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The Hungarian American Athletic Club. A Brief History.

1913-2013


Immigrants from Hungary have been coming to Central! New Jersey since the 1880's The majority of them arrived during three time periods; around the turn of the century, after World War Two, and following the Revolution of 1956.


The first Hungarian association in New Brunswick was the Szent Imre Herceg Egylet This burial and sick benefit society was founded in 1899 other mutual aid societies followed such as the Magyar Building and Loan Association and the newspaper Magyar Hirnok. Between 1904 and 1914 six churches, a synagogue, and the St Ladislaus School were built they served 4,500 first and second generation Hungarian-Americans.


Sports were a popular form of recreation. By 1911, a thirteen member baseball team, the New Brunswick Young Hungarians, was playing in a Central New Jersey weekend league The Young Hungarians won their first major victory on July 4, 1913, outscoring Middlesex County’s best team by a score of 16:2 in front of a large crowd of fans. Following the game, the enthusiastic young men decided to organize a club so that a variety of sports could be played throughout the year. On October 23, 1913 they called a meeting and formed the Hungarian American Athletic Club of New Brunswick.
For a year, bi-weekly meetings were held in the home of founding member Mihaiy Godry on 20 High Street. After St. Ladislaus School was completed, the Club rented several rooms in the school basement for training, recreation, and social activities. The new facility and increased activity attracted other young men and membership grew rapidly. New teams in wrestling, track, bowling, and a second baseball team were organized.


In 1921, the HAAC purchased a house on 198 Somerset Street where the Club currently stands the house allowed for new expansion.

The Hungarian American Athletic Club was founded on July 4-th, 1913.

The founding members were:  - Gyula Toka, Mihály Gödry, József Köpencey, Kálmán Kovács, Pál Vajkó, István Hensperger, Lajos Tóth, György Szegeczky, JánosHudás, Lajos Tóth, István Hudás, András Lanczki, and János Panykó.

A women's group, the Magyar Lanyok Tarsas Kore, was formed around 1928. This group remained active for a number of years in 1951; the HAAC Women's Auxiliary was organized with its own elected officers and bylaws. Auxiliary memberships were replaced by Hill memberships in 1989.


Over the years, a series of new sports were added to the HAAC roster, soccer (1930), basketball (1936), fencing (1952), rod and gun club (1959), and karate (1986).


1956 ushered in a new era for the HAAC. After the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, thousands of immigrants settled in New Brunswick and the surrounding areas Soccer gained popularity among the membership, and three separate teams were playing at this time Citizenship classes were also held in the Club, and more than 600 people participated and became US citizens. The boom in membership during this period resulted in not only more sport activities, but also cultural activities and social programs.


In 1956, an empty lot adjacent to the Somerset Street property was purchased, and plans were drawn up for a new center. The First Building Committee was formed for this project. The $80,000 cost for the new center was financed by the Club's savings ($20,000). A contribution by the Women's Auxiliary ($5,000), donations by area Hungarians ($8,000), and thousand dollar loans from members and friends of the Club ($47,000). By October of 1959, a modern and spacious two-story structure was standing on the two lots.


Beyond sports and social activities, the Club has promoted a dynamic heritage in Hungarian culture. In 1914, a joint HAAC-St. Ladislaus choir was formed. This was the forerunner to several popular choirs serving the New Brunswick community today. A particularly popular choir was organized in 1951 this group performed throughout the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, and many of its performances were broadcast on local radio stations.
Theater was also important to the Club's cultural mission. A Performer's Committee was organized in to produce plays and musicals many of the performers were local amateur volunteers, but some of the programs were staged by traveling theater troupes that visited Hungarian communities throughout the United States and Canada.


In 1961, the HAAC Cultural Committee was revitalized. During the decades that followed, innumerable plays, operettas, cabarets, folk dance competitions, poetry readings, lectures, and exhibits have been staged in the HAAC auditorium Participants have come from the United States, Canada, and Hungary and its neighboring countries in the Carpathian Basin.

Decorative folk art is a popular expression of traditional Hungarian culture. The works of local artists and pieces imported from Hungary are regularly exhibited usually to enhance and ornament other exhibits.


Since 1978, the HAAC has been a primary organizer of the New Brunswick Hungarian Festival. This popular annual event, held on the first Saturday in June, welcomes visitors from the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. The annual March 15, 1848 and October 23, 1956 Commemorations, organized by the Committee of Hungarian Churches and Organizations of New Brunswick, are also being held in the HAAC auditorium.


The I980's were again a time of new leadership, new ideas, and new activities. The Second Building Committee was formed in 1982 to build the field house on the Club's property on Weston Road in Somerset, NJ. Outdoor activities such as trap shooting, scout camps, and picnics were held and continue to be held of this facility. In 1983, the Club went through a much needed renovation and redecoration project.


Since 1988, the Club's History and Genealogy Committees have prepared exhibits on Hungarian history to coincide with annual commemorations and the Hungarian Festival.


In 1989, after the Bylaw Committee was formed, the bylaws were rewritten to allow women to become full members and elected officers of the Club.


