The I.C.C.C. of Port Colborne, originally known as the Italian Mutual Benefit Society of Port Colborne and Humberstone, was established on June 16, 1935 by a group of immigrants. They felt the need to preserve their traditions, provide some financial support for themselves in moments of need, and get assistance during their integration into the new Canadian way of life. The original membership consisted of about 35 members.
The original founders, not having a place to meet, alternated their meetings in the basements of their homes for a while. Soon, as the number of members grew, they rented the small Hungarian Hall on Durham Street, currently known as the Port Colborne District Labour Council Community Centre.
The members of the new Society began raising money by holding draws of small items and selling tickets for the draw. They went door to door selling the tickets for 10 cents each. They also held dinner dances in the basement of the Church at 184 Mitchel Street, currently known as the "Centre Polyvalant des Aines Fracophones de Port Colborne".
On April 29, 1938 the Society was incorporated as an insurance society by the Province of Ontario. With the revenue generated by the annual membership fees and initiation fees, the Society assisted its members in case of infirmity and death. This plan required that all new members be healthy and not older than 45 years of age. The same plan, with some minor changes, remained in place until 1994, when the Society changed in name and character.
During the Second World War, the Society suffered greatly, due to the unfriendly relations between Canada and Italy. That sufferance created stronger ties among the members, and the 'need to belong' to an organization like the I.M.B.S. became very important.
With the end of the War, Port Colborne, like many other Communities in Canada, welcomed many new immigrants from Italy. Many of them joined the Society and today they form, together with their siblings, a large part of the Membership. To accommodate the new post-war Italian immigrants, the Society began to expand and aimed at giving itself a permanent home. The small Durham Street Hungarian Hall that had housed the Society since the 30's, was replaced with a small but new hall at the current site on Bell Street. In 1952, the Society decided to purchase a portion of the vineyard of Joe Trapasso, and build its first but modest hall on t
he present site. All the members contributed $50 each, and voluntarily helped with manual labour in the construction of the hall. Its inauguration took place on Dec. 4, 1953. In 1966, the I.M.B.S. purchased some more adjacent land from Filipina Trapasso for $4,000, and in 1968 it continued to add the adjacent "Young Garage" property for an additional $16,500.
In 1977 the hall underwent a significant expansion to accommodate for larger events. When it was completed, it was designated appropriate to hold over 500 people. For this renovation all members were required to lend $250 to the I.M.B.S. with the promise to repay the borrowed money as soon as it was feasible. Unfortunately the request was unpopular with some members, and they elected to relinquish their membership rather than lend the money. It was a major blow to the Society and, even though the money was soon repaid, those members chose to never return.
In the early 80's the Clubroom was revamped with the addition of decorative brick work, and a new semicircular bar with stools. In 1987-88 the kitchen area was expanded and a 'conference room' was also added to the facilities on the south-east side of the hall. The larger hall demanded more commitment of time and effort from the Society's members. Soon, in the early 80's, it became evident that the Society had now a "business" to run and that the members' help, even if substantial, was still limited. People from outside as well as from the inside of the Society were hired and compensated. This move inadvertently emphasized the business aspect of the I.M.B.S.
The social aspect of the Society was still vibrant but it had shifted more towards the recreational. Thus the 80's, in addition to the old and established activities, witnessed the introduction of many new ones such as: the shuffle board leagues, the dancing classes, the sponsoring of sports teams, the fashion show, the annual cancer tea, the many organized overnight trips and excursions for the members.
This decade was perhaps the period most active in the life of the Society which was also honoured, in 1984, by the visit of the then Ambassador of Italy to Canada, the Rt. Hon. Paolo Fulci who for the occasion cut the ribbon for the newly renovated Clubroom, and also, later on, by the presence of the future Prime Minister of Canada, the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien.
The 90's was a period of consolidation and reorganization for the I.M.B.S. In November of 1994 the Society ceased to be an Insurance Company and became a non-profit organization under the name of Italian Canadian Cultural Centre of Port Colborne. The Constitution and the By-Laws had to be amended as to reflect the new requirements by the Province of Ontario. The Hall itself needed urgent repairs and was becoming outdated. lt was losing the appeal of the 70's and 80's. Some initiatives were taken, like the "gnocchi night" that proved to be successful, but the business portion of the I.C.C.C. in general remained stagnant.
The members were no longer working together for a common purpose and were becoming more loosely connected to the Centre. The number of activities was declining. It was felt that with the arrival of the new Millennium the Organization had to modernize and find new unifying activities for its members. It was with these objectives in mind that a major renovation of the Hall was planned, and "pasta night" reconceived.
The renovation of the Hall would be divided into three phases. By 2002 the first phase of the Hall (main hall) renovation was completed and "pasta night" was already in its third year of operation. Once again the business aspect of the I. C.C.C.was progressing well, but more than anything else, the Ladies Auxiliary and the I.C.C.C. had reestablished the co-operation, commitment, and common purpose of the early decades. Once again most members were interacting, becoming closer to each other, and were working together. For helping at 'pasta night" they shared a pasta meal after work. The hall's business had become their focus, and at least once a month, the hall was the focal point for the Port Colborne Community.
The I. C. C. C. had successfully introduced the renovated hall to Port Colborne and the surrounding areas. It had revitalized itself and was looking forward to the new Century with confidence. The second phase of the renovation involved a new roof for the hall, which was completed in 2008. The third and last phase of the renovation consists of the beautification of the outside appearance of the hall and the renovation of the area around the Clubroom. Hopefully, it will take place in the near future.
History of the Club
The Italian Canadian Cultural Centre of Port Colborne is a Corporation that is founded on principles of Canadianism, promotion and preservation of the Italian heritage, mutual assistance and fellowship, and intellectual and social development of its members. Its main objectives therefore are:
1. To encourage and promote the concept of Canadianism and to keep alive the spiritual attachment to the tradition to the land of origin.
2. To promote the intellectual and social development of the members.
3. To promote and maintain cordial relations with all ethnic groups of the community
4. To encourage the dissemination of Italian culture in Canada.
5. To promote welfare and fellowship among the members.
6. To receive, acquire and hold gifts, donations and legacies and devises.
7. To purchase, lease or otherwise acquire lands, buildings, easements and property, real and personal, which may be requisite for the purposes of or capable of being conveniently used in connection with the objects of the Corporation."
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