German Park Picnic
I approach a white-haired gentleman in traditional German dress: brown velvet knickers, white stockings and shirt, and leather suspenders. Strung between the suspenders, at chest level, is a leather-embossed breastplate. Arnold Surdyk has a sharp nose and ocean blue eyes, and was president of the German Park Recreational Club for eight years. His whole family is German. "My little granddaughter's name is Heidi," he says with raised eyebrows. "And we all speak German."
A carpenter by trade, Surdyk played semipro soccer in Hamburg before coming to America in the early 1950s. At that time, the area that is now the club's parking lot was used as a soccer field. He helped build or remodel many of the rustic, heavy wooden buildings.
Surdyk says the club bought these ten wooded acres off Pontiac Trail in 1938. At first only members could attend the picnics. "We had a hard time during the war," he says. "Nobody liked Germans." Today there are 140 members, and on the last Friday of June, July, and August, the picnics are open to the public (admission is $5, food and drink extra). If you're an active member and work the picnics, the club pays for half of a trip to Germany for you.