The Spartans Veterans Athletic Club celebrated its 85th anniversary in June.
A lively crowd helped themselves to fresh-off the grill food while enjoying conversations among the members, most of whom joined Spartans over three decades ago.
To make the Saturday, June 5 picnic fun and memorable, music was provided by a DJ complete with a smoke machine and disco lights, which encouraged many to dance. In between songs, visitors could get cold refreshments at the bar or compete in a game of horseshoes.
The Spartans Veterans Athletic Club was founded in 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression.
First located at 75 Grove Street, the organization was made up of sports-minded male veterans from the northwestern part of New Britain. Three years later, in July of 1936, the Club received its State Charter.
Over the years, the club fielded baseball and softball teams that competed in various city leagues. It provided a sense of camaraderie that helped veterans adjust to a normal life after returning from war.
A club member of 54 years, Don Plasczynski said after returning from the Vietnam War in 1967, the club helped him to reintegrate back into the community.
“You came back home, life was different. The friends you had before moved out of state or got married. There was nobody there,” said Plasczynski. “With the club, I had someplace to go, I made friends and it felt like a family.”
Since its inception, the club moved twice, before the purchase of its current home at 191 High Road in Kensington in 1993. At first, the club only included men, but membership is now open to women as well.
In its heyday, the club had 350 members, with over 200 on the waitlist. Membership, however, has been declining. After the difficult COVID-19 year, the club is down to just 63 members.
“As our membership ages, we are looking to attract younger members,” said club president Paul Pliska. “Fathers used to bring their kids, and we used to have father-son teams. That’s how it used to be. But the sons are all in their 50s and 60s now.”
“It’s a fun club where you can join in some of the activities or just come down and socialize with friends,” Pliska added.
The club had to raise membership dues during the pandemic to make up for the closure of the bar, which repelled about 30 members.
Current club member Roseanne Silvia, who was brought into the club by her father, Louis “Lou Ruby” Rubinowicz, along with her brothers Phil and Eddie, said the Spartans are working hard to build membership back up.
“It’s really one of the best-kept secrets in the area,” said Silvia, “We are working on getting the word out.”
As COVID-19 restrictions ease, she said the club is set to host more events that, hopefully, encourage people to join. A comedy show, paint night and wine tasting are just a few things being planned.
For more information on the Spartans Veterans Athletic Club, visit spartansvets.org.