The first Polish immigrants started to migrate into Greenfield, MA about the year 1880. Among the initial immigrants were the families of Frank Karmilowicz, Joseph Prusick, Ta deusz Kalinowski, Walenty and Andzrej Majewski, Teofil Sta cheiek, Frank Yourga, Mikola and Stanislaw Banach, Joseph Danielski, Antoni Skibinski, Ludwig Margola, Joseph Jablonski, and Joseph Godleski. At that time, church services in their native Polish language were provided at the Holy Trinity Church on Main Street with the late Rev. Stanislaw Zdebel coming by horse and buggy from Turners Falls to officiate the Sunday Masses. Future club member, the late Charles Kestyn, would accompany Father Zdebel as altar boy.
It was over ninety years ago on March 29, 1914 that Father Zdebel and some of the above-mentioned Polish parishioners gathered at a place in back of the former Town Hall on Main Street in Greenfield called Kennedy's Plumbing Shop and activated the SACRED HEART OF JESUS SOCIETY. The purpose of the organization was for "Mutual Assistance" for all Polish families of Roman Catholic Faith. The first President elected was Tadeusz Kalinowski and monthly meetings were held at this place for the officers and membership.
In the year 1915 the organization moved to Olive Street where a hall was rented from Charles Parker, and the membership increased to thirty-five. Social gatherings were held weekly for the purpose of promoting good fellowship and raising funds. Volunteer help donated their services to obtain better sick and death benefits for all future members. The Society membership was called upon by first Pastor Rev. Novak to help financially the newly formed parish of Sacred Heart. Many of the same men would solicit enough funds to purchase land on Wisdom Way to provide a cemetery for the parish property.
In the year 1930, when a new President, Alexander Gibowicz, was elected, the younger generation joined the Society and the membership increased to eighty. A stronger Polish unity continued as sons of the older members started to participate and take an active part in the Club. On May 31, 1933, the SACRED HEART SOCIETY was incorporated, and on January 25, 1935, an important step was taken under the direction of President Tadeusz Kalinowski and Treasurer Teofil Stacheiek. The Society purchased the present building on Mill Street. At that time, the younger men within the Society organized and promoted sports with increased enthusiastic social gatherings. A baseball team was sponsored under the name of the White Eagles. The late Joseph Gexlar and Louis "Stubby" Laskoski managed and coached this team, which was actively supported by the Society.
Each summer the Society would sponsor the traditional Polish picnics and on June 11, 1938 bought pasture land on Plain Road. Under the presidency of John Bukowski in 1942, the picnic grounds were improved. People from miles around attended the weekly functions sponsored by the membership each Sunday from the first of June to Labor Day. Polish and American food was offered with legal beverages. Different Polka bands performed each week for listening and dancing pleasure.
To promote more activities on a local, state and national level, the Society's charter was changed to: "WHITE EAGLE SOCIETY INCORPORATED OF GREENFIELD" on November 18, 1941. As the years passed, a picnic pavilion was built in 1950 under direction of President Joseph Kaczenski. Improvements and renovations were made on the home on Mill St . in 1952 under the direction of President Leon Shensky. Further improvements were made with the aid of work parties under the direction of President Stanley Lopatka and the late Frank Skowron, local contractor. In 1960, an annual education scholarship was established for the benefit of college bound students of the membership. In conjunction with the Polish American Citizens Club on Hope Street, the Society continues to sponsor a youth baseball team under the name of P.A.W.E. Under the presidency of Robert Gibowicz, improvements were realized at the picnic pavilion with an expanded wooden dance floor, band shelter and kitchen area added. In 1975 under the direction of President John Kruzlic, the Mill Street Club renovation project began and was completed in 1977. As a result, dinner dances are sponsored each year in tradition with Polish custom.
A keen interest in youth activities was demonstrated by this group even to the extent of organizing Christmas parties for the children. This tradition is still carried on annually with the cooperation of the White Eagle Associate membership. Also, children Halloween parties are sponsored each year.
During the past seventy-five years, the organization has had a maximum of 150 members with a present membership of about 95. Sick and death benefits continue to be paid to the membership as intended with the origin of the Society back in 1914. While dues have increased from $6 a year to $18 a year, a total of $612 in sick benefits and a death benefit of $500 is payable to each member. Members obtaining the age of 65 and a loyal member for 40 years may request an exemption from dues-paying at the annual or semi-annual meeting which occur during the months of January and July.
In addition to the full membership, an associate membership exists which now numbers close to 300. The entire membership has been successful in carrying on with activities such as darts, pool, pitch, club-sponsored baseball trips, Polish picnics, Christmas, and Halloween parties. The Society continues to support the traditions set forth by their forefathers. Names such as Kaczenski, Bukowski, and Gibowicz continue to be on the club roster, which now represents the third generation of Polish Membership. With cooperation and sacrifice, the White Eagle/Sacred Heart Society hopes to exist for many years to come.
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