Thursday, September 6, 2012


Don Haderle

During the summer polka dancing takes a backseat to grandkidding, so the reporting will be a wee bit light which will delight Mel Stodola who thinks my articles are garrulous (that’s the word he used).

The grandkids and I rafted the Tuolomne River with headwaters in Yosemite Park, wending its way down to Don Pedro Dam, offering class IV rapids to thrill us. But the highlight of the trip was the fantastic sourdough pancakes at the Hotel Charlotte in Groveland. My dad had starter dough dating back into the 1920s from which he made sourdough pancakes that put to shame any restaurant pancakes with one exception – Chef Don Edwards brought back great memories for me.

We took in Great America and tested our courage on the roller coasters and other devices designed to arouse a frisson of terror. The Death Drop offered the true test. Strapped to a seat with feet dangling you are elevated vertically over 200 feet, pausing for a moment to enjoy the shudder of the tower gently moving in the wind, and then plummeted straight down at over 60 mph screeching to a halt just before being slammed into the earth. Now doesn’t that sound fun?

From there we had a mundane backpacking trip for 3 days into the Trinity Alps, which is a wilderness area in the northern part of our state. The Alps are known for their sharp rising craggy mountains and stunning lakes. We started our hike at the Ripstein Campground out of Weaverville up the ever ascending trail, bushwhacking our way through Manzanita brush, rock hopping the detritus at the base of the crags to the Canyon Creek and El Lakes, which are stunning. Now that’s fun! Pass the mosquito juice please.

Grandsons Ben & Max with Don in Trinity Alps

There’s more grandkid tales, but Gail reminded me that this article is supposed to cover polka. In July the Sacramento Polkaboosters and the San Jose Germania take hiatus, so nothing to report on that front. We hooked up with the Joe Bajuk Trio at Sonoma Moose July 15, where Joe performed with Stefan Kochishan and Anthony Krische. The crowd was a good size (100) and the music was great. We hadn’t seen Joe in a couple of months – everyone has been busy – so it was nice to get caught up on things. Normally it’s blazing hot in Sonoma in July, but we lucked out on a relatively cool day - you just sweat a cup or two instead of buckets. Jim Pringle gave us the lowdown on the pilot who misguided a ship in the San Francisco Bay creating a bit of damage. Jim was a Master pilot and guided enormous ships under the Golden Gate Bridge to and from the San Francisco Bay, so he has the credentials to assess the mishap. We missed the Internationals who played at Teske’s Germania Restaurant in San Jose the day before the Bajuk gig – we don’t have the stamina to do a late night dance and then drive 120 miles to Sonoma for the Moose dance the next day.
Alina at Sonoma Moose

The Rosins came to the Moose Lodge in force.

Joe Bajuk trying to remember where the notes are

Anthony Krische under the gaze of Father Moose

Arnie & Jan Ellwein supporting the Moose

Sam Katchar in the embrace of Michelle Kochishan & daughter with birthday girl Mary hovering

And, as luck would have it, the Internationals played at Swiss Park in Newark on July 29th at the Swiss National Day celebration. Tony Raymann’s Edelweiss Band performed outside in the picnic area from 1-5pm. Monika Ryser gave a performance on alphorn and Pascal Gyger entertained us with Talerschwingen. Tony Raymann’s band played monthly at the SJ Germania Verein in the 1980s and 1990s. Now we just get to hear Tony on special occasions – Tony plays Swiss ländler waltzes and Swiss polkas to perfection – great stuff! In the evening, the crowd moved into the hall at the park where the Internationals played to a crowd of several hundred. We were delighted to hear all of the new tunes (at least new to us) that the Internationals served up for this occasion. We have enjoyed this group for 30 years and marveled at their musicality – they wowed us again. This is the first time that we’ve seen them since Tom Casazza (drums with Steve Balich) joined the group. Tom crooned “Mama”, Steve McGinnis & Jan Meere played an alphorn duet, and Bobby Maggiora led the group on accordion (we’re always impressed with Bobby’s range).  We were delighted to see old friends. Steve Balich Sr. and Jr. dropped by after their gig at the Croatian Hall which was a members-only affair. We reconnoitered with old Gasthaus friends: Stan & Evelyn Cheever, Ron & Linda Farr, Gloria & Werner Item, and Betsy Zuckerberg & Young Kim.  Michael Gottwald gave us the litany of polka engagements in the area for the next couple of months and it was great to see his dad, Rudy, up and about on his new knees. As previously reported, this is one of the best dance floors and dance halls in Northern California – large old wooden structure carrying sound beautifully and sparing the knees with the pliable boards.
Swiss Park in Newark with the Internationals

On the personal front, we wish Gunn Magnusen a speedy recovery after her heart operation. And we wish her soul mate, Don Sedmak better luck at the track (actually, it’s bad luck to even mention this). And we wish Andy Nester a speedy recovery after his terrible automobile accident.

A special thanks to our pal Ron Pivovar who penned “Haderle’s Polka,” a button box ditty soon to be available on a jukebox in your area.

We have a busy polka agenda August through October – too many to cite. Bob Banoczi (aka Polka Bob) does great job of calendaring the polka events in California (north and south), Arizona, and Nevada at By the time you read this we’ll have joined our buddies in Southern California at the Slovene Hall in Fontana for a whizbang jam session in August and once again the weekend of September 15 when Polka Power plays. We’ll catch the Balich boys in Cotati at the Accordion Festival in August, Polka Power again in Sacramento for Polka Boosters, and the Internationals and the Gruber Family Band who play at Teske’s Germania Restaurant often.

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