was written by Duane Pichelman some time before he passed away in 2006
In 1975, the Polka Club of Iowa was organized as a
result of three
cancer research benefit dances. At that time, I was a VP of
United States Polka Association (USPA)
headquartered in Conn. A
lady in that organization had defeated cancer and encouraged every
state to promote a cancer research benefit. I looked for
places that would donate their hall, and found three bands that would
perform for no charge. I asked Jim Wangemann to get a backup band
together for me, and we played at all three dances.
The first dance was
January 12th, 1975 at the Vittoria Lodge south of Ankeny. The bands
were, Malek's Fisherman, and my band. There was a snow storm
the northern part of the state. Bob Malek had to travel thru
storm to get there. He got behind a snow plow, arrived a
late, and got a standing ovation when he came thru the door.
spite of the weather, we had a full house.
The next step was
publicity. I appealed to the local TV stations; and KCCI-TV
agreed to help us. Jim Wangemann and I taped a show on
24th, 1975, which was aired Sunday, March 3rd on the Mary Brubaker
Show. This was an informative type talk show.
The second dance
was held at Eddie Webster's, in West Des Moines. this was a
and restaurant with a nice dance floor. Again my band played,
Eddie Mathiason and his "Jolly Home Brewers" came from Harlan, IA to
I made a sign
asking if anybody was interested in forming a "Polka Club" to write
their name and address on a provided card. This was how my
was conducted at all three dances. The people from the cancer
society furnished at least one person to help sell tickets.
The third and final
dance was at the Slavic Center on the Des Moines south side.
band was the only one to play this time. Again the hall was
filled. Later, I presented a check for over $1100 to the
society for research. Many thanks go to the bands and dance
that donated their talent and halls.
At last the time had come to get this
group of polka
music lovers together to get organized. An invitation with a
to my home was mailed to all the names I had. At last, we had
first meeting in my home on Sunday, May 18th, 1975; and all agreed to
form the "Polka Club of Iowa". Of the 22 people at that first
meeting, some are deceased and some have moved away. There
about five of us left.
My goal was to have 1,000 members within
year. Well, that took a little longer. We peaked
over 1100 members sometime later.
On June 9th, 1975, a special meeting was
adopt a constitution and by-laws. On November 14th, 1976,
there was a meeting to form chapters. The chapters
have any boundary lines. the chapters that were formed were:
Eastern - March 16, 1977
Central - April 23, 1977
Western - November 17,1977
Little Switzerland - January 29, 1978
Cedar Valley - May 7, 1978
Western and Little Switzerland
dissolved later. The remaining chapters are Central, Eastern
and Cedar Valley.
It is difficult to recruit new, young
is what keeps any club moving forward. Apparently this is
polka music is not the most popular music in most parts of the country.
However, we do have many loyal members of our generation, and
promote polka dances to have a good time and enjoy the music we love.
Polka music will be here until the last couple stops dancing.
The Polka Club was organized as an
social organization for the preservation and advancement of polka and
related music. Our goal was to encourage and pursue the study
polka music and related folklore. the club supports and
Iowa communities in charitable and civic projects. the Polka
entertains at the Iowa State Fair, ... , Amana Colonies, town
celebrations, Veterans home, hospitals, nursing homes and retirement
homes. In the past, they have performed at about 700 places
When I was with the U.S.P.A., I paid
to Gov. Ray to get a proclamation naming January as Polka Month in
Iowa. this was done every year with Gov. Ray, and later with
Branstadt. I became friends with both men, resulting with a
booking to perform at one of Gov. Ray's Inaugural. In 1981,
was continued by the Polka Club. Many years we met with the
Governor to have a signing proclaiming January as Polka Month in Iowa.
After that we would gather at the Bavarian Haus for lunch and
would play a few tunes since my equipment was there because I
booked there five nights a week. Sorry to say, the current
governor has been less cooperative.
Our constitution states that we have a
hall of fame.
President Sharon Neinkark facilitated the origin of the hall
fame, and it was established in 1982. We had two categories
four people in each category. We did not have a public place
display our hall of fame. When my wife and I were in new Ulm,
Minn. to have some repairs on my accordion, she saw a sign announcing
the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame displayed in a restaurant.
went there with the camera and took some pictures. Then I
the idea that the Bavarian Haus would be a good place to display our
hall of fame. I spoke to Vince, the owner; and he agreed.
At the next meeting every one was in favor to have our hall
fame there. A local group was appointed to meet with Vince to
work out the details. The Polka Hall of Fame had a home at
Bavarian Haus until it closed in May, 2000. Now it's stored
home; and we are searching for a new place to have it displayed.
In 1983, a Founder's Award was presented to Duane Pichelman.
After we had the Hall of Fame
established in the
Bavarian Haus, we wanted to advertise the fact. We decided to
to get our flyers in at rest stops and welcome centers. I
contacted the Iowa DOT and was referred to LuAnn Reiders at the Iowa
Division of Tourism. We had to send a copy of our brochure to
approved for content and size. there were 21 locations.
had several printed; and Noreen Steenbock, our state secretary, mailed
copies when the centers requested a new supply. This
until the Bavarian Haus restaurant closed in 2000.
The first Iowa Polka Festival was held
Marshalltown in 1988. For several years we have sponsored the
Iowa Polka Fest on a Saturday in June at the Electric Park Ballroom in
Waterloo, IA. We see a lot of people that are not members,
enjoy the music. There are always two bands; and thru the
a great variety of bands have appeared at the Iowa Polka Fest.
It seems strange that in the 60's when I
Waverly, IA, I mentioned to a polka musician about forming a polka club
and was advised to forget it, "because it would never work".
Therefore, it is interesting for me to note that the polka
is in Waterloo and the Cedar Valley chapter has the most members.
At one time we were so broke and lost
money on a
dance that we couldn't pay the band in full, and had to have various
fund raising projects to raise the money to pay him. We may
lose money on a dance occasionally, but we are in pretty good financial
condition, and we continue to have polka dances, and have fun, which is
important for our members. Since we have some money on hand,
can keep going. Our downfall will be the fact that not enough
people agree to be officers. When you are asked, please give
your careful consideration. We are only as strong as our leadership. -