A Brief History
The American-Slovenian Club
The free spirit of Americans coupled
with the bond of a Slovenian heritage.
Those were the factors that came into play in 1946 as a group of residents met formally for the first time to lay the groundwork of what was to become the American-Slovenian Club headquartered in Club Rooms at 617-1/2 Third St., FairportHarbor.
At that time there were several local lodges of Slovenian insurance fraternals active in the area. They needed a place to meet. At the same time, a second generation of Slovenians was coming home from the war. There was a camaraderie they wanted to nurture, the heritage of their parents they wanted to preserve.
The first formal meeting to discuss the possibilities of forming a club was held on King Street at the home of Andy Hervatin. He was the organization's first president and held that post for several years.
In its earliest days, the fledgling group met in the homes of various members, occasionally in the back room of Lunka’s Tavern (now an apartment building) at East and Fourth Streets and then in the building which houses the Neal Printing Co. on High Street.
Bylaws were drafted and hammered out at the home of Frank Juzna who then lived on Vine Street. The purpose of the club was outlined in those bylaws and even though they have been updated since, the purpose remains the same:
"To provide, for the Slovenian people and their descendants, suitable quarters and facilities wherein they may engage in and promote, activities of a fraternal and cultural nature designed to preserve Slovenian culture in the dramatic arts, music, rhetoric, and the social arts."
The American-Slovenian Club was chartered as a non-profit organization in the State of Ohio in 1947. That charter, which still hangs proudly in the club rooms, bears the names of Andy Hervatin, president; John Zuzek, vice president; and John Zalar, secretary. The trustees then were Joseph Drobnick, Herman Kapel, and Frank Zalek.
However, between the formalities of setting up an organization and the realization of the dream of having a club meeting room, lay many years of hard work and dedication by families bearing such names as Hervatin, Drobnick, Kapel, Bajc, Zalar, Lunka, Zalek, Ulle, Juzna, Zuzek, Anzelc, Modic, Branisel, Mahne, Rozmanc, Grzely, Jackopin, Svigel, Snidersich, Skrabec, Shetina
They all, men and women alike, contributed in one way or another. One unique feature of the club was that the women were admitted as full members almost from the beginning. In fact, one of the insurance fraternals was the Slovenian Women's Society. Most of its members were also in the club. They supported the Club by voting funds out of their treasury to outfit the kitchen once the club was established.
As with any organization, fundraising became the first order of business. To do this, monthly dances were held at the Plum Street Hall (now Finlandia Hall). In the summer, monthly picnics were held at the St. Clair Hunting & Rifle Club south of Painesville. Raffles were sponsored and sausage sales were held regularly with all the members helping out. All proceeds went into a building fund.
In 1952, under the presidency of John Drobnick, the club took the first step toward achieving its dream. It purchased the property at 617 Third Street from Joseph Torre, which included a house and a three-car garage on three lots.
To swing the deal and raise funds for converting the three-car garage into meeting rooms, the membership made loans to the fledgling organization, which had little more to offer as collateral than a hope and a dream. A few years later a loan was obtained from the Slovenian Mutual Benefit Association, a Cleveland-based fraternal insurance organization with a lodge in Fairport.
After loaning their money, the members then gave of their time and talent expanding the garage into club rooms and installing a kitchen and bar.
Once completed, the members then volunteered time to keep the Club Room open evenings for the benefit of its members, which at the time numbered about 100.
The first social function held in the new club was a small wedding reception for Henry and Pat Zalar (now living in ConcordTownship) in August, 1953, following their marriage in Columbus. Shortly after that time, Hank was elected to the post of Financial Secretary, a post he has held ever since.
True achievement in establishing a private club, however, continued to elude the organization. Application for a private club license from the liquor department was denied. Instead, the club settled for a beer and wine license in an effort to maintain the business end of its organization and raise operating money. Consequently the club rooms had to remain open to the public, thus stifling growth of membership and in particular of social members.
Funds were tight. Members became depressed, and the club passed through a trying period. Then in 1960, Hank Zalar, Lou Bajc, and Joseph Pirman took on the job of managing the business-end of the club in an effort to keep it going.
Throughout this period, even though the business-end of the organization was troubled, the club continued to be involved in the community.
For many years, the club entered its nationality float in the annual Mardi Gras parade and supplied nationality dancing during the July 4th celebration.
Finally in 1963, with the closing of the Sportsman's Club on High Street, a private club license became available in the village. The club applied and it was granted. With it came a renewed interest in the club and another period of growth started.
About that time, Charles Kapel took over the bartender duties and except for a brief period has been there ever since.
In 1969, the club's bylaws were rewritten under the presidency of Lou Grzely. The committee charged with updating the bylaws was headed by Stanley Modic. This action provided for several internal changes in the workings of the organization including the election of a nine-member board of directors to operate the club thus giving a certain sense of stability to the entire operation.
With that came again a surge of interest from the membership and under the presidency of Frank Turek, a project was launched to completely remodel the club. Again members gave of their time and talents volunteering to do the work.
The club, which today includes a regular membership of about 150 and many social members, is still growing in membership, activities, and popularity.
In 1973, a Youth Division was established encouraging the regular members to enroll their children into the ranks of the club and providing for such youngsters to then gain a full membership at age 21.
Currently the board of directors consists of John Perrotti, Tony Satej, Henry Zalar, Warren Fabian, Stanley Bencina, Rose Braddock, Frank Vovko, Carol Satej, and Stanley Modic.
Activities include monthly dinners, a summer balina (lawn bowling) league, and several bus trips throughout the year.
An annual balina tournament which was started in 1966 has now grown to the point where it attracts, in addition to the many local teams, teams from Slovenian Homes throughout northeastern Ohio and as far away as Pennsylvania.
The "Button Box" (chromatic accordion popular in Yugoslavia) craze which has hit the nation has also made an impact on several members of the club. They are taking up the art and often visitors to the club will be treated to music that has its roots in the"old country".
Dedicated to those men and their families who, as founders,
worked so tirelessly to make their dream Our reality.
The American Slovenian Club founders, exercising the free spirit of the
American people, coupled with the bond of a Slovenian heritage, came together to
form a cultural organization that withstood the test of time. They included,
as listed on the State of Ohio charter, which hands in the Club:
Andy Hervatin, Founding President
John Zuzek, Found Vice President
John Zalar, Founding Secretary
Joseph Drobnick, Founding Trustee
Herman Kapel, Founding Trustee
Frank Zalek, Founding Trustee