914 Regent Street
Later, we went to the Italian Workman’s Club. I liked this too. Our presenters were Gianna Miceli Jeffries, from Sicily, and Tony Bruno, of Italian heritage. The people of the Italian Workman’s Club were workers! This was where they met, and formed a club. They’d help each other out through unemployment and compensation. Every year, they would give some money to the club, so if someone got hurt, they’d have interest to pay for care. At first, they met on the other side of Park Street, in someone’s garage.
The first Italians here were stone workers, and they helped build the Capitol. They also built the shelter at Hoyt Park in the Depression. Most people didn’t want Italians, so they lived in the Greenbush with the Blacks and the poor Jews. There were four clubs, and they were divided by where the families came from in Italy. In this club, people were from around Palermo and Pianodel Greci. People knew Sicilian dialect and Albanian. Sicilian is very different from standard Italian. “For example,” Giovanni said in her Italian accent, “Bambino is standard Italian for boy. In Sicilian, we would say Aggui, or piceriggio.”
The club has a Fiesta Italia each year for three days. Also, on Columbus Day, they give a scholarship to a high school student of Italian heritage.
There is a men’s club and a women’s club. And the women have made especially sure to keep Italian recipes alive. The clubs have different presidents. Tony Bonanno is the men’s’ club president.
Some Italians didn’t want their kids to learn their language, like Tony Bruno’s parents. But every Saturday morning there’s an Italian class for kids, and every Monday night, there is the same thing for adults.
I think the trip was a success. I had fun, I learned a lot, even about my own culture! I’d like to do another trip like this soon.
The Italian Workman’s Club:
A community of Italians
To help each other
Through the hardships of life
On Park Street
Through unemployment and compensation
They stick like glue, holding on,
Preserving their culture