachers stayed at the motel.
  • There were also many meetings involving several hundred people. Not to mention smaller gatherings. And weddings were another story.

Now that Hotel Salpa continues the illustrious career of the Luumäki Motel, Franco Poverin has been retired for ten years.

  • My wife and I live in the centre of Lappeenranta.
  • I have two sons and a daughter. One of my sons is in Helsinki and the other in Jyväskylä, and my daughter, who moved with her two children from Oulu to Lappeenranta at the beginning of May.
  • Since the death of my parents, my visits to my birthplace have decreased. Nowadays, my wife and I take a three-week trip to Italy every year in August

Motel multifunctional

Unto Koukila from Luumäki was a real all-rounder at the Motel in 1965-67.

Over the past two years, he worked as a builder, a caretaker, a taxi driver, an animal keeper and so on.

  • Originally, Parkkari hired me as a construction worker. He wanted more space for the motel. So the old part of the west end was demolished and a new restaurant and rooms were built,” Koukila said.
  • In December, Parkkari then asked me to take on the job of caretaker and I agreed. My wife got a job at the motel, too, doing cleaning and other housework.

Pretty soon, the motel’s landlord found Kouki to be a competent and reliable man for a wide variety of tasks. At the same time, the working days easily stretched to 20 hours.

  • How could it be that I became a taxi driver just like that? At the same time, the working days sometimes got really long. I drove people during the day, evening and night. I drove my white Impala more than 48,000 kilometres in eight months.
  • I also offered customers a motorboat taxi service in Kivijärvi, and that too at any time of the day or night.
  • In between, I also looked after the pigs, of which there were 20-50 at the motel. The pigs were raised and then delivered to the slaughterhouse.
  • The caretaker’s work began in the morning with the lifting of the flags. Before that, I had to find out where all the guests were coming from. In the evening, they had to be counted down. And of course the janitor had to keep the motel premises tidy. Just sweeping the big front yard took a lot of time.
  • Everyone had to have an American approach to work, so things had to move at a brisk pace, because Parkkari was a disciplinarian.
  • The core group of workers was good-humoured and all pulling together. So there were no problems.

The black Cadillac was brought to Luumäe in 1967 by Veikko Parkkari’s cousin and was put into service after many twists and turns.

  • Customs did not want to issue a traffic permit. We had applied for a permit at the Customs Administration and the official did not want to give it. So Parkkari left the room and said: “Veikko Vennamo, the Director General of the Customs Board, is at the end of the corridor. Let’s go and see him.” Then the official, who had been hanging around for a couple of hours, asked us to come back and gave the Cadillac a permit. The import duty was 18 500 marks.
  • I got to drive the Cadillac for a while. It wasn’t for just anybody to drive it. The engine had 397 horsepower and consumed 30 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres.

Of all the unusual incidents, Koukila’s most memorable is a visit from Juuso Walden, a paper mill patron.

  • Valden, who was on his way to a moose hunt in Simpelee, arrived with his companions at midnight, just as the orchestra was putting its instruments in the bag.
  • However, Valden wanted the playing to continue and Parkkari announced that the playing permit was only valid until midnight. Valden then exclaimed: “Close the front door and put a sign on the door saying ‘private party’. This was done and the merrymaking continued until 4am. When Valden left I helped him into his coat and he handed me a 50 note. So the hunting party didn’t sleep a wink that night.

The hard work took its toll. Unto Koukila’s back began to ache and he thought it best to slow down. Koukila and his family moved to Sweden and worked there for 11 years. In 1981 he returned to Turku, Finland. The family’s five children all stayed in the West. Almost a quarter of a century passed in Turku. In 2005 Koukila and his wife became residents of Luumäki again.

Erkki Huopainen remembers everything

The arrival of the motel in Luumäki in the sixties was considered an excellent thing by the local residents

The arrival of the motel in Luumäki in the sixties was considered an excellent thing by the local residents. But it did not receive unreserved support. A number of women in Luumäe felt that the motel made alcohol too close to home. So the municipality started collecting names on a paper demanding that men from Luumäki should not be allowed within five kilometres of the motel.

