The History of the Polish Club in Tucson
It started in the 60’s when a bunch of Polish Americans felt the need to have a club of their own where they could talk with each other, exchange war stories, and have a generally good time. They had been meeting at a church, the Woman’s Club and other readily available places. One of the members, who had lots of money, suggested they build a club house of their own. He would lend the group the money, and they then built the Club at 7505 Speedway, a building without windows. It was safe from all kinds of misdoer as nobody would break into such a building. It also was ideal in that almost no noise would escape from the building, so no complaints from the neighbors.
They had their weekly dance hours, their bar, and they rented the space to anybody who had a wedding, a quinceañera, or a birthday party, and made money this way. Of course, it required cooperation from the members to oversee and police the activities, but they were all in their fifties-sixties and had lots of energy and enthusiasm. They managed to organize parties for their children, such as for Christmas and birthdays. None of them spoke Polish, only a few words at best, but they invited everybody to come dance Polka. Combined with the income from the bar and the kitchen, they made money. With over 400 members, that amounted to a lot! And everybody above the age of 18 was invited to become a member, Pole or not. We had Germans, French, Dutch, Belgians, Ukrainians, Russians, in short an array of all nationalities as members of our Club. We even had a group of members of the German Club attending every week, attracted by the promise of unending Polka music.
We stayed on Speedway until 2003 when we sold the club for close to one million dollars – it broke most members’ hearts -- but it had become more and more difficult to find volunteers to man the weekly Bingo sessions, the weddings, and the quinceañeras with often rowdy Mexicans. Then we moved to a place on Hamilton Street and lost most of our members in the process. No more Polka music, except an occasional oneman-piano-player who produced the semblance of a Polka.
With no more income producing Polka dances, we lived of the savings for a while. Until a few of our present members got together and decided that we should reduce the exorbitant rent. So we moved again, to our present place on Jones Avenue where the rent is within reason and there is ample parking. We now have close to 50 members on our roster. But we have regular Board and Membership meetings with lunch, paid for by the Club, after each membership get together. We also organize various cultural events throughout the year.
We are happy.
Written by Maurice Swinnen