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'Winged Fist' Has Its 'Way'

Inclusive 20th Century Irish American Athletic Club Celebrated

winged fist irish american athletic clubMarch 10, 2012 / Sunnyside / Sunnyside NewsBriefs / Queens Buzz. On Saturday, March 10th, the corner of 43rd Street and 48th Avenue in Sunnyside was renamed 'Winged Fist Way'.

Ian McGowan [see photo below] was the driving force behind the effort to honor and celebrate the historical legacy of the Irish American Athletic Club [IAAC]. The IAAC is a legacy that dates back over a century, and apparently of which little remains, except its memory.

The Winged Fist emblem, as shown in the photo to your left, was the mark of the Irish American Athletic Club [IAAC] which had its athletic facilities and clubhouse in Sunnyside, a corner of which was at 43rd Street and 48th Avenue. The club was created in 1898, and over the course of the next 32 years, its member athletes went on to win over 50 Olympic medals.

Click here to read the rest of the story about the Winged Fist Organization, the Irish American Athletic Club and Celtic Park in Sunnyside.

'Winged Fist' Has Its 'Way'

Inclusive 20th Century Irish American Athletic Club Celebrated

Continued. March 10, 2012 / Sunnyside / Sunnyside NewsBriefs / Queens Buzz. joe crowley jimmy van bramer joe connolly mike giannaris danny dromm ian mcgowan photos fotosWhile the club was predominantly Irish, club members included John Baxter Taylor Jr., the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal; as well as Myer Prinstein, a Polish Jewish American who won three gold medals in three Olympic games. Indian American Jim Thorpe was qualified by the Irish American Athletic Club for the 1912 Olympics [he was not a member], where he went on to win two gold medals.

In attendance at the street renaming were Winged First Organization Founder Ian McGowan, Community Board Two President Joseph Connolly, City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Congressman Joseph Crowley, State Senator Michael Giannaris and City Councilmember Danny Dromm. A crowd of over 100 people came out to honor the club and its legacy on March 10th, 2012.

The Winged Fist Organization is also seeking Celtic Park Board approval to have a plaque added to the building wall, in the same manner as has been done for Bix Beiderbecke, to commemorate this Sunnyside historical legend.

Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to view an opinion submitted by a reader.

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Member Opinions:
By: walterjvk on 3/19/12
Dear Editor Wood

After reading your article titled 'Winged Fist' Has Its ‘Way’, I jotted down a few thoughts in endorsement of your closing paragraph, of that article.

Dear Friends and Supporters of the Celtic Park Plaque

As the Great Grand Son of Irish immigrants to Dutch Kills, who once enjoyed the spectacle and competition that was Celtic Park, I take great pride in preserving the history, of the times and places, in which my ancestors and their neighbors lived.

Establishing a plaque, honoring the history of Celtic Park and the multi ethnic athletes who created the organization, represented by the Winged Fist, should be done for the following reasons:

1. You would be commemorating the diversity and the strength of a group who together were more than the individuals that contributed to its success.

2. Long before political correctness was even a concept, these men banded together on the site of the Celtic Park housing complex, to hone their individual athletic skills into a team that was the most prolific contender ever competing in the arena of Track and Field.

3. It was because they celebrated their common values and not their differences that they were successful in amassing more Olympic medals, as a group, than any American Team before or since.

4. It was they who set the ground rules for Olympic competition, as we know it today. They set the standard for competition at such a high level that many of their records stood for decades beyond their passing.

Let us hope that the diversity of those living today, within the boundaries of the original Celtic Park, will convince their Board of Directors to celebrate, not only the spirit but the foresight that enabled a band of immigrants, that collectively were known as the Irish-American Athletic Club, to plan and purchase the land from the Thompson family and, then pass it on, intact, to those who developed the Celtic Park Housing Project. Without them preserving this parcel, the homes of those living in Celtic Park housing, today would never have materialized, or been developed, as you appreciate it now.

Honor them, the members of the Irish-American Athletic Club and all they stood for, with the proposed plaque that proudly displays their emblem. This emblem consists of two American Flags protecting the upright hand of strength, supported by a pair of wings sprinkled with shamrocks, to suggest the descent of the founding members of the organization, all this resting on a cloud encircling the Irish Motto “Liam Adair Abu” which translates to Strong Hand Forever.

One cannot celebrate the history of Celtic Park without the symbols that represented it to the, athletes and the, tens of thousands of spectators that once cheered them on from the Grand stand, where your housing is now anchored.

As the IAAC was inclusive the plaque representing their accomplishments cannot be any less encompassing. Vote to have the plaque, as thoughtfully presented by Ian McGowan, placed in a location of prominence, in Celtic Park Housing, for present and future generations to cherish.

As the families that represent the current residents of Celtic Park, members of my family have grown past their Irish roots to welcome, Native American, Italian, German, French, Hispanic, African American, English, Scottish, Welsh, Polish, and Russian nationalities plus a wide variety religious beliefs to match the diversity represented represented by them, into our extended family. What all of us have become are Americans and as such we celebrate our past while treasuring our future. We cannot have one without the other.

Please support the tireless efforts mounted, on your behalf, to preserve the historical heritage of your homes, with a Plaque preserving it for the future.

Thank You

Walter J. Kehoe
Syosset, N.Y.

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