[Wachtel-Stanley-Gertrude picture]

Stanley and Gertrude Wachtel

Stanley Zenon Wachtel - born 1887 in Jaroslaw district (near Lwow)
Gertrude Irene Wieckowska - born 1884 in Chicago (her parents from Pozny and Krakow)

They met in 1912 when Stanley came to USA to visit his brother Karl. At the time Stanley was on leave from the Austrian cavalry (Poland was occupied by Austria). When WWI broke out he did not return to Europe to fight for the Austrians. Stanley and Gertrude worked together in Polish theatrical productions and got married in Chicago at St. Stanislaws. Much to Gertrude's dismay, Stanley subsequently signed up with the Polish Legion under the French army - stationed at Fort Niagara in Canada. The 1918 pneumonia epidemic "saved" him from being transported overseas with his regiment. Gertrude received a discharge notice from the legion with instructions to come get her sick dying husband. She nursed him back to health & Estelle was born in 1919.

Stanley Zenon Wachtel (1887 - 1959)

(Stanislaw Zenon Wachtel) stage director, character actor and playwright in the pioneer Polish ethnic theater of the United States; broadcaster and producer of Polish language radio programs transmitted throughout Michigan; recipient of Poland's Polonia Restituta medal in 1928.

Stanley Z. Wachtel was born May 11, 1887 in Jaroslaw, Galicia, Province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; he died June 18, 1959 in Detroit, Michigan and was buried in Grandville Cemetery, Michigan. Educated in Agronomy, he fulfilled his compulsory military duties in the Austrian Cavalry and then obtained leave for a visit to his brother Karol Wachtel in Chicago in October of 1912.

The activities of Polish amateur drama circles in Chicago's dynamic Polonia captivated his imagination. He fell in love with and married one of its stars, Miss Gertrude Irene Wieckowska. They married on August 10, 1914 at the St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. They seemed destined to devote their talents to the Polish Stage where knowledge of Poland's literary classics and works of outstanding dramas could be performed for audiences thirsting to hear the pure Polish tongue. Thus inspired, a troupe of like minded actors prepared an ambitious repertoire which was presented over the years in the following theatres: in Chicago: The Chopin, Polonia, Wolna Polska, Big Ashland, Davis, Union, Premier, Juno, Fredro and Ochlylski; in Detroit: Fredro, Martha Washington, Rozmaitosci, Wolna Polska, Ludowy, and Farnum; in Cleveland: the Polonia; in Newark: The Polonia and in Buffalo: The Fillmore. Each one of these listed theaters accommodated full season repertory enterprises, with play lists ranging from dark tragedies to light hearted folk comedies or French frocked farces; elaborate musicals with dance and song were great audience favorites. The introduction of "talkies" by the movie industry and the grimness of the Big Depression, brought this gay theatrical era to a halt, but not before the Polish government awarded Stanly Z. Wachtel its Polonia Restituta Medal in recognition of his part in the preservation of Polish Culture in the United States.

Stanley Wachtel turned to Polish radio work in 1933 when he debuted on Detroit's Station WEXL; he scripted a mystery series for Ted Zajac's night time program. Competitively, Walenty Jarosz had Mr. Wachtel contribute to a morning program on WMBC. Next Wladyslaw Leskiewicz employed him to direct the full morning hour spot at Station WJBK. His talents were in hot demand. In 1938 Station WMBC changed its call letters to WJLB and moved its studies to the Broderick Towers in downturn Detroit. Station owner, John Lord Booth, contracted Mr. Wachtel to direct a premier Polish Morning Variety Show with live orchestra, vocalists, news commentators and actors in dramatic serials. Live audiences were a unique and exciting feature. This successful project was brought to a close in 1944 when foreign language programming was suspended for security reasons.

Manuscripts, plays and photographs relating to the works of Stanley Zenon Wachtel are archived at the Burton Historical Library of the Main Public Library of Detroit. They can be accessed under:

The Stanley Wachtel Collection, which is catalogued at US Library of Congress
Poles of Chicago 1837-1937 Polish Pagaent Press 1937.
Polish Radio Broadcasting in the United States by Joseph Migala, Columbia University
Teatr Polonijny w Stanach Zjednoczonych by Emil Orzechowski 1989 Polish Press

Contributor: Estelle Phyllis Wachtel-Torres, M.D.