Framed by the tall, imposing twin spires of the church, a typical urban Polish-American neighborhood between 1870 and 1920 might be described as follows: "The homes were simple story-and-a-half wooden cottages set in narrow gardens enclosed by wooden fences. The long uniform rows were broken at intersections by two-and-a-half story buildings which housed a grocery store, a saloon or sometimes a drug store. One or two streets were given over to business places, combined homes and offices of professional men and homes of more prosperous citizens."
The cottages were, in reality, crowded multiple dwellings for two or three families. The interiors evoked the Old World, with many holy pictures framed in gilt or polished wood, some forming the center of an altar with an eternal lamp, the Easter palm, and a herb bouquet blessed on Assumption Day. Homes also featured a small font for holy water inside the door; the inscription K+M+B (the initials of Kaspar, Melchior, and Baithazar, the three kings [chapter 4]) from Epiphany Day over the doorway; beds piled high with pierzyny (feather-filled comforters); potted plants in windows; a garden with sunflowers, hollyhocks, lilac, sweet jasmine, and such vegetables as carrots, cucumbers, parsley, dill, and chives; a henhouse; and a woodshed.
The heart of Polonia's okolica, however, was the ethnic Roman Catholic parish, the first institution established by the new immigrants. For example, St. Stanislaus, Buffalo's first Polish parish (and western New York's), was founded in 1873, followed two years later by Dunkirk's first Polish church, St. Hyacinth's. Neighborhoods were known by the name of the local parish, a measure of the importance of the church in the okolica; thus, the community surrounding St. Stanislaus Church was called Stanisławowo.
Once the ethnic church and the allied parish schools were in place, a network of voluntary associations sprang up to aid the Polish immigrants, harking back to the land banks and village cooperatives of rural Poland. These new Polish-American voluntary groups included national fraternal bodies such as the Polish Roman Catholic Union (1873) and its chief rival in the formation of a Polish-American identity, the Polish National Alliance (1880), the Polish Union of the United States of North America (1890), the Association of the Sons of Poland (1903), and the Polish White Eagle Association (1906).
The fraternal benevolent associations, mutual aid societies, and building and loan associations offered financial protection to immigrants in the days before welfare, workers' compensation, and employee benefits. In return for paying regular dues, members could draw out modest accident, sickness, or death benefits; obtain small business loans or home mortgages; and even obtain mourners or pallbearers. By the 1910s, eight hundred thousand Poles, approximately three-quarters of the immigrants, belonged to at least one of the seven thousand immigrant societies in Polonia. The mutual aid societies functioned as social and cultural centers in the community:
The center was usually a large hall filled with tables and chairs. Here Polish songs, rhythmic folk dances, lively music, and stirring dramas were developed and perpetuated; gems of Polish literature were read and reread, and many episodes from Polish history were related. The walls of the center were adorned with framed lithograph pictures of Polish revolutionary heroes. The atmosphere. . . clouded with foul cigarette or cigar smoke, was hardly inviting to the eye or nose. But this was the place to hear local gossip.
Polonia's many newspapers and periodicals, initially only in Polish but later in the English language as well, also provided Polish-Americans with information pertaining both to their communities and the homeland.
The early Polish-American okolica was both self-sufficient and isolated. Lumberyards, churches, schools, newspapers, dry goods stores, drug stores, feed stores, furniture stores, bakeries, butcher shops, grocery shops, shoe shops, barber shops, hardware stores, print shops, and funeral homes all were contained within Polonia. "The only time you had to go downtown was to buy a suit of clothes or to go to the fruitstands that the Italians ran, or to high school-but you didn't really belong there," one man told me.
Communication between Polish immigrants and white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans was of a business or political nature, not social; WASPs did not stay in neighborhoods overrun by immigrants, but moved to uptown districts or suburbs, foreshadowing a move that later generations of Polish-Americans themselves would make.
Yet the Poles' isolation was not complete; they settled near other East Europeans, a cushion against culture shock. As one immigrant who came to Dunkirk, New York, in 1914 noted, "Dunkirk was Polish, but there were also different ethnics, because I can remember we blended with Czechs, Lithuanians, Germans, Slovenians, and Russians. I can remember speaking all these different dialects."
New Occupations, New Factions
The Polish-American okolica was situated near the available jobs. Some immigrants opted to remain in farming, taking over worn-out farms abandoned by Yankees in the Connecticut Valley, where they raised onions and tobacco, or they had truck gardens on Long Island, farmed in Massachusetts and New Jersey, and grew corn and wheat in the South and West.
Many others, however, who arrived with "little more than calluses on their hands" and "muscle-power," as described by Joseph Wytrwal, took industrial jobs. They became unskilled laborers in the textile mills of New England, the railroads and lumber mills of the West, the coal mines of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the slaughterhouses of Chicago, and the steel mills of Buffalo, Akron, and Youngstown. Others were employed in shoe and clothing manufacturing, automobile assembly, furniture factories, and oil and sugar refineries. Polish women went to work in textile mills, clothing factories, cigar factories, packinghouses, canneries, hotels, and restaurants; served as domestic servants; did laundry and cleaning; or kept boardinghouses.
The changes from rural to urban life and farming to industrial occupations had implications for Polish-American folklore: Agricultural festivals and prolonged holidays no longer held a major place in the scheme of life. As Roger Abrahams has noted, Americans have clung to such seasonal festivals long after their direct involvement in agriculture has passed; therefore, although the techniques of observance may remain the same, their messages are launched in different contexts, thus imparting different meanings: This phenomenon as exemplified in Polonia's public festivals will be examined in chapter 15.
In addition to the major change to industrial occupations, Polish immigrants also were contending with another new force, regionalism. Shedding their village identities, the former peasants still chose to associate in the New World with others from their region of Poland. Even a small city such as Dunkirk, New York - with a total population of fewer than twenty thousand - had two distinct Polish communities for many years. One was founded in the 1870s by Prussian (German) Poles, and the second was established in 1902 by Austrian (Galician) and Russian Poles. Ethnic slurs hurled by the groups included "Galaniery" to refer to the Galicians, "Cossacks" or "Bolsheviki" for the Russians, and "Tabakiery" for the Prussians. "They called them 'Tabakiery' because those German people would even go into church with their snuff boxes and use snuff in church, you know? And that's what 'tabakiery' means, 'tobacco'. Other epithets included "Zmiętuje" (small fish), applied to the Prussian Poles, and "Gorky" (hill people), a negative term for Russian and Austrian newcomers who resided on the hilltop where the second Polish community was located. Boys from one community dared not cross the railroad tracks dividing the two Polonias for fear of being beaten by their counterparts in the other ward.
Factionalism also was manifested in acrimonious class struggles within Polonia over the formation of a unique Polish-American identity. In the final quarter of the nineteenth century, nationalists in the Polish National Alliance (PNA) clashed bitterly with religionists from the Polish Roman Catholic Union (PRCU). The nationalists, numerically the smaller faction, argued that Polonia's main objective should be the restoration of independence to Poland, with religion of only secondary importance. Religionists, however, insisted that a Pole could be only Roman Catholic and that although Poland's independence was a worthwhile goal, Polonia's primary function was to maintain a Catholic identity.
Complicating matters was the fact that in the American Catholic Church, parish ownership was given to the diocesan bishop, who was not usually a member of the ethnic group. The ethnic religionists, stressing Catholic loyalty agreed to diocesan title, but nationalists condemned that as outside interference. By the 1890s, friction had escalated into verbal and physical assaults over parish ownership in parishes in Chicago, Buffalo, and other cities. These battles were widely reported by the partisan Polish-American newspapers of both camps. Pro-religionist publications such as Buffalo's Polak w Ameryce (The Pole in America) and the PRCU's Naród Polski (The Polish Nation) locked horns with nationalist organs, including the PNA's Zgoda (Harmony) and Milwaukee's Kuryer Polski (The Polish Courier). Some nationalists went so far as to establish, under the leadership of the Rev. Francis Hodur of Scranton, Pennsylvania, a separate church called the Polish National Catholic Church. Eventually, the Polish National Catholic Church claimed members in Buffalo, Chicago, Scranton, and Baltimore and in Michigan, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The schism in Scranton was so deep that Pol ish National Catholics were known as "kickers," whereas the remaining Roman Catholics were called "Suckers."
Tensions in Polonia eased considerably in 1908, when the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in America appointed the Rev. Paul Rhode as the country's first Polish-American bishop. This gave America's Poles the równouprawnienie (equality) they had long demanded. Because Bishop Rhode proved to be both a loyal Roman Catholic as well as ardent nationalist, conceiving of his role as the Polish representative in the American Church, he was able to mollify both factions.
The Second Generation's New Ethnic Identity
Up until World War I, Polish immigrants struggled with differences involving religion and regional origin as they attempted to craft a new identity in America, initially as Poles. By the 1920s, however, with the emergence of the second generation born in the United States, they were no longer calling themselves Poles. They were Polish-Americans. John Bukowczyk has noted that Polonia's leaders in the 1920s deliberately embraced Americanism, founded political and civic clubs, and plunged into naturalization work to counteract the nativism and Americanization fever sweeping the country at that time. In that manner, they were demonstrating that they were "American enough not to be perennially suspect."
Young, second-generation Polish-Americans were significantly different in their outlook on ethnic identity. In a study of Buffalo's Polonia in 1927, more considered themselves Americans (53.6 percent) than American Poles (26.8 percent), Polish American (11.8 percent), or Poles (7.8 percent).  As Bukowczyk has observed, "These Polish-Americans in their late teens or early twenties might still speak Polish at home, might want to maintain Polish community life, and would not marry outside their group. But most differed from their immigrant parents in many other ways. The majority did not object to the idea of interethnic marriage; and most, while retaining Polish customs, had absorbed a great deal of American culture. "
This hybridization of culture is most readily apparent in the development of the Polish-American polka during the Roaring Twenties (chap ter 11). Another manifestation of the evolution of the folk community was the transformation of its material culture. The crowded cottages, woodsheds, and henhouses of the immigrants gave way to one- or two-family homes with driveways and garages; the interiors no longer contained a holy water font or many holy pictures; and the huge featherbeds, the Assumption Day bouquet, and the gromnica (large blessed candle) so prominent in immigrants' homes were relegated to back rooms.
Despite their desire to be considered as Americans during the 1920s and 1930s, Polonia's members continued to encourage the use of Polish in their parochial schools and an interest in Polish-American organizations. In fact, the Rev. Justyn Figas of Buffalo began broadcasting "Father Justyn's Rosary Hour" in 1931, a radio program that eventually was syndicated and heard on more than fifty stations. As a supplement to the parochial schools of the period, Polish-Americans founded Saturday "Polish schools" to promote secular Polish culture and Polish nationalist ideology. One former student described his school:
AL CLARK: All day Saturday I had to go to Polish school.
SILVERMAN: And that's when you concentrated on learning Polish, learning to speak it and read it?
CLARK: Yeah, we had to read and write and understand Polish. Everything was in Polish. In fact, they had these little skits, little plays, and you had to learn your words, you know, do sort of a minor theater. And another thing, they stressed the fact that you were in America, but you had to speak a certain amount of Polish at home.
Although instruction in the Polish language was emphasized, Polonia's leaders realized that its use had declined dramatically; editors of Polish-American newspapers were publishing in English rather than Polish to attract the younger Polonians who no longer spoke Polish. Waclaw Kruszka, in a humorous description of the Polish dialect used in Polonia, pointed to the dialect's corruption:
A grynhorn [greenhorn; a person newly arrived from the old country], of course, has difficulty understanding such a dialect and is often appalled by it, reproaching his immigrant countrymen for corrupting the native language with adopted words.. . . But soon the same grynhorn. . begins to express himself by saying that today he will go to the city by kar± [car, in Polish, wagon kolejowy] for biznesem [business, in Polish, interes or sprawunek].
In arguing that such language evolution was immigrants' innovative and necessary response to their new environment, Kruszka was decades ahead of contemporary folklorists who believe that today's ethnic Americans are similarly engaged in "creative ethnicity," selectively and imaginatively representing their ethnicity through folklore.
He soon learns to polonize other English words and says that he was in a salunie [saloon, in Polish karczma] where at the barze [bar] stood the barkiper [barkeeper; szynkarz] who served wiski [whiskey; gorzałki], and next they had luncz [lunch; przek±ska] and potrytowali [treated; częstować] each other to a beer.
More Challenges for Polonia: Ethnicity in Suburbia
The Polish-American community's sense of ethnicity continued to respond to changes provided by the Great Depression and World War II. Although the loss of economic opportunities during the depression tended to keep young Polish-Americans within the established Polonia, World War II and its aftermath encouraged the well-documented flight of Polonians to suburbia. Those who remained behind in the increasingly decaying inner-city neighborhoods were portrayed by novelist Verlyn Klinkenborg in The Last Fine Time. He describes the world of Buffalo's Polish East Side in 1947, a pivotal era when young Eddie Wenzek, newly returned from the war, is about to transform the workers' tavern owned by his parents into a swank nightspot, "George & Eddie's," where highballs and french-fried shrimp are served. The neighbors view Eddie as a highly eligible bachelor: "What few flaws he has (he is not enough Polish, he has lost the tongue, but then what child is enough Polish these days, the only ones are the DPs the priests sponsor and that is not such a good thing anyway, eating lard on bread) are minor compared to his promise, which is the promise dearest to a Polish-American heart: property, filial respect, a cash business." Klinkenborg continues to fill in details of his father-in-law's later life: his marriage, children, and the neighborhood's new racial groups and increasing poverty that result in higher crime, eventually forcing Eddie to sell his restaurant and flee to the suburbs. His homestead on the East Side, 722 Sycamore, falls victim to the city's wrecker ball in 1972.
The Last Fine Time is a descriptive, albeit somewhat romanticized, portrait of one phase of Polonia's life, but it fails to realize that the Polish-American community has continued to thrive in new surroundings. Since 1990, for example, Buffalo's Polish-American community on the East Side has lost Ruda's Polkas and Polish Gifts store and the Chopin's Singing Society, a leading cultural organization, to the nearby suburb of Cheektowaga, which has a large Polish-American population. In addition, although several of the city's East Side Catholic churches have been closed by the Diocese of Buffalo, many Polish-American parishes exist in Cheektowaga and other suburbs.
Those third- and fourth-generation Polish-Americans who have dispersed to the suburbs, as well as those who remained in Polonia, are selectively using the folklore of their ancestors to make statements about their identity, a phenomenon several scholars have noted. As one Polish-American man observed, "The old neighborhood isn't the old neighborhood any more. It's becoming standard people in the suburbs. We have this group of older Polish-Americans who are still living in the old neighborhood and it's not like it used to be, but they're pretending it is. But it's not really like that any more. I think we have ethnicity developing on different levels in different ways."
The efforts of these ethnic Americans have been labeled as the "ethnic revival" of the 1970s and 1980s, a response in part to the Black Power movement. But as Helena Znaniecka Lopata has rightly argued, an unfortunate tendency to lump all ethnic communities together has emerged from observation of the ethnic revival. All too often, scholars have failed to note that within an ethnic group there are variations in ethnicity due to differences of class, the salience of affective ties, intermarriage, and one's location in the life-cycle. The much-publicized "ethnic revival" of the 1970s, for example, could be partially explained as the coming of age of large numbers of Baby Boomers who married and started families, thus becoming more interested in the ethnic folklore of their childhood because they hoped to pass traditions along to their own children.
In my research, I have encountered many Polish-American grand mothers who continue traditional family celebrations until a life-cycle change such as illness or death makes it necessary for a daughter, daughter-in-law, or niece to assume those responsibilities. At that point, there may be changes in the menu and the event's format, date, or location, or the tradition may be discontinued. There is concern among musicians in the polka music world, for example, because of a lack of young adult fans. That might be due to competition from rock music, but it might also be caused by changes in lifestyle brought about by family commitments that keep these adults at home with young children on weekend evenings rather than in taverns. These examples of life-cycle changes point to the need for additional research on the relationship between folklore usage and life-cycle position.
Class differences within the ethnic group, which Milton Gordon has called the "ethclass," have been addressed to some extent. Among Polish-Americans, for example, Charles Keil has noted two distinct communities: a "pretending" Polonia of "make-believe" szlachta (aristocracy become intelligentsia) who prefer the polonaise, and a Polonia of "believing" chłopi (peasants become workers) who enjoy polka musjc.
Likewise, John Bukowczyk and Helena Znaniecka Lopata have marked a class split in Polonia between those interested in promoting Poland's "high" or "national" culture and proponents of the "folk" culture of the peasant immigrants. In Poland, the national culture gained ascendancy over the folk culture as the result of industrialization, urbanization, and mass education following World War I. That explains why many recent Polish immigrants, products of the middle class, look askance at established Polish-American communities founded on the working-class folk culture of the peasants and refuse to settle there. I will examine these class differences, especially apparent in Polonia's musical and dance preferences, in chapter 15.
Another important issue that scholars have begun to address is the emotional advantages of ethnicity. As Daniel Bell has pointed out, "Ethnicity has become more salient because it can combine an interest with an affective tie. Ethnicity provides a tangible set of common identifications - in language, food, music, names - when other social roles become more abstract and impersonal."
Anya Peterson Royce also argues that ethnicity provides an affective experience outside the nuclear family; likewise, Michael M. J. Fischer believes that ethnicity is a deeply rooted emotional component of identity. My fieldwork has borne out these observations, particularly regarding the Easter and Christmas celebrations now held in social clubs as well as families, a convenience and an emotional bond for those whose adult children live far away (chapters 3 and 4).
The relationship between affective ties and ethnicity is particularly important in considering intermarriage, a widespread phenomenon by the end of the twentieth century. Intermarriage presents a thorny dilemma for folklorists: Does it necessarily mean a decrease in the transmission of ethnic folklore? According to my research, Polish-American women who are in their sixties or older and have married outside the ethnic group tend to cook foods of their husbands' ethnic group. The older women from other ethnic groups who marry Polish-American men prepare traditional Polish foods. A German-American wife describes her family's foodways thus:
JEAN BROGCINSKI: I had to learn to cook Polish because he likes pierogi and gołabki [cabbage rolls] and mushroom soup and all those for Christmas. Anything to please my husband!
Yet in intermarriages of the successive generation, those currently in their twenties and thirties, I found many couples passing on the traditions of both parents' ethnic backgrounds. The following comments from a thirty-five-year-old Polish-American man who has an Irish-Amer ican spouse are typical: "I think it's very important to show the children that there are some customs and traditions that they should get involved with. They've been doing pretty good the last couple of years. They've accepted a little bit of the foods. We have pierogi, bread, fish."
SILVERMAN: So who taught you the Polish cooking?
BROGCINSKI: Mostly from neighbors or friends that knew how to do it, and I perfected it myself then.
The couple, who have two young daughters, celebrates the traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper with its blessed opłatek (wafer) and the Easter swięconka, featuring food blessed in church; visit the tomb of Jesus set up in their Polish parish at Eastertime; and cook traditional Polish foods such as "pigs in a blanket" (goł±bki), seasoned ground beef wrapped in cabbage leaves. They also, however, are members of the local Irish Society, attend an annual Irish picnic, and are teaching traditional Irish songs to the children.
The effects of class, life-cycle location, affective ties, and intermarriage upon the selection of folklore items are both complex and profound. I will describe Polish-American folklore as it is experienced by the ethnic group in the following chapters, but it should be remembered that within the group there is great variation in the amount and type of folklore individuals use.