  • My father was a member of the Luumäki Municipal Council in the sixties and told me that the list of names was also on the council’s agenda,” said Councillor Erkki Huopainen.
  • Of course, the women’s demand did not lead to any concrete action. And that is not to say that in fact Luumäki was taken by the idea of having a new and unusual company in the municipality.
  • Olavi Penttilä and Alpo Kaukasalo, the construction boomers, drew up a draft plan and sold the land to a construction company, which drew up the plan. In the municipal council, two councillors opposed the plan. It was no big deal, but then they found some chalk squirrel eggs in the area and managed to delay the construction for a couple of years, I think.
  • Activity on the site started in 1961 and the first building had a bar and kitchen.
  • In 1961, when the premises were expanded into a motel in 1965, Olavi Penttilä and Alpo Kaukasalo, the founders of Kivijärvi Oy, which owned it, delegated the management of the motel to their sons Seppo

Penttilä and Jorma Kaukasalo, Erkki Huopainen said.

  • At that time, I was already there to sign the papers on behalf of the municipality.

Huopainen has a particularly fond memory of the motel’s eventful inauguration ceremony.

  • It was quite a party, and at midnight the hosts announced that they were going to Sommelo to take a sauna. Luumäki also had a sauna, but they wanted to take us to a place belonging to the same hotel chain in Kuusankoski.
  • I was not interested in that sauna, as I had a 5 o’clock departure the next morning to go skiing in the north. The host, who was in a hurry, assured me “they will bring you back in time” and so I took a sauna at Sommelo. I went along and being sober it was an achievement in itself. And as promised, I was home by 4.30pm, where my wife had packed the gear for the trip north into her bags.
  • In the fast-paced pace of the motel, things happened. According to Huopainen, money was sometimes collected from the dump.

For some reason, the money was put in a trash can in the motel’s hallway. The janitor took the trash can with the others to the dump. When he dumped it, the money blew around in the wind. The landlord collected as much money as he could get his hands on in the rain, took it home to dry on the stove and the next day handed it over to Veikko Parkkar.

Like many others, Huopainen had repeatedly remarked that the motel restaurant’s buffet table was high quality and varied. The restaurant’s popularity was greatly enhanced by the polite presence of its staff.

  • In addition to being courteous, the staff, who had a good eye for a game, could also give a twitch when the occasion called for it. This was the experience of a German party dining in the restaurant, who, after eating, collected food from the table into their bags. When the Germans were about to leave, they were told “I forgot my drink” and poured buttermilk into the bag,” Huopainen said.

Erkki Huopainen, who has been a member of the Luumäki Municipal Council for 27 years and chairman of the Municipal Board for 20 years, can tell you what importance the motel had for the municipality.

  • Luumäkihi was known for its motel. Svinhufvud, too, of course.
  • The municipality organised several events at the motel. For example, a Christmas party was always held there.
  • And it wasn’t just the municipality of Luumäki that held these events. Many of the events in the Kyme County were also held at the motel, as Luumäki was conveniently the centre of the county.
  • At the same time, it must be said that the motel was at no time dependent on the municipality. It operated on its own.

The financial difficulties began in the eighties, but the municipality was not asked to do anything.

In this context, it is perhaps appropriate to say that Luumäki, led by Raimo Liikkanen, Mayor of the municipality, and Erkki Huopainen, Chairman of the Municipal Board, was awarded the title of Talouskunta (Economic Municipality) for three years – meaning that Luumäki had managed its finances the best in Finland.

In addition to running his own farm and managing the municipality’s affairs, Erkki Huopainen ran the Risulahti dance hall, which served as the financial base for the Luumäen Poikie sports club, almost next to the motel for five years.

  • It was quite a business, with orchestras, soloists and other things being organised.
  • Katri-Helena, who was performing, asked me towards the end of the evening if I could arrange a hotel room for her somewhere nearby. The motel was next door, of course, but as usual all the rooms were booked. Then the motel manager came to the rescue by making his room available to Katri-Helena.
  • Topi Sorsakoski, on the other hand, had no money, but he was allowed to live at the motel for free as compensation for performing for the motel guests.

An avid fisherman, Erkki Huopainen was for many years chairman of the Southeast Finland Recreational Fishing Association and at the same time the organiser of numerous fishing competitions. Most recently, he organised the district’s competitions in February 2017. There were 200 participants and the base was a motel, which at that time had not yet been named Hotel Salpa.

Tuula Kuningas was at work as a teenager

The North Karelian entrepreneur couple Pekka and Kaija Seppänen became South Karelians when they took over the Luumäki Motel in 1972

At the same time, their daughter Tuula became a Luumäkeläinen resident.

