'Polka Express' keeps rolling as wife, son take over show

Friday September 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The pictures and mementos are everywhere. A picture of Carl and Lucy Flossic in polka attire sits on a cabinet behind the dining room table at the Flossics’ home on Louise Street. An anniversary card is displayed nearby. A portrait of the Flossics with Carl’s stepson, Bill Gustavis, hangs on a nearby wall.

Carl Flossic died in a motor vehicle accident on Aug. 25, the day after he and Lucy celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. But his spirit is still evident in their house. It’s still on the radio, too.

The Flossics co-hosted "Polka Express," a popular radio program in the Berkshires for 33 years.

On WTBR radio, 87.9 FM, broadcasting from Taconic High School in Pittsfield, the show has listeners from as far away as Tennessee, according to WTBR’s student adviser, Larry Kratka. The station also is streamed online.

With help from her son, Lucy is carrying on that tradition.

Mother and son did their first show without Carl last week, with Bill taking his stepfather’s place as disc jockey, and Lucy performing her usual co-hosting duties, taking on-air dedications and announcing community events. "Polka Express" is broadcast live from 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, then rebroadcast on tape from 8 to 10 a.m. on Sundays.

The amount of polka music that WTBR broadcasts has been cut from three hours to two, because Bill no longer hosts an hourlong program that followed "Polka Express."

But the show’s format has remained the same. Lucy said WTBR may even use tapes of Carl’s voice to promote the show on the air.

As her eyes glistened, Lucy described her first show without Carl last week as "different," but said she never thought about canceling the popular program after her husband died.

"I think Carl would want us to continue on with the show," Lucy said. "Because he was so much into it."

Kratka said Carl always seemed to be having fun when he was on the air.

"Anything went with Carl," Kratka said. "If you listen closely, it always sounded like he had a smile on his face. On the air, earphones on, tapping his feet. He absolutely enjoyed those two hours."

Polka music was a big part of the Flossics’ life.

The former Lucille Celatka, who is originally from North ampton, met Carl at a polka festival in New London, Conn., when he asked her to dance.

"They used to go polka-dancing somewhere every weekend," Gustavis said, "so it was just bound to happen."

Carl and Lucy married after dating for three years. Later, they joined a Polish folk dancing group associated with the Polish Falcons of America, which have a club in Pittsfield. Traveling long distances to dance became a big part of their lives.

"We performed in different states," Lucy said.

The couple first broadcast "Polka Express" from a small room at Taconic High School that Lucy described as "the dungeon."

"We were really interested in polka music, and we thought it would be fun to do," Lucy said.

The couple, who never got paid, filled in at WBRK radio in Pittsfield a few times, but kept the show at Taconic because "we enjoyed doing it," Lucy said.

"We had a chance to go up to the North Adams State College radio station, but figured, no, it was too far to travel," she said.

"Polka Express" became extremely popular regionally. People from Connecticut, New York’s Capital Region, and Western Massachusetts communities outside of Berkshire County attended Carl’s wake, Lucy said.

"Carl had a great sense of humor," she said. "He was very friendly. He liked people and he liked to chat. This was just his nature."

"I’ve got a bag full of cards," she said. "I have 150 thank you notes to write."

Kratka isn’t surprised that Lucy decided to continue the show.

"They looked forward to doing that every week," he said. "It was something they truly missed when they weren’t there.

"Since Carl’s passing, we’ve gotten emails from as far away as Tennessee," he said. "We still have the last show that Carl did, and we’re making CDs of it. It’s amazing. They had listeners all over the country."

And they will still be able to listen to "Polka Express."

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
(413) 496-6224
On Twitter: @tonydobrow


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