Bocce, gentlemen? Sorry ladies, this month’s article is about a men’s-only club!
Recently, I was graciously welcomed for a visit at the Italian American Citizens Club of Lynn, where I had the great pleasure of meeting the club members.
When I was first approached to write an article about their bocce league, I imagined that I would hear about the formation of a vibrant Italian community built around a traditional sport, which I will tell you about. Yet, what I found was much more and something that has left a lasting impression on me.
Tucked away in the Brickyard neighborhood of Lynn, this small and unassuming establishment is full of dynamic personalities.
Upon arriving to the club, I saw an Italian flag painted proudly on the side of a small building. Carlo Caponigro, the club president since 1996, greeted me with an enthusiasm and genuineness that was the perfect prelude to a fantastic meeting.
Caponigro told me the club began in 1935, and has a formal governing structure made up of a board of directors, various active committees and 5 members holding a direct leadership role. Members must be at least 21 years old, be voted into the club and pay yearly dues.
Currently, there are over 100 members.
For sporting recreation, a bocce league was started in 1996. Anyone who is a member of the club is invited to participate.
The bocce league is very competitive and runs from June through October. There are 24 teams of 4, and growing, who provide spirited competition. The playoffs are often intense, the gentlemen at the club agreed, but the bragging rights are worth it.
Imagining an evening of energetic and lively bocce was not difficult to perceive after meeting the club’s members. The gentlemen provided me with further details about the club and their sporting interests, telling me that softball and dart leagues are also part of their offerings.
After my initial greeting, Caponigro invited me to meet various members and to learn more about why this club is such a tremendous place. While sports are a central part to their camaraderie, there is a deeper level of devotion and connectivity that is evident in the conversations and concern for every member that passes through the club’s doors.
“The club is an active participant in supporting the community,” Caponigro said, regarding other activities of the club. Through various endeavors, such as providing scholarships to students heading to college and lending a hand to current causes, the club is sure to do their part in working with their neighbors.
Paul Scali beamed as he told me about passing on the values and traditions to younger generations of the club. A definite sense of pride and zest for what this group stands for is evident in the men here.
The devotion to one another, the club and the very essence of their unity is inspiring.
Billy Manias told me stories about the club’s history and the lifelong friendships that bond these men together. The solidarity and respect for Italian tradition emanates throughout the club. Everyone who enters is greeted with a familiarity and sincere welcome.
As club members began to pass through the door, each entered with a friendliness and knowledge that this was a home away from home.
After speaking to various generations of members, I learned that the key word was tradition. As board member Piero Procopio said, “It’s all about tradition.” Maintaining, sustaining, and preserving the values and family connectivity is what it’s all about.
While this club is for men only, family is at the center of what they do. An annual Columbus Day celebration is open to all… yes, ladies, you too.
It was a great privilege to be invited and welcomed so enthusiastically to the Italian American Citizens Club of Lynn. I want to thank everyone at the club for their warmth and candidness!
The Italian spirit of tradition and devotion to our culture is very much alive here!