From the Clarkson Diamond Jubilee (1886 – 1961) book
(Zapadini Cesko Bratrska Jednota)
(Western Bohemian Fraternal Association)
The CSPS Lodge (Cesko Slovensky Podporujici Spolek), later to become ZCBJ was organized in Clarkson, Nebraska on May 21, 1888 with a membership of nineteen members as follows: 1. Joseph Fillipi, 2. Joseph M. Mundil, 3. Frank Basta, 4. John Mastny, 5. Josef Papousek, 6. Frank Rozmarin, 7. Joseph R. Molacek, 8. Josef Fajmon, 9. Josef Kocanda, 10. Josef Cibulka, 11. John Koza, 12. Ignac Indra, 13. Frank Molacek, 14. Frank Tejkl, 15. Karel Svoboda, 16. Jan Flieder, 17. Josef F. Teply, 18. Frank Hanel, 19. John Tlustos.
The following officers were elected: Josef Cibulka, President; Joseph M. Mundil, Frank Rozmarin, Josef R. Molacek, Josef Fajmon, Josef Kocanda, Josef Papousek, John Koza and Ignac Indra. It was decided to hold meetings on the first Sunday in each month during the afternoon. The Board of Trustees was composed of Josef Fillipi, Karel Svoboda and John Mastny. Since the lodge did not own a hall at the time, meetings were held in business establishments owned by the various members. The CSPS Lodge was instrumental in the organization of the Bohemian Slovanic Cemetery.
In 1891 a hall 24 x 30 was built. This building still stands and now is known as the Kozy Apartments. The first meeting in the new hall was held on January 3, 1892. Bohemian School was organized and taught in the hall on Sundays. The school at the time was financed by the CSPS and by parents of children who attended. The first teacher was Anton Odvarka. During those days the law allowed one hour of foreign language to be taught at the public schools in towns which were predominately of one language such as the Czech language in Clarkson. The CSPS took advantage of this opportunity by supporting this cause. Miss Nettie Aksamit taught the Czech language for some time as did Stella Folda and Fred Jelinek. After some years this practice ceased.
Later on the Bohemian Lodges in Clarkson namely the ZCBJ, JCD, Ceske Lose, AOUW, WOW, and Damska Losem DH realized the demand for Bohemian School and hired Anton Odvarka as the teacher, this with the assistance of Miss Louise Dusatko until the year 1916. During the year 1917 Josef A. Kucera taught during his vacation from school in Dubuque, Iowa. It was discontinued with the outbreak of World War I in the year 1918. Upon the end of the war, Bohemian School was again re-opened and Rev. B. A. Fillipi became a teacher with sessions during school vacation. This continued until the year 1926. Mrs. Anna Koza then took over. Later teachers were Mrs. Blanche Pospichal and Mrs. Louise Zelenda.
The CSPS existed to the year 1897 and it was during that time the whole group transferred their membership to the ZCBJ and became Charter Members of the ZCBJ. This change took place at a meeting held on November 11, 1897 and Western Bohemian Fraternal Association (Zapadni Cesko Bratrska Jednota) was the result.
The members at that time were as follows: Frank Basta, Alois Basta, Jan Bohac, Adolf Bukacek, Josef Cibulka, Jiri Cvek, Josef Capek, Josef Fajmon, Vincenc Fajmon, Anton Fajmon, Jan Flieder, Josef Fillipi, Alex Hampl, Vaclav Hanel, Jiri Hanel, Josef Hejtmanek, Jan Chleboun, Josef Jonas, Frank Koci, Jan Koza, Anton Kubik, W. C. Mach, J. B. Mathouser, Josef M. Mundil, Josef R. Molacek, Frank Molacek, John J. Novotny, Anton Odvarka, Frank Rozmarin, Alois Severin, Josef Smely, Josef Stoklasa, Karel Svoboda, Frank Tlustos, Josef Tomes, Alois Tomes, Vincenc Urban, Josef Vitek, Frank Vitek, Joseph Krahulik. Wives of some the members who also belonged were: Marie Basta, Anna Basta, Josefa Bukacek, Marie Flieder, Anezka Hampl, Vincendie Hejtmanek, Marie Mathouser, Frantiska Mundil, Anezka Odvarka, Frantiska Severin, Anna Stoklasa, Frantiska Tomes, Marie Tomes, Anna Vitek and Ann Vitek.
