~ History of the Colombo Lodge ~
In 1905, a group of Italian-Canadians held a meeting and the idea of a fraternal lodge was formed. There were 32 men in the initial group. The president was Giovanni Ciuffatelli.
The name chosen by the Lodge was Societa Cristoforo Colombo di Mutuo Soccorso Italiana, Loggia #1, with Christopher Columbus chosen as their patron.
The Lodge followed the concept of “mutuo soccorso” or “mutual help”. Although the membership was restricted to Italian families, there was never any intention to close ranks on the rest of the community. Many of its members became active and prominent in all aspects of community life. But the help they offered was directed toward its members and their families when they needed it. The disabled, those who couldn’t speak enough English to get by – these were the people who were willingly helped by the Lodge.
The membership grew rapidly. Their hall, which still stands today as a reminder of those formative years, was quickly becoming inadequate for the Lodge meetings and social gatherings which took place. In 1926, the Lodge decided it needed a new home. The main problem was money: the Lodge had never been a profit making organization. Shares worth $ 200 were printed, and the entire community went to work on the new project. In November 1927 the Colombo Hall was officially opened.
It was around this time that the many problems that led to the Lodge’s formation began to disappear. A large part of the Italian community had now become well established in the English-speaking society and at the same time there were many improvements in the working conditions and fringe benefits for the working man on “The Hill”. Even the misery of the depression years was felt much less in the Trail area than in other parts of the country.
By the mid-1930’s, the Lodge membership was beginning to look at the community at large in terms of its programs and projects. Bruno LeRose, mayor of Trail, and a very active member and past-president of the Lodge, helped steer the members into community projects. The famous Lodge band, featured in many cultural events, not only in Trail but in many communities throughout the Kootenays. The Lodge built a replica of the “Santa Maria”, Columbus’s sailing ship, and entered it in parades.
As the need for benevolent activity decreased in the community, the Lodge turned its attention to other areas. It was disturbing to the older generations that many of these young men were growing up without a true understanding of the traditions, the heritage, the culture and even the language of the ancestral land. Gradually, the Lodge started moving toward becoming primarily a centre for Italian tradition.
An Italian language drama club was very active, and a highlight was a full scale production of “Othello” which played to an appreciative audience of 500 in the hall. Many prominent Canadians were invited to come in and speak to the membership. Fiestas took place and the choirs and bands kept busy. The non-Italian citizens of the community were often afforded the opportunity of tasting the traditional Italian cuisine and culture.
Today the Colombo Lodge is thriving. The big hall upstairs is the scene of 80 to 85 major functions a year, while the small hall has been transformed into a museum and archives. The Lodge itself is open to its members every day and there are regular meetings.
Because the membership is now third and even fourth generation Canadians, meetings are mainly in English, and the accent today is on youth. The Lodge does not accept members under 18 years of age, but it tries to make its programs and activities interesting to the young members of the community.
With such an attitude toward the future, and a tradition of service to its members and to the wider community of a long and bright future.
~ From Colombo Lodge website