When we hear of long-serving volunteer clubs disbanding due to dwindling membership, there’s often a sigh and certain sadness thinking about all the good times and goodwill of the past.
But the folding of the Club Italico, after 65 years in Trail, is really a story of success.
More so, it’s a sign of the changing social fabric not just in the Silver City, but across the country as well.
“We were down to 20 members and we are all pretty well over 80 years, so it was inevitable, ” Walter Parisotto began. “But we enjoyed what we did and we did it with a purpose.”
Club Italico formed in the early 1950s as a way to help settle the wave of Italian immigrants who landed in Trail.
Those who came before understood the culture shock that each new Canadian would experience, and they wanted to help ease what was sometimes a rocky transition.
“We were all immigrants from Italy,” said Walter. “The language barrier was number one. And there was a different style of life we’re trying to fit in with, the Canadian ways, so that’s why we formed this club.”
The group started as a soccer team as a way to bring young Italian newcomers together and support each other in the community.
As membership grew, so did the popularity of soccer. The club formed and hosted the “Western International Soccer League” in Trail, Nelson, Cranbrook, Kimberley and Spokane.
“We also played exhibition games in Seattle,” Walter reminisced. “And we needed more talent in the club, so there were also players from other nationalities in the mix. There were a lot of immigrants from other countries in Trail who enjoyed soccer as well, for instance Greece, England, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.”
Over the years, women joined in as the club began to weave their Italian roots into the culture of Trail.
“Soccer was our biggest reason originally,” he explained. “But we went on to other things, for instance, bringing in Italian films and we (performed) operettas for the Italian community. Then we went into the Sidewalk Café during Fiesta Week (now Silver City Days) and the Wine Festival, so all those things followed.”
For 40 years Club Italico brought its Wine Festival to various venues in Trail.
“We started at the Tadanac Hall,” recalled Walter. “Then the arena (Trail Memorial Centre), the Colombo Lodge and the Terra Nova (Best Western Plus Columbia River), so we held it in several different entities.”
Proceeds from Club Italico events were given to local charities like the former St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, though much of the funds went to the Trail hospital.
Since the health foundation at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital began keeping records in 1996, Club Italico has donated $9,000 toward the cause. (Also, when members stopped hosting the Wine Festival, they donated the club’s glass chalices for use at the foundation’s annual Snowflake Gala fundraiser).
So it was very fitting the last of their funds, $1,850, was given to the health foundation after the club disbanded.
“We were a registered nonprofit and we donated a lot of money over the years,” Walter shared. “So it is nostalgic, in a sense, that after 65 years we folded,” he added.
“Nonetheless, when you get to a certain age, enough is enough.”