The Porcupine Dante Club had its humble beginnings in 1938 when it was called The Sons of Italy which was part of Sons of Italy chapters around North America. Once World War II ended and Adolf Hitler had ravaged Europe, many Europeans made their way to Canada for a new start. Italians came to Canada for a better life as they were told that the Canadian streets were paved with gold. In the 1940’s after the war, the Mascioli family, which ran a construction company in Timmins, needed strong bodies to work on its sites and many young Italian men came over. They came here looking for jobs to make money so they could bring their parents or their wives to live in Canada. The idea was also to make enough money to be well-off and return to the “old country”. Several have returned on trips since then but many now call Timmins their home.
For many, the transition was a difficult one. Adapting to a new language, a new culture and a new way of life was not easy. Some grew homesick, missing their relatives and friends, thousands of miles across the ocean. One purpose of the club would be to help these immigrants learn the new language and assist them with paperwork.
By the early 1950’s, there were a fair number of Italians living in Timmins and many of them wanted a place to call home where they could preserve the Italian culture and be able to continue speaking Italian. During that time, there used to be Italian dances called Ballo Italiano in church basements and at the McIntyre arena ballroom. In 1952, a small group of men applied to form the club and received their charter which laid out the parameters of the club. Those five men were Tony Mascioli, Joe Pindilli, Pete Morandin, Silvio Torlone and Pete Cosco. They chose the name Porcupine Dante Club of Alighieri. Dante Alighieri was a poet and philosopher of the Italian Renaissance period during the 15th century.
The club started with no money so the men had to pledge and donate so they could buy a piece of land. By the end of the pledge drive, $75 000 had been collected to purchase a piece of land on Cedar Street South and in the fall of 1953, construction began. Construction continued through 1954 and the first wedding was held at the club on April 1st 1955 when Bruno Lava married Irma Antonello. Once the club was built, dances were held on Saturday nights in a hall that was half its current size. There were no records so the music was provided by live bands and the cost of admission was one dollar. A major expansion was undertaken in 1970. In 1992, the club members held a ceremonial burning of the mortgage and then renovated again in 1995. The old stage was removed and the floors were redone in hardwood. The second hall (now the restaurant) was added as well as additional washrooms and a bocce court. Major renovations are ongoing and the most recent include chandeliers, renovated washrooms, carpeting in the main hall and a new state of the art sound system. The Gold Corp Banquet Room can comfortably seat and feed up to 500 guests (see Hall Rental for details).