Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society
POLISH HALL, 154 Pearl St.
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of Polish Community in Brantford
1774 marked the
beginning of Polish immigration to Canada. Fleeing the oppression of
Prussia and Austria, great numbers of patriots moved to Canada to enjoy
the freedom it had to offer. They become the vanguard of succeeding
of farmers and artisans who saw Canada not only as a great, free
but also as a land of tremendous opportunity. The early Polish
settled mostly in the Western Provinces. Later second and third
immigrants, moved East to Ontario and Quebec, attracted by the growing
industry and the general economic development of these two provinces.
as a major centre
of farm-implement manufacture, lured many Polish immigrants. Outside of
isolated cases of families settling in Brantford before 1900, the first
great wave of immigrants from the "cradle of Slavdom" to Brantford came
at the turn of our century, and continued until the start of World War
I. From 1902 we find in the Brantford Directory names of families,
are well known today. To list a few of these pioneering families, there
were, the Neziols, Kempas, Bulanda, Rosieckis, Konefals, Dostals,
Sekulas, Ciochs, Rejdychs, Wiaceks, Floreks, Murzyns, Mrozs,
Porembas, Dudlinskis, and Bialkowskis. Others, as the Tatkos,
Losinskis, Gancarszyks, Majdas, Golanskis, Szrameks and Wisniewskis,
disappeared from the Brantford scene.
already a sizeable
community. It warranted in 1905 the existence of a little grocery store
on Sydenham Street, just a few doors from Pearl Street. The proud owner
of that store was a Mr. Korbut.
these were difficult
years for the Polish community. Not knowing the English language, the
immigrant still managed to find work so that he could raise his family
and build for himself a home. In those early years you would find him
at Canada Glue Co. and Brantford Cordage Co. A greater number were
by the old Pratt and Letchworth Co, later known as the Canadian Car and
Foundry Co. The Pole worked hard and enjoyed what this great country
to offer. He was happy to be here.
of the Roman Catholic Church, the Poles have always been close to their
priests. In her turn, the Roman Catholic Church has endeavored to be
about the spiritual welfare of her Polish people. Wherever they have
the Church has tried to follow quickly.
And so it
was in Brantford.
Through the efforts of the Rev. E.M. Brady, vicar at St. Basil's church
of Brantford, the services of the Rev. L.M. Dogorski, a Polish priest
Pennsylvania, U.S.A., were obtained for the Polish community in 1916.
took up his residence at the church of St. Basil's, using the old
and later the old parish hall, for his services.
now a growing identity in the community. They even had their own little
Polish dairy - The Beaver Dairy, owned by Mr. Walter Szramek - and a
store, on the North East corner of Pearl and Niagara Streets. The
was Mr. Frank Wisniewski, who, by the way, was also the first owner of
Model-T Ford among the Poles.
through the united effort of the Polish people, a little wooden church
was built on Lyon's Avenue, just North of Terrace Hill Street. Here
Dogorski gathered his little flock and conducted his services. At first
the church prospered. But the signs of trouble were in the air in the
1927. Prices began to sky-rocket while wages remained at their low
Brantford began to feel the first winds of the depression which was to
engulf the world after 1928. In this atmosphere, the little Polish
burdened by a heavy financial debt, which carried with it near to 8%
payments, had to close its doors. It was the summer of 1927. The Polish
community, many of whose members were themselves heavily in debt
of the homes they had bought or were in the process of building could
Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society of Brantford, founded earlier that
year, stepped in to fill the vacuum caused by the closing of the
On February 17, 1927, seven members gathered in the Polish Hall of St.
John's Ukrainian church at 100 Terrace Hill Street to consider
a club that would serve to unite citizens of Polish descent in their
and cultural activities. The meeting proved successful. Five of these
became the original executive of this society, namely: President, John
Neziol; Thomas Mech, recording secretary; Frank Mroz, financial
Bronislaw Spychay, treasurer; and Peter Wiacek, organizer. The other
who helped in the planning were Andrew Mroz and Michael Neziol.
membership of the Polish
Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society increased steadily and in October,
1927 a Young People's Group was added to the organization. A Polish
school was established and, with other social activities, was conducted
in rented halls through the city.
