The Porcupine Dante Club
The Dante Club is a non-profit establishment that seeks to promote and preserve the Italian language, culture and traditions in the Timmins area.
History of the Porcupine Dante Club
The Porcupine Dante Club had its humble beginnings in 1938 when it was called The Sons of Italy which was part of Sons of Italy chapters around North America. Once World War II ended and Adolf Hitler had ravaged Europe, many Europeans made their way to Canada for a new start. Italians came to Canada for a better life as they were told that the Canadian streets were paved with gold. In the 1940's, after the war, the Mascioli family, which ran a construction company in Timmins, needed strong bodies to work on its sites and many young Italian men came over. They came here looking for jobs to make money so they could bring their parents or their wives to live in Canada. The idea was also to make enough money to be well-off and return to the “old country”. Several have returned on trips since then but many now call Timmins their home.
Learning to Adapt
For many, the transition was a difficult one. Adapting to a new language, a new culture and a new way of life was not easy. Some grew homesick, missing their relatives and friends thousands of miles across the ocean. One purpose of the club was to help these immigrants learn the new language and assist them with paperwork.
By the early 1950's, there was a fair number of Italians living in Timmins and many of them wanted a place to call home where they could preserve the Italian culture and be able to speak Italian. During that time, there used to be Italian dances called Ballo Italiano in church basements and at the McIntyre arena ballroom. In 1952, a small group of men applied to form the club and received their charter which laid out the parameters of the club. Those five men were Tony Mascioli, Joe Pindilli, Pete Morandin, Silvio Torlone and Pete Cosco. They chose the name Porcupine Dante Club of Alighieri. Dante Alighieri was a poet and philosopher of the Italian Renaissance period during the 15th century.
The Dante Club started with no money so the men had to pledge and donate to buy a piece of land. By the end of the pledge drive, $75,000.00 had been collected to purchase land on Cedar Street South. In the fall of 1953, construction began. Construction continued through 1954 and the first wedding was held at the Dante Club on April 1, 1955 when Bruno Lava married Irma Antonello.
Once the club was built, dances were held on Saturday nights in a hall that was half its current size. There were no records so the music was provided by live bands; the cost of admission was $1. A major expansion was undertaken in 1970. In 1992, the club members held a ceremonial burning of the mortgage and then renovated again in 1995. The old stage was removed and the floors were redone in hardwood. The second hall (now the restaurant) was added as well as additional washrooms and a bocce court. The Goldcorp (now Newmont Porcupine) Banquet Room can comfortably seat up to 500 guests.
The Club Today
The Porcupine Dante Club is a not-for-profit establishment with now has more than 500 members. The Dante Club plays host to multiple events every year.
This past year, the Porcupine Dante Club won the Nova Award for best non-profit organization by the Timmins Chamber of Commerce. This is a big honour as it reflects the community's appreciation of the Dante Club.
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