Our Club History
Our Club History
Historical Timeline of the Schwaben ClubThe Canadian Schwaben Sick Benefit Association of Kitchener was founded in 1931. Wilhelm Goss served as the first President, and their first meetings were held in their own members’ homes. The Club also shared a room Street with the Saxon Club at the Winter Garden at 33 King.
The Schwaben Club was inaugurated to assist members who could no longer support their families due to illness or injury. Each member would pay their monthly dues, and the Club would then provide $10.00 a month, to cover living expenses, for members unable to work. That was considered adequate in those days.
In its first year, the Club actually elected three Presidents; Wilhelm Goss, John Martin and Mr. Neu, because there were many decisions to be made. The members of the Schwaben Club worked hard to build a home of their own. They formed a Youth Group in their second year, and on weekends, there were youth dances held in the Winter Garden.
In 1933 a German School was established, with Pastor H. Walter teaching. A Theatre Group was also created which performed at the Winter Garden.
In 1935, the Club celebrated its first Trachtenfest , showcasing original Trachten brought over from the homeland. The Ladies’ Auxiliary was also formed that year. The Ladies held bingo nights and bazaars to raise money. By starting their own group, they were hoping to financially contribute to the Club’s growth.
1939 saw the beginning of the Second World War and the Club was forced to cease all activities. It continued to aid its members through the Sick Benefit Fund; the Canadian government sanctioned this aspect of the Club’s mandate.
In 1947, the Club was allowed to become active again; functions were held and group activity started up with renewed enthusiasm. On January 19th, the Schwaben Club was recognized by the Province of Ontario as an official Cultural Club. The official name of the Club became the “Canadian Schwaben Sick Benefit Association”.
The next wave of immigrants from the old country arrived shortly after that. Real estate agent Wilfrid Bitzer found a suitable building to hold the ever-expanding membership. It was a vacant, old warehouse located at 1668 King Street East in Kitchener. The Executive of the Club decided that the property would be the ideal location for their new home.
In July of 1948 the members started to renovate the warehouse, transforming it into their new home. Many members worked all weekend including late into the night on Sundays. The Frauengruppe prepared many of the meals for the men. Finally, in October, the new building was ready. There was a grand celebration — the new building was to be called “Sunnyside Gardens”.
As more immigrants arrived, more groups were created. The first major group was the Soccer Club; they called themselves the Victoria Soccer Club. Also in 1948, members celebrated the first Kirchweihfest. Later that year, they celebrated the 1st Club Anniversary Ball as well.
A German School was once again founded in the Club. This time the teacher was Peter Quiring. The Club operated the school for only one year. After the first year, the club then handed control of the school over to Mr. Quiring, who eventually moved it to his residence. It was renamed “The Private German School”.
The remainder of the mortgage was finally paid in full. The city of Kitchener approached the Club with a request to purchase a portion of Club land. Shortly after the sale was completed, Weber Street was built behind our Club. This now gave us two entrances to the property. Another portion of the property was then sold to the Waterloo County School Board, onto which they built Eastwood Collegiate Institute and its soccer fields.
The Club was approved for a liquor licence, although the licence had to be renewed every month. One of the duties of the Vice-President became the travelling to Toronto to renew the licence.
A bowling league was formed, and the Club’s team was named the Olympic Bowlers. The team won several awards over the years under their captain Tony Sertic. Saturday night dances were a weekly event; Club members enjoyed the good times and fellowship.
The Dance Groups were also becoming very successful. They often danced not only at Sunnyside Gardens, but also at other clubs in the area. The Youth Group formed a Theatre Group to expand their cultural studies.
The Ladies’ Auxiliary continued their support of the Club by buying furniture for the office, and sewing the curtains for the hall. Back then, the membership dues for the Frauengruppe were $1.00 per year.
The Beer Keller was made into an entertainment room for the members. There was a pool table, ping-pong table, and many other games. The games brought in a considerable amount of revenue for the Club. However, only members could come into the Beer Keller. A member could only bring one guest per visit; they were required to sign in a guest book. This was mandated by the Liquor Board.
The Club then purchased the neighbouring building. It was renovated and became another dance hall for the children and the youth groups. This hall was named the Schwaben Hall.
The Youth Group, under the leadership of Günther Haas, performed in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens for Princess Alexandra of the Netherlands. The Youth Group also competed in Tennessee in a Folk Dance Competition and won first prize. The group arrived home to much fanfare and congratulations from both the Mayor and other local dignitaries. It was at this time that the Club’s name was changed from Sunnyside Gardens to Schwaben Club.
Later that year, the Club celebrated its first Oktoberfest, with the doors open to the general public. This not only helped the Club financially, but also brought in new members.
Our Youth Group traveled to Germany numerous times, to sightsee and perform across the country. The Club partially supported them financially, but they fundraised most of the money through dances and other events.
In 1972, a lawyer named Mr. McGibbon assisted in changing the Constitution. There was a second form of membership created — it was called a Social Member. The social member had the right to vote in elections, but could not run for positions on the Board of Directors. This change had to be approved by the Liquor Board before becoming final. In order to enter the Beer Stube (Keller), all members were now required to use a key card. Guests were allowed only when accompanied by a member and they still had to sign the guest book.
A covered breezeway was built to connect both halls; people now could walk from one to the other. Joining the two halls together was not only convenient, but also helped financially. The members that had donated money in the 1950’s to help finance the start of the club were now receiving their money back.
