Talk of Wilson County TX Historic Towns

by Barbara J. Wood
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SPJST Lodge Hall

"The old hall sits west of Floresville on the right side of F.M. 1303, a large white rambling building behind some mesquite trees and backed up to a barbed-wire fence lined with cactus. But you can tell it is well-cared for, because it is neat and sparkling white. This is the SPJST Lodge Hall No. 107 of Floresville, Wilson County, Texas.
I had never heard of or seen the building until one day someone asked me if I knew what that building was. I said I would find out. I went out there and took a lot of pictures ... front, back, sides, the barbecue pit, old gnarled mesquite trees and cactus. I peered in the windows from the front porch and saw a big wooden oak dance floor, and long tables and chairs along the sides. To the left I saw what appeared to be a stage, and a kitchen. Oh, if those walls could talk!
Later I found the names of someone who could tell me about the old building. They were Bob and Polly Bayer. From Bob I learned the history of the building and also learned that Bob and Polly had their wedding reception there in 1960!
SPJST was founded July 1, 1897, in La Grange by early Czechoslovakian pioneers as a fraternal benefit society to ensure the financial security of its members.
Lodge No. 107 was organized on April 21, 1912. Earlier that month, at a meeting, Lukas Sralla Sr. offered an acre of land if they would build a new lodge hall on it. At the next meeting came the naming of the new lodge, with all the names offered of Czech origin. They voted for "Rozkvet Zapadu," which means "Flowering or Blooming of the West." I love that name!
At that first meeting the men planned the building at a size of 24 feet by 40 feet with a porch across the front of the building. That is 960 square feet. Each member would work three days on the building or pay $3 each. The men did a good job, because it took three months to build it. The lodge was built before it was chartered. At that time the road was called the Floresville-Graytown Road. On July 4, 1912, the lodge was open and dedicated. The building cost $696.60. Who paid for the lumber was not known.
During World War I the lodge members actively supported the desires of their former homeland to achieve independence. A number of members were recent émigrés from Czechoslovakia. In 1930 the lodge invited the SPJST Lodge San Antonio 133 to help establish a local Society of the American Sokol Union.
The old hall was torn down in 1930 and a new 40-foot-by-80-foot hall with stage and porch in front was built. Many plays and dances were held there attended by large crowds. Picnics, contests, and tournaments were held there. There was also a talented gymnastic class who won state tournaments. Both the Sokol and SPJST lodges held meetings there too. The hall was known then as Sokol Hall.
In 1954 the Sokol Society was deactivated and Lodge 107 acquired its share. It was known again as the SPJST Hall. And it is still that today. Bob Bayer served as president of the SPJST for 31 years, from 1970 to 2001. He and his wife Polly are still active, though not as much these days. Polly is busy running the Flower Shop and Bob's health is not good. He is currently recovering from hip replacement surgery.
In 1980 while Bob was president of the SPJST, Polly was youth leader and Bob helped with that too. Those days they had a large youth group at the hall. As many as 40 or 50 youth would be there to have youth activities like summer camps and picnics and games. It was once known as the largest youth group of the SPJST in the state of Texas.
Throughout the years the hall has improved, with a new addition built across the length of the west side. A new oak dance floor was put in the older part of the building in 1966. More repair and improvements were made in 1968. In the 1970s a new acoustical ceiling was installed which acts as good insulation for the heat and cold. In the olden days there were big windows, which opened to let the breeze in for the dances, but about 30 or 40 years ago, air-conditioning was installed.
I saw the barbecue pits in the back shed, which are well-kept, and running water and sinks are there too. You can rent the building for family reunions, company picnics, or wedding receptions for only $450 a day plus deposit. But you have to bring your own wood for the barbecue pits.
Bob said there were estimated around 1,000 Czech members in Wilson County. Many of them still speak Czech. After more than 100 years they never forgot their Motherland. I love to hear my Czech friends speak the old language.
COURTESY / Lois Wauson  (Lois Zook Wauson, the oldest of Lawrence and Bertie Lee Zook's eight children, does not flinch from reporting the difficult aspects of her childhood, which casts into greater relief her telling of everyday pleasures.)