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Dom Polski: Dance Hall Days of Detroit's Polonia

Dom Polski Premieres

Remembering Stas' Wisniach



Untitled document

For information about the non-profit documentary film Dom Polski:  Dance Hall Days of Detroit's Polonia (including ordering information), go to the page "Dom Polski:  Dance Hall Days of Detroit's Polonia" on this Web site.  In production since April 2003 and premiering in April 2007 at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton, Michigan, a premiere performance venue, Dom Polski is a celebration of Polish immigrant life and culture in Detroit’s east and west side communities and a preservation of history and musical tradition.  It is the first film ever to document Detroit Polonia’s history and immigrant experience.  

Do you have roots in Detroit's west side?  If so, or if you have an interest in Detroit history, consider joining the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society!

Visit www.detroitpolonia.org for information! 

Visit www.pelagia-apparel.com to see how to express yourself with Polish pride T-shirts!  PELAGIA®:  "Never Underestimate the Power of a Polish Woman®" (PELAGIA® and "Never Underestimate the Power of a Polish Woman®" are registered trademarks of Pelagia® Apparel.)

HORN MAN is a celebration of the Polka Era of the 1940s and early 1950s. It is a tribute to Detroit’s Polish-American bandleaders who came of age during the Great Depression. Included among them were Stanley Adamus, Johnny (Sudrykulski) Sadrack, Stas' Wisniach, Ted Gomulka, Ted Koltowicz, Frank Szalankiewicz, Ted Sokolowski, Ted Lach, Eddie (Krzyk) Schick, Eddie Gajec, and Eddie (Nabozny) Hoyt, to name just a few. They symbolize the talent, spirit, commitment, and ethnic pride of the great Polish-American bandleaders of Detroit.

In the early days of the Polish countryside wedding and other celebrations, typical band instrumentation included two violins and a string bass. The clarinet, and then the accordion were later added. Brass instruments were ultimately included in the mix, although not until the American influences of jazz, popular, and big-band music had significantly worked to shape the careers of these entrepreneurs, who transformed their traditional Polish folk songs into a new genre: American-Polish music. Brass instruments, especially the trumpet because of its popularity in the jazz arena, are therefore symbolic of this new genre that was created, recorded, and popularized by the second-generation Polish-American musicians. Later-generation Detroit-area orchestra leaders such as Clarence Witkowski (Clare Wite), Wally Duda, John Chrzasz, Gene (Szalankiewicz) Shell, Walt Lipiec, and Walt Cieslik, and many, many more, carried on the tradition of American-Polish music.

Within each of us there is a longing to reach back to that place from whence we came. It is perhaps the folk songs and dances of our native lands that best represent and forever bond us with that place, and which respond to our need to find the thread that connects us to the fabric of our lineage. For those of Eastern European descent, it is perhaps polka music that is the most passionate and emotional link to that place we know as “home.”

“The polka culture grew up in the United States in the wake of momentous changes brought by the first World War. The war had ended with the emergence of an independent Poland in 1918, 123 years after it disappeared in the partitions . . . .

“With its large working-class population, Polish Detroit took to the polka with a particular zest and energy. For several generations of Polish Americans, it was the music of joy, celebration, leisure and solidarity that marked weddings, parish festivals, Sunday afternoon picnics, Saturday night dances, club socials and family gatherings. It is difficult to think of the distinctive new institutions of ethnic community life such as the fraternal and sororital halls, the Dom Polski, picnic grounds such as Wanda Park and Warsaw Park, the hundreds of new second-generation social clubs, ethnic radio programs and the new rituals of youth and courtship for the first American-born generation without memory evoking the beat of the polka.

“The growing popularity of the polka generated a sub-culture of musicians, bands and fans. The new media—radio and records—made this new ethnic music widely available and built the reputations of the musicians and their ensembles far beyond anything imaginable a generation before. Later polka programs became a mainstay of early television. Staœ Wisniach’s Club Polka show, on a local Detroit station, is an excellent example of the successful adaptation of the polka to the new medium . . . .” Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, Ph.D.—Excerpt from Introduction to Horn Man: The Polish-American Musician in Twentieth-Century Detroit

This is the essence of the Horn Man's legacy. Their music was their gift to us. Our enjoyment and propagation of it is our gift to them.

Horn Man: The Polish-American Musician in Twentieth Century Detroit, by Laurie A. Gomulka Palazzolo. Released October 2003. Distributed by Wayne State University Press. Featuring an Introduction by Thaddeus C. Radzilowski, Ph.D. and a Foreword by Ann Hetzel Gunkel, Ph.D. Also available at the Polish Art Center at 9539 Jos. Campau in Hamtramck, a treasury of Polish heritage (www.polartcenter.com) and by order through major bookstores.