A guide to Roseland groups

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What comes to mind when you first hear the phrase “Roseland groups”? If you’re in your late 70s and older, its’ probably Frankie Bortoli or Eddie Baldacci and their bands. If you’re from the generation before that, you’re probably thinking Styx or Chicago. If you so, you’d be way off the topic of this column.

Many social groups were formed in Roseland based on school, church, sports, ethnic or military affiliation. The American Legion, VFW, Tornados A.C., Gano A.C., SFBI, and several bowling leagues and Holy Name societies come to mind.

Unfortunately, times have changed. And with most people keeping in touch via social media, many of these organizations are pale shadows of their former incarnations. Let’s take a look back at when they were in their prime.

The men who returned from fighting in World War II continued their friendships by joining veterans organizations, and others who took part in sports leagues formed clubs like the Tornados. Some people might remember the Gano Athletic Club, which was located in West Pullman. An organization that ran the gamut of sports was the Roseland-Pullman Sports Hall of Fame.

Older Roseland and Kensington residents might still remember the Roseland Operetta Club. However, the ROC had its beginnings as the Roma Soccer Club. The opera came about because so many talented members sang along as Frank Bortoli played his accordion at their club festivities that they thought, “Why not put on an opera?”

The Venetian Hall still stands on Kensington Avenue. It has a new owner and has been repurposed, but the Veneti Nel Mondo still meets monthly and hosts several special celebrations throughout the year.

The Società Filarmonica Bella Italia (SFBI) was another gathering place for Italian American veterans. In 2018, a bronze SFBI plaque was presented by the Spaghetti-Os to the Italian American Veteran’s Museum in Stone Park. The plaque listed members of the SFBI on the top half and the bottom half listed all the sons of SFBI members that had fought in WWII.

Nowadays, there’s no glue of the magnitude of a war, baseball league or parish or ethnic affiliation to hold people together. What we do have are individuals who come together to reminisce about Roseland’s good old days.

An offshoot of this column came about when Paul Petraitis, Dan Bovino and I got together at Cal Harbor Restaurant on 115th. Our discussion led to the Roseland Roundtable. That group got together via picnic and pizza meet-ups for a number of years. The group no longer gets together physically, but they do have a presence on Facebook.

Another group that spent many years fostering Roseland memories is the Spaghetti-Os, which met at Carlo Lorenzetti’s until the restaurant closed its doors. That group also has a presence on Facebook.

Other groups may be smaller and less formal, but they are no less supportive of Roseland’s memories. I have been to meetings of these groups and found them to be welcoming. Old stories of mischief and history makers abound as new memories are formed.

A group of Mendel graduates from the late 1950s get together along with their wives for a monthly luncheon date at Bourbon Street on 115th and Kedzie. Fellow St. Anthony parishioner Jack Rossi honored me by inviting me to one of their get-togethers. It was a great lunch and the Roseland stories kept on coming. I might not have been in their group growing up, but any discussion of Roseland tags a lot of bases.

A golfing group made of Roselandites gets together in the south suburbs at Lincoln Oaks Golf Course in Crete. Some of the members actually golf and are joined regularly by non-golfers afterward. They’ve been gathering for years and are always open to former Roselandites stopping by.

The Fifth Quarter Bar & Grill in Homewood is another place for Roselandites to meet up, as is Mama Vesuvio’s East on College Drive. I’ve been there when parents of the Southwest Chicago Christian School convene after dropping their kids off for a school dance. Then there’s the annual holiday get-together hosted by the Mendel guys.

As you can see, sharing Roseland memories is something that many people enjoy. These are the groups that I’m aware of and I’m sure there are others out there in other suburbs. So when you want to gather with fellow Roselandites for a walk down memory lane, you’ve got options.

Contact me at petalsfromroseland@gmail.com or 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756.

Love the column? Buy the book!

Copies of “Petals From Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman and Kensington Neighborhoods” are available from me with prompt delivery at $20 + $5 s&h. My book is also available at D & D Foods, 1023 S. Halsted, Chicago Heights, at Bookie’s New and Used Books, 10324 S. Western Ave, Chicago and at Miles Books, 2819 Jewett Ave., Highland, Indiana.

 

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.

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