From Grandma’s Album… Czech School – Saturday classes in language and history
It was thought that we youngsters with a Czech heritage ought to learn to read and to write in our so beautiful and melodious first language… thus Saturday morning classes were held at the Augustin Herrmann School, a lovely new building on Glover Street. Some children were enrolled at the age of 5 or 6 and some not until their teens, so there were many levels of learning going on at once.
The curriculum was varied, also, teaching history and culture as well as language. We studied history, famous politicians, writers, artists and composers, geography, writing from dictation, which of course included the rules for proper spelling, writing composition, which included grammar, speaking aloud as well as reciting and then went on into music and dance.
Historically we learned that Herrmann was the first Czech immigrant settling on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (today Dupont’s Bohemia Manor on the Bohemia River) and that he charted the first Maryland boundary (today’s Mason/Dixon line) on the map.
Musically, we sang folksongs, our favorite being Zeleny Hajove (the Greenwoods) and learned many other koledi (folksongs or carols). We danced the Beseda, a compilation of various folk dances native to the various districts of Czechoslovakia and studied Polka and Schottishe as well, learning that American square dance definitely has its roots in the Old World!
The school put on a play on Sundays in the winter, using talented youngsters from any grade. I recall being a carnation one year and a snow fairy another!
All schools in Baltimore put on annual exhibitions and Augustin Herrmann was no exception. These were opportunities for us all the dress up and show off for our doting and proud families who were likewise dressed up and most appreciative of our talents. We demonstrated our academic prowess in math and history, (speaking entirely in Czech), recited poems and sang songs and danced for our audience. These annual exhibitions proved to our first-generation parents that their heritage was destined to live on.
More about the Czechs in Baltimore – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Czechs_in_Baltimore
The Beseda is a collection of folk songs and dances that achieved a mostly consistent form in the late 1800’s. Czech-Americans learn it as part of their heritage. None of it is particularly difficult, but it’s a *lot* of different bits! …..and yes, it takes 15-20 minutes to dance it!
A not particularly pro group. This is more often what you see at get-togethers like weddings and big family parties.
This is from a costume display/competition. That’s why the march at the beginning and all the yelping (they’re cheering on their teams….)
Page added and published 8/24/18 (C)M. Bartlett
Last updated 8/24/18
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