Teaching people how to play the button box has been a ritual for Frankie Spetich,
the 2010 Barberton Slovenian Independent Society Home man of the year. He has been
teaching from his storefront home for the past 57 years. A native Barbertonian, Frankie
helped organize the Barberton Magic City Button Box Players, which is made up of
some 15 players, all of whom he has instructed. "We play at any number of venues,"
he says, "including rest homes and Slovenian events in Barberton and Cleveland."
Frank came by his musical talent when he was just nine years old. "The first instrument
I learned to play was the E flat clarinet," he says, "but I couldn't read a note,
and it wasn't until I was in the service that I learned how." One of his most important
achievements was the de-velopment, in cooperation with Mark Trenta, of a computerized
color scheme for learning how to play the accordian. The development was patented
and has been distributed worldwide. The National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame
has awarded Frankie its "Life-time Achievement Award." Frankie and his late brother,
John, who played the saxophone, both served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Frankie was stationed with an anti-aircraft battery in England where he suffered
serious eye and ear wounds. He began his teaching career as an assistant band director
at Akron St. Vincent High School where he taught trumpet, saxophone and clarinet.
His contributions to the Barberton home are many and began in 1946 shortly after
he returned from the war. Over the years, he has been the president, vice president,
trustee, recording secretary and secretary-treasurer. He also managed the bowling
operation and served as business manager from 1969 to 1982. Frankie was a key organizer
for construction of a gazebo at Lake Anna in downtown Barberton. It has become a
favorite spot for weddings and summer concerts, featuring popular bands such as Glenn
Miller and, of course, the Magic City Button Box Players! In 2009, Barberton Mayor
Robert Genet proclaimed Frankie "Barberton's Polka King." Frankie is well known in
Europe and has performed in Austria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and The Netherlands
where he recorded a popular disc with the Klancnik & Friends Band. Frankie and his
wife Betty were married in 1997.