April 10 was 75 years to the date that 15 men from San Martino al Tagliamento first gathered to form a tight-knit club in Trail. Its mission was to help those affected by the Second World War. There’s been much joy, laughter, song and homemade wine over the decades, however the club’s primary purpose of giving back to the community has never wavered.

After 75 years, San Martino stays true to origins

The San Martino Club of Trail continues to be an integral part of the Italian community

There was a time when Annable had its own community hall. Lights were on Friday nights, laughter from the San Martino Club spilled into the street and after homemade wine had been sipped, the knocking sound of a competitive game of “Morra” took over the quaint little space.

The hall is long gone, it was never rebuilt. But all these years later, the San Martino Club continues to be an integral part of the Italian community who originally hailed from San Martino al Tagliamento – or “St. Martin ‘the Cut’ (as in the river cuts the land.)”

The club is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year – in fact, April 10 was 75 years to the date that 15 men first gathered at the Colombo Hall to form the “Family Circle of the Citizens of San Martino al Tagliamento.”

The reason?

“The purpose of this meeting was because of the long and disastrous war,” the men stated in the first recorded minutes dated April 10, 1942. “We learned from newspapers and correspondence of the poverty and squalor this war had left in general.

“Since in all parts of North America everyone is trying to alleviate the suffering of these poor people, this group too, is united to try and do some good to this end.”

Many descendants from those original 15 members are still living in the Trail and Greater Area. Throughout 75 years including present day, the group has continued the mission of helping others, though the club’s mandate has been somewhat updated to include staying connected to “our Italian culture, our roots, and to organize and support activities where we can reconnect with our heritage.”

Longtime executive member Louie DeRosa stopped by the Trail Times to provide the original minutes as well as photos from past events like the annual “San Martino Cabaret,” which is slated for April 29 in the Colombo Hall.

DeRosa’s family has been San Martino members since they arrived in Trail back in 1948.

“This group of people is like, holy smoke, how compassionate, forward thinking and community-minded they were,” DeRosa shared. “I mean they were no high rollers, yet these were all people who somehow found it within themselves to give something back.”

After 25 years on the San Martino executive, DeRosa continues to be inspired by all those who came before him.

“You’re working with such a broad cross section of people with a broad section of skills,” he said. “My life in Canada has been a bounty, success and good things. So this is my way of saying, ‘you know I can give something back.’ And the good feeling is why I keep doing it.”

DeRosa’s words echo the club’s present mandate, “As immigrants, our parents and grandparents made the ultimate sacrifice. They left their homeland to provide a better life for their families, here in Canada. Today, our club plays a fundamental role in community health and vitality. We volunteer, participate, and contribute to the many facets and specific needs within our community.”

Recent contributions include donations to the health foundation and Heliport Project at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital; Greater Trail Hospice; Sanctuary; the Rock Wall Society; and annual $300 scholarship(s) to J.L. Crowe graduates. Besides financial support, the group continues to help the community “hands-on” with various initiatives such as Holy Trinity Catholic Church projects and work in Trail parks; and they volunteer for many local events including Silver City Days and Festa Italiana in the Colombo Piazza.

The 15 men – F. Moro; G. Bertuzzi; Giuseppe Truant; V. Bressanutti; P. Fantin; F. Facchina; C. Orlando; Toni Bertuzzi; Angelo Bortuzzi; Primo Ongaro; D. Dean; U. Truant; R. Babuin; Lino Zilli; Lino Sovran; and Toni Tonelli – initiated the club or “Family Circle” to collect funds and “try, if possible, to help at least some of the extreme cases.” Notably, women and men were welcome, which was not the norm for that era.

The admission fee was $2 and 50 cents per month thereafter, donations were either monetary or merchandise.

San Martino al Tagliamento is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Pordenone in the Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, located about 80 kilometres northwest of Trieste and about 20 kilometres northeast of Pordenone.

Morra is a hand game that dates back thousands of years to ancient Roman and Greek times. Each player simultaneously reveals their hand, extending any number of fingers, and calls out a number. Any player who successfully guesses the total number of fingers revealed by all players combined scores a point. Morra can be played to decide issues, much as two people might toss a coin, or for entertainment.

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