In 1990, a Scholarship Committee and Fund was formed to provide support for deserving college students of Hungarian descent. Since 1991, the Debutant Gala Ball has been raising funds for these scholarships. So far the Club has supported 34 Hungarian-American college students with this noble endeavor.


The Hungarian Folk Dance Ensemble of New Brunswick was formed in 1992. This outstanding group of young Hungarians has participated in the International Flower Carnival in Debrecen, Hungary as part of the New Brunswick Sister City Program. After their success in Hungary, the Club's older dancers joined with the Scouts' older dancers and formed the independent folk dance ensemble called "Csiirdbngolo."

During the 1992 annual Sports Ball, we remembered fencing master Frank Farkas In recognition of his 40 years of selfless and dedicated service, the Club named the lower activity room the "Frank Farkas Sports Room."


Since 1993, the Club has been home to the Szechenyi Kör. This cultural group is dedicated to preserving the oral histories of Hungarian-Americans in the greater New Brunswick area.


Bingo came to the Club in 1997. It was adopted by the club for fund-raising purposes and is still Operating today.


The recent expansion of neighboring Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Center necessitated the creation of the Third Building Committee in 1992. This committee is responsible for working together with the Medical Center to develop and implement a plan for relocating the Club. The hospital expansion has made this relocation inevitable.


Since the founding of the HAAC, dedicated volunteer leadership has been an important factor in its longevity. The longest serving president of the Club was Anton Lévay who tirelessly served for more than a decade. After his presidency, a period of energetic leadership began in 1983. The very active years of the late I980's and early 1990's were the result of forward-thinking and growth-oriented leadership.

Now in the 21st century, we are proudly forging ahead under the leadership of the Club's first female president, Maria Stumpf. Under the younger and more energetic leadership the club life flourished, and new people joined. The new Disco concerts and Friday night family dinners became very popular.

In 2004 a new president Edward Laszlo Strasz was elected and reelected in 2006. For the president request in 2004, Dr. Zoltan Hajos launched the HAAC web page in Hungarian and in English languages. In 2005 Magdolna Szekeres has continued this work and advanced the site with graphic design. All the club activities and events are posted here for those, who are interested. She organized and downloaded the club's data into an email database, and collected emails for online emailing.

The next four years were very significant in the club's life, and it was necessary to have a president who could devote his time completely and tirelessly. In those years the new president, the officers, the Building committee, and its lead Joseph Vargyas worked tremendously for the club’s future progress. After many years of negotiations between the club and the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital a final agreement about the club’s future site was signed in September 21-th 2005.

An enormous work followed this step, and on December 30 2005 the Ground Breaking Ceremony of the new club took place. On June 21 2006 the demolition of the 93 years old building began, on September 15 2006 the new club house was completed, on October 7 2006 the Opening Gala Celebration was held. During those busy years the club program was uninterrupted and continued; dinner dances, cultural events, Friday night family dinners were held. More people were attracted and joined the club.

In 2007 February 3-hd on the Officers Installation Dinner, 7 person received awards;
József Vargyas ----Life time achievement, other people for their many years of service and accomplishments, Lajos Tóth, Jeno Müeller, Imre Turuczkai, Károly Somogyi, Antal Hilbert and Mária Sárközi ---- Service award.

We are very grateful to the president Edward Laszlo Strasz, his wife Julia Strasz, the Chairman of the Building Committee Joseph Vargyas, the architect Gabor Czako, our attorney István Vajtay, the lead of the Decorative Committee Maria Stumpf, the lead of the Gala Committee Janos Sztankovits and Edith Sztankovits and for all those officers and club members who contributed their tireless and enthusiastic work for establishing our beautiful new club house. Special thanks to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and the Mayer James Cahill of New Brunswick who has helped us to build our new home in the center of the New Brunswick Hungarian community.


The Hungarian American Athletic Club continues to be one of the leading social organizations serving the greater New Brunswick area. With annual donations, the Club actively supports the area Hungarian churches, organizations, scouts and the Szechenyi Magyar School to directly contribute to the growth and enrichment of the Hungarian American youth.


Today our Club is standing tall with pride, strength and unity. May God bless the members, officers and everyone who helped make this a reality yesterday, today and for another 100 years.


We are grateful for the vision and hard work of the founders and past and present members who built, maintained, and continue to serve our proud organization. God bless them.

Presidents of HAAC had been:

Toka Gyula Hegedüs Mihály Vájó Pál
Kopácsi József   Köpenczey József  Vertes Vince
Badics Sándor Fenyő József  Hensperger István
Varga Lajos Ferenczi József  Puskás Béla
Takács Sándor  Sárközi József  Muha Mihály
Belső Gyula Sztankovics István Hatt János
Dr.Cseme Imre Bojtos János  Forczman István
Lévay Antal Kokai István Tóth Lajos
Fazekas Károly Kállay János Takács József 
Vargyas József  Hajdu Németh Béla Stumpf Mária
Edward Laszlo Strasz Stumpf Mária