50 Years Ago Today: The FIRE

Today, February 3, 2023 marks 50 years since the destructive 1973 fire that ravaged our building at 4666 Bristol Rd.

The written history books state:

“1973 was to be the year that our Club would charter an entire plane for “The Flight of the Century.” Approximately 150 people planned for this trip. While many of us were looking forward to this trip which would take place from June 30 to August 5th, a “catastrophe” struck the German Hungarians!!!

‘I saw men and women in tears,’ so remarked President Fricker as he described in detail
the most tragic event in our Club’s history – the destructive fire which reduced our beautiful clubhouse to a heap of rubble. President Fricker’s informal speech was delivered at a hastily called emergency meeting of the Board of Governors, Executive Board and Committee Chairmen on Sunday evening, February 4th, at the residence of Secretary Karl Kreutzer.

News of the fire had spread rapidly and by noon hundreds of members and friends had gathered to gaze in shocked disbelief at the incredibly wrecked interior. The crowd included young and old, many of them in tears which provided the emotional outlet for their grief and sorrow. This was especially apparent among that handful of members who in the early ’60s, after the disposal of the City Club, had first envisioned a Swim Club and then had sensibly decided upon a new imposing Club Building benefiting the ideals of the United German Hungarians of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

Saturday morning, February 10, without any formal notification to the membership, young and old, men, women and children began arriving at 7:00 A.M. The gigantic task of cleaning was under way. Two forty-foot trailers and one 20 foot trailer were already on the grounds for storage of all salvageable items. By mid-morning, more than 120 members were cleaning, scrubbing, washing, and storing the items. The kitchen corps had food, coffee and cake available all day, using the outside bar as their headquarters. Temporary electric, gas, water and heat had been supplied by various members. The work continued all day Saturday and on into the night. Sunday morning the work continued again and by Sunday night a 60 foot business trailer had been set up on the patio. Using the trailer for one wall carpenters erected walls and a roof, enclosing the outside bar. The temporary building was for our use while the cleaning and rebuilding was in effect. The temporary building also served the membership for meetings and other small affairs until our club house was restored.

Each weekend carpenters, roofers, plumbers, and many laborers (mostly members) worked until late at night. A unity and camaraderie developed among the workers as they strived for their common goal – to get our club house rebuilt as soon as humanly possible! Meanwhile, Club business continued. There was nothing wrong with our soccer fields and our teams continued their weekly workouts. Events were held at local firehouses. The Cultural Croup prepared for the Mayfest at the Community Room in the Neshaminy Mall courtesy of one of our members. Night in Vienna rehearsals were held at the Sandpiper Inn on Bristol Road.

On Friday night, March 2, a fund-raising affair was held at the Cannstatter Volksfest Verein. President Koehler of the Vereinigung Erzgebirge conceived the idea inviting all German Clubs in the Philadelphia area to help raise funds in our hour of need. With close to 700 friends in attendance, the Cannstatter Hall was full to capacity. Entertainment for the evening was arranged by the Erzgebirge Club. Later on in the evening, members of the Bavarian Club sold chances for the many prizes which had been donated by our various friends. Music was by the “Heimatklaenge” who also donated their services. The German American Society of Trenton sponsored a Fund Raising Affair for us at their club house on Friday, April 27. Our own Junior Dance Group performed. Many members and friends made monetary donations to our Fire Fund and we will never forget the many children and young people who raised money by raffles, car washes, and paper drives.

On May 5th, almost three months to the day of the disastrous fire, our Club was once again open to the membership. Thanks mainly to our energetic President, Werner Fricker, and a large group of dedicated members who sacrificed many days and nights so that the membership could once again enjoy our newly renovated club facilities. The entire interior had been completely refurbished. Many changes were made.”

You can view the whole album by clicking this link: https://photos.app.goo.gl/JJK3mTAaPSwWVWjE7

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