Feb 15, 2015, Brooklyn, OH: Cleveland Polka Association. - On Sunday, February 14th, the temperature was in the high teens/low twenties and it was, to our way of thinking, a perfect day to stay home by the fire eating toasted cheese sandwiches on multi-grain bread served with chunky tomato bisque soup but we love polka music so we donned our overcoat and headed over to Agostino’s Event Center on Ridge Road in Brooklyn in order to attend the President’s Day Dance of the Cleveland Polka Association (C.P.A.) although it was announced that it COULD be regarded as the Sweetheart’s Dance too since it took place on Valentine’s Day.
It was estimated that 150 people were there and the place was lively, indeed. The band playing was Polish Polka Band named “Badinov” and it was led by veteran musician Mr. Randy Krajewski.
We talked to Mr. Krajewski about this and he readily acknowledged that polka’s initial roots were more Czech than Polish and he believed that polka just might be more popular in the United States than it is in Poland. He explained to us that each ethnic group has its own unique polka style and there are even different styles within the ethnic group. Polish polka, for instance, has three styles which are “Eastern”, “Chicago”, and “Honky.”
The C.P.A. is a Polish-American polka organization that works closely with the U.S.P.A. (United States Polka Association) promoting the Polish Polka and its heritage. The C.P.A reminded us to come to the U.S.P.A. Memorial Day Polka Festival in Independence, OH coming up in May, 2016 which is expected to have an attendance of 1,000 people.
Oct, 15 2005 Toledo,
The last of its kind in the "old north end", Jim and Lou's was a genuine Polish, neighborhood, corner bar. It was a slice of history with character and charm unique to those who patronized the storied establishment. Much of the bar's appeal was due to the boss, Lou Ratajski's personality and wit. Engaging conversation about politics, neighborhood history, or current events could always be found there.
Jim and Lou's often found itself playing host to Congressmen, Governors, Mayors, City Councilmen, a few movie stars and a plethora of local polka musicians. A source of inspiration, the bar spawned the original composition called "Jim and Lou's" (polka) by Randy Krajewski and performed by Crusade on their recording, In response to Exile.
At its ugliest, looters struck at least four businesses, including Jim and Lou’s which they set on fire. More than 120 Toledo residents, most from the neighborhood, were arrested in connection with the rioting. Rioters burned Jim & Lou's bar, looted two carryouts and other businesses, flipped over a car, and injured a police officer and two firefighters with rocks.
Police arrested at least 60 people — 43 adults and 17 juveniles — primarily for aggravated rioting, assault, and vandalism. Some were gang members, police and Mayor Jack Ford said.
The area around Central and Mulberry near Woodward High School erupted into violence after crowds in the predominantly black neighborhood were angry about a planned neo-Nazi march. Even though police canceled the march by the National Socialist Movement before it began, it wasn’t enough to stop the violence.
At around 2:30 p.m., Mayor Jack Ford, Mr Walter, Toledo Fire Chief Mike Bell, and the Rev. Mansour Bey, associate pastor of First Church of God, approached a crowd of about 600 people at the intersection of Mulberry and Central in an attempt to calm the crowd. It didn’t work.
Nothing can change the sad events that took place on that day in October, 2005. Differences of opinion will never justify running through the streets destroying property, destroying lives just because someone doesn't see "eye to eye" with someone else. Violence and hatred begets more violence and hatred. We lost a lot of things that day but none as storied as Jim and Lou's. And we hope its not without reason. Maybe the loss of Jim and Lou's was about bringing a community back together. Maybe it was about destroying fears and rebuilding a new plan of life and community. Nearly nine months later, the community has grown, and it is on the road to recovery.
NOTE: The Krajewski recording "A Tribute – Jim and Lou's (1951-2005)" carried the original tune "Jim and Lou's" polka along with a tune called, "North End Tears" commemorating the tragic loss of the Jim and Lou's bar during the riot of October 15th, 2005. Randy and Lou's Boys have released the CD available in Limited copies are available through Randy Krajewski himself.
"Come down to Jim and Lou's to shake your blues, the worries of today Friends are sharing"
Parts of this story was written and reported by Blade Staff Writer Luke Shockman with reporting by Kim Bates, Joshua Boak, Erica Blake, Roberta de Boer, Dale Emch, Tom Henry, Clyde Hughes, Andre Monroe, Mike Sigov, Tom Troy, and Mark Zaborney.
The Joy of Growing up Polish (In
For me ... as I am sure for most second-generation Polish-American children who grew up in the 50s or 60s, there was a definite distinction drawn between US and THEM. We were Poles. Everybody else – the Irish, German, Italians, Jewish – they were the "Americans." There were no hard feelings, just – well – we were sure ours was the better way.
Truly, I pitied their loss. When it came to food, it always amazed me that my American friends or classmates only ate turkey on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Or rather, that they only ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Now we Poles – we also had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, but – only after we had finished the borcht, kielbasa, kapuszta, pierogis, and whatever else Babcia (Grandma) thought might be appropriate for that particular holiday. The turkey was usually accompanied by a roast of some kind (just in case somebody walked in who didn't like turkey) and was followed by an assortment of fruits, nuts, pastries, cakes and, of course, homemade cookies. No holiday was complete without some home baking, none of that store-bought stuff for us. This is where you learned to eat a seven-course meal between Noon and 4:00 p.m.
Speaking of food – Sunday was truly the big day of the week. That was the day you'd wake up to the smell of a roast in the oven and fresh baked breads. As you lay in bed, you could hear the hiss of the pierogis as they were dropped into the pan. Sunday we always had pot roast and kielbasa (usually smoked) with rye bread. Sunday would not be Sunday without going to Mass and of course, you couldn't eat before Mass because you had to fast before receiving Communion. But, the good part was we knew that when we got home, we'd find a hot Polish meal with all the trimmings.
There was another difference between US and THEM. We had gardens, not just flower gardens, but huge gardens where we grew tomatoes, and cucumbers. We ate them, cooked them, jarred them. Of course, we also grew mushrooms, dill, lettuce and squash. Everybody had a grapevine and a fig tree, and in the fall everyone made homemade wine, lots of it. Of course, those gardens thrived so because we also had something else it seemed our American friends didn't seem to have. We had a Grandfather (Dziadek). It's not they didn't have grandfathers; it's just that they didn't live in the same house, or nearby. They visited their grandfathers. We ate with ours, and God forbid we didn't see him at least once a week. I can still remember my Dziadek telling me how he came to
So, when he saved enough, and I could never figure out how, he bought a house in the
He had achieved a goal in coming to
When my grandfather died years ago, things began to change. The differences between us and them aren't so easily defined anymore and I guess that's good. My grandparents were Polish, Poles, my parents are Polish Americans, maybe I'm an American- Pole and maybe my children are American Americans. Oh, I'm American alright and proud of it, just as my grandfather would want me to be. In fact, we are all Americans now .. Irish, Germans, Italians and Jews.. US citizens all .. but somehow, I still feel POLISH! Call it culture, call it tradition, call it roots. Whatever its called, I'm proud of it.
Polish immigrants settled in two distinct