This post will surely make me even more popular among the “oral traditions” crowd in Princeton, but is this really St. John’s 116th annual picnic?

I don’t think so.

In order for this to be the 116th annual picnic, it would have to have been held annually since 1906, correct? 1907 would have been the second annual picnic and so on.

When researching “St. John the Baptist Church, A Century of Dedication Through Love and Caring, 1887-1987,” a church history published in 1987, local historian (journalist, church organist, choir director, den mother, fancy booth co-chair, and so much more) Alice Krystofiak found that the picnic is first mentioned in the parish board minutes in August 1907: “Proceeds from the picnic were to be spent either for starting a parish library or for school room improvements.”

The picnic is now held traditionally on the third Sunday of August, but the first two were held in June and July, respectively, and St. John’s started the picnic in 1903.

Princeton Republic, June 25, 1903 – “Next Sunday the Polish school will give a picnic in Wyse’s grove near the church. The committee in charge are making arrangements for a big time. There will be all kinds of games, amusements and refreshments. Prof. Weinkauf’s brass band will furnish the music. Don’t forget to attend. A big time for everybody.”

Princeton Republic, July 2, 1903 – “The Polish school picnic, which was held in Wyse’s grove Sunday, was a grand success. A very large crowd was present and the committee and congregation are to be congratulated on the excellent entertainment provided. The day was one of general amusement. The wheel of fortune, the dolls and the games for children kept all in a merry tone. The music was most excellent and was furnished by Weinkauf’s band. It was one of the largest crowds to a picnic in some time, and the amusements and refreshments were excellent in every particular. The receipts of the day were $280.00, which goes to the school fund. The committee: Rev. Wozny, S. Mackowski, Fred Nickodem, A. Drill, A. Manthey, Chas. Nickodem, Theo. Bednarek, Joe Mackowski and A. Loshinskie.

The Republic also reported on the picnic in 1904.

Princeton Republic, July 21, 1904 – “The second annual picnic of the St. John Polish school was held Sunday in Wyse’s grove. The picnic was a success in all ways, a large crowd being in attendance. The fact that it rained during the afternoon made the receipts less than they otherwise would have been. The receipts for the day were over $300. The Ideal band furnished the music.”

If the summer celebration debuted in 1903 and continued annually, I calculate this would be the 119th annual picnic.

Except, that’s wrong as well. First, we are not sure whether a picnic was held in 1905. I have found no newspaper reports of it being held or being canceled. The Princeton Historical Society reported in 1998 that there was no picnic in 1905. (There was a picnic in 1906 and it was then held annually into the 1940s.) Second, there was no picnic for several years following World War II.

The picnic went on hiatus from 1948 through 1955. A longtime parishioner told me that was true, but my research had not advanced enough to confirm it at that time. (We should never confuse “oral traditions” with history. History is based on documented facts not reminiscences.)

I found no record of the picnic in the 1948 or 1949 papers that I perused, and I had not planned on beginning research on the 1950s until September. But I had to check, and found newspaper reports indicating my source was correct. The picnic went on hiatus from 1948 through 1955.

Princeton Times-Republic, August 16, 1956: “Sunday is the big day for the famous home style chicken dinner and old-fashioned homecoming picnic sponsored by St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. It is nine years since the last picnic, when it was discontinued because of restrictions, the amount of work and other reasons. This year the new church officers and the new pastor encouraged the decision to bring back the annual affair.”

Krystofiak’s history of the parish noted that “picnics were revived” after the Rev. Josef Cieciorka arrived as pastor in 1956. “Father Joe” created the picnic I remember from my youth: the “little apron” and surprise package booths, pony rides, turtle races, the Yasick family band and end-of-the-summer fun.

John Kasierski served as general chairman of the 1956 picnic, according to the newspaper. Other committee chairs were John Kalupa, refreshments; Victor Drill, beer and soft drinks; Walter Losinski, amusements; Mike Blankavage, hamburger stand; Louie Luzinski, Arden Doro and Harold Bartel, booths; Mrs. Mike (Maggie) Blankavage, dinner; Mrs. Harold (Joey) Bartel, fancy booth; and Mrs. Edward (Alice) Krystofiak, publicity.

I calculate that would make 2021 the 66th annual picnic. If picnics were held from 1903 through 1947 (45 picnics) and then 1956 through 2021 (66 picnics), this would be the 111th picnic overall (or 110th if there was no picnic in 1905).

But you would be wise not to trust my math. I threw up on my math book in seventh grade at St. John’s and never reopened it. My parents didn’t get me a new book, just hosed down the old one. 🙂

Thanks for caring and reading about local history.

One comment

  1. The thing i remember most about the picnics were the BEER stand!! It seems all the town drunks made it quite popular!!

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