Lifetime Journey

Jun 03, 2019 586

BY: Lucy Giardino Cortese

Taking the oath as Treasurer I am humbled to be trusted with finances of our Club. My parents, who invested hard work and financial support in IAC, would be proud that their legacy continues. Angelo and Lucy Giardino with many others organized a social club to promote Italian culture in our community. In 1951 our founding fathers realized their dream and the Italian American Club of Jacksonville was born.

My childhood revolved around Club activities: picnics on the beach; socials in restaurants; parties at members' homes. I recall pot luck dinners at our first property, an open pavilion on Southside Boulevard, then a dirt road. Members brought their kids along and we enjoyed outdoor games while the dads played bocce and the ladies shared favorite recipes sprinkled with stories of the old country.

Some of my earliest memories are synonymous with IAC. I learned to waltz standing on top of my father's feet at the Knights of Columbus hall where we held special events. When naval ships from Italy visited Jacksonville our Club always hosted the crew. This teenage girl "fell in love" with every Italiano sailor who whirled me around the room--thanks, Daddy, for those early dance lessons!

My favorite occasion was the annual coronation dance, a formal soiree when one lucky gal was chosen to be queen. Every Italian girl longed to for that special designation and I was among the hopeful ragazze. At age fifteen, I was thrilled to be crowned Queen of the Italian American Club. Since that was the last event of its kind...I remain reigning royalty:)

When my mother discovered an opportunity to purchase property on Westberry Rd., Club members originally dissed the idea.. "Who would want to drive all the way to Mandarin? Only orange groves out there!" Charter members pledged money to buy the land and build our current facility in 1978. We can thank those generous folks for the mortgage-free building we enjoy today.

So many milestones celebrated over the years: anniversaries, holidays, birthdays--the latest one Aunt Jaye's 90th. When my daughter is cooking in the IAC kitchen, I see Mama rolling her famous meatballs. Watching my son toss bocce balls, I envision my father winning top place in past tournaments. My grandkids running around Festa prompts memories of my siblings and me growing up in IAC. For decades of family fun, lifelong friendships, and pride in being an Italian-American,  I say...Mille Grazie!  

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