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North Bethpage Civic Association

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  • The earliest records of this association had to be translated from Swedish in which they were written. A group of neighbors, largely Scandinavian decent, met in 1919 in North Central Park as a social group. By 1924 the desire for better roads, public water, street lightning, and the desire for a social life the Scandinavian-American Club of North Central Park was organized under the chairmanship of Mr. Dorff, in his home. A Midsummer Dance, the first of many, was held. For obscure reasons, the Scandinavian-American Club was disbanded in November and reorganized under the name of Central Park North Civic Association. The first meeting was held in the home of Andrew Gramberg with 15 citizens present. The charter members were: Messes Fournall, Pritchard, Chris Johnson, Westby, Noble, Haugen, Andrew Gramberg, Larsen, Axel Johnson, Albin Johnson, Nord, Hedenskog. Felix Gramberg, Ledi, one missing. Mr. Hans Haugen was elected Chairman and appointed a committee to establish by-laws. Dues were set at 25 cents a month and $1.00 initiation fee. Civics is a mans affair, and women were not allowed membership. After a lengthy discussion, it was decided that women in the area were permitted to attend meetings. Women were instrumental in fund raising such as, bazaars, refreshments, cake sales and hand made items for sale. End of 1924, $143.00 on hand in the treasury, receipts of $129.72 from Scandinavian-American Midsummer Dance.
  • 1925- The newly formed group set out to obtain street lights as their early projects. They raffled off 4 Ford tires. Negotiations under way for land to build a clubhouse. Members brought paint and painted signs in North Central Park. Mr. Harry Tappen, Superintendent of Highways of The Town of Oyster Bay, congratulated the Civic Association and promised to help with the roads. Midsummer Festival: An empty lot was rented where the members constructed a platform for dancing. The platform was still used in 1946 even if the boards became thin from 20 years of dancing. A large May-pole was erected and strung with gay lights that extended across Stewart Ave. to the Looney Farm. Atop the May-pole was a huge wreath garland with lights displaying flags of all Scandinavian countries with the U.S. Flag on top. Accordion music kept couples dancing far into the night with many ladies dressed in native costume. The event lasted three days with people coming from neighboring towns.
  • 1926-1928- Central Park North Civic Association was instrumental in securing better roads, streets lighting, improved water service, postal delivery and establishing the Annual Children's Christmas Party. Christmas was a special time for the Children. The Powell Ave. School supplied the Christmas tree. It was the same tree that decorated the school while in session, now it was transported fully decorated to the clubhouse for the children's party. Helen Knapp Rafenski remembers the Santa being traditional Scandinavian Santa, and he presented each girl with a box of hard candies and piece of material. She does not recall what the boys received as a gift. In 1928 members of the Ladies Aid Society were permitted to become members.
  • 1929-1930- Very popular, Mr. Ofstedahl was president, but resigned in 1930 due to ill health. Vice President, Mr. Nylund served remainder of 1930. The Midsummer Festival was held despite financial gloom, made a profit of $83.89. Other money received resulted in renting hall to Norwegian and Swedish Lodges for $7.50 a month. Effort was made to have physically handicapped children in Central Park transported to Hicksville High School. The decision was made to cooperate with other associations on community welfare. Mr. Westby was endorsed for Fire Commissioner and Mr. Altman ran for Water Commissioner, and for the first time a lady served in an executive capacity.
  • 1931- 1934 - The Midsummer Festival was not held in 1932 due to hard times. During the depression years the Civic activities progressed more vigorously then before. 1933-Mr. Haugen president. Pressed to have the signs on the Southern State Parkway changed to include Central Park. Supported Mr. Maggi for School Board. A committee attended a School Board meetings and demanded all labor on the school to be local people. A protest was made to the school board for discharging a school nurse. Delegates went to Oyster Bay to inspect tax books. A Ladies Sewing Club was organized and could use the hall for $2.50.
  • 1935- 1938- Mr. Christensen, President. Jr. members were allowed to use the clubhouse provided they pay dues of 15 cents three months in advance. Midsummer Festival was held and the clubhouse painted. Sewing Club held a fair and donated $90.00 to pay the balance on the mortgage. A slide was made for the cellar stairs to protect it from the bouncing beer barrels that were put in the cellar. The property of Grumman was rezoned which pleased the members. This far-sighted move by the organization has proven valuable contribution in helping to ease the tax burden on future residents.
  • 1939- Plans to sell the hall due to hard times. Notified Sons of Norway about the plan. Robert Westby moved the proceeds from sale go to members in good standing according to number of years they had in the club, asking $2000.00. Mrs. Robert Knapp, (mother of Helen Rafenski, Peggy Albertson, John Knapp and Betty Starke), objected. She claimed the hall was for the people of Bethpage and should not be sold even if she would benefit from the sale financially. Mrs. Knapp was a charter member, but not listed as such as she was a women, and as stated earlier, women were not considered a member until a later date. At this time she was a trustee and had a vote and vetoed the sale of the building.
  • 1940 - 1941 - Had a fire telephone placed in Mr. Haugens' home. Gave donation to Norwegian Relief. Held Midsummer Festival. Rest rooms installed. Petitioned LIRR for more trains. Fought for transportation for kindergarten children. Held Monte Carlo Night. Bethpage Red Sox rented hall for a dance to raise money for uniforms.
  • 1942 - 1943 - Mr. Christensen President again. A free bus was started on a trial basis so people could get to Hicksville to shop. A first aid kit was purchased, as a necessary item during the war. No October meeting due to blackout. Blackout shades were purchased. Voted to send $2.00 to each boy in service from the community for Christmas, membership not necessary. Christmas Party for children as usual. 1943- Mr. Balsamo President, he is trying to get Sunday bus service, but he will have to provide a driver.
