Are You Related To...??
|My grandmother and the Juneks,|
Bay City, 1940. I got the "goofball"
gene from her.
Earlier this year I was sitting with my 96-year old grandmother (my Dad's mother - Irene (Zielonka) Orsak) in Denton and we were looking through photos. There was a batch of really sweet pictures of her and my grandfather in 1940 or '41 at LeTulle Park in Bay City with another couple their same age... drinking sodas, climbing trees, horsing around. There was a label on the back of one photo that said "Mrs. Edwin Junek." My grandmother told me they were friends with Edwin and his wife, but didn't remember her name.
That same week I got a notice in my email about an article that had just come out in Edible Houston magazine about the kolach baker Lydia Faust in Snook and it was written by a Sarah Junek (whose family has roots in Snook.) The name was so unusual to me that I contacted Edible Houston and asked them to send my contact info to Sarah. I was, at the time, working on my own article (on Texas Czech picnics) for Edible Austin magazine so thought we'd have a lot to talk about it.
|Sarah Junek and me, 2016, at the|
Foodways Texas annual conference,
where we sat on a panel together
about gender roles in the
Texas Czech kitchen.
With help from Sarah's Dad, we found out that the Junek couple my grandparents were friends with in 1940 was Sarah's great-great aunt and uncle, Edwin and Willie Ollie (Orsak) Junek.
|My grandmother (left) and|
Sarah's great-great aunt, 1940.
My ancestors gave me plenty of ammunition to pass this test with flying colors and I am grateful. My maternal grandmother's brother was the Bishop of the Houston-Galveston diocese, and my mother's paternal grandfather was the State President of the KJT for years in the 1930s. Another of my grandmother's brothers was a Monsignor with a serious reputation in Lavaca County for being a hard ass teacher (pardon my French) and a lead-foot. Invariably, whoever I was trying to start a discussion with in my fieldwork would know the names Morkovsky, Kallus, Migl, Marek, or Raska, etc. and I would be "taken in", so to speak. I was suddenly accepted, a member of the clan, worthy of attention, and taken seriously. It was comforting.
|Juneks and Orsaks, LeTulle Park in Bay City, 75 years ago.|
So, I was especially pleased to have this kinship/community connection with Sarah, who is a great writer and lover of stories and history. (Read her article about Lydia Faust, "The Czech Queen of Kolache", here.) She works at the Royal Theater in Archer City in Archer County and with the Archer City Story Center. In her own words, she is "cobbling together an arts education community out of the Royal Theater." She's also been making an effort to help older Texas-Czech women in Snook tell their food stories. A kindred spirit. The Texas Czech community needs way more people like Sarah Junek and Lori Najvar of PolkaWorks and Susan Chandler at the Texas Czech Heritage Museum in Temple collecting the stories and memories of the community, especially if they're members of the community themselves... bringing that knowledge to interviews and fieldwork and, let's face it, being asked "Are you related to...?" and passing the test.
Just to put her money where her mouth is (and the food stories are), Sarah has a pop-up kolache booth at the Archer Farmers Market at the Archer Feed store on Saturday mornings. Visit her, if you're out West Texas way and support Texas Czechs making Texas Czech food. (Photos of Sarah's kolaches and booth below are stolen from her Facebook feed.)