Preserving the Past: Some social ethnic clubs survive - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

Preserving the Past: Some social ethnic clubs survive

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SHARON, Pennsylvania - Forty years ago, dance halls echoed with polkas sung by accordions, and concertinas and mandolins lead the steps of costumed dancers enjoying a night out with friends.

Today, most of those ethnic halls that hosted so many gatherings have gone dark, but those trying to survive are doing what they can to keep the past alive.

"I think what we're doing to preserve the past, is remembering the past," says Tom Amundsen, the Sharon Apollo Maennerchor Club president.

Amundsen leads a group that's sprucing up the old building where singers and German brews at the bar will soon work in harmony to hopefully inject a renewed interest.

The club closed last year and Amundsen stepped in with a plan to bring back the German flavor to Sharon while keeping the club's mission and members.

"Unfortunately for the past few years, we've been going through a decline," Amundsen says.

The Croation American Civic Club up the street in Farrell still serves strudel and a sense of belonging to its nearly 200 members.

"When we were kids, we came up here and there were dances, there were dinners, we spent our youth here," civic club trustee Fred Husnick says.

But keeping traditions alive means recruiting the younger generations who have not been the easiest to entice.

"When I was younger, the first thing we wanted to do was become a member of the club because we were proud to be a member of the club and you just don't see that anymore," says John Gallicchio, president of the First Slovak Working Men's Club in Farrell.

Today, Slovak classes at the club in Farrell replace the English lessons members took after coming to America. The club has more than 400 members and it prides itself with giving thousands of dollars back to the community.

The Salem Italian American Club leaders say they're just making it each month depending on the successes of summer sporting events that carry the club along.

The Yongstown French Club admits membership has dwindled away over the years. Its members now host a weekly coffee hour at Youngstown State University to encourage the new generation.

It's too late for some clubs to find solutions that will carry them into the future. The German Home in Farrell and the American Slovak Club in Campbell join the growing list of social-ethnic clubs that have fallen by the wayside.

Polish Youngstown, Greek AHEPA chapters in Youngstown and Warren, and the St. George Croatian Center all report steady interest and success into the 21st century.

Times have changed, but club members are hope that their innovative approaches to keep the rich cultural traditions alive will move them into the future.

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