The Gloucester Fraternity Club had its beginning: in the early 1920’s when the young men of Portugee Hill began to think seriously of organizing a musical group. Ideas from Joseph Vidal and Joseph Mitchell were tossed about during lunch breaks at the Slade Gorton Fish Loft and in January, 1923, 35 enthusiastic young musicians embarked on a new avocation, and their first full year of organization.
In a short time enough money was raised for the purchase of drums and bugles and rehearsals were started once a week at the Holy Name Hall, adjoining: Our Lady of Good Voyage Church.
The Fraternity Bugle and Drum Corps was made up of drum major Frank B. Borge drummers, Anthony Mitchell, Ernest Mitchell, Manuel Jeff Domingos, Albert Souza, Manuel Count Saunders, Manuel Pinky Re, John E. Souza, Manuel Sears, Henry Nichols.and Herman Mitchell.
Cymbal player was Frank Mitchell. Buglers were Frank Snap Borge, Frank Alves, Benjamin Domingos, Hamathy Vidal, Anthony Perry, John Mitchell, Manuel Naves, John Muniz, Joe Perry, Manuel R. Silva, Loris Fortado, Francis Mitchell, Anthony Enos, John F. Viator, Loncia Rose, Gilbert Oliver, George Oliver, Virgil Joseph, Emelio Araujo, Manuel Frosa Veator, Joseph Silveira, Joseph Vidal and Manuel C. Silva.
Later in the mid-thirties the corps mascot was 8 year old Edward Re and later still Pearl (Bartlo) Gaspar was the majorette.
BIG DAY once the music was mastered, street drill was started. Decked out in dark blue shirts, white duck trousers, leggings and white caps, a slightly nervous group of young musicians made their first public appearance. It was at the Trinity Sunday crowning ceremony at Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in June. 1923.
The results were so successful that they were urged to take part in the city’s 300 th anniversary parade later that summer. They did and helped the Portuguese community captures one of the prizes offered by the parade committee.
The next year the corps became associated with the Cape Ann Lodge, Loyal Order of the Moose, representing it in so many events that they became known as the Fraternity or Moose Fife, Bugle and Drum Corps. They participated in the Moose national convention in New York City and brought home still another prize.
When their size forced them to vacate their quarters on Prospect Street in favor of the larger Spanish War Veterans Hall on Duncan Street, they thought about building a club house of their own. They also, under the administration of Frank B. Borge saw fit to incorporate, and did so on July 26, 1926.
THE CLUB with the assistance of a Ladies’ Auxiliary, