By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Each year on the last Monday in July, hundreds gather at the corner of Hoertz and Goss avenues to watch the World Championship Dainty Contest.
The Schnitzelburg tradition, now in its 43rd year, brings neighbors together and raises much-needed money for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The game of Dainty itself was brought to Louisville by German immigrants in the 1860s, said Gary Allen, the event’s organizer. George Hauck, 93, owner of Hauck’s Handy Store, along with the late Charlie Vettiner, former director of Jefferson County’s parks system, revived the game in 1971.
“It was started as an appreciation day, a way to give back to the neighborhood for supporting (Hauck’s) store,” Allen said.
Hauck’s parents opened Hauck’s Handy Store in 1912 and later passed the little store on the corner to their son and his wife. Hauck still comes to the store five days a week, where he serves as the official greeter. Seated on stacked cases of beer, Hauck sits near the entrance wearing a World War II veteran’s hat and says “hello” and shakes hands with those who stop by.
“The good Lord has been kind to me,” he said in an interview last week. “I feel good, so why should I sit at home on my butt and do nothing?”
The tradition of donating proceeds from the contest to the Little Sisters of the Poor came about early in the contest’s history.
“I’m 93 years old and I’ve met a lot of people in my years but I’ve never met anyone like them. They are wonderful people,” Hauck said. “There are not too many people who would give up their whole life (serving others) and get nothing in return.”
For nearly half a century Hauck and his family have volunteered their time to the Little Sisters of the Poor, said Sister Maureen in an interview last week at the St. Joseph Home for the Aged, the nursing facility run by the sisters.
Hauck explained that “it started when my wife would take our two daughters to the sisters’ old home at 622 South 10th Street on Fridays. I would go down on Sundays.”
That was back in the 1960s. Hauck still spends time each Sunday with the residents of the St. Joseph Home, where he helps with the weekly Happy Hour before supper. His daughters, Lynn Hite and Karen Hauck — who help run the store now — drive him to and from the nursing facility.
Sister Maureen said Hauck is “one of the most beautiful, pure people you ever want to meet.”
Hauck, who is not Catholic, said he still continues to help the sisters because of the good work they do.
“I can’t say enough good about the sisters. I can’t help but think what a wonderful world it would be if there were more Little Sisters of the Poor or institutions like the work the
Little Sisters do,” he said.
Gary Allen said when he took over operating the event about 10 years ago, he kept alive the tradition of donating funds to the Little Sisters.
“I knew how important they were to Mr. Hauck and I started putting a donation box out,” he said.
The game of Dainty may look simple, but participants will tell you looks can be deceiving.
With one hand behind their backs, participants must tap a five-inch wooden “dainty” with a three-foot dainty bat. Once airborne, contestants attempt to hit the dainty as far as possible down the street. Similar to baseball, contestants have three tries to hit the dainty.
Participants in the game must be at least 45 years old. Besides bragging rights, the winner receives a trophy and his or her name is included on a plaque inside Hauck’s.
At the contest on July 29, local dignitaries taking part included Mayor Greg Fischer, Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson, Congressman John Yarmuth, former Congressman Romano Mazzoli, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, State Representative Jim Wayne, Metro Councilman Jim King and Jefferson County PVA Tony Lindauer.
Also at the festivities were five Little Sisters of the Poor and five residents from the St. Joseph Home.
Allen said events such as the Dainty Contest are important to the Schnitzelburg/Germantown neighborhood because they bring people together.
“It puts smiles on everyone’s faces and it brings the community together. You can’t ask for much more than that,” Allen said.