Being Roselandites, we’re all familiar with the changes time brings, and the perseverance and acceptance these changes call for. We’ve all come to accept that, no matter how much we wish for things to stay the same, the best we can do is grasp the memories and cherish them. And so it is with the Women’s Piemontese Society.
This social club was founded 84 yeas ago in 1929 as a means for its members to assist their female paesani during times of need brought about by the health crises that might arise.
The organization began with 325 members and Mary Grosso as their first president. Mary served a two-year term that was by no means the standard, as succeeding presidents served terms lasting from one year to the last president, Vilma Dal Corobbo, who served 16 years.
The Women’s Piemontese Society served as a benevolent society, providing a stipend to any member who suffered a serious illness. To assist any member who became ill, a local doctor, who was aligned with the society, would make house calls to the member as part of their membership. If a member went into the hospital or became homebound for medical reasons, she received an income of $14 per week. That may seem like a small sum of money by today’s standards, but during the Depression, any amount of money was helpful.
During the war years, the Women’s Piemontese Society did their part by donning uniforms, as shown in the accompanying photo, and assisting in whatever way needed. One of their volunteer efforts consisted of gathering at the local YMCA and rolling bandages. This effort directly benefitted the service men and women overseas during World War II.
The organization also served as a social outlet for the women, and a way to carry on the Piemontese tradition of family togetherness and socializing through annual dinner dances and picnics. The picnics had bocce tournaments that alloweed them to show off the skills they acquired in Italy. For the children, there were baseball games, three-legged races and sack races. The festivities were always kept lively with plenty of traditional music and a beer garden.
These picnics were often held at Brown Bear Grove in the nearby suburb of Thornton, which was situated near the Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Another picnic venue was Parson’s Grove, which was just west of Doty Avenue (replaced by Bishop Ford Freeway) at 130th Street. There were a small number of Italian American families from Kensington’s St. Anthony of Padua Parish who also had their homes in that area.
A major fundraising activity for the group was an annual dinner dance similar to the current St. Anthony Dinner Dance that takes place in October. These dances were primarily held at the Venetian Club on Kensington Avenue long before it became the Moose Lodge.
Other venues included all the popular Roseland dance clubs that we can recall from our youth: places like the Polish Home at 120th and Michigan Avenue, Club Allegro on 117th and Halsted Avenue, Eiche Turner Hall at 115th and Prairie Avenue, and, in later years, Tony DeSantis’ Martinique on 95th Street.
The Piemontese Men’s Organization dissolved many years ago, and this past December marked the end of the Women’s Piemontese Society. The last president, Vilma Dal Corrobo, served from 1996 until the dissolution of the group in December of 2012. This past February, I was presented with the ledger books of the organization’s meetings, along with photos of some of the member’s events. I gladly accepted these artifacts for inclusion in the Roseland Museum Rooms, which we anticipate someday opening at the Hotel Florence in Pullman.
In 1988, the Chicago Chapter of the Piemontese nel Mondo was organized as a non-profit, with the late Peter Stratta as its first president. Though the Women’s Piemontese Society may have ceased to exist, through the Piemontese nel Mondo, the traditions and values of the Piemontese culture will be carried forward to benefit future generations.
At the February meeting of the Piemontese nel Mondo, after giving a presentation on Roseland, Pullman and Kensington, I was very fortunate to speak with my sources for this column. I would like to extend a thank you to Mary Cavallo nad Diane Ciochetti Sangerman, and a special thank you to Mary Pizzato.
Mary Jane Serama, 69; longtime resident of Sauk Village and Chicago’s Historic Pullman; wife of the late Joseph Serama … Jean R. Costanza, nee Sartori, 70; longtime Chicago Heights resident formerly of Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood; wife of the late Thomas P. Costanza … Jeannette M. Hoogland, nee Gatto, 76; longtime Calumet City resident formerly of Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood and St. Anthony of Padua Parish; wife of the late George R. Hoogland; daughter of the late Rose nee Mundo and John Gatto … Angeline Dal Santo, nee Marino, 91; lifelong Roseland resident.