By James DaMico, Graphics Project Archivist
Usually in this blog we talk about the Graphics Inventory Project. Today, I would like to share an example of the diverse material the RIHS receives as gifts.
That’s right, Polka music is alive and well in the Rhode Island Historical Society’s musical recordings collection which contain a variety of LP’s (Long Play), 45RPM, Cassette and reel to reel recordings of folk, jazz and rock music created by Rhode Island based bands and orchestras.
A recent gift of the Wesoly Bolek record, Wild Wild Polkas, had the staff dancing to the irresistible beat of the Polka. This record was recorded at AAA Recording Studios, Boston, Massachusetts for the ALBO Record Company of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
William “Wesoly Bolek” Borek (1941-2006), was known as Rhode Island’s Polka Clown and was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on July 19, 1941 to Joseph and Stella (Socha) Borek. Growing up, Borek and his brother Edward worked in their father’s Polonia Bakery. In 1962, William graduated from Rhode Island College making him the first family member to go to college. He furthered his education by attaining two masters degrees from the University of Connecticut in 1964 and the University of Rhode Island in 1968. [a.]
At the age of 17, Borek formed the Wesoly Bolek Band and over a length of about five decades they toured the United States, Canada and Poland and recorded ten albums for the Rex, Dala and ALBO record labels. In addition to being an accomplished musician, William Borek was a high school history teacher and after retiring from teaching became an insurance salesman and then a district manager of the Combined Insurance Company of America. [b.]
Polish culture and the Polka were intertwined in Borek’s life as he promoted Polka music through his work as a disc jockey and organizing trips, picnics and evening Polka dances with bands from around the United States. Borek was inducted into The International Polka Association’s Hall of Fame in 2008. [c.]
[a.] International Polka Association. “William “Wesoly Bolek” Borek”. http://www.internationalpolka.com/borek.htm (accessed 2011_03_25)