Bavarian Sports Club
Toledo’s Schuhplattler Groups
In the 1920’s there were two groups of Schuhplattler in Toledo. One was part of the American Turners Society; the other was independent, known as “GTEV Edelweiss”. Edelweiss, according to old newspaper clippings, has at last fourteen dancers by the early 1930s. The Edelweiss orchestra, consisting of two zithers, a concertina, and several brass instruments, was directed by John Waldmannstetter. In addition, there was a separate Edelweiss zither club that lasted into the mid-1930s. In the early 1930s, John Waldmannstetter joined the Bavarian Sports Club and started a Schuhplattler group there, taking the name “Holzhackerbuam Schuhplattler”. The Turners dancers broke up sometime in the late 1920s, Edelweiss lasted until the late 1930s. During the first twenty years, the Holzhackerbuam dancers performed mostly for their own Vereine and for the other Toledo area clubs.
Founder: John Waldmannstetter
The most influential of the early dancers was John Waldmannstetter who was born in 1898 (the sixteenth of twenty children) and came to the United States from Grossmus, Bavaria, in 1923. By 1926 he started the Edelweiss Schuhplattler and the orchestra. He was also one of the first soccer players for the BSC. John was Vorplattler for nearly all the years from 1926 to 1971 and said in a newspaper interview when he was in his seventies, “I was born with Lederhosen on and have always been a dancer.”
Not only was John a Schuhplattler and a musician (he played four instruments), he was also an excellent teacher, devoted to dancing correctly and well, and a great believer in firm discipline. Only a few of today’s dancers had the good fortune to know John or learn under his direction; their memories are a mixture of respect and humor. If younger dancers misbehaved, he might just tug on an ear to get them back in line. John always danced in the center of the young dancers’ circle both to serve as a model and to keep the youngsters from insulting the dance in any way. He instilled courtesy, too, by requiring that the boys cross the room to the girls’ side and ask them to dance. When the youngsters didn’t line up fast enough, he’d sometimes bellow, “Get in your stalls!” It’s a saying that still gets laughs at the BSC today.
A sign of John’s popularity was that he had already “retired” three times when, in 1967, a group of parents convinced him to come back to teach forty eager children, ages seven to fourteen. John retired “for real” in 1971, and two hundred of his followers gave a heartfelt thank-you party to the man who taught three generations to dance. Many of those students also attended his funeral in 1982, including twenty in Tracht, some of whom knew the man by reputation only. A portrait of John Waldmannstetter hangs in our Vereinsheim.
Paul Stender was a musician when the early Edelweiss dancers took to the floor in the twenties. He played his concertina for us until 1988 (although not continuously) when health problems finally made him set aside his old button box. He does play, however, for the enjoyment of the GAF Retirees Club whenever he can. August “Red” Schurfeld started playing accordion for the group in 1951. Before be became our musician, he was a Schuhplattler and soccer player. Willy Pagels and Dick Bower, on zither and bass, have also been good, loyal musicians for us since the early 1970s. Chuck Lehmann is another devoted accordionist, having played since 1986. Music runs in Chuck’s family; his father, Fred, was a zither player in the early Edelweiss club. These gentlemen have been the most prominent, although not the only, musicians in our history. The group currently has 4 Bell Ringers and our Current accordionist is Jim Sturtz and we are proud to have him perform with us! We are always looking for more musicians!
When John Waldmannstetter retired in 1971, he named Joe Gates as his successor. Although several other men have given their time to being Vorplattler, John and Joe have served longest. In our sixty-year history, nearly three hundred people have danced in the Schuhplattler group. Some of them danced for only a year or so; others started as children and did not leave the group until poor health set in. During the 1960s and early 1970s, when our active dance group membership was at its highest (about sixty dancers), we had three groups--adults, teens, and children—and a very supportive group of parents who went along to most performances and Fests, not so much to chaperon as to enjoy one another’s company.
John believed that children were best behaved when their parents were not around, and he rarely allowed non-dancing parents at practice; a policy we still follow today. But parents bring their children to practice, and then retire to the clubroom where they form bonds among themselves that benefit everyone. Today we have about thirty adult dancers and musicians and a group of twenty plus children. Our current Vorplattler is Mike Willinger.
The GAF was formed the year after the Gauverband Nordamerika came to be. Our group was present at D’Holzhacker Buam’s 30. Stiftungsfest with Trachenfest in July 1965, and John Waldmannstetter was present at the initial meeting that weekend to discuss a Gauverband. Although some of our Schuhplattler felt that a Gauverband was a good idea, John was uncertain about whether to get involved, and no representative was sent to the meeting in January 1966. So it is that we missed being charter members and only joined the Gauverband in May 1967.
Since that time, our group has participated in every Gaufest and taken part in many Preisplatteln, placing as high as fourth place in 1977 in Milwaukee. Our hospitality room at the 1979 Gaufest in Los Angles was very popular, and many in the Gauverband remember it. In 1983, over one hundred of our members attended the Gaufest in Cleveland – enough to be awarded the Meistpreis that year. Our children’s group was so large that seven couples performed an Ehrentanz at Sunday’s picnic. Ours was the only children’s group to perform that year, and the standing ovation we received still makes us proud. We also won the Meistpreis again in 2015.
Besides Gaufest attendance, our members have supported nearly every event that our fellow Gauverband Vereine have hosted. As already mentioned, we hosted the 1984 delegates meeting in which 116 people took part. Our involvement in the Gauverband has gone even further. Our Vorplattler, Joe Gates, was a Gaubeisitzer from 1980 to 1986. He serves on the judge’s panel and has been a judge for two Preisplatteln.
Vier Länder Gebiet
In 2016 we joined with 9 other Verein and created the more regional Vier Länder Gebiet. Membership is open to any Trachten-Schuhplattler Verein within a 250-mile radius of Erie, PA. On opposite years of the Gaufest they meet for the Vier Länder Gebietsfest. This give our members the ability to compete individually yearly. We hope to host one in Toledo in the near future.
Our Tracht has evolved over the years. It can best be called the “Toledo Tracht” because our early Trachtler stemmed from different regions in Bavaria. All of them remembered the Tracht of their particular homeland and wanted it represented. Times were hard, money tight, and information about Tracht hard to find; our founders and forefathers did an excellent job of keeping alive our heritage under those circumstances. The men dress in what can most closely be described as Miesbacher Tracht. The Lechtaler influence is also seen in the Sturzen worn in our early years, although today we wear long socks.
The women’s Tracht changed a bit more often and radically, probably because of monetary constraints. During the first twenty-five years and again from about 1965 to 1985, flowered cashmere shawls and aprons, Lechtaler Tracht, were worn. For a time, light pink silk with very long fringe (Werdenfelser Tracht) was worn. Skirts were either red or royal blue. Today, our ladies were light blue silky aprons and fringed shawls that lean toward the Miesbacher Tracht. Our black skirts, however, are more at home in the Chiemgau. Shoes and hats for both men and women have always been Miesbacher.
We are proud of what our forefathers started and believe that they would be pleased with what has evolved from their teachings. For the future, we hope to continue on the well-traveled path of practicing and appreciating our rich heritage, be it within our families, our Verein, our community, or the Gauverband Nordamerika. We pledge ourselves to be:
“Treu dem guten alten Brauch”
Mike Willinger (Current)