Register of the Papers of
Carla B. Zimmerman
Charles (Karol) Belohlavek was born on 13 January 1886, in Holic, western Slovakia. He was trained as a typesetter and printer there before immigrating to the United States in 1903. He worked at various odd jobs for three years in Newark, New Jersey and then moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to work as a typesetter for Bratstvo, the newspaper of the Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union. He married Irene Felix in 1908, and together they had five children. She died in 1942.
In 1912 Belohlavek moved to Pittsburgh, where be became the editor of Slovensky Hlasnik, the newspaper of the Slovak Evangelical Union. He also worked in the editorial offices of the National Slovak Society.
Before and during World War I, Belohlavek was a minor leader in the movement to establish an independent CzechoSlovak republic. He participated in the drafting of the second "Memorandum of the Slovak Nation" to the Parliament of Hungary in 1914, and he was active during the war in recruiting volunteers for the Czecho-Slovak Legion and raising funds for the fledgling government. His work on behalf of the Czecho-Slovak Republic was recognized by both President Woodrow Wilson and President Thomas Masaryk.
In the interwar period Belohlavek continued to be active in Pittsburgh. In the 1920s he worked in various editorial capacities and also carried on a lively correspondence with numerous leaders in Czechoslovakia, particularly with Slovak Lutheran personalities. In the 1930s he and his family suffered terribly from the Great Depression, and he corresponded with a number of U.S. politicians, hoping to find work for his sons, to no avail. Belohlavek was also involved in various court cases concerning the National Slovak Society at this time.
Seeking better opportunities for himself and for his family, Belohlavek moved to Detroit in 1944. While in Detroit he founded the Slovak Radio Circle, which ran until 1948, and hosted a half hour radio program sponsored by the General Stefanik Society. He continued his work as a journalist and was active in Slovak American organizations including serving as chairman of the Association of Slovak Organizations in Michigan. In June 1944 he married his second wife, the wealthy widow, Maria Jergo.
In 1949 Charles and Maria Jergo Belohlavek began an ambitious effort to create a retirement community for Slovak Americans. With money that had been entrusted to the Zivena Beneficial Society by Maria Jergo, undeveloped land was purchased in Maitland, Florida. In 1952 "Slovak Garden, a Home for American Slovaks" was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
Charles Belohlavek spent the rest of his life at Slovak Garden. He was president and, later, recording secretary of the organization and was publisher and editor of Floridsky Slovak, a quarterly newspaper. Maria Jergo Belohlavek died in 1967. He married Laura Dubovsky in 1971. Charles Belohlavek died on 25 April 1983 at the age of 97.
The Charles Belohlavek Papers were donated to the Balch Institute in 1983 by John M. Belohlavek.
The papers were arranged and described by Balch archivists Judy Felsten, David Sutton, and Carla Zimmerman, with the assistance of M. Mark Stolarik, and were completed in October 1988. Assisting in the process were volunteer translators Marlene Cicvak, Kvetoslav Zabadal, Alojs Paulovic, and Albert Guris.
Photographs from this collection were separated into Photo Group 169 and are cataloged in the visual catalog in the library. Ephemera from the collection, namely 42 funeral mass cards, were separated into Photo Group 170.
Printed materials that were received with the collection, including Slovak American books, journals, almanacs and other publications, were accessioned by the library (see accessions 85-4005,85-4042).
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Charles Belohlavek Papers, 1903-1983, contain six linear feet of materials. The types of records include correspondence, writings, minutes, notes, scrapbooks, and newsclippings. Approximately 90% of the collection is in Slovak with the majority of documents in English being newsclippings.
The bulk of the collection covers the latter part of Belohlavek's life (post1945). His early years in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh are scantily represented. The autobiographical notes in Series I, Personal Documents, give the best detailed accounts of his life. His role as a strong, highly motivated, and highly opinionated Slovak American leader is presented in his articles and speeches in Series I, in the correspondence in Series II, and in his newspaper Floridsky Slovak. Throughout the collection, Belohlavek's concern for Slovakia's political affairs and for the welfare of the Slovak people is clear. His promotion of ethnic identity and pride of maintaining ties with the homeland are themes represented in all of the series.
The largest amount of material of one kind is found in Series V, Research Files. While limited in research value, the sheer volume of diligently kept notes, scrapbooks, and clippings reveal Belohlavek's keen thirst for knowledge and information. His passionate interest in American, Slovak, and European history is represented by 7 ½ boxes of material, in English and Slovak, on Slovak nationalism and unity, the Slovak language, Czechoslovakia, World War II, the Soviet Union and communism, and famous Americans and Slovaks. Many of the "Notes" files in this series contain a rather eclectic array of phrases, jokes, words of wisdom, and quotes gathered by Belohlavek. It appears that Belohlavek wanted to keep information such as this easily accessible, presumably for speeches, letters, and greeting cards.
The most important aspect of this collection is its documentation of the creation and operation of an ethnic retirement community. Series III contains files exclusively on Slovak Garden, but relevant information may also be found in Series II, Correspondence, under Paul Blazek Joseph Kacir, Louis A. Komjathy, Susanna Kusy, John J. Pankuch, and Jan Piovarci, among others. Materials on Slovak Garden's local assemblies of Zivena and the National Slovak Society are in Series IV, Slovak American Organizations.
The records illuminate the complexity of establishing a nonprofit residence for the elderly, from the purchase of land to the legal framework for its ownership and operation. The early minutes of the Board of Directors and the correspondence between Maria Jergo Belohlavek, the officials of Zivena Beneficial Society, and the National Slovak Society reflect an effort to define the financial and legal roles of the three parties.
The growth and developments of Slovak Garden and its effort to appeal to and promote ethnicity is revealed in its community events, such as the annual Slovak Day; the establishment of local branches of national fraternal organizations; and the publishing of Floridsky Slovak. Written primarily in Slovak, this newspaper contained articles by Belohlavek on Slovak history, Slovak American interests, and on community activities and residents of Slovak Garden.
There is interesting, although limited, material on the Slovak Radio Circle of Detroit, which aired on WJBK, including meeting minutes, membership lists, reports, and correspondence. Often ethnic radio programs would request musical recordings from the homeland, and this is revealed in Belohlavek's correspondence with Slovak agencies. There is also a 1947 letter informing the Slovak Radio Circle of the cancellation of programs, such as theirs, that bought time from the station and then sold portions of it to individual advertisers. There are also angry letters and a petition denouncing the discontinuance of foreign language programming by the Slovak Radio Circle's subsequent broadcasting station, WJLB, in 1948 (Box 79 Folders 13-14) .
Although this collection does not cover the entire life of Charles Belohlavek, it does help to document the long and fruitful career of an influential Slovak American leader. Scholars of ethnic retirement communities will find these records valuable, because they are fairly complete for this phase of Belohlavek's life.
For conservation purposes, highly acidic materials in the collection, such as newsclippings and carbon copies of letters, were photocopied onto acidfree bond paper, and the originals were discarded, with the exception of newsclippings attached in note books.
Manuscript materials related to the Charles Belohlavek Papers include the Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union Records and the National Slovak Society Records located at the Balch Institute. For additional material on ethnic radio programming, see Fiorani Radio Productions Records and the Patrick Stanton Papers at the Balch.
The Charles Belohlavek Papers are organized into five series which reflect Belohlavek's interests and activities. The series are: I. Personal Documents; II. Correspondence; III. Slovak Garden; IV. Slovak American Organizations; and V. Research Files. Arrangement within the series varies according to record type and is described below.
SERIES I: PERSONAL DOCUMENTS, 1903-1982, 2 ½ inches (1 box). Arrangement: files are grouped according to subject and relative importance.
This series includes writings by Belohlavek, some financial records, and burial/cremation papers. His writings range from autobiographical notes and journals to essays and articles, speeches, eulogies, and poems. The earliest dated item is a photocopy of the manifest of the ship on which Belohlavek immigrated in 1903.
SERIES II: CORRESPONDENCE, 1918-1983, 15 inches (3 boxes). Arrangement: files are arranged by author or subject. Items within the folders are arranged chronologically.
Although some early years are covered by letters from family in Slovakia and from his involvement in civic activities and fraternal organizations, the bulk of the correspondence falls between the mid1940s to the late 1970s. The largest volume of correspondence is with Paul Blazek (1949-1954, 4 folders), who was editor of the Zivena Beneficial Society's newspaper and Recording Secretary of the Board of Directors of Slovak Garden, and with John J. Pankuch (1951-1976, 4 folders), who was President of the National Slovak Society of the United States of America. The letters pertain to Slovak Garden and to the local branches of these national societies. The subject files of correspondence include civic activities, fraternal organizations, and Czechoslovak government organizations and agencies.
SERIES III: SLOVAK GARDEN, 1941-1983, 10 inches (2 boxes). Arrangement: files are grouped according to subject and relative importance.
Documents on the founding of this ethnic retirement community include a carbon copy of Maria Jergo's trust agreement with the Zivena Beneficial Society (1941); letters between Maria Jergo Belohlavek, Zivena, and the National Slovak Society; articles of incorporation; and minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors of Slovak Garden. Additional materials cover other aspects of this nonprofit corporation, including donations and bequests, community organizations and events, and a few financial records. Included in this series are correspondence, financial records, and articles for Floridsky Slovak, the newspaper Belohlavek managed and edited while at Slovak Garden.
SERIES IV: SLOVAK AMERICAN ORGANIZATIONS, 1931-1982, 5 inches (1 box). Arrangement: files are arranged alphabetically by name of group.
A variety of local and national Slovak American associations are presented here. Best documented are the National Slovak Society and its Slovak Garden branch, Assembly 812, and the Zivena Beneficial Society and its Slovak Garden branch, Assembly 223. Records for these two organizations include correspondence, minutes, and dues books. Other groups include the Slovak Home Association, Inc.; Slovak Radio Circle of Detroit; and United Lutheran Society.
SERIES V: RESEARCH FILES, 1914-1982, 1.5 linear feet (3 ½ boxes and 4 oversize boxes). Arrangement: files are arranged in rough alphabetical order by type of material.
This grouping contains biographical materials on famous Slovaks and Americans; notes kept of words of wisdom, jokes, quotes, etc.; and scrapbooks and clippings regarding Slovak and American politics.
This addition consists of two items of correspondence: a 1968 letter from Belohlavek to Milos K. Mlynarovic criticizing a book written by Mlynarovic, and a thankyou note from Mlynarovic to Belohlavek, n.d. The addition has been filed in box 3 of the collection, with Belohlavek's correspondence.
The box list of the register of the papers of Charles Belohlavek is fourteen