Flashback Memories with Vrazels Polka Band
In the early 2000's, life was a lot different than it is now. For starters, a person used to be able to pump the gasoline into their car first, then go inside and pay for it. Unfortunately, a few bad apples spoiled that privilege for the rest of the bunch. There were also no fancy touch screen phones where a person could have Internet access in the palm of their hands. Cell phones were mostly for calling and texting only at that time; imagine that!
The early 2000s was especially a time when the Vrazel Polka Band was at an all time high. The guys were playing more dances in a week than a person could count on their fingers. The band had a dance coming up at the SPJST lodge in Seaton one weekend and every band member was expected to appear on stage. However, for my grandad, Anton Vrazel, that was not the case. Grandad was in need of hip surgery and he was going to be in the hospital for a period. That period of time, unfortunately, would force him to miss the dance in Seaton. Hope for an accordion player seemed lost at first. Thankfully, as luck would have it, the late great Lee Roy Matocha was available to fill in that night. Getting Lee Roy Matocha to fill in for Anton Vrazel was like Johnny Cash filling in for George Strait; no problem there because the talent is equal.
That night, my grandad was missed, but Lee Roy did a great job filling his shoes and his accordion stool. Later in the evening, the band was getting ready to play If I Were A Bird Polka as a dedication for Anton in the hospital. Before the song started, Anton's sister (the late Evelyn Hubnik) called Anton in his hospital room from her cell phone and explained to him that the band was getting ready to play a request for him. Evelyn then held her cell phone up to the stage as the band played the song and my grandad was able to have his moment of joy. After the song was over the band and all of the dancers greeted my grandad through the phone and I know he was elated.
I was at that dance that night and I will never forget that moment, even though I was only seven years old. Later that week, my mother and I went to visit my grandad in the hospital. Mom had video taped portions of the dance for him to watch, so we brought my little TV with a built in VCR to his room so he could watch. The doctor actually walked in the middle of us watching the tape and said: "Oops, didn't mean to interrupt yall's movie." After the doctor left, we finished the tape and I'll never forget my grandad's response, "Boy! Lee Roy was rolling."
This next memory is from the 1990s. I wasn't alive yet, but my grandad remembers it like it was yesterday. The guys were playing a dance and during the intermission, one of the fans told my grandad he wanted to hear the song, Red River Valley (an old cowboy tearjerker). My grandad was sad to say he and the band didn't know that song. However, the band had a mantra; never turn down a gig and keep the fans pleased. Anton consulted with the band about this request. The drummer, Thomas Strmiska mentioned that he did in fact know the lyrics to the song. "If y'all can play it , I think I can sing it," Thomas remarked.
The band quickly ran through the first part of the song while the microphones were off and decided to give it a shot.
"So we played it and you know what, those people liked that Red River Valley," Anton said.
The song went over so well, the band even included it on their 1996 Polka Party Time cassette tape (a lot of people refer to this recording as the Red Vests album, pictured below).
This just goes to show that the Vrazel Polka Band always aimed to please. I am proud to say all of my memories of the band are special and cherished.