1928 saw the start
of the second great wave of Polish immigration to Brantford, and this
was to continue, although on a minor scale, until the beginning of
War II. With so much new blood entering the Polish community in 1929,
members of the Young People's Group decided to form another youth
called at that time, The White Eagle Association. It was from this
as we shall see lather, that Branch No.10 of the Polish Alliance of
came into existence in Brantford.
meantime, in October,
1931, The Polish Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society purchased property
at 152 and 154 Pearl Street for future development as a Polish Hall.
existing building at 154 Pearl Street became the temporary location for
the meetings of the Society and its Polish school. In May, 1932, a
charter as a Mutual Benefit Society was obtained with the valuable
of Mr. W. Ross Macdonald, popular local lawyer and future M.P. and
Seventy-five members qualified for the available sick and death benefit
insurance. This number, of course, did not include the other social
as well as the Young Peoples Group.
December 7, 1933, the
members decided to erect a new building which would serve as a Polish
The building committee was headed by Adam Gadawski, who arranged with
Summerhayes Construction Company to erect the building at a cost of
The construction company provided three skilled workmen, but most of
work was done without remuneration by members of the Society.
25, 1934, the
new Polish Hall was officially opened by the Polish Consul General, Dr.
Adamkiewicz, who came from Ottawa for the occasion. The building was
by a priest from St. Basil's church in the presence of its president,
Gielarowski, the Polish Vice-consul J. Pawlica of Winnipeg, the Rev.
T. Tarasiuk of Hamilton, and some 350 members of the Polish community.
The opening ceremonies featured a parade to the cenotaph, where eight
in Polish cavalry uniforms joined with police officers under Chief
as a guard of honour, while the Consul General placed a wreath. The
that evening was attended by many local dignitaries and out-of-town
as well as several hundred members of the local Polish community.
Due to the
zeal of its members,
the Society grew steadily, despite the difficult economic conditions of
the mid-thirties. Key events held at that time in the new Polish
Hall included a memorial service following the death of Poland's
Marshal Joseph Pilsudski in 1935, and the burning of the mortgage in
Second World War
loomed on the horizon, the Polish Mutual Benefit Society became
occupied with providing financial assistance to Poland. On july 21,
a cheque for $560 was sent to the Polish government via the Polish
in Montreal. With the outbreak of war, a charter (C-980) was obtained
the Canadian Government authorizing the collection of funds to assist
In June, 1941, an ambulance was purchased and presented to the Polish
units training in Windsor, Ontario. A cheque for $202 followed in
of the same year. Four young men joined the Polish Army as volunteers.
regular gifts from
the Society to members of the Armed Forces, various campaigns between
and 1946 provided funds in excess of $25,000 to such needy groups as
Polish Army, prisoners of war, the Red Cross, the victims of the Battle
of Britain, as well as the Greek and Chinese refugees. Following the
another $5,000 was sent to aid the needy in Poland.
Fifties and the sixties,
the Polish Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society continued to take an
part in the local support of Polish culture and traditions. Scholarship
funds were set aside for the education of the sons and daughters of its
members. In 1958 the members decided to enlarge and modernize their
at a cost of $65,000 and the project was completed in October, 1960. On
the occasion of the burning of the mortgage in October, 1964, a
of $1500 was pledged to the Community Civic Arena Fund. In 1966 active
support was given to the committee responsible for the commemoration of
Poland's Millennium of Christianity and similar enthusiasm during
Centennial Year. The Polish Mutual Benefit and Friendly Society was
shown itself to be a responsible element in the Polish community of
Mr. Philip Kolodziejak was the President of the Society.
Benefit and Friendly Society was first established in 1927 and
incorporated in 1932.
Citizens 1967 Centennial Year
Front Row: Mrs.
88; Mrs. A. Smierciak, 90; Mrs. A Drozdz, 77.
Second Row: Mr.
77; Mr. Stanley Neziol, 93; Mr. Joseph Wiacek, 82.