  • 1944 - 1946 - Mr. Haugen President. Requested that the loud speakers at Grumman turned down at night so the people of Bethpage could sleep. There is still concern for the roads, but now want the grass cut on the sidewalks so the people can walk. Request for better bus service. Will rent the hall to the American Legion for $5.00. Voted to extend cellar. Voted to have hall painted, but not exceed $60.00. Voted to let the baseball team use the hall if they help fix it up. Held a special meeting regarding participation in the 10th anniversary celebration of the change of the name from Central Park to Bethpage. Village players request to rent hall for rehearsal, given permission provided they pay $2.00, make their own fire and clean up. The association will supply the coal. Sent Christmas packages to boys in service.
  • 1947 - 1949 - Jack Strong President, installed by Frank Chlumsky, Councilman of Town of Oyster Bay. Editor of NEWSGRAM asked for help in petitions signed to change RFD #1 from Hicksville to Bethpage. Complaints of wild dogs in neighborhood. Installed rest rooms in the basement, outside staircase installed, and extended basement 10 feet. Voted to mortgage hall for $1000.00 to pay for renovations. Mrs. Haugen refused to sign. Mr. Schaff will extend credit for materials. Talked of getting a bank loan for $300.00. In 1948 - Mr. Husted President, headed a committee to revise by-laws and constitution for the first time since 1926. He also painted the side of the building to remove KKK which was grafittied. Delt with complaints regarding bullets from the rifle range at Grumman, Mrs. Minnicks' house on Stewart Ave. was hit. Club investigates raising cost of fire insurance. New fire house and library opened on Memorial Day. Complaints of ticks in the neighborhood. Mr. Strong got lumber and put up streets signs.
  • 1950 - 1952 - Mae Strong President. Social Club headed by Mae Strong took over club on the 4th Saturday of each month for Fun Night. Levittown Nursery School and Jehovah Witness started renting the hall. The group opposed the tinsmith shop on Cherry Ave. Still bothered by stray dogs that bit 3 children. Complaints about new developments not getting mail delivery.
  • 1952 - Mr. W. Benintendi was installed as President by Happy Norman. Group asked to participate in Civil Defense rally at Broadway School. Fire Commissioner Gillepsie and Thorne spoke about buying a new hook and ladder fire truck. Purchased a flag for $6.00 from VFW. A group of youngsters named "Junior Deputy Sheriffs" was formed by the North Bethpage Civic Association. This was organized to bring planned activities to children in the neighborhood and combat vandalism.
  • 1953 - 1954 - Mr. W. Benintendi President, installed by Mr. Buddy Mazzara. Contributions were given regularly to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, United Cerebral Palsy, Salvation Army, March of Dimes and others. Board of Education considered use of hall for classrooms, but the plan was abandoned when outside classrooms were not recommended. Three members were appointed to represent North Bethpage Civic Association at the Bethpage Civic Council, a sounding board for Bethpage organizations. Ran a clothing drive for Korea. Discussed sponsoring a Little League Team and Boy Scouts. Improvements requested for Nursery School: a bathroom on the first floor, railings on the front stoop and a closest. Vetoed by members and Levittown Nursery School did not renew its lease. Hall available to other groups, ran Pizza Parties, Roaring 20's Show, political candidates spoke. Voted to have a telephone installed, but decided against it when informed of cost; $8.75 per month plus $25.00 deposit. 1954 - Bob Feuss President.
  • 1955 - 1956 - Bob Feuss President. Held Barn Dances. Supported Charlie Campaign for School Board. Endorsed Jim Hynes for Fire Commissioner. Presented "Show Time" to raise money for Connecticut Flood Relief. Held Annual Christmas Party.
  • 1956 -Ed Schreiber President, installed at Anselmi's had an Italian Smorgasboard. Circulated petition against garden apartments. Fought for RR crossing gates, traffic lights and stop signs. Delt with fluoridation and ran a blood drive. Clubhouse was painted and basement finished. In 1956 the North Bethpage Civic Association was incorporated.
  • 1957 - 1959 - Expanded its youth programs with many functions for the youngsters and teenagers. 1958 - Due to many request to extend the boundaries of the association to include a wider section of Bethpage and residents from these sections became part of the organization. New heating system installed in clubhouse. Improvements in parking facilities at the railroad station and shopping area was needed with reserved parking for Bethpage residents only. A caution light in front of the new fire sub-station was obtained. The town was asked to investigate the problem of many cesspool collapses in the area. Always aware of the tax burden on homeowners, the association advised the Town Board of its support for industrial zoning away from residential areas. Many new schools have been built, the High School was opened and the school board increased to 7 members. Bethpage Had its own superintendent of schools and independent of other areas. The courts ruled against garden apartments and strict rules has been adopted by the town. Suggested to close Powell Ave. School and they suggested a fire alarm system to be tied with the schools. The association also encouraged residents to vote in favor of the school budget.
  • 1959 - A series of "Civic Education" programs were presented at the monthly meetings to inform members of the activities and accomplishments of various local bodies and agencies.
  • 1995- The clubhouse is now a Greek Orthodox church - St. Isidoros - founded in 1974. As you view the history of this clubhouse, you will realize that it has a very proud history of the people of Central Park/Bethpage and how many groups, individuals and officials have cooperated over the years to maintain the spirit of friendship and service on which it was founded in 1919.

The above information was taken from a personal document - a hand written ledger - which is no longer available.

See "Swedetown" in this encyclopedia

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