by Gretchen Orr
WALSENBURG- Katie Levy, who turned 87 last week, was recently honored by the Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota, (Slovene National Benefit Society) for 70 years of membership. The Slovene National Benefit Society, headquartered in Imperial, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1904. Its social and fraternal events were a way to preserve the culture of a homeland left behind and build new friendships in America.
Levy joined Walsenburg Lodge #299, known as the Good Old Slav Lodge, when she was just 17, following the lead of her parents who were also members. They lived out in Gordon, and drove the six miles to town for Sunday lodge meetings in a de Soto her brother John Gornick bought for $900. In those days, trips to town were just twice per week- Saturday trips were for shopping and to go to the FOX theatre for a 10 cent movie and one cent sucker.
The lodge was led by Judge Ed Tomsic, and meetings were often held at Tomsic’s house on Seventh Street. They would eat Slav food and then play cards after the meetings. Levy says, “Sometimes we would go out to the Hribars’ and make sauerkraut, homemade noodles and ham and beans.”
Other member families’ names will be familiar to many long time Huerfanos: Zupancic, Supancic, Strovas, Matta, Dryden, Stiglich, Pavlick, Spendow, Sporcich, Sinkovich- “these are just some of them,“ she says.
Archie Levy Jr., her husband, was not a member, but he would go to the meetings- “When he married me he had to.” Levy continues, “This lodge represents a bigger family- we went all over the state of Colorado. Everyone was very friendly, we mostly had good times, some bad, but all very friendly.”
Lodge #299 was a small group with 35 to 50 member families, but always managed to impress “the big shots” from back east when they came for visits. “They could not believe how a small lodge could put on such a big spread. We used to have big band orchestras here at the Pavilion on Eighth Street, and everyone would polka, drink beer and wine, and have an enormous amount of food. Oh we had a good time.”
“I loved to dance, but I tell you those days are gone forever.” Levy laughs, “I am young at heart, but the body isn’t.”
Levy says “Hvala!” thank you- “and may God be with you until we meet again.”
Walsenburg Lodge #299 paid the way for many area students to attend the Teens’ Experience Leadership Conference at SNPJ headquarters in Pennsylvania. It is a program that helps teenage members develop their leadership and teamwork skills. Jaime Hribar, a 2001 JMHS graduate, attended three times, and her brother Dustin went once.
Lodge #299 has since joined with Pueblo Lodge #21.