A couple's love affair with polka
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 26, 2012 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 25, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.
When Gene Hilscher met his wife, Belle, 65 years ago at a polka dance, it was love at first sight.
"I got into a fight and got thrown out of the dance. She came over to clean the blood off my face," Gene Hilscher chuckled. "I was tryin' to help this little feller out and got messed up pretty bad."
The San Antonio couple went on a date a few days later, and they've been dating - and dancing - ever since.
On Sunday, the 86-year-old pair traveled to the Inez Community Center and danced around the floor at the 21st annual Polkafest. These days, the Hilschers polka a bit slower, but their passion for the dance is as strong as it was more than six decades ago when they first met.
"We just love to dance," Belle Hilscher said.
Two of the couple's favorite bands, the Red Ravens and the Dujka Brothers, were performing Sunday at Polkafest, which raises money for a Czech-American youth program and affiliated community projects.
Funds raised at the event also support area Food Banks, volunteer fire departments and the Salvation Army.
As the accordion-heavy tunes filled the dance hall, the Hilschers danced cheek to cheek and glided around the floor.
"We probably go to about three dances a week," Gene Hilscher said. "These Texas polka bands are some of the best bands I've heard."
The Hilschers are not exactly polka groupies, they said, but they frequently travel around the state to listen and dance to their favorite polka bands.
"We've been following these bands for a while," Belle Hilscher said. "We follow all the good polka bands. It's our favorite music."
Holding his wife's hand with one hand and her waist in the other, Gene Hilscher moved his hips to the beat of the Red Ravens and waltzed Belle across the floor.
"He was a good dancer when he was younger, but he's so crippled up now," Belle Hilscher said. "But we still go, you know?"
Gene Hilscher, however, thinks his wife still has the polka moves, even after 65 years of dancing together.
"Oh yeah, she's a good dancer. Hell, I taught her to dance when she was a little girl," a smiling Hilscher said, remembering they were both about 21 when their eyes first met.
Belle enjoyed polka dancing so much when they first met, she forced her husband to give up playing the accordion at dances.
"I wasn't going to sit on the bench and watch him play the accordion while other people danced," Belle Hilscher laughed. "I wanted to dance."
"But sometimes when we're alone, I'll get out my accordion and play at the house," Gene Hilscher added.
When the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary 15 years ago, they said they had a polka-themed affair with more than 800 guests, many of whom they met while dancing the polka. As long as the Hilschers are able to move around the floor, they will continue to dance the polka.
"Polka music is clean. It's good. The polka people are happy people. And they don't believe in fighting," Gene Hilscher said, smiling.