From the Omaha World-Herald, dated January 6, 1970:

Liederkranz to Celebrate With Song, Drama

By Tom Allan
World-Herald Staff Writer

Grand Island, Neb. - Behind the ornate, antique bar is this inscription in German: "Wo man singt, da lass dich ruhig nieder - Bose menschen haben keine leider."

Freely translated it means, "Where people sing, you may relax in peace - bad people have no song."

It tells the story of Grand Islandís Liederkranz, the family club and song society which this year celebrates a century of "gemutlichket" - friendship and goodwill.

Five generations of Germany immigrants to Nebraska and their descendents have found fellowship and lyrical touch of the old country in the stately Liederkranz at the corner of First and Walnut Streets.

Oldest
"We are the oldest family club in Nebraska, perhaps in several states, in continuous operation," says H.V. "Herb" Roeser, who, like his father and grandfather before him, is serving as the clubís president.

The tall grocer is heading a seven- to eight-month-long birthday party" for the organizationís 2,300 members.

The Grand Island area was settled by German immigrants," Roeser said. "Naturally, they brought much of the culture and heritage of their homeland with them. One was the love of music and the longing for the Liederkranz family clubs where they gathered to sing and drink beer on Sundays back home.

"Our records show that a meeting was held Oct. 31, 1870, to draw up the constitution of a German singing society. There were 40 charter members."

The Union Pacific Railroad, eager to develop the young community on the plains, donated the land for a clubhouse provided it be used as a community auditorium. It is a pact kept to this day.

"They built an original building, complete with ballroom, divided from an eating room with leaded, stained-glass doors, for only $3,270 in 1871," Roeser said.

Songfest
The first big parade and songfest was held the following year and featured a marching brass band and the 50-member Concordia Singers from Omaha.

Roeser said the club almost went broke in 1896 by going all out for a special songfest. The front of the building was transformed into a castle-like setting for $2,500.

"The old building was used by the government for treaties with Indians and for years both it and the second building was Grand Islandís only polling place," Roeser said.

German thriftiness came to the fore when the new building was constructed in 1911-12. Members helped defray the $62,757 cost by selling dirt from the new excavation at $5 a load.

Through the early 1900s, the club presented musicals and plays with programs featuring some of the top artists of the nation. There were family picnics in the garden.

Increasing membership forced construction of an annex now used for parties and a five-lane bowling alley.

Almost untouched is the old barroom, built in 1912. Another German inscription on the wall translated reads: "He who doesnít love wine, women and song is a mad man his whole life long."

But modern times and customs wrought changes. Weekend dances, renowned throughout the state, took the limelight from drama and song.

"It is still a family club but we havenít had singing and drama for quite a while," Roeser admitted with regret.

"But thatís what we are getting organized for in our big birthday celebration."

There will be a reorganization of the Liederkranz Quartette under Carl Stevens. The old German Band will be re-established under Milo Stites and Paul Beckman. Mrs. Wilma Monnington is preparing a special century of dancing review and Mrs. Betty Baker will direct vaudeville with members of the Little Theater Guild. There will be summerlong performances.

The Ladies Club is staging an 1890 style show and the old German garden picnic will be revived in July.

"We are also arranging special programs with top flight national artists," Roeser said.



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