Bavarian Sports Club
Founded in 1930
By 1930, the Toledo area’s large Germanic population already boasted five German and three Swiss Vereine, all founded between 1867 and 1926. They were the Teutonia Mannerchor, Toledo Swiss Society, Toledo Swiss Ladies Society, Toledo Swiss Singers, Toledo Schwaben Unterstutzungsverein, German (now Greater) Beneficial Union, and American Turners. There was even a Bavarian club, Bayerischer Unterstutzungsverein, a social club formed to help members financially when they were ill and could not work.
But none of these was quite right for the fourteen men who wanted to play soccer and share the camaraderie of fellow Bavarians. And so in 1930 these men founded the Bavarian Sports Club (BSC) and elected Ludwig Antersberger the first president. The club was incorporated in 1936. Dues were 25 cents a month at a time when a man making $25 a week was considered well off. Although the club has always had a soccer team, members later became interested in more “American” sports such as baseball, basketball, and bowling and formed teams for these too. Because of the soccer team’s travels, we formed friendships with other Midwest German clubs with soccer teams; these friendships remain strong today
Toledo’s Bavarian Roots
The 1930 census shows that Toledo had about 150,000 residents. About 16,000 people, nearly all German, lived in an area called Lenk’s Hill on Toledo’s south side. The fifty-square-block area is named for Peter Lenk who had come from Wurzburg, Bavaria, in 1848. The son of a prominent family, he left Bavaria the year after his father gave him a brewery; he was only eighteen. In Bavaria, Lenk was a revolutionary activist opposed to the King’s irresponsible government. Lenk was on his way to settle in St. Louis when he accepted a hunting invitation to Ohio, liked the area, and settled there instead. He established a winery and later the first brewery in Toledo, became a prominent man in Toledo, and strongly supported the North during the Civil War. He speculated on the land later called Lenk’s Hill and erected houses there for the fast arriving German immigrants, many of whom he also employed in his brewery. The Hill was the center of German-American life between 1875 and 1950. Since 1950 the area’s population has become much more diversified. Peter Lenk died in 1893 after contributing much to Toledo community and his fellow German-Americans.
In 1933, the young Bavarian Sports Club bought a church in Toledo’s large Polish-American section on the north side of the city; our deed is written in Polish. The building was one of many in the area that fell to the hard times of the Depression, and the BSC bought the small church for back taxes. Since that time, the building has acquired an addition, a kitchen, and a deeper basement; all the labor was done by members. The lower level was formed by digging the nearly useless basement deeper and hoisting the building up several inches. Today it is our clubroom with a bar; table seating for about one hundred people; and several display cases for the hundreds of trophies our sports teams have won, for the beautiful gifts we’ve received, and for our Fahne and Bander. The walls are decorated with paintings and enlarged group photographs of the Schuhplattler group, some taken in the early 1950s.
Upstairs is a rental hall with a wonderful wooden floor where we practice dancing. BSC dances and gatherings have been held in that hall for over half a century. Many of our dancers started lifelong friendships or courted in that old hall, some even holding their wedding receptions and later their twenty-fifth and fiftieth anniversary parties there. Over the years, the building has had many facelifts both inside and out; it still serves us well today and is a reminder of our continuity.
As was the convention of many clubs at the time the BSC was formed, only men could be members. Women could, however, join the ladies auxiliary, which was formed in 1935. Throughout our history, women have played an important role and contributed to the club’s success. But it wasn’t until 1983 that the men amended the constitution to admit women as members. The auxiliary still exists; as in the past, the ladies meet downstairs concurrent with the club’s monthly meetings. Long-time members, both men and women, still use the phrase “going upstairs to the men’s meeting.”
Another early membership criteria was that an active member must have been born in Bavaria or be of Bavarian descent—and be able to prove it! Hessians, Berliners, etc., could only be non-voting social members. As immigration slowed, this rule had to be changed to promote membership, and once a year the charter was opened to admit a few men of German ancestry. In the seventies the club began regularly admitting non-Bavarians to active membership, but officers still had to be Bavarian. Within a few years this rule, too, fell by the wayside. Today the BSC has about three hundred members, most are German or German descent, but other nationalities are represented as well within the ranks of social members.
