Hillside SAC "A Success Story"
The history of the Hillside Social Athletic Club is the success story of a small group of teenagers who had the foresight and the fortitude to organize and to build for the future. Thanksgiving Day, 1931, saw the humble but courageous beginning associations of a group of boys who organized as the “Red Onions Athletic Club”. Organized primarily to compete with other groups in athletic endeavors, this small unit soon realized its many other responsibilities in the social and civic aspects of life. From this realization came the name Hillside Social Athletic Club; its primary reason for existence was to promote social, athletic and civic activities in Wallington and the surrounding communities. The charter members were: Julius Kempka, Stephen Flejzor, Edward Gusciora, Ted Ciesla, William Krawiec and John Walsh. The original headquarters were located in an unimpressive converted garage and shed in a backyard at 59 Koster Street. Inadequacy of size and facilities soon led the boys to move to more suitable quarters on 324 Hayward Place. Still growing, the group then leased from the Borough a two-story, one-family frame dwelling at 264 Hathaway Street, where it remained until World War II. The Hillsiders then donned the various uniforms of the United States services in order to do their small bit to protect and preserve the cherished freedoms of the American way of life. On September 22, 1944, Private First Class John Loden was killed in action while serving with the 47th Infantry Cannon Company, 9th Division in the Allied advance against Germany. Even though seriously wounded, he met his heroic death attempting to wipe out a machine gun nest. For this he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star. In 1956, the organization dedicated the John Loden Library in his memory. As we look back upon his memory, not only in sorrow but also in admiration, we will strive to reach the standard he set by his unselfish. When the hostilities had ceased and the seemingly endless homeward migration was completed, the men turned their thoughts to reorganization for future activities. Thus, the Hillside SAC was reactivated in 1946. In 1947, vacant land on First Street was purchased with the intention of erecting a modest clubhouse for about $10,000. However, the splendid accomplishments of the organization, as well as its ambitious programs, now made it mandatory to revise the original plans. Thus, in 1950, we saw the beginning of the construction of a completely modern and thoroughly accommodating clubhouse with an approximate value of $50,000. The presentation of an electric basketball scoreboard to Wallington High School, the presentation of an annual $200 scholarship award to a graduating member of Wallington High School, monthly contributions of science and history books to the high school library, the erection of “Drive Carefully” signs throughout the community, the annual distribution of Christmas Baskets to the needy, the sponsorship of a Little league softball team, the sponsorship of a baseball team (semi-pro), and the regular contributions to various charitable organizations all distinguish the Hillside SAC as an organization worthy of recognition throughout this area of the state. The annual married men-single men softball game, the annual bagatelle tournament, billiards, ping pong, darts, horseshoes, bowling, the annual spring and fall dances, the annual bus ride to the seashore, and the Easter, Christmas (with the Kolenda Choir) and New Year’s Eve parties all contribute to make membership in the Hillside SAC very desirable. The organization of the Hillside Ladies Auxiliary in 1953 completed the organizational structure of the Hillside. The motto “Build Today For Tomorrow” has lead the Hillside Social Athletic Club to success–a story that was told in the (organization’s) 1956 book Hillsider 1931 - 1956 in honor of the organization’s 25th anniversary. Over the years the Hillside SAC has continued to support the community. It now sponsors three $500 scholarships to graduating students of Wallington High School and is also an annual supporter of the Boys State program. It supports Wallington youth activities such as Little League Baseball, Youth Soccer and Junior Basketball. It has sponsored both men and women softball teams at various times over the years. In 2002, The Hillside Club replaced the “Drive Carefully” signs in the borough that were erected in 1956. Only one of the original signs now remains; it is located at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Union Boulevard. The Pre-Thanksgiving Beefsteak Dinner held at the clubhouse on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day has been an annual tradition for 50 years. A tradition first started by the Half-Time Club and then taken over by the Hillside SAC, this has always been a night when old and new friends gather together at the start of the holiday season. One special annual event is the Hillside SAC’s involvement with the Friends of Sara Softball Tournament as a sponsor and the place where the group’s Fundraiser Beefsteak Dinner is held. Another holiday tradition that has started in recent years is the Meet Santa Claus event, which is run with the Wallington Fire Department. Santa makes a guest appearance to the Hillside SAC bearing gifts for the children of members and friends. While the years have seen many changes in the Borough of Wallington and the nation, the Hillside SAC has always endeavored to be an organization worthy of its founders. The 75th anniversary of the Hillside SAC was celebrated in 2006, and it will continue to be a leading organization in the community.