With the increase in membership and a demand for a bigger building, it was decided that an Opera House would be built. With the cooperation of the Clarkson Commercial Club and other civic organizations the ZCBJ proceeded to buy two lots for the construction of the opera house.
The town was very much in favor of a large hall for dances, shows, home talent plays, etc. On Memorial Day of 1914, a public auction was held for the sale of the old CSPS Hall. The building was sold to Julius Wacha at a price of $3,350.00. The building of the Opera House commenced in 1915 and on September 1915 the corner stone was laid. On January 9, 1916 the ZCBJ held their first meeting in their new home. Since then the Clarkson Opera House was the scene of many a dance, home talent play, school program, basketball game, and many other gatherings.
Movies were shown in the early days and in the year 1930 the first talkie movies were presented to the public under the management of Peter Zak and Edward Makousky. In April of 1931 a cooling system was installed. In 1936 new movie equipment was purchased in order to improve the facilities for movie goers.
The Clarkson Opera House was the scene of many school activities including operettas, class plays, up until the new modern high school was constructed (1952). All of those activities are now held in the Clarkson High School auditorium. Many famous dance orchestras made their appearances for various dances sponsored by the local groups such as the Annual Gypsy Dances sponsored by the local JCD Lodge, Thanksgiving Balls sponsored by the local Fire Department, regular dances put on by the ZCBJ and wedding dances.
On December 1st, 1958 the Clarkson Opera House was leased by the local Lions Club and they continue to offer movies, this being one of the few movie houses in this area. Many public gatherings are still held here and will continue to be held due to the civic minded business men of Clarkson.
From the Clarkson Centennial (1886 – 1986) book
This information is from the VFW Cornhusker Post 6419:
May 1961 – Initial steps were taken to lease the Clarkson Opera House from the ZCBJ Lodge #28. Lease was approved February 5, 1963, effective March 1, 1963, and the Opera House became our new home. Post was responsible for continuing the movie theater for 5 years.
May 1963 – Movies were not well attended due to old equipment in use, and when a projectionist was lost in August 1964, movies were terminated. Approximately 1,200 people came to the Smorgasbord.
May 1965 – VFW considered closing down the movie theater. A dance floor was installed in the basement area.
May 1972 – The 13th annual Smorgasbord was held. Major renovations were made to the Opera House basement with fluorescent lighting in the south room in 1972 and wall removal in 1973. Our Post Home now became a better Community Activity Center.
May 1974- Remodeling was done to the east entry, and kitchen rewiring was done in August.
May 1976- More remodeling was done. After devoting many years as General Building Manager of the Opera House on behalf of the VFW & ZCBJ, Gilbert Koza retired from that position. Additional heaters and more remodeling were done in February 1978.
June 1979 – Air conditioning was put in the basement. Ladies restroom (basement) remodeling was done in 1980.
May 1980- The kitchen was completely remodeled. Thanks go to Dennis Novak for constructing the cabinets and center work area. Special thanks to the Ladies Auxiliary for contributing funds to get the job done. Some stoves were replaced. Walls were partially carpeted, and the men’s restroom (basement) remodeled during this time. The west entry-way into the basement was completed in May 1982.
December 1981 – Our first New Year’s Eve party/dance was held with a full house and has continued to be an annual affair.
June 1985 – Ceiling fans (basement) were installed in the south room.
All told, the VFW Post and the Ladies Auxiliary of Post 6419 contributed well over $60,000.00 of their funds for improvements to the Opera House.
Clarkson Community Opera House, Inc.
A non-profit organization called The Clarkson Community Opera House, Inc. was organized soon after January 1, 2002, when it became known that Cornhusker Post 6419, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Ladies Auxiliary reluctantly decided that they could no longer maintain the Opera House building due to their advanced ages.
Improvements made since June 1, 2002:
2003 – Main floor theater/dance hall had central air conditioning installed at a cost of $20,925.00 by Clarkson Plumbing and Heating.
