The performing arts began a long tradition within many lodges as a way to preserve the Czech and Slovak culture for our members.
As noted in our Centennial Edition of the Fraternal Herald magazine, “Music served the double purpose of raising money and preserving the heritage” of the Czech and Slovak members. Many lodges hosted community dances that helped to raise funds for the lodge halls, and gave fun, cheap entertainment in the mostly rural communities. In Ledec No. 192 in Alexandria, MN, members enjoyed these dances. “Everyone looked forward to the double dances held on consecutive nights prior to Lent [in the 30’s].” Beyond the community dances, choreographed performances by Sokol groups were hugely popular in the early decades of the 20th century.
When immigrants from Czechoslovakia began their journey to America, they brought their love of physical activity through gymnastics. Beginning in Czechoslovakia, Sokol groups have been around for over 150 years emphasizing a healthy body and healthy mind. The lodge halls served as perfect arenas to practice and perform gymnastic routines and many young members were involved.
“The connection between ZCBJ [WFLA] and Sokol remained strong through the 1930’s, and many lodges helped introduce Sokol to their communities. Lodge Bratri Novych Hradu No. 141 in Cadott, WI began Sokol in 1928. The anchor holes for the parallel bars are still embedded in the original maple floor. There were many exhibitions at the hall. People performed on the horizontal bars, parallel bars, rings, horse, calisthenics, marching, singing, and folk dancing.”
Drama clubs began in several lodges in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Drama was just as important as music in the life of the lodge. Many lodges performed dramas for the community to enjoy. Several lodges have hand-painted background scenery still found in their halls today.
History is preserved today through lodges who continue to perform. Lodge 225, Bannister, MI has had a ZCBJ Czechoslovak Folk dance group for more than thirty years. Lodge 141 in Cadott, WI has been entertaining with their Bohemian Hall Amateur Theatre group by presenting plays each fall and spring. Keeping the arts alive has helped the lodges to thrive throughout the years.
To learn more about wfla and our history visit http://www.wflains.org/aboutus.html or browse through our archive blogs to learn more about our rich history!