  • Moving from Kesälahti to Luumäki was a nice thing. I was 17 years old and continued my education at Taavet High School.
  • During the summer I spent most of my weeks in Kesälahti and on weekends I worked at the motel’s cash desk and reception. The receipt pile often grew to knee height. The work was done from morning till late at night, as visitors were crowded throughout the weekend.
  • There was a huge amount of charter traffic at that time. Buses came and went all the time. The Leningrad buses with their passengers and drivers are particularly memorable. I remember a driver coming up to me to give me a running foot salute and shouting: “I left the grandmas in the car”. It would have taken too much time for the whole gang to visit the motel.

As the eighties approached, the number of visitors dwindled.

  • The opening of Somerharju took away the charter buses, among other things. So business dried up and my parents decided to give up running the motel.

With the motel, Tuula put down roots in Luumäki. After growing up, she married and today Tuula Kuningas is a well-known and successful entrepreneur. She owns the Kahvi-Pakari next door to the motel.

Eila Parkkari continued in her husband's footsteps

The motel's management changed in 1972 when the entrepreneurial couple Pekka and Kaija Seppänen from Kesälahtel took over

The name changed several times. It was called Luumäki Motor Hotel until the mid-eighties. Pekka Heikkinen, who was the hotel manager at the time, sought to recreate the old atmosphere in newer ways.

Heikkinen’s renovation work saw the Motor Hotel expand towards Kivijärvi. A new sauna area was built on a slope overlooking the lake, next to the restaurant.

After the renovation, the motel had 37 rooms with 74 beds and modern amenities. With the addition of extra beds, 90 beds could be provided. The renovated café area now seats 140 people and has a beer garden for around 50 people.

The restaurant room, which is the main office of the renovated motor motel, also received a facelift. A 40-seat landscape cabinet was completed adjacent to the renovated restaurant and lounge.

The renovation cost more than 11 million marks.

Heikkinen wanted a new name for the renovated motel. After a name competition, which attracted almost 1,400 entries, the name was chosen as Maisemahotelli Kastelli.

The renovation was carried out by the construction consortium Kaukasalo/Penttilä and their descendants. In addition to Kastelli, the hotel chain at the time included Kymen Motel in Karhula, Hotel Tallukka in Vääksy, Seurahovi in Porvoo, Hotel Sommelo in Kuusankoski and Hotel Kumpeli in Heinola.

The opening of Kastelli took place in May 1986. Pekka Heikkinen marketed the renovated hotel as a better-service meeting, entertainment and business hotel close to Lappeenranta.

The number of domestic visitors fell alarmingly. At the turn of the millennium, for example, most of the partygoers were Russian.

Since then, the management of the hotel has also been in Russian hands, with Kirill Issaev taking over the management of Kastell.

Big renovation and a new name

After the last five years of the sixties and the tremendous success of the early seventies, the motel's popularity began to wane.

Luumäki Motor Hotel was the name of the hotel until the mid-eighties. Pekka Heikkinen, who was the hotel manager at the time, sought to recreate the old atmosphere in newer ways.

Heikkinen initiated a renovation that expanded the Motor Hotel towards Kivijärvi. A new sauna area was built on a slope overlooking the lake, next to the restaurant.

After the renovation, the motel had 37 rooms with 74 beds and modern amenities. With the addition of extra beds, 90 beds could be provided. The renovated café area now seats 140 people and has a beer garden for around 50 people.

The restaurant room, which is the main office of the renovated motor motel, also received a facelift. A 40-seat landscape cabinet was completed adjacent to the renovated restaurant and lounge.

The renovation cost more than 11 million marks.

Heikkinen wanted a new name for the renovated motel. After a name competition, which attracted almost 1,400 entries, the name was chosen as Maisemahotelli Kastelli.

The renovation was carried out by the construction consortium Kaukasalo/Penttilä and their descendants. In addition to Kastelli, the hotel chain at the time included Kymen Motel in Karhula, Hotel Tallukka in Vääksy, Seurahovi in Porvoo, Hotel Sommelo in Kuusankoski and Hotel Kumpeli in Heinola.

The opening of Kastelli took place in May 1986. Pekka Heikkinen marketed the renovated hotel as a better-service meeting, entertainment and business hotel close to Lappeenranta.