2004 – East entrance doors were replaced at a cost of $4,140.88 by Midwest Glass.
2005 – East entrance foyer walls were repaired by Steffy Construction, new carpeting was installed by Baumert Furniture and the walls were repainted at a total cost of $1,524.90. The 10 windows on the east side were replaced with energy efficient, vinyl framed, thermal pane windows by Window World at a cost of $4,127.16. Entry doors on west side to the basement and stage were replaced by Steffy Construction at a cost of $610.87. Bathrooms were installed on the main floor theater/dance hall by Teply Construction at a cost of $17,715.01. Prior to the bathrooms, this was a large storage room.
2006 – Building tuck pointing was repaired by Masonary Restoration of Nebraska at a cost of $11,890.00.
2007 – New popcorn popper was purchased from American Popcorn Co. at a cost of $410.00.
2008 – Handicap ramp was installed on the south side of the building by KV Quality Construction at a cost of $13,781.00. Kerbel’s Tree Service removed four large Linden trees on the south side because they were in poor condition and three Linden trees were replanted at a cost of $2,500.00. A handicap parking space was installed by KV Quality Construction at a cost of $1,602.00. Old movie posters from the Opera House were purchased at the Slavy & Gerry Vodehnal estate sale and framed at a cost of $639.30.
2009 – Main theater/dance floor was sanded and refinished by Oasis Hardwood Flooring at a cost of $5,733.00. The high school industrial arts class replaced the boards on the movie theater seats and carpeting donated by Baumert Furniture was installed on the bottom of the boards to protect the newly refinished floor.
2011 – With help from a Tourism Grant we were able to sand blast and paint the original tin ceiling on the main floor, replace the windows on the main floor that had been covered up for years, insulate the ceiling and update wiring for the main floor lights, sealed the roof, repainted the whole main floor, replaced 12 windows in the basement and installed new curtains and shades in the main floor. We also installed a new sink in the bar room, repaired the masonry on the southwest corner of the building and refinished the dance floor.
2013 – The stage main curtain was restored by Deborah Uhl for a cost of $ 7,570 with the help of grant funds. Remodeled the downstairs bathrooms and replaced the HVAC downstairs as well.
2016 – Purchased an LED spotlight. Purchased and installed a 2-sided LED marquee ($4,790) on the east side of the Opera House to advertise upcoming shows.
The money to make improvements to the Opera House since 2002 has come from renting the Opera House for; dance recitals, wedding receptions and dances, anniversary receptions, monthly polka dances, old-time traveling theater groups and from donations.
The following people, businesses, organizations and memorials have contributed over $500 to the Opera House:
Clarkson Boy Scout Troop #158
Clarkson Commercial Club
Clarkson Lion’s Club
Clarkson Rescue Squad
Clarkson Volunteer Fire Department
Clarkson Czech Festival Committee
CHS Class of 1953
GFWC Clarkson Woman’s Club
Pioneer Hybrids % Lumir Cech
Frankie & Darlene Charipar
Stacie L. Cowell
Harlan & Shirley Hamernik
M/M Charles Novotny
Dr. John & Ruth O’Neal
Ron & Jeanette Vavrina
Slavy & Gerry Vodehnal
Mr. & Mrs. Calvin Sorrick
Clarkson Dental Office
Tom & Julie Schulze
Knights of Columbus # 7887
Doernemann Farm Service
Bob & Sharon Cerv
Larry & Judy (Budin) Roots
Clarkson VFW Post # 6419 Auxiliary
Bob & Sharon Lee
Larry & Mary Cerny
In Memory of:
Josephine Sucky Dvorak Brady
Steve Navrkal, Sr.
Dr. R.C. Odvarka
Lillian Severa Tomes
Jerry H. Karel
Brenda & Beth Malena
Mr. & Mrs Joe W. Novotny
Future projects that need funding to be completed are:
Updating the electrical system.
Refinish the Basement and Kitchen
Chuck Hamernik, President
Bob Cerv, Vice-President
Larry Cerny, Secretary
Adam Cerv, Treasurer