Sunday, January 4, 2009

Half a Lifetime Ago...

The date stamped on the back of this photo by the processor is September 1977. I was a year out of high school and playing in "The Why Polka Show." We were a "show" rather than just a band because we provided a full light show like a rock band and we had a rack full of old ladies' hats that we often changed off wearing throughout the evening. Can you find me?

Yep, that's yours truly on the right wearing the accordion, an instrument dad insists on calling the "cor-deen," and which writers more often than not misspelled as accordian back before the days of automatic spell checking. What this has to do with scootin' is that today I visited on the scooter the city where our band was based and where we often performed - Nanticoke, which is about 8 miles south of downtown Wilkes-Barre and which, when I was growing up, seemed to be entirely populated by Polish immigrants and their descendants.

True to its heritage, Nanticoke features Kosciuszko Street, a street on which you can go from kindergarten through college because the Greater Nanticoke Area School District has a cluster of buildings there, as well as the county which has its community college on the eastern end.

The name Kosciuszko itself leads me down a side path that relates to the band in that our drummer, Ron, often joked about a fictitious resident of Nanticoke, one Mr. Vladimir Tuteniewicz. Ron invented Vladimir when he was poking lighthearted fun at Lucian "Lou" Kryger, the leader of a famous polka band (Google "Kryger Brothers.") who also was the D.J. of a polka radio show here in the valley. Lou took requests on the phone during his show and often dedicated the items on his play list, such dedications sounding something like, "And this next oberek goes out to Peter Wojohojoloski and his lovely wife, Aggie, down in Warrior Run." Ron's stock line was, "This next polka goes out to Vladimir Tuteniewicz and his sister, Mary, from the Honey Pot section of Nanticoke."

It's s small world. When I was just a kid I heard the Kryger Brothers perform right in our own neighborhood at the end of each summer when a week or two before school was to start up again the city brought the band shell to our elementary schoolyard and the Krygers fired up the polkas, czardaszes, and obereks. I was honored to share the stage with Lou, his brother, Brunon (Bruce), and their band on a number of occasions, and in that very same school in the schoolyard of which I'd first heard the Krygers play, half a lifetime later, I taught two of Mr. Kryger's grandchildren.

Ron lives in Michigan these days and I don't think I've seen him in over ten years, so I don't know about on his end, but Vladimir Tuteniewicz lives on here. I've used his name on every piece of software I've ever had to "register" as well as his non-existent address - 123 Kosciuszko Street, Nanticoke, Pa.

Before this post starts to sound like a Seinfeld episode where three different subplots all come together at the end somehow...

Here's the BV250 facing the doorway of the United Citizens' Club in the Hanover section of Nanticoke. The Why Polka Show performed there over 25 times in our year or so heyday before we broke up the band and went our separate ways. It's rather amazing that 30 some years later the place looks exactly the same as it did in the late 70s when we thought we were headed for fame and a polka Grammy or five rather than our eventual and untimely date with oblivion.
It was a nice day of riding - of remembering.
"Zagracie tam, chłopcy! Ras! Dwa!" (Something Lou Kryger called out to start his band up. "Play there, boys! One! Two!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking us along your walk down memory lane. We even have photos to go along with the story!