Riverside Hall in East Bernard is owned and operated by the members of the local K.J.T. St. Wencelaus Society No. 40.  This society was organized on June 16, 1905 in Middle Bernard with eight charter members: August E. Morris, R.W. Brandl, Frank Toman, John J. Vacek, Frank Polak, John Skalicky, John Slovak and Roman Adamcik.  The first officers were John J. Vacek, president; Frank Polak, secretary; August E. Morris, bookkeeper and John Slovak, treasurer.

The first year, the meetings were held in the Middle Bernard schoolhouse.  Later, they were held in August E. Morris' dance hall.  In 1912 it was decided to initiate plans for the construction of a meeting hall and entertainment center.  A five-member building committee consisting of Robert W. Brandl, August E. Morris, F.F. Kretek, Ignac Maril and Joseph Beran was appointed to select a land site for purchase and to supervise the construction.  A building fund was soon established and a new hall was constructed in 1913 on Church Street on two acres of land.  The structure was built on a "shares" basis and cost $4,000.  The members donated $770 in shares and $810 in shares were sold to outside individuals.  The remainder was gradually paid off from the lodge treasury.  

First KJT Hall - 1913 - 1939

The lodge hall became the social center of the parish and throughout the years all kinds of events were held there.  When the Holy Cross parochial school was established in 1922, all classes were held in the hall which was furnished gratis by the KJT society.  The hall was the site of many other functions including bazaars, society conventions, Sokol athletic meets as well as weddings, dances and all types of parish activities.  In particular, parishioners remember events such as "grape dances."  An annual grape dance was held usually after Easter in the hall.  Clusters of red grapes were tied or twined around quilting frames and hung all around the walls of the inside of the hall about six feet high.  During the dance, the band would announce that the next number would be a "grape dance."  When the music stopped, everyone helped himself to some grapes.  It also proved to be quite messy if a few grapes would happen to fall to the floor to be stepped on.

In the early part of 1929, additional land was purchased from F.F. Fretek and the lodge hall was enlarged in anticipation of the General K.J.T. XIX Convention which was to be held in East Bernard in July of 1929.  The remodeling was accomplished by parishioners Raymond Morris and Dominic Nezval.  Beautiful stage scenery and stage curtains were added.  One of the curtains showed a street scene of the future East Bernard and featured special advertisements of firms still doing business in 2029.  When Mr. Nezval, the artist, was questioned as to why there were no autos on the streets in the scene, especially when the town blocks were so crowed with them on Saturdays, he replied that by the year 2029 all the residents would have airplances, not autos, parked at the aviation field nearby.  That was a bright outlook indeed!  By the year 1938 the lodge had grown to 150 members.

KJT Society No. 40 Membership about 1936

Front row, left to right:  Albert Andel, Adolph Vacek, Vencil Vacek, inidentified, John Kramr, unidentified, unidentified, William J. Hlavinks.
Second row, left to right:  Frank Prazak, Sr., Frank Pilcik, Charlie Kopecky, Anton Vecera, Buran Keprta, Father J.C. Kunc, Jan Vacek, Frank Toman, Louis Morris, Adolph Bohacek, Frank Smaistrla. (identities "under construction")

In April of 1939, the lodge hall burned to the ground.  The damage was complete amounting to $10,000 with insurance covering only $6,000.  The cause of the fire was unknown.  The society immediately purchased the Riverside Hall, on July 24, 1939 for $3,300 from Union State Bank.  This large round structure located on the bank of the San Bernard River in Fort Bend County was built in 1925 by a group of three investors, Bert Tavener, John Kopecky and John Cook.  In a few years, ownership was assumed by the local American Legion Post and the later in 1934 by Union State Bank.  This spacious facility had been the site of many community functions.  The wooden structure was framed with large wooden beams secured by huge bolts.  A large center pole supported the circular ceiling where all the beams met in crisscross pattern.  During the late 1930's, famous bands performed there such as the Guy Lombardo Ochestra, the Bennie Goodman Band, Paul Whiteman and Sammy Kaye.




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