Warsaw Park
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Shelby Township Historical Committee

Warsaw Dance Pavillion

It was in August,1933, that Joseph and Stephinia Kawala realized their dream of owning a farm. They purchased 87 acres at 2767 Hamlin Road east of Dequindre and on the north side of Hamlin Road. A Great place to raise children, Edward, 16, Henry, 14, and Sophie,11. Joe knew the farm because he and Joe May were partners in managing the Swiss Valley Park. Swiss Valley was adjacent to their Clinton River Flats, which would become Warsaw Park.

During Prohibition, Joe and Stephanie were involved in the bootlegging business. Stephanie would make the moonshine whiskey in the bath tub. On weekends, Joe and his daughter Sophie would deliver the whiskey to their customers. Sophie recalls the time she and her father delivered the whiskey to Mrs. Matilda Dodge at her estate in Rochester. It was in the winter and very cold. The whiskey was in bottles in the back of the model "A" pickup covered with an old rug. Sophie had to sit on the rug so it would not flap in the wind. They had to deliver the whiskey to the barn to a man named Pete. After the delivery the next stop was to the gardener Ed, to get the money. Sophie was never so cold in her life. Riding in the back of a pickup in the cold winter from Detroit to Rochester chilled her through and through.

Joe was a general farmer, having cows, horses, pigs, chickens, and guinea hens. They also had a big garden to feed the family. Crops were general with the growing of corn, wheat, and oats on the 50 acres.

The farm had no house on it, only an old barn. In October, 1933, Joe started to build a new house. As the house neared completion, the men who were working on the house lived in the house and Ma Kawala cooked for them. They were paid $3 a day along with room and board. It was in February, 1934, that the Kawala family moved into the new house.

However, there was the Clinton River flats consisting of 37 acres. Joe thought this would be a good spot for a park. So Joe and his wife and kids, after their farm chores were completed, started to clean up the debris in the flats.

A concession stand and dance pavilion were built. How could you have a Polish park without a dance floor to Polka on? The lumber was rough lumber from the Frank Wozniak farm on Schoenherr and 23 Mile Roads. The band was staged in the center of the dance floor. Later, as the dance floor was enlarged, the bandstand was placed in the northeast corner of the dance floor. It was elevated about a foot off the floor. A tent was used for the bar which had tables and chairs.

Now it was time to open the Warsaw Park. They had a six month's beer and wine license. The opening happened on the Sunday after the fourth of July in 1934. The following summer, after Joe bought the farm, they had a picnic for their relatives and freinds from Hamtramck. The park was opened spring to fall.

The model "T's" and "A's" in the early 30s did not have much horsepower. When they parked in the flats, which was at the bottom of the hill, they had a hard time climbing the hill. So more power was added: manpower. Joe would hire some bigger boys to help push the cars up the hill. On busy weekends he would have four boys pushing. Finally, the hill was worked down and now it was not so steep.

Ma Kawalas spareribs were something special. She would prepare and sell over 300 pounds each Sunday along with the hot dogs, kielbasa, sauerkraut and cole slaw. For that special flavor, Ma used a bushel of home grown onions each Sunday.

In 1935, Joe built the big dance floor. The old dance floor was made into a restaurant. A huge bar and some game rooms around the perimeter of the building were built. Every Friday was fish night at Warsaw. A plate of fish and chips with cole slaw, was 45 cents.

Every other week during the summer about 50-75 families of Italians would spend a Saturday at the park. The families would pack their lunch which would include pop, and drinks. They would play bocci ball all morning, have lunch, and play another hour of bocci ball until about 3 p.m. when the bands would start playing. They would dance for about two hours, and go back to playing some more bocci ball. At 7 p.m. you would hear the mothers call for the kids to start packing so they could leave for home.

Later,the park was rented by the day. The park renters were of various church groups, although most were Catholic organizations,shops, unions and Polish orginizations.

The dance floor was swept one or two times on Saturday and three times on Sunday. There were always more people in the park on Sunday then on Saturdays.

It was in the late 1930's that Joe built some benches into the banks of the Clinton River. Opposite the benches he built a stage. Mr. Ed Konstantywich, Manager of Radio Station WJBK, with about 20 to 24 actors, would present plays on Saturdays and Sundays. They were two hour plays of music, drama and humor. This went about four or five years until Mr. Konstantywich went to Poland on a visit. While on the visit he died of a heart attack. The stage plays died with him.

Moonlight dancing made its grand entrance for new entertainment in the early 40's. A new floor was built for dancing under the stars, weather permitting. They were held on Saturday nights from 9 P.M. until midnight.

Joe wanted to build a few toboggan slides. However, during the war, and a few years immediately after the war, steel was hard to get. He wanted steel slides instead of wood for safety reasons. It was in 1947 that two runs were built. During the winter months there was a charge of $2 per car to use the toboggan slides. You could also rent toboggans at the concession stand.

(From Summer Along The Clinton by Wally Doebler-1996)