A member of the Polish community in Southbridge, Mass., John Libera (1919-2007) was a long-time employee of American Optical Company, but was best known as a promoter of polka music and dancing. A performer, song writer, and host of a radio show for over thirty years, Libera was inducted into the Polka Music Hall of Fame in 1982 and invited to perform at the American Folklife Festival in 1988.
The Libera collection consists of four photographs of the Polish community in Southbridge during the 1930s along with fourteen photos, a videotape, and some correspondence and ephemera relating to the American Folklife Festival.
A well-known figure in Southbridge’s Polish community and polka promoter, John Libera was born in Southbridge, Mass., on April 20, 1919, the son of Joseph and Mary (Slupek) Libera. After serving in the Navy during the Second World War II, Libera enjoyed a long career as a researcher at American Optical Co., becoming a member and president of both its Quarter Century Club and Wellsworth Athletic Association.
A passion for polka music led Libera into a career as a radio personality. For over 33 years beginning in the mid-1950s, he hosted a Polish radio show on WESO radio in Southbridge, earning the nickname “Mr. Polka Man.” An instant hit, his show expanded to WNEB in Worcester and eventually onto FM broadcasting, and it spawned other programs, including the “Polka Jamboree” and “Sunset Polkatime Show.” Libera was not simply a disk jockey, however, he was a talented musician, songwriter, recording artist, and for many years a dance instructor. In recognition of his efforts, Libera was made a member of the International Polka Association and was inducted into the Polka Music Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1988, he was selected to take part in the American Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, where he and the Massachusetts band, Bay State IV, demonstrated their beloved music. Libera died in Worcester on Aug. 27, 2007, at the age of 88.
The Libera collection consists of four photographs of the Polish community in Southbridge during the 1930s along with fourteen photos, a videotape, and some correspondence and ephemera relating to the American Folklife Festival in 1988.
Gift of John Libera, 1985.
Processed by Linda Seidman, 1986, and I. Eliot Wentworth, Sept. 2015.
Cite as: John Libera Collection (MS 048). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
- Baseball teams--Massachusetts--Southbridge--Photographs
- Polish Americans--Massachusetts--Southbridge--Photographs
- Southbridge (Mass.)
- Women--Societies and clubs--Massachusetts--Southbridge--Photographs
- Libera, John
Types of material