In the years of the 1920’s and early 1930’s many Italians in the East Bay were associated with clubs such as South Berkeley, the North Italy, and the Colombo. The original founders of the Fratellanza Club were men who grew up in Italy and had gone to the same school together, lived in the same town, and even worked together. Thirteen bachelors founded the Fratellanza Club in 1932. These founding fathers were Ernst Andrina, Bianco Belmondo, Charley Bruno, Martin Chiri, Joe Costa, Bert Fornengo, Mike Gazzano, Jim Lamar, Barney Macari, Mike Macario, Batista Marta, Tony Sciacero, and Emil Serena.
The first clubhouse was the rented basement of a house on 65th street. After a few years it was decided that the rented basement no longer served the needs of the membership and the members purchased a two-story house and cottage located on the site where our current clubhouse stands. One of the members, Frank Ruffatto, loaned the club $3,600.00 to make the purchase. The home was setup so that the food preparation, dining, and dancing all took place on the ground floor. The second floor was used by the members for playing cards and sampling their homemade wines and spirits. Our past President, Bill Ebli was very successful in building up the Club’s membership. Bill assisted many Italian immigrants with the process of becoming U.S. citizens, who in turn, joined the Fratellanza Club. Bill also initiated the idea of installing slot machines in the Club to help raise money to help pay off some of the Club’s debt.
In 1948, due to the increasing membership, the members again decided it was time to expand the Club. The members, with the help of building contractor John Farramia, designed and built the current dance hall, clubroom, indoor bocce alleys, and a kitchen. To help finance the project, the Club sold bonds to the Members. The bonds ranged in price from $25 to $500. Bonds valued at $25, $50, and $100 paid 2% interest and $500 bonds paid 4%. With the club in this configuration, the dance hall was used for dining and dancing afterward. For larger events, boards were set up over the top of the bocce alleys and tables were set there for dining.
The next expansion took place in 1957 when the dining room and kitchen, in its current location were added. In 1982 the kitchen was remodeled to its present state. In 1989 the outdoor bocce courts were added. In the spring of 2005 our Italian garden was added. After a fundraising drive that began in the fall of 2005, we purchased 24,000 sq. feet of property just west of our existing club in early 2006. Members who were able purchased notes ranging up to $100,000 with interest rates varying from 3% to 6%. All of the land is used for parking due to the never-ending onslaught of condos in our neighborhood which made more off street parking a necessity.
Membership of the Club has grown steadily over the years. In the early 2000’s the qualifications to become a member have also changed. When those thirteen bachelors formed the Club there were only two rules, you had to have an Italian surname and be a bachelor in order to join. Soon after the club was formed, it was decided that married Italian men could join. That standard was held for many years. In 1996 it was decided by the membership to allow those men with an Italian mother to join. These were the first Fratellanza members without an Italian surname. The last qualification adjustment came in 2001 when it was decided to allow ten percent of the membership to be non- Italian. Our current membership is about 500 and growing!
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