President Adolf Fischer introduced a new bookkeeping system that was more accurate and efficient than the old method. He was also the man that introduced the slogan, “If you had a good time, you had it at the Schwaben Club”. Many Club Presidents today continue to use variations of that slogan.
The 70’s and 80’s saw the start of a youth Ballroom dance program taught by Ron Gosh; it was very much in demand. In the late 70’s, a group of senior members travelled to a Trachtenfest in Cleveland, Ohio and on their return home, decided to form the first Danube Swabian Trachten Group. This group went on to become a very well known dance group, not only for their attractive costumes but also their beautiful dance routines.
The Schwaben Club launched a yearly festival that featured homemade donuts (Krapfen). This became a very popular event with our members.
In 1981, Mr. Stefan Jauch began his Presidency of the Club. He would become the longest-serving President, leading the Board for 18 years. He introduced new pins to acknowledge members reaching 10 years or more of membership — they were first presented at the 50th Anniversary banquet of the Club.
In 1982, another portion of the Club’s property off Weber Street was sold. The building and land is presently the home of World Gym. At a special meeting, the members voted to carry out further renovations to the Schwaben Hall and Main Hall (the Lenau-Donau Hall). This construction allowed the installation of a modern kitchen, which could handle catering for up to 600 people. The Schwaben Hall was remodeled in the theme of a Black Forest house, and the stage now featured custom theatre curtains.
During this decade, a yearly picnic became a tradition at the Wilmot Rod and Gun Club. There was homemade German food prepared by the Club kitchen and brought to the picnic site for the members to enjoy. There was music played by a young group known as the “Golden Keys” (this band is now one of the most popular bands in Ontario for their Polka and Oberkrainer-style music). Games were organized by the Youth Group for both children and adults.
The five German Clubs (Alpine, Concordia, German-Canadian Hunting and Fishing, Transylvania, and Schwaben clubs) assumed the duties of constructing a float for the Oktoberfest Parade. Mr. George Kraehling Sr. was the organizer for the Schwaben Club.
Then, in 1987, the Club constitution was reformed again. This was the last major change. There would now be only one class of member in the Club, and every member would be eligible to hold a position on the Board.
There was also an increase in banquets and events, so there was now a need to hire a manager to run the club. With the Clubs popularity soaring, Prime Minister Jean Chretien visited the Club where he was greeted by President Mr. Jauch. The Prime Minister was immersed into the German culture and even tasted our famous Schwaben Club schnitzel.
In January 1994, due to extremely cold weather, a pipe froze in the Main Hall and caused over $10,000 in damage. The water damage was so extreme that water ran into the parking lot. The flooding occurred at night, and was only discovered by the police in the early morning hours. The repairs had to be completed in 4 weeks to be ready for the 63rd Anniversary (Gründungsfest).
Occasionally, on Sunday afternoons, Fred Schiller would show German movies in the Beer Keller. It was an event that everyone was welcome to attend and had no cost.
On the Sunday before each Oktoberfest, decorating of the halls is completed. It is done by the sponsors’ own employees as well as members of our own Club. This event is a lot of work but is well worth the effort, as the end results are beautiful, festive-looking halls and a great home-cooked meal for all, made by our own kitchen.
In 1997 there was finally an increase in the membership fee for all members. This was the first increase in membership fees in a great many years. It was to help cover the increased operating costs.
There was a new transformer installed in the basement by Ontario Hydro. The permission for the installment was given by President Jauch. The increase in power was not only for the Club, but for the entire block.
The room beside the Beer Keller called the Heimat Stube (Heritage Room) was equipped with built-in cabinets, so the Ladies’ Auxiliary could now showcase memorabilia of their many accomplishments.
The Children and Youth groups were also very active. There were many opportunities for them to dance within the Club and at schools and retirement homes.
In 2001, a new dance group, the Donau Dancers, was started. It was a revival of the traditions of the Trachten Group of the 1980’s. Their first costumes were the original Trachten from that group. The founding members of this group were from the Youth Groups of the 1960’s and 1970’s; George Kraehling, Monica Anstett, Rosemarie Brenner, Anneliese Kraehling, Dieter Vogt and Walter Marzinko. They continue today and are always accepting new members. They are very active, performing at Club functions and local and international events, where they are always well received.
2006 marked the 75th Anniversary of the Schwaben Club. A special committee was assembled to create an anniversary book which chronicled the Clubs history and was given to all members in commemoration of the event. This hard working committee consisted of: Frank Nemeth, Günther Haas, President Dieter Hanke, Judy Hanke, Monica Anstett, and Andrea Adam. A huge Gründungsfest celebration was also held to mark the occasion.
Having restarted in January 2008, the Kindergruppe and later the Jugendgruppe are now both bigger and more popular than ever. All four Club dance groups now perform regularly around South-Western Ontario, taking their pride in their Club with them wherever they go. Since 2010, there have also been monthly German movies shown once again in the Club. People from all over the region come to enjoy an afternoon of film, coffee and cake. Monies raised go back into the Club to purchase needed items like electronics, computers, and other equipment.
In early 2008, the Heimatbote was discontinued (the newspaper of the Schwaben Verband), so the newsletter, Schwaben Club Nachrichten, was initiated in its place. The first issue launched December 2008 and continues today.
With four dance groups, the Frauengruppe, the Schwaben Sänger, and the Family Bowlers all making up our wonderful family, the Schwaben Club is one of most successful German clubs around. Always accepting new members regardless of heritage, only a love of Schwaben and German culture is needed. We may not know what the future will hold — but we do know that we will face it together!