a nonprofit membership organization
a nonprofit membership organization
American Sokol Organization Ennis, Texas is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
"The mission of the American Sokol is to provide fitness and community for individuals and family through physical, educational, cultural and social programs."
We value your interest in our unit and would welcome your involvement in our organization. We have many opportunities for our youth & adult members to be involved. Involving the entire family in volunteer activities addresses the benefits of youth volunteering while utilizing the volunteer resource of adults with children under eighteen. Sokol encourages parents and their children to volunteer together!
As a Sokol Youth or Adult Member, participants have the opportunity to volunteer at many events throughout the year: competitions, fund-raisers, exhibitions, social, educational and cultural events. Various opportunities include but are not limited to set up/take down for special events, administrative work (print tickets, create letters, mail, postage), kitchen crews, chaperones, build props, create costumes, clean gyms, assist in a classes, or organize a social, educational or cultural event. We also encourage our members to provide feedback and offer ideas on programs and activities you would like to see offered.
Whether you help through monetary donations, volunteering your time, or spreading our mission through word-of-mouth, thank you. We couldn't accomplish our goals without the help of supporters like you.
Our unit was named after Karel Havlíček Borovský who was born on October 31, 1821, in Borova in Southeastern Bohemia, near Německého, Brodu. Living during a period of Czech and Slovák revival, he came to be a fearless journalist and the political leader of the younger generation.
He began writing as early as grammar school when he started composing poems in German and in Czech. He made a great effort to learn the Czech language thoroughly, despite the German surroundings of his youth and the Slovák influence in the area. After studying philosophy in grammar school, he decided to be a priest.
Beginning in his studies for the priesthood in a seminary in Prague, Havlíček became disillusioned with some of the professors and students and spent most of his time studying history instead. He was eventually suspended. Although his father wanted him to become a lawyer, Karel preferred to be a grammar school teacher.
Havlíček continued, however, to think of a career in journalism. As Havlíček expanded his journalistic work, he edited various Czech papers and kept working for the right of the Czech Language to be spoken in the schools and in public. He stressed the Slavic tongue and culture. Fighting for freedom of the press, he expressed his feelings for everyone to be given free voting power, and also expressed his knowledge and ideas about religion.
In December 1851, the police captured Havlíček and carried him to jail in the little town of Tyrolean, in Brixen where he remained a prisoner for the next three and a half years. He was released in 1855, after promising to give up all his political and literary work. Returning to Německého, he died of tuberculosis one year later on July 29, 1856. His funeral was held in Prague and was a national mourning.
Historians have called Karel Havlíček Borovský a brave man, without fear and shame, a true Czech, and one of the most knowledgeable and best like characters that the Czech land has born. Czech esteem and affectionate regard for him can be compared to the American love for Abraham Lincoln. Havlíček’s services for his nation were of the same value.
Over the years, our membership had faced many challenges in promoting the Sokol movement founded by Miroslav Tyrš and Jindřich Fuegner in 1862 in Prague, Czech Republic. The first challenge was met by the 25 immigrants that brought the Sokol ideal from their homeland and in 1908 formed Sokol KHB Ennis.
After our organization in 1908, gym classes were held at the SPJST National Hall. In 1911, one acre of land (part of our current property) was purchased. In 1912, the first gymnasium was built for $4500. It burned down within six months. The second building was completed in 1913 for $4000 and some free labor. That building burned down sometime between 1914 and 1916. In 1917 construction began on our third building. It stood on the lower southwest corner of our current property, was built for $6000, and stood for 19 years. Due to the need for extensive repairs on the building, the members decided instead to build the fourth gymnasium which was completed in 1936 for $7000, plus free labor. An additional acre of land had been purchased in 1935. Three more adjoining acres were purchased in 1969.
Our fifth building, the Sokol Gymnastic Center, was dedicated February 20-21, 1971. At that time, the value of the land and building was approximately $150,000. Additional acreage of 13.5 was purchased in 1974 at the cost of $2500 an acre. Tyrš Pool was completed in 1972. January 24, 1990 shortly before 11pm our 19 year old center caught fire. With the high winds the fire department was not able to save the building or its contents. All 15 people in the social club at the time of the fire escaped without injury. The Sokol Gymnastic Center building and contents may have been lost, but the Sokol Spirit was not about to knuckle under. Within 48 hours of the fire and with the help of the Ennis Fire Dept., the American flag once again flew proudly from the flagpole as a symbol of our enduring spirit. Within days also, a special meeting was held by the Board of Instructors and plans were in place to continue classes, limited as they would have to be to "floor" activities, at the KJT Auditorium.
The February membership meeting (attended by an extraordinarily large number of members) took up the question of what to do next. The question was never "if", but only "how quickly" could we rebuild? President Larry Laznovsky was empowered to select and convene a building committee to get on with the job at hand. At this point, no one could try to appreciate the magnitude of the ask being undertaken. Although the KJT allowed us to conduct classes in their facility, it would be necessary to relocate to another facility that would better support a full gymnastic program. The old vacant Studebaker warehouse in town was the choice and became known as the "warehouse gym". Thanks to our membership renovation work & cleanup was undertaken. Sokol Žižka & Sokol Ft. Worth loaned us gymnastic equipment. The pool house on our property was also used for meetings until the pool was to open for the summer. At this time it was decided to build a permanent 40 X 60, 2400 sq. ft. storage building which would house the social club, serve as our meeting place, and be able to hold any building materials. National Polka Festival was coming and we needed to decide what we would do. As planned we participated by having a large "Big Top" tent on our property. We also hosted the Southern District Slet utilizing the warehouse gym, St. John's gym, the SPJST hall, and our own drill field at "the property", as it had come to be known.
On August 28th, the building committee (Bros. Larry Lazvnovsky, Sammy Pleiner, Mark Kelley, Lou Green, Bill Snodgrass, and Jerry Wester) presented the building/floor plans for the new building. Soon afterwards this massive job was started. Many members donated their time & energy to help with the building & cleanup. On April 21, 1991, the doors opened for the grand opening of the new Sokol Activity Center.
Although much personal sacrifice was required in order for Sokol to survive, especially during the depression years, the years were memorable. Musical inspiration was provided by the Sokol Band which performed at all our activities. Annual events included the posvícení (a bazaar type event with a gym program and dinner), a May celebration complete with a greased maypole to climb for gifts awaiting at the top, Czech Independence Day in October, masquerade, Halloween, Easter, and New Year's Dances were traditional. Mother's and Father's Day socials were held. Socials many times were held for no particular reason, but just to get together. In the early days, gymnasts traveled by buggy to get to classes. Apparatus was limited, but other activities took its place; marching and singing were popular. Tug of war was enjoyed and hand apparatus was used. Exhibitions (veřejně cvičeni) were held locally each year and together with other units. We also had akademie (programs on the stage). Gymnasts from neighboring units visited each other and participated in exhibitions. Exhibitions have continued in Ennis through the years.
We are proud each year to be part of the National Polka Festival. We have a float or a marching unit of gymnasts in the parade each year as well as polka bands at the activity center. We also have participated annually in Heritage Day at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. The unit's first participation in this event was in 1936 in the Cotton Bowl. The unit also performed in the Czech Sesquicentennial program in the Cotton Bowl in 1986. Other memorable performances include pre-game and half-time performances at Texas Stadium in Irving. As testimony to the brotherhood of our organization, we have enjoyed a close association with other Czech organizations. Many of these have shared our homes with us. These included Lodge Volná Čechie, SPJST 135 WFLA Texas Libbie Lodge 402, RVOS Lodge 135, Ennis Ladies Sewing Circle and Ellis County Czech Heritage Society of Texas.
In 1989 Sokol KHB Ennis was honored by the Gymnastic Association of the State of Texas for its "Service to Youth". Further recognition was given for 80 years of continuous gymnastic training and for being the oldest such organization in the state. Ennis is currently the seat of the Southern District of the American Sokol Organization. We will continue to play a role in the preservation of the Sokol ideal and our Czech culture as we practice fellowship of men and women who pursue a program of gymnastics and physical education for its development of good health, sound moral values, and to live in harmony for mankind. With the philosophy of "Physical perfection should go hand in hand with a noble mind", Sokol KHB Ennis will continue to carry on the work of its forefathers.
ALOIS JURCIK (1908-1910) – Bro. Jurcik was the father of our unit. He and the 21 other charter members laid the cornerstones of our future.
FRANK TOUPAL (1911-1914) – Bro. Toupal also served as District President.
JOSEPH BUNATA (1915-1918) (1920-1924) – Bro. Bunata came to Ennis from the Chicago area to continue his work in Sokol. He was also known for his writings and travels.
FRANK PETR, SR (1918-1919) – Bro. Petr was a charter member of our unit.
FRANK MOUCKA (1920) – Bro. Moucka was also a leader of the Sokol Band for many years. Later he left Ennis to serve as editor of the Czechoslovak newspaper in West.
JERRY ZAZVORKA (1925-1945) – Bro. Zazvorka served our unit for 20 years during the heart of the depression. He guided our unit during trying times, many times at the expense of personal sacrifices.
FRANK LAZNOVSKY (1946-1952) – Bro. Laznovsky devoted many years to Sokol work.
BOB ZAZVORKA (1950) – Bro. Zazvorka was a member for over 50 years. He served as President briefly for a few months, in addition to other offices. He was very active through the early years of our unit.
JOE B. HEJNY (1953-1956) – Although he served just a few years, Bro. Hejny was an inspiration to our unit. He left Ennis in 1957 to take a position of vice-president of the Supreme Lodge, SPJST, during which time he continued as a member and supporter.
JOSEPH VYTOPIL (1957-1963) – Bro. Vytopil’s philosophy and guidance will long be remembered. With his passing in 1972, we lost a great leader. Not only did he serve us as President, but he was at one time the Director of Plays, Educational Director, and held other offices. Also, his publicity of Sokol in his writings was well know.
STANLEY HOUDEK JR. (1964) – Bro. Houdek was a very devoted Sokol member. Not only did he serve us as President, but he was for many years a Physical Instructor and Náčelník (Chief).
CHARLIE A. JURCIK (1965-1968) – Following in the footsteps of his father, the first President of our unit, Bro. Charlie has also been one of our most ardent leaders. He served as Vice-President for many years, and he and Sister Jurcik maintained membership dues and pledges. Many of us remember him as our Náčelník (Chief).
EDWIN LAZNOVSKY (1969-1975) – Bro. Edwin also followed in his father’s footsteps. He led us through many of our “growing pains”. He continued to serve as Vice-President for many years.
DON YORK (1976-1979) – Bro. York exemplified the youth of our organization. He was our youngest President and a very capable leader.
LAWRENCE LAZNOVSKY (1980- MAR 2011) – Bro. Larry, son of President Frank Laznovsky, took over the leadership of the unit after serving as Physical Director of the unit for 16 years. He was also the District Physical Director, a position which he had held since 1967. He served as Southern District President and the National American Sokol President from 2000-2010.
DAVID SLOVAK (APRIL 2011- OCT 2016) – Bro. David was asked to step in after Bro. Larry passed away unexpectedly. David also served as Property Committee Trustee, Ways and Means Chairman, and Public Relations Director (unit and district). David is currently the Membership Director and Public Relations assistant.
THOMAS BETIK (OCT 2016 - Current) – Bro. Thomas is a long time Sokol member. He served as Physical Director, Property Committee Trustee, and District Educational Director.
Bro. Larry Laznovsky was the longest serving President of our unit (30 Years).
The Sokol organization has its roots in the Central European city of Prague. At the time the city and the surrounding Bohemian lands were part of the Hapsburg Empire. The Czech language, culture, and traditions had been suppressed for over two hundred years in favor of the German language and government.
In the early 1860’s new laws made the re-emergence of ethnic identity possible. This emergence of nationalism was not lost on the young philosopher Miroslav Tyrs. In 1862, with the aid of his benefactor Jindrich Fuegner, he began a movement to unify the people who shared a common heritage. Tyrs established a program of building strong bodies, minds, and character — traits that were the foundation of all successful nations — to accomplish this goal. Tyrs called the vehicle that would bring about this change “Sokol”. Sokol is the Czech word for falcon, a bird known for its strength and independence, a high-flying guardian of its own domain.
This development of body, mind, and soul became known as the Tyrs System. It was based on a wide variety of physical exercises to develop a strong body. Sokol also embraced the literary and artistic expressions of the freedom-loving people. The Sokol movement quickly grew from a local activity in Prague to an organization that spread throughout the land. In no time it crossed the borders into Moravia and the surrounding Slavic nations.
European political unrest and an archaic distribution of wealth caused Central Europeans, Czechs among them, to immigrate to the United States. In 1865 the first Sokol Unit on American soil was formed in St. Louis, Missouri. As this immigration continued more Sokol Units sprang up in the United States. Eventually these independent Units came together to form what is now American Sokol.
In Europe the long-standing principles of Sokol — freedom, democracy, and national sovereignty — were repeatedly challenged. Finally, with the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to end World War I, the independent nation of Czechoslovakia was established. With the backing of Sokols in America, the Czech and Slovak Sokols were instrumental in establishing the region’s first democracy. Led by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the country modeled its constitution after that of the United States. Citizens celebrated in the streets. Many were proudly dressed in their Sokol parade uniforms.
Peace, prosperity, and democracy were short lived. Fifty years of foreign occupation began in 1938. First, there was the Nazi occupation and then the Soviet “liberation”. Neither regime had any use for the freedom-loving democratic Sokols who refused to swear allegiance to either. Sokol leaders were executed or sent to concentration camps, their property seized, and the organization outlawed. The Sokol movement survived in its mother country only as an underground organization.
After the “velvet” revolution of 1989 the organization reemerged. The Sokol spirit was so strong in the hearts of the Czech and Slovak citizens that, after skipping almost two generations, the organization was able to quickly gain membership and achieve national prominence.
In the United States, Sokols have always changed and adapted to meet the needs of the community while teaching and practicing our core values: democracy, freedom, equality and physical fitness. Sokols always follow Tyrs’ command, “Ku Předu, Ku Předu, Zpátky Ni Krok!” (Forward, forward, not one step back!)
DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES
American Sokol is a multi-faceted organization guiding its members throughout life from early youth through maturity, to physical and moral health, good citizenship and responsible patriotism, combined with continuous self-improvement. These goals are pursued through general physical fitness activities, gymnastics and sports, as well as varied cultural and social activities.
Sokols value moral integrity and expect that members will live their lives honorably and be faithful to the truth. Our sense of morality rejects bias and prejudice.
Sokols affirm that they are proud of their citizenship in our great country, the United States of America; that they continue to vigilantly guard the democratic principles on which our country and our organization is based; that we honor the sacrifice of Sokols who fought valiantly in past wars to defend our freedom and independence; and that our patriotism is deep, sincere and extends to commitment and action in our local and wider communities.
Sokols accept the ideal of a “sound mind in a sound body”. In our gymnasiums participants strive for the ability to physical improvement through calisthenics, gymnastics, sports and fitness activities. As an educational organization, Sokols teach, develop and mentor young and old alike without concern for race or creed. It is a place of working together, learning new skills, helping one another, and giving of oneself.
Sokol was born from noble goals and a willingness to give to others. The future of Sokol is in the hands of those who accept the mantle and carry it forward. NAZDAR! (ON TO SUCCESS!)
President – Thomas Betik
Secretary – Laura Trojacek
Vice-President – Benny Trojacek
Second Vice-President – Randy Owen
Financial Secretary – Ray Elleven
Treasurer – Ray Elleven
Educational Director – Elizabeth Moucka
Membership Director – David Slovak
Public Relations Director – Michelle Slovak
Physical Director – Joanna Noplis-Wilson
Editor – Chuck Kalat
Bylaws Chair - Rusty Liska
Auditing Chair - Mike Liska
Auditing - Deanna Betik
Auditing - Debbie Slovak
Budget & Finance Chair - Mike Liska
Budget & Finance - Deanna Betik
Budget & Finance - Debbie Slovak
Reconciliation Chair - John Marek Jr.
Reconciliation - David Liska
Reconciliation - Harold Corey
Southern District Delegate - Thomas Betik
Southern District Delegate - Debbie Slovak
Ways & Means Co-Chair - Joanna Noplis-Wilson
Ways & Means Co-Chair - Michelle Slovak
Property Chair - Thomas Betik
Constitution & Bylaws - Mike Liska
Constitution & Bylaws - Rhonda Liska
Youth Ambassador - Joanna Noplis-Wilson
Board of Instructors Treasurer - Judi Tabb
National Polka Festival Committee - Benny Trojacek
National Polka Festival Committee - Randy Owen
National Polka Festival Committee - David Liska
American Czech Culture Society - Thomas Betik
Executive Board (Board of Directors)
Thomas Betik (Chair), Benny Trojacek, Laura Trojacek, Randy Owen, Ray Elleven, Elizabeth Moucka, David Slovak, Michelle Slovak, Joanna Noplis-Wilson, Chuck Kalat, Rusty Liska, Mike Liska, John Marek Jr.
Facilities Manager - Thomas Betik
Bar Manager - Randy Owen
Swimming Pool Manager - TBD
Custodian - Larry Trojacek