When Coal Was King
Industry, People and Challenges
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Sports and Recreation Photo Gallery

Many operas by Giuseppe Verdi have moments when the local village brass band plays to suggest the life of ordinary people.  These village bands played at public events including the processions through narrow streets to celebrate a feast day of a saint.  The Michel-Natal Italian Band has the look of such a band—as if the members had just come from playing in their southern Italian hometown of Grimaldi or Amantea and were now playing the same songs in their strange, new home.By the 1930s, Italians had become integral parts of mining communities and the second generation considered themselves more Canadian than Italian. While most Italian men had not been miners in their native land, many hunted and fished.While this kind of trophy was no longer available in Italy where birds were the game fowl hunted, Italian men took to big game hunting and bagged their quota of trophy elk or mountain sheep.

Everyone who has witnessed the World Cup frenzy knows that Italians are soccer mad!  It was inevitable that the concentration of miners in the Drumheller Valley would produce a soccer team.  Jim Stocco is in the back row, first left, and Reno Stocco is second from the right.  The Stocco family came to Canada from Italy in 1913, settling in Calgary, before moving on to Drumheller.  In 1921, they were part of the group of Italian shareholders who developed the Sunshine Mine near Wayne. Tegla (Stocco) Clozza in writing about life in the Sunshine Camp focuses on the fact that, after a hard week in the mines, the men wanted to enjoy themselves on the weekend.  They did this through events organized by the Loggia Enrico Caruso, No. 16, Drumheller, at which the community became one extended family.  Events such as this al fresco [fresh air] dance, were a vehicle for letting of steam but also were life-long friendships were built and courting couples could meet and get to know each other better.On the weekend, the miners would relax by gathering to drink homemade wine or beer.  Tegla (Stocco) Clozza writes that her Uncle, every weekend, drove the horse and two-wheel cart across the river to meet the brewery truck and load up 4-5 kegs of beer. On one memorable occasion, when the river was high, a wheel of the wagon went over a rock upsetting the wagon and dumping the driver and the kegs into the water.  Everyone scrambled to save the driver and the beer!   Pictured with their hard-won drinks are, left to right, M. Morelli, Santo Stocco, A. Contenti, Frank Riciarelli and D. Morelli. The band is seen in its community and includes the bandhall, built in 1898 by the enthusiastic bandsmen, many from Italy.  These included Pete Balla.  In 1922, the log structure was renovated and became “The Opera House.”  By 1923, the band pictured in the Elks Club includes John Bertino, O. Verdesia, John Balla, Mr. Faletti, the Conductor, Nellio Torino, John Verdesia, J. Giovanetti, A. Marro, Fred Marro, Ken Balla, Pete Balla and Attilio Caffaro.

 A group of Italian shareholders established the “Sunshine Camp” two miles north of Wayne in 1921.  All of the workers were Italian and they and their families created a community that both worked and played together.  The three accordion players, guitarist and violinist would have played folk songs from home such as “O Sole Mio” (“My Sunshine”) and “C’E la Luna a Mezzo Mare” (“The Moon is Shining on the Sea”).  Angelo Montemurro is seen playing the violin but everyone joined in the singing. The Club was established in 1927 in a converted Co-op store and the first stewards were Philip McNeil and Joe Granda who worked for the Hillcrest Miners’ Literary and Athletic Association. Renaldo (Jim) Stocco is of Wayne is pictured with his instructor Steve Johnson and with the trophies that he won as a marksman. Italian towns, in the heat of summer, echo to the sound of bocce balls hitting each other.  The game was a “male only” pursuit that whiled away the afternoon after the excellent Sunday dinner.  Pictured left to right are Q. Pozzo, J. Simioni, J. Rovere, J. Delano and A. D’Antoni.

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