Hungarian American Athletic Club. A Brief History.
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
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.
American Athletic Club was founded on July 4-th, 1913.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
serve our proud organization. God bless them.
of HAAC had been:
|| Takács József
||Hajdu Németh Béla
|Edward Laszlo Strasz