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Day Trips

Museum preserves history of Texas polka

By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., March 15, 2013

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. Mcleod

The Texas Polka Music Museum in Schulenburg still plays the old songs. Hanging on the walls are the stories of the pioneer Czech and German dance bands from the area whose influence reached across the state.

Probably the most famous bands of the era were the Majek Orchestra, the Patek Orchestra, and the Baca Family Band. All three bands traced their lineage back to Eastern Europe and lasted for nearly a century of successive generations of musicians.

To understand why the plains northwest of Houston were such fertile ground for polka music, it helps to know a little of the area's development. After the Civil War, the large plantations, some established when Texas was part of Mexico, fell apart. Land-starved European immigrants bought modest-sized farms and ranches at depressed prices.

These Bohemians brought their music, and it naturally mixed into the native Mexican music to create a unique Tejano sound. There are now more than 80 active polka bands from Texas. They all owe a waltz of gratitude to the pioneers.

The Texas Polka Music Museum is at 625 N. Main Street in Schulenburg. It is open Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, with a $2 admission fee. For information, call 979/743-4752 or go to www.texaspolkamuseum.com.

A block away is the recently restored historic Sengelmann Hall at 531 N. Main Street, with its giant dining hall and a dance hall upstairs.

1,128th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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