Friday, February 19, 2016

Polish National Alliance, St. Martin's 134


The storefront behind the Polish scout troop seems much larger in the 1935 photo than it does now. Today, the structure at 4839 Washington is encased in stucco and devoid of any defining features, but was once home to St. Martin's Society, Group 134 of the Polish National Alliance and the gathering place for Globeville's Polish community for over a century. Globeville's lodge, founded on October 5, 1889, was a branch of the national society headquartered in Chicago. The organization offered sick and death benefits, financial services, fellowship for Polish immigrants, as well as enlightenment about their rights and obligations as American citizens.
In addition to providing a financial safety net for families, PNA was committed to preserving Polish heritage by celebrating Polish Constitution Day on May 3rd, Corpus Christi during June, and the special foods and culture of their partitioned homeland. There were activities for every age group and demographic: the Polish Falcon Nest 712, a group practicing physical fitness and para-military training; the St. Adalbert's Society, a coed society for young adults; the Polish Falcons baseball team; and the Polish Harmony Club, for young adults who enjoyed singing and dancing. Globeville's Poles maintained connections to other Polish communities in larger cities like Chicago, and the towns of Pueblo, Trinidad, Walsenburg, Starkville and Rockdale in Colorado through the PNA newspaper, Zgoda,(Harmony). The lodge was instrumental in the establishment of St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church in 1902, and its parochial school in 1926. 
With the coming of New Deal programs like Social Security, improvements in workplace safety and other avenues for health insurance, fraternal lodges lost much of their importance. American-born children were less committed to preserving their Polish heritage, and had many other opportunities for social activities than those offered by PNA. After World War II, the descendants of the Polish pioneers had moved to new homes in the suburbs and visited Globeville and St. Joseph's Church only for holidays or funerals. After the breaking up of the Soviet Union, new arrivals from Poland attend St. Joseph's Church, but celebrate their heritage at the Polish Club of Denver.
Although the Polish National Alliance no longer has an active organization, the society left its imprint on the Globeville neighborhood in St. Joseph's parish.