John Yanek among those honored in North Catasauqua
Robert “Wabs” Chromiak literally watched the North Catasauqua William J. Albert Memorial Park be constructed out of the ground.
“I grew up across the street,” recalled Chromiak. “It was an all-wooded area and it was a dump with all dirt.
“After World War II, I would raise and take down the flag there.”
A few years later, Chromiak began a 25-plus career as playground director, a time period that began a long tradition of joy and competition that still lingers today.
Chromiak, Frank Molchan, and John Joseph Yanek were recently honored during a ceremony at the North Catty Playground July 2 for the contributions to the community.
Chromiak, who served as the summer recreational program director from 1955-80, had the basketball courts named in his honor; Molchan, who had a 30-plus year career following Chromiak, had the fields named after him; and Yanek, who has more than 30 years of service in summer volleyball, had the courts named in his honor.
“It was great to see Molchan and Yanek there because I had them in the program as kids,” said the 86-year-old Chromiak, who was a former Catty standout and teacher. “I had kids there who are now in their sixties and seventies.
“We had kids from all over and had them come at certain times. We did so many things like basketball, softball, volleyball, quoits, and we would play all types of games and card games like Pinochle.
“The kids had fun and it was fun running the programs.”
Molchan recalled how Chromiak made his summers memorable.
“This was an honor and it was all about the kids,” said Molchan, also a former teacher for 37 years. “Wabs was my instructor and he made it fun for the kids. He always was funny and created names for certain things.
“No matter how hot it was, there always was a big group of kids there. The borough council and recreation committee allowed me to do a lot of things.”
Molchan took his cue from Chromiak and made summers interesting.
“Once a week, we had a special kind of tournament with a sport,” said Molchan. “We had a kid named Fisher one summer and so we had a Fisher Price tournament where the winner would get a Fisher Price plastic lawn mower.
“We had the Pizza Hut Classic in which I went out and bought pizzas for the kids. We also had a fastnacht day. Kids who were there still come up to me today and remind me about the contests and the names we had.
“I just tried to make it fun for them. It was a great ceremony and great to see so many people who we had. It was a real honor and privilege to serve in that role.”
Yanek, who is the current boys volleyball coach at Freedom High School, has watched the volleyball leagues flourish since their beginnings.
“It has been over 30 years and I’m still here,” said Yanek. “But I truly enjoy it. We have grown to league to as many as 60 teams at one point and we currently are in the 50s. We have a men’s, women’s and a coed league.
“This was a great honor to have the courts named after me, and it makes you realize that people appreciate what you are doing.
“We have had great support over the years and we are still going strong.”