The number of domestic visitors fell alarmingly. At the turn of the millennium, for example, most of the partygoers were Russian.

Since then, the management of the hotel has also been in Russian hands, with Kirill Issaev taking over the management of Kastell.

The debt burden became too high

Costly renovations and increased competition for customers reduced Kastell's occupancy rate to less than half.

At the same time, rumours of a sale of Kastell began to circulate. Jorma Kaukasalo, CEO of the hotel chain that owned the hotel, denied the rumours and said that Kastelli was looking for a partner. It was the end of 1991 and at that point the hotel, which employed 25 people, had to resort to voluntary redundancies.

The debt burden had grown to an alarming level. In the summer of 1993, Kiinteistö Oy Kivijärvi, whose number one hotel was Maisemahotelli Kastelli, filed for bankruptcy. The debts amounted to FIM 36,7 million and the assets to FIM 16,1 million. The largest creditor was the Hamina Region Cooperative Bank, which had claims of some EUR 20 million. However, operations continued under the management of a new company, NICE Ltd, whose managing director, Seppo Nikkinen, was also managing director of Kiinteistö Oy Kivijärvi.

Things got out of hand with the Hotel and Restaurant Employees’ Union and were settled in court, where the hotel’s bankruptcy estate was awarded compensation.

Brazilian dancing girls came

The financial difficulties were not reflected externally in Kastell's operations

In addition to the usual hotel and restaurant services, customers had access to the only sex bar in the province of Kymi. In the summer of 1993, the restaurant lobby, which was open until 4 a.m., offered dance performances by scantily clad women. In a private room, the dancer stripped off the rest of her clothes. The price was 150 marks. And success was guaranteed. Visitors came from all over the province of Kymi. On weekends, there were so many visitors that people had to queue to get in.

The staff had to be particularly careful to supervise the activities while the Private Show was running behind the curtain. The Brazilian dancers Angelica, Sandra and Camilla were not just any prostitutes, but dance professionals who took pride in their profession.

According to Angelica, Sandra and Camilla, the Finnish men were shy and reserved and did not dare to dance with them.

If you wanted to get to know women better, Luumäki had that too. For no reason, the building next to Kastelli – the Impilinna – was not called a brothel. However, there are no details of the house’s customers.

Overzealous admirers were plentiful

In the early nineties, Jari Nikunen, who worked as a doorman at the Maisemahotel Kastell, was almost always looking at something other than the landscape

His main, or at least his funniest memory of his workplace was at the door of a hotel sex bar.

  • I sold tickets to people who came in, and I kept the place tidy. There were all sorts of visitors in the clientele. Some people would pass out at the table, but otherwise they were harmless,” Piirainen, better known as Laku in Luumäki, said.
  • The most difficult part of the job was ensuring the safety of the dancing girls. There were all kinds of crazies among them, and it was hard to anticipate all their insights.
  • The numbers in the dancing girls’ rooms were full of questions. Of course, they were not given. On one occasion, a heavily intoxicated man had managed to get the number of a girl’s room and went to try to get in. When the door wouldn’t open, the man, who was wearing pants, walked into the hallway in front of the door on his back with his feet in the door. This way he believed he would wake up – if he happened to fall asleep – when the door opened. This was not to be.
  • The sex bar was very popular and order was strictly enforced. I was on duty every night from Tuesday to Saturday. Sunday and Monday were my days off. Then I had a few occasions with the manager to go out and have a good time. There were three of us officers. I was at the door of the sex bar and two at the main door, which was a separate lodge.
  • The Brazilian dancing girls were keen bathers. But you weren’t allowed to punch them because they were afraid their silicone breasts would melt.
  • All in all, life in Luumäe was a fun time to remember with a smile.

Seppo Nikkanen opened brand new doors

Maisemahotelli Kastelli underwent the most dramatic changes in its existence when Seppo Nikkanen was its manager in 1989-96.

Nikkanen didn’t dwell on the dwindling visitor numbers, but opened a whole new set of doors at the hotel. Finland’s first sex bar was opened in Helsinki, but Luumäki was the second. It attracted attention all over Finland and was reported in all the media, including television.

  • It was a hell of a fun time. The yard was constantly full of cars. It meant there was a lot of work to do, but I managed to pull Kastell out of the swamp,” Nikkanen said.
  • I started with a clean slate. Turnover at the time was 3.7 million marks and I increased it to almost 12 million.
  • Running a hotel in a highly competitive environment was a tough job. The candle was burning at both ends and my health would probably have gone if I hadn’t decided to quit.

Pertti Timonen started Wednesday's dance evenings

Pertti Timonen, who served as Director of EeKoo's accommodation and restaurant operations from 1993 to 2015 and currently works in a similar position at Osuuskauppa Hämeenmaa in Lahti, was Director of Maisemahotel Kastell from 1987 to 1989.
  • It was the golden age of the restaurant industry, a real golden age. There were no customers and business was booming,” Timonen summarised.
  • However, running Kastell was not easy, as the owners were struggling with finances due to a major expansion of the hotel just before I arrived. Construction costs had grown more than expected, even though the building company Penttilä, which is part of the owners, was the builder.
  • In order to restore the economy, I had to start renovating. In order to be able to do this as well as possible, I moved with my family to Luumäki.

According to Timonen, the restaurant business was the mainstay of Maisemahotelli Kastell.

  • The visits of the Kuutostie travellers were very important for the restaurant and for the company as a whole.
  • On weekends there was no shortage of customers. There was dancing in the restaurant, and often someone from the top of the scene, including Kirka, was there to keep things going.
  • But something new had to be invented. After thinking about it, we decided to start organising dance nights on Wednesday. We aimed that evening at the older crowd. So we had Eino Grön, Reijo Taipale and other experienced artists.
  • There were many visitors, many of them locals, and it could be said that by the end of the eighties Kastell had become the living room of the people of Luumäki.

Pertti Timonen, who remembers things well, has many fond memories of his time in Luumäki. One of the more unusual ones relates to a fire in the mid-eighties.

  • A lady client had a crush on one of the orchestra’s musicians and sought a closer acquaintance. However, the player in question was not interested and, after finishing playing, quickly went to his room. She did not relent, however, and went knocking on the door.
  • When the door did not open, the enthusiastic admirer fetched a pile of sheets and set them on fire. When the fire brigade arrived, the woman who started the fire was in high heels on a six-lane road, waving to passers-by. It must have been quite a sight.

Timonen left Kastell in the early nineties after being elected director of Cumulus in Lappeenranta.

Sirpa Heikkinen outfits the dancing girls from the East

The job of a hotel manager involves many different tasks - even some very special ones

Sirpa Heikkinen experienced this in the late eighties when she had to buy fancy costumes for her dance group.

  • The dance group, which came from far away in the East, consisted of eight girls and two men. All of them had costumes that they could not be allowed to perform in,” Sirpa Heikkinen said.
  • Director Pekka Heikkinen told me to get proper costumes for everyone. So I had to go clothes shopping with the dance group in Lappeenranta. It was quite a job when we didn’t have a common language. None of the people who came spoke anything but Russian and I didn’t speak it. But we did find some nice outfits including beautiful underwear.

Sirpa Heikkinen started as a hotel manager in Luumäki at the turn of 1984-85.

  • At first I only worked morning shifts. The hotel had undergone a major renovation and was selling briskly as a conference and family holiday hotel.
  • At the end of the decade, the number of visitors began to dwindle and the manager changed.
  • After Seppo Nikkanen took over as manager, talk of a sex bar began. And that’s what it became. And then came the dance groups, including one of which I dressed.
  • The sex bar attracted a lot of people and many stopped by Luumäki. So did the customers of my husband, who worked as a taxi driver, who picked them up in Kouvola with the intention of taking them to Lappeenranta. The journey was interrupted for six hours while the men entertained themselves in the sex bar.
  • The sex bar brought in customers, but lost visitors in the process. The number of meetings decreased and the number of people who came to the Mother’s Day lunch was also lower than before.

For Sirpa Heikkinen, fifty years at Maisemahotel Kastell were an interesting time.

  • Kastelli was a very special place to work. No two days were the same during those years. For example, you had to carry your passport with you every day. The manager could say on any given day, “Let’s go and get some dancing girls from the East”. And that meant a visit to Leningrad, which changed its name to St Petersburg in 1991. Once I was there when they were picking up the dancing girls from Vyborg.
  • It was one of those times. I stopped travelling when I got a job in my hometown of Lappeenranta.

Cops waitressing on Veikko's name day

January 9th was a real event of the year for the staff of Luumäki Motel.
  • Every year on his name day, Veikko Paakkari, the motel’s manager, organised a party for his staff and best customers, which I still remember very well, Mirjam Salmi, who has worked in Luumäki for 24 years, said with a smile.
  • The house was full and nothing was missing from the tables. The waiters were plain-clothes policemen and so we waiters were also seated in the back. Of course, you could work if you wanted to, but at least I chose the day off.
  • Of the many gifts given to the name-day hero, the one I remember most is the stone plaque given to him by the trade representatives, which was hung on the wall of the restaurant.

At the same time, Mirjam Salmi, like many others, assured Veikko Parkkar and his wife Eila that their time at Luumäki Motel was a very good time.

  • The Parkkars were both good employers, and under their leadership things ran smoothly.
  • Back then, there were sometimes so many visitors that not everyone could get in. For once, seven busloads were coming, but it didn’t work out.

Mirjam Salmi’s arrival at the Luumäki Motel in the late sixties was more or less unusual.

  • I was on my way to Lahti to look for a job when a bus stopped at the motel. I went inside with the others, but when I came back I saw only the tail lights of the bus. While explaining my tardiness to the motel staff, I was offered a job as a waitress. I was not enthusiastic about it and that was that.
  • I later went to Lahti and got a job. While I was leaving for Lahti, my mother fell ill and wished I wouldn’t move so far away from her. When Eila Parkkari contacted me and offered me a job, I became a motel employee.

With the job, Mirjam Salmi found a husband in Luumäki.

  • The first time I saw my husband was in 1972 when I was working in the motel’s hairdressing salon. I asked who the man was and was told he was Pekka Salmi, skipper of the motel’s Mimi ship. That’s where it all started and we got married. In due course we had a son.
  • The 40-seater Mimmi, skippered by Pekka, sailed on the Kivijärvi both day and evening and sometimes at night, making cruises to the shore of Lemi, among other places.
  • In addition to taking care of the ship and her passengers, my husband also took part in other jobs, such as making hams from pigs at Parkkar’s piggery.

Mirjam Salmi will not miss her last days in Luumäki.

  • Everything changed in the nineties. The number of customers decreased alarmingly. A major renovation was undertaken and Pekka Heikkinen, who ran the hotel, tried to boost business. So did Pertti Timonen, who succeeded him as manager. They were good to work with, but after them you had to go all the way to court to get your wages.
  • Then it was best to leave Maisemahotel Kastelli and its sex bars behind.

Ceausescu never got a taste of the bear roast

At the turn of June and July 1971, the Luumäki Motel had been completely refurbished

And on 2 July, a long red carpet was pulled up in front of the main door as a final touch. Everyone was ready to receive the Romanian President, Nicolea Ceausescu, who was on her way to Lappeenranta and Imatra, with her entourage and hosts.

The waiting time dragged on and when the motorcade finally arrived, instead of stopping, it drove past, content to wave at the idle waiters.

One of the disappointed was Tuula Miekka, who was cooking for the dignitaries in the motel kitchen.

  • The main course was a bear roast, which had been delivered to us by plane from Rovaniemi, Tuula Vihtonen o.s. Miekka said.
  • We were all annoyed by the time we passed. The motel management was particularly upset. Butler Heikki Saastamoinen immediately said that this thing had to be replaced. And as far as I know, at least some compensation was received.
  • I think that ordering the meal showed that the Luumäki motel was appreciated by the government authorities responsible for organising the visit of the President of a foreign country.

Even though Ceausescu’s visit was missed, there was no shortage of customers during the time that Tuula Miekka was the motel’s cook.

  • There was an unusual number of local celebrities when the filming of The Railway Road, based on Juhani Aho’s novel, was filmed at Pulsa station.
  • Elsa Turakainen, for example, spent a few of her holidays as a guest at the motel.

Tuula Miekka was one of the motel’s longest-standing employees.

  • I started work in May 1963. There were always visitors, and that meant busy days, evenings and nights for us kitchen staff. We made the dishes we ordered and made sure there was plenty to serve at the standing table.
  • Perhaps the busiest time each year was during the Imatra drives, when the café and bar were open until 6am.
  • At the beginning of 1976 I became an employee of the municipality of Luumäki and my workplace was in Taavet.