Council History – Taken from the 50Th anniversary program (1991):
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, being a Catholic often resulted in having to lead an oppressed life. Catholicism was threatened in some countries and persecuted in others. While there had always been Catholics in the United States (John Carroll was a signer of the Declaration of Independence), the numbers of Catholics and their percentage of the population was very small. Thus, the United States was basically a Protestant country that, while professing freedom of religion, never felt that its basic Protestantism was threatened.
The mass waves of immigrants to our shores changed that. Many of these people, along with being wretched and poor, were Catholics from countries such as Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Poland, and their very numbers threatened that traditionally Protestant way of life. When signs appeared in New England saying "No Irish need apply," they were not only rejecting immigrants from that particular country, they were rejecting all Catholic immigrants because of a long held fear that Catholics were dominated by the Vatican. So dominated that, instead of religious freedom in the United States, there would be religious dominance from Rome. This fear was so pervasive that one major political party ran a candidate for president who stood steadfast against "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion."
In 1882, a young Irish priest named Michael McGivney and eleven other men determined to form an organization that would help Catholics, particularly immigrant Catholics, in their efforts to overcome the many difficulties confronting them. After first deciding to call their organization the "Sons of Columbus," they changed their minds and settled on "Knights of Columbus," and established the first Council, San Salvador Council Number 1 at Hartford, Connecticut. James T. Mullen, was the first "Supreme Knight" and it was he who actually suggested the name "Knights of Columbus."
The purpose of the organization was summarized as follows: "…of rendering pecuniary aid to its members and beneficiaries of members, of rendering mutual aid and assistance to its sick and disabled members, of promoting and conducting educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and welfare, and public relief work." In this the Knights of Columbus dedicated itself to the welfare of the entire community, not just its Catholic constituency.
From these beginnings, the Knights of Columbus spread across the United States and a number of other countries. When the Father Kramer Council was formed, it became the two thousand eight hundred and thirty-fifth Knights of Columbus Council formed since Father McGivney had his idea back in 1882.
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The population of Center Line in 1941 was about four thousand people. Many of them were Catholics and a good number of those were descendants of the German immigrants who first came to the area in the latter years of the nineteenth century.
When Frank ("Bud") Doyle and a handful of other Catholic men tried to organize a Knights of Columbus Council for the Center Line area, they did not find a whole lot of interest in the project. But, like Father McGivney who also had to try, try again, they persevered and, in the spring of 1941, their efforts began to be successful.
With the assistance of Father Anthony Kolanczyk of Ascension Parish, they applied for a Council charter. Meetings were held at Assumption Grotto in Detroit with Charles Uhnavy, the District Deputy from Royal Oak, providing guidance.
A charter was granted on June 8, 1941. Bud Doyle was elected the first Grand Knight and Stanley Guzdial the first Deputy Grand Knight. Installation of fifty-three new members took place at the Gabriel Richard Hall in Detroit under the direction of the State Deputy, John Babcock. The total number of charter members, when transferees from other Councils are considered, was seventy-three.
Almost from the beginning, the problem of finding a permanent place to meet was confronted and a number of solutions attempted. Early meetings were held at Ma Zott’s Bowling Alley in Center Line. The Council also bought two vacant lots on Van Dyke and also rented and refurbished a store front building, also on Van Dyke.
Finally, the Council bought what is now the current property on the corner of Van Dyke and Bernice. The original property did consist of Van Dyke frontage with was later sold, as were the two vacant lots acquired earlier.
In 1949, when Wilbert Lundy was Grand Knight, construction commenced on what is now the existing building and approximately three-quarters of it was constructed at that time. The Council vacated the store building and moved into the new building in late 1949, with Joe Weber as Grand Knight.
Major internal renovations to the Council building were undertaken in 1961, during the term of Grand Knight Chet Stempien. At that time, the efforts cost more than seventy thousand dollars.
The final addition, what is now the canteen area, was added in 1965. Andrew J. Mehall was the Grand Knight.
The following are answers to two of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Council’s traditions: First, the last class to be initiated under the "old" rules was in March, 1969, and was in honor of Ken Eggly; Second, the murals in the club side were given a complete facelift back in January, 1971.
In the spring of 1970, a large part of the hall was consumed by a major fire, and was out of commission until that fall. During this period, efforts were made to accommodate receptions and other events on the club side. Ed Michaels was Grand Knight at the time of the fire and Joe Miczulski Grand Knight at the reopening. It was at that time that the entire building was air-conditioned.
The tradition of Saturday Night Dances was begun in the mid-seventies under Grand Knight John Czech.
As the Council grew, it expanded its activities. The Father Kramer Federal Credit Union was established and originally located inside the Council building. It moved to its current location in the mid-sixties.
The hall activities, often run on what now appears to be a casual basis, were formalized when Harry Prasky became the resident caterer. This position is now ably held by Nancy Buscemi’s Catering.
The Council is also alive with a large number of recreational and philanthrophic activities, and its members are active in all phases of community life, just as the charter developed by Father McGivney so long ago requires it to be.
Now, the population base of both Center Line and Warren have peaked and commenced to decline. Further, other Knights of Columbus Councils have been chartered in the area to serve their communities. Even so, the membership of Father Kramer has continued to grow, albeit more slowly, and there is no reason why that growth can’t continue to sustain itself and the membership of the Council. Thus, after fifty year of work and growth, the Father Kramer Council of Center Line, Michigan, is well positioned to continue to move forward into the next fifty years of service and prosperity.
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