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San Lorenzo di Gamberale
Mutual Benefit Association

1914 - 2014

This six-minute video was created by John Elachko III to commemorate the organization's centennial.

San Lorenzo Band 1921

The following information was taken from the booklet for the
75th Anniversary celebration held on August 11, 1989
at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Hall.


History

Peter DePasquale , founder of the Saint Lorenzo di Gamberale Society, seeing a need for organization among the people migrating from Gamberale, Italy, to America, called a meeting of representatives from 53 families of Gamberale, Italy who had already migrated to America. This meeting took place on Sunday, August 16, 1914 at 3903 Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At this meeting they discussed the situation which was facing the people migrating to America from Gamberale, Italy. Working conditions in America were bad at this time and unemployment was plentiful.

Thus when sickness and death came into any family, the family had to ask for charity. Many families also had to ask for charity in order to survive. The people knew nothing of insurance and also had no money with which to purchase insurance. No one knew at that time that this condition was to end due to this meeting called that Sunday afternoon by Peter DePasquale. Weekly meetings were held and after two months, they gave the organization the name of San Lorenzo in honor of their Protector Saint in Gamberale, Italy. The name San Lorenzo was greeted with a 100% vote of its members because of the love they held for their Protector Saint. Then the founder of the organization, Peter DePasquale, was elected First President of San Lorenzo Society and it was to grow from this day to the strong and well loved organization that it is, due to the aid it gave its members’ families in sickness and death. The organization was incorporated in Pennsylvania on September 15, 1915. Today it also has a branch society located in Gamberale, Italy. What made this organization grow is but one known thing and that being the necessity of this organization for their survival during the time of need.

Gamberale is a town of 1,500 people with approximately one-third living in Pittsburgh, PA U.S.A.

Past Presidents (Alphabetical Order):

Albert C. Bellisario, Vincenzo “Jim” Bellisario, Giacamo Bigante, Ralph Bucci, Ercolino Coincella, Peter DePasquale, Dan Dinardo, Dominic Dinardo, Fiore Diulus, John Diulus, Joseph Diulus, Nicholas A. Diulus, Vincenzo Diulus, Vite Diulus, Vite Diulus Jr., Dominic Sciulli, Angelo Verratti, Camille Varratti, (The first headquarters for San Lorenzo di Gamberale Mutual Benefit Association was in Panther Hollow, until 1938 when members completed construction of a new building at 379 South Bouquet Street.)

This article first appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on January 23, 2013.

Storytelling: San Lorenzo Club prolonged memories of the old country

By Mary Ann Sestili

At age 6, I learned my first Italian curse word from my nonna (grandmother). It happened after a wedding reception at the San Lorenzo di Gamberale Men's Club in Oakland.

San Lorenzo was where emigres from Italy's Abruzzo region congregated to reminisce about the old country, compare notes about the new country, complain about their wives, eat traditional foods and drink homemade red wine.

Unlike today's costly receptions, with lavish buffets and expensive decorations, these were humble affairs where blue-collar families nonetheless worked to make their daughters' and sons' wedding days special.

The hall was modest. Wooden folding chairs were lined against the walls for the invited guests. As was the custom, the women sat on the left, the men on the right.

Wearing freshly ironed long-sleeve shirts, cotton pants and laced high-top black shoes, the men, although engaged in animated conversation, never lost control of their drinks, smokes or fedoras.

The women, in high-collared dresses, held squirming children who, when free, inadvertently raised their mothers' dresses just enough to expose garter-rolled cotton stockings. Women bragged about their children, complained about their husbands and boasted of their cooking talents.

My younger brother Bob and I attended one of these receptions with our maternal grandparents, Antoinette and Nicola Casciato. Our parents drove us to the club and then left for another event.

The air was exciting as we met cousins, friends, the white-gowned bride and her groom. Adults embraced and greeted one another in their familiar dialect, even if they had done so earlier that day at work, the Eureka Bank or the A&P.

While the musicians pumped their piano accordions, the men served wine to the other men, highballs to the ladies and pop to the kids. Pairs of women carried new bushel baskets filled with "made-that-day" Isaly's chipped-ham sandwiches wrapped in Cut-Rite wax paper. An abundance of homemade pizzelles and sweets were heaped on trays.

When everyone was invited to dance, the musicians, fortified with food and drink, played faster as guests sang traditional songs, laughed at jokes and danced on the slippery hardwood floor. Men danced with their wives and often with their daughters who, depending on their age, danced in their fathers' arms or perched on their dads' toes as they learned the music's rhythm, dreaming of becoming brides themselves.

Swaying to the music, women circled the room and made sure each guest received a piece of wedding cake. That night, young women kept the gift under their pillows dreaming that the fairy godmother of marriage would bring them a husband. In gratitude, the bride and groom kissed each person and bestowed the traditional favor of a ribbon-tied net pouch filled with candied almonds.

By evening's end, the men were relaxed, children were sleeping and the women were eager to leave. But leaving friends was difficult, so the departure was a drawn-out affair.

My parents were delayed, so we walked about a mile from San Lorenzo to our Juliet Street home. Though still young, Bob and I already knew my grandmother was not a coddler. We did not whimper or complain that we were tired. We silently trudged along holding our grandmother's hands. Grandfather ambled behind us, smoking a strong-smelling stogie and humming softly to himself.

While my grandmother forbade us from walking with or looking at my grandfather, she directed a barrage of angry words at him over her shoulder, repeating an unfamiliar word -- "Ubriacone!" After she repeated it, I realized she was calling my grandfather a drunkard!

Involuntarily, Bob and I became accomplices to her tirade as she pulled our arms in rhythm with her chant: "Ubriacone (yank)! Ubriacone (yank)!"

Finally, with a smile in his voice, my grandfather teased, "Eh, Antoinette, you know what's wrong with you? I had a good time tonight and you didn't.

When we arrived home, my grandfather sat on the porch steps, retrieved a Cut-Rite wax paper-wrapped sandwich from his jacket pocket and pondered when it was safe to enter the house -- the time when two devoted souls would embrace, laugh and make up.

 

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