One of Amsterdam’s oldest societies celebrates at St. Mike’s

Photo by Jay Towne

The faithful came early to St. Mike’s Bar on Reid Street Saturday morning for a festival sponsored by the St. Michael the Archangel Fraternal Aid Society, one of Amsterdam’s oldest societies. Formed in 1892 as an auxiliary to St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, it had at one time as many as 300 members. The society currently calls St. Mike’s its home.

I talked to Ed Majeswki, president of the society and asked him to tell me about it.

“It developed into a fraternal aid society, where we would help those members who couldn’t afford food and things like that. We would give them money to help them out. So it’s always been a fraternal organization and we still help our members out, but not as much as we used to. It’s still a strong organization. We’re part of St. Stan’s because the Monsignor Gospodarek helped start it there.”

Rick Warzonek, board member and Reid Hill resident, told me some more particulars of the society’s history.

“The organization is about 122 years old, it started in the basement of St. Stanislaus church as a fraternal aid society for men in this area. In its heyday, membership was up over 300 members. In 1937 they established our social club, it started in upper Reid St. and moved to this location in 1954.”

I asked about the program today.

“Today we have a live broadcast of Polish music by John Lesniewski and Polka Magic Radio Network and, in addition – food.”

I asked John “Lil-Jas” Lesniewski, of the Polka Magic Radio Network, what he did.

“We do a Polish radio broadcast, which has been on in Amsterdam since the Richard Bartyze days back in the 40’s and 50’s, and we are trying to keep up the tradition, especially where we are on Reid St., a prominent Polish section of Amsterdam, and we are still doing radio in Saratoga each and every Saturday. We are also on the Polish New Castle network, carrying on traditions such as playing the polkas…”

Wayne Wawrzonek, who lives in the Town of Amsterdam, said he joined “years ago, when I was young. My dad’s a member. My dad actually lives next door. He runs Fred’s flower shop.”

I said, “So you’re the cousin the Warzoneks talk about!”

“Yes, the good-looking one. I’m on the Board of Directors and I help manage the bar.”

I asked if he had ever been to this type of event before.

“Not through this! This is our first time with this.”

Ed Krzysko and Lorea Lockhart, lifetime residents of Amsterdam, said they were there for a little quick breakfast and music.

“We just wanted to see what it was like.”

I asked Ed how long he had been a member.

“I don’t know, I’d have to look back at my card. Quite a while.”

I asked why he joined the Society.

“I just go to the church here, St. Stan’s, they asked me, so I joined.”

Participation was sparse in the morning hours but picked up towards noon. St. Mike’s served a hot breakfast and kielbasi, galumpki and pirogi for lunch and dinner.

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Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.