Monday, August 6, 2007 Dayton's Polonia!

The occasion was the annual Polish Club Picnic at the "Polish Country Club" picnic grove off Needmore Road. One of secrets of the Dayton area as it is so under-promoted. I've heard about this event in the past (usually on the German radio program!), but this was my first visit.

Icky weather, but a nice little crowd, a polka band: Duane Malinowski (are they local? They play the Czechoslovakian Club a lot), and, of course, food and beer. Probably one of the few opportunities outside of the Amber Rose to get kolachki, pierogi, and golabki (pronounced ga-wump-k), and that sour-cream & onion cucumber salad. And sausages. They said this food was from "Sigs" though Sig the butcher has been closed for years now, so maybe it’s the kids using the old recipes ?
Polonia? What is that, you may ask? It is the Polish Diaspora, people of Polish ancestry who live outside of Poland. I come from the Chicago Polonia, from an old working class neighborhood that grew up around the factories and the church, settled mostly by Poles and a few Italians. American urban Polonia is pretty much like that, found mostly along or near the Great Lakes and in the Northeast, too (like the industrial towns of the Connecticut Valley).

Dayton is about as far south as one finds this urban Polish history. The Poles settled at the edge of Old North Dayton out Valley Street, founding St Adalberts parish (1903), and the Polish Club across the street.

One would think this community is gone, moved to suburbia, but the census still shows a light concentration of Poles in that census tract, which is about right as the Poles were among the last of the Eastern/Southern European immigrant groups to finally assimilate, and leave their city neighborhoods. Old North Dayton was the old neighborhood for a number of eastern Europeans groups: the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Hungarians, and the Germans, who founded the first parish in the neighborhood in 1880s and have a similar picnic grove (the Eintracht). The last relics here are the parishes themselves, the social clubs, Charlie's import market, and the excellent Amber Rose restaurant, a true Dayton treasure.

Though I grew up in a similar community in Chicago I have no connection to the one in Dayton, and have been to only one event here before, a parish carnival at St Adalberts. And to a Cityfolk event at the Polish Club for Irish or Scots music/dance. So coming to this picnic was exploring new ground for me. This is a good place to go with a group, and especially with your girlfriend or wife, as the centerpiece is the music and dancing.

1 comment:

Foreverglow said...

Amber Rose is looking pretty good. I'm going to have to hit that soon.