GAF Society of Toledo
In 1966 the Bavarian Sports Club joined with the six other Toledo area clubs already mentioned (the three Swiss Clubs became the United Swiss) to form the German-American Festival Society or GAF. Since then the society has held an annual German-American Festival known as the oldest ethnic festival in the Midwest. Today it attracts up to 25,000 people over three days; 1500 volunteers (about one-fifth of the total membership) from the seven member clubs work hard to make it successful. The Holzhackerbuam Schuhplattlers are a favorite attraction among the variety of entertainment offered. The GAF owns seventy acres on which the members labored voluntarily to build a rental hall and beautiful alpine-style clubhouse amid an old grove of oak trees: thus the name Oak Shade Grove. In 1984 the Holzhackerbuam hosted the Gauverband’s delegates meeting at the clubhouse in Oak Shade Grove.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s when these seven Vereine were formed, it was easy for them to be independent because German immigrants were arriving steadily. The new arrivals craved a piece of home and joined a club for support and fellowship. Today’s world, however, is one I which emigration from Germany has almost stopped, and those arriving are less dependent on their fellow immigrants. These changes have caused many ethnic organizations throughout North America to close their doors. Uniting as the GAF has done makes it possible for the seven societies to prosper yet keep their individuality at the same time.
The 1940s and 1950s
In the 1940s during the war years, the dancers did not perform. The BSC and its hall still existed but kept a low profile, as was true of all German Vereine. At first, each time a member went to war, there was a send-off party for him. That stopped when too many left and there was so much sadness, knowing that some would be fighting against members of their own families or might not come home at all.
During the 1950s, we forged friendships with many of the Schuhplattler and Trachtenvereine in the East and Midwest. A formal picture taken in 1952 at GTEV Edelweiss Detroit’s Oktoberfest confirms that our ties with them were strong even then. In 1956 we were awarded second place at a Preisplatteln sponsored by Edelweiss Detroit. Fahnenbander also remind us that we were at Detroit’s and SGTV Edelweiss Buffalo’s twenty-fifth anniversaries in 1956 and 1958.
On August 30 and 31, 1958, the Bavarian Sports Club held its Fahnenweihe mit Trachtenfest. Many German soccer clubs and Trachtenvereine attended at the Toledo Civic Auditorium. Edelweiss Detroit was our Patenverein. On Saturday, five Vereine participated in Preisplatteln: Almrausch Altoona, Edelweiss Buffalo, Edelweiss Detroit, BV Alpengrun Rochester, and us.
Our flag has beautiful alpine flowers on one side that denote the “Bavarian” in our name. Since a Schuhplattler group has always been part of the BSC, the flag’s reverse side has a trachten couple, the group’s name, and the words “Sitt und Tracht der Alten wollen wir erhalten.” The “sports” that have played an important part in our history are depicted in each of the four corners surrounding the dancing couple.
By 1988, the flag was in need of major repair and was sent to Bavaria for restoration. A rededication was held at St. Mary’s Church with Father James Nusbaum, who is also a member of our club, giving the service. At that time, a new Totenband was donated and blessed. St Mary’s Church, founded in 1854, is the oldest Catholic church in Toledo. For its first century, it was always headed by German priests and served the predominantly German community around it, including many of the BSC’s members. When the church was renovated in 1988, the BSC donated funds to buy a hand carved processional cross from Oberammergau.
In 1987 the Holzhackerbuam brought to life a project that had been a dream of ours since 1978 when we attended SVEV Oberlandler Milwaukee’s Maibaum dedication. With funding from the GAF, John Edelhauser led fifty volunteers in building a 63-foot-tall Maibaum that stands at Oak Shade Grove. While about half of the 1500 volunteer labor hours came from Holzhacker members, the rest of the hours came from other GAF members. Thus the Maibaum is the symbol of the GAF’s “Spirit of Unity.”
At the GAF’s two-day Maibaum Grundungsfest in 1988, eight Vereine from the Gauverband attended and added yet another dimension to the “Spirit of Unity.” In keeping with Bavarian tradition, the eight Vereine promptly took the Maibaum “hostage” and demanded a beer ransom for its safe release. The weekend was not only more fun but also more meaningful to the Holzhackerbuam members because we shared it with good friends.
However, the wear and tear of Toledo summer and winters damaged our maibaum to the point that it needed to be repaired. Thanks to the dedicated services of members of all seven societies of the GAF, the Maibaum was reconstructed and rededicated during the Maibaum festival in May 2015.
Every April, the Holzhackerbuam sponsors a Schuhplattler Dance. The dancers are also instrumental in holding the annual Traubenfest in November. The BSC regularly holds several other events each year at which the dancers perform or participate including an Oktoberfest and picnic. The group also performs for events that the GAF, as a society or as individual clubs, holds including the annual Maifest, the Schwaben Verein’s Waldfest and Bock Bier Fest, and the Festival in August. In addition, we perform at area festivals and dances, representing our heritage proudly.
Our Future as "The Last Remaining Private German Clubhouse in NW Ohio."
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 our community.
We pledge ourselves to be: “Treu dem guten alten Brauch”