The Polish American Society of St. Petersburg is the oldest Polish Society in the State of Florida and has been a community pillar in St. Petersburg since 1951. The organization’s Club Facility is located in Old Southeast and offers a full service bar , kitchen, and the “Best Dance Floor in the Tampa Area”. The Society will be celebrating its 65th anniversary on January 31st, 2016.
When asked how the Society was started, Rich Malinowski offered the background story: “After their retirement in the late 1940’s, several Polish American families in St. Petersburg felt a need for a meeting place for people of Polish descent to gather and enjoy the traditions of their Polish culture. They knew that for the few families residing in St Petersburg at the time that organizing a society would not be an easy task. No action was taken until one fortunate day, Mr and Mrs. A. Nawojski found a parking ticket on their windshield of their car. It was signed by a police officer named Edward Mogelnicki. Immediately, they sought out this Polish officer and in conversation with him, the subject of a Polish society began to interest Officer Mogelnicki.
With Officer Mogelwicki’s association with the Police Department and the city fathers, and the enthusiasm of Mrs. Nawojski and her Polish friends, the first steps were taken to call a meeting inviting all of the Polish locals in the area. Fifty cards were sent to Polish sounding names contained in the city telephone directory and an advertisement was placed in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper announcing the meeting to take place at the Million Dollar Pier on January 9, 1951. When the day arrived, an overwhelming 120 Polish Americans answered the invitation. The aims and purposes of organizing a Polish American Society were explained. The first question as to who is in favor of said organization and willing to join it was answered by a roomful of raised hands. Temporary officers were elected: Ed Mogelnicki, Chairman; M. Krupa, Vice Chairman; Plus A, Nawojska, A. Kolodiziej, M. Buczkowska, S. Eligan, H. Tomanek, S. Rachwalski, A. Krzesiak, and W. Ziarko. That was the birth of the St Petersburg Polish American Society.
Several meetings of the temporary officers and members were held, mostly in private homes at which time rules and regulations were suggested for adoption. A general meeting was scheduled to be held in St. Mary’s Church to elect permanent officers. The meeting took place in February 1951 and the following officers were elected: E. Mogelnicki, President; M. Krupa, Vice President; W. Ziarko, Treasurer; J. Thomas and E. Chrzanowski, Secretaries; L. Swiderski, Sergant-at-Arms. The first venture of our Society was courageously planned to be on as large a scale as was ever attempted in St. Petersburg – an Annual Ball in the Armory.
The Police Department orchestra offered its participation gratis as a welcome to our group. All Polish Americans from the Metropolitan area and a great many fellow Americans enjoyed the night of happy times and dancing. When “Home Sweet Home” was played by the orchestra, closing the evening, the treasurer found himself with a substantial amount of money. The Society’s prestige leaped several rungs on the ladder of success.
The year following was difficult as board meetings had to be held in private homes and picnics were held in backyards or public picnic grounds. It was obvious that a place of our own was needed. Several large lots were located for purchase. A building fund was established and an accelerated drive to concentrate all efforts on raising funds to start construction of a building was initiated. Again the response to the building fund was very generous. The building committee was instructed to proceed with construction of our current building at the corner of Beach Drive and 14th Ave SE.
May 5, 1957 was the day when our hope, our wish and our dream became a reality, the official opening of our own place to meet. The wandering days for the Polish American Society were over. The mayor of St. Petersburg, the honorable S. G. Johnson officiated at the opening ceremony by cutting the tri-colored ribbon guarding the entrance to the building. He made a complimentary speech praising the Polish American group for their obedience of laws, for their loyalty to their adopted country and this city and for their grit and spunk in reaching for that which is essential to social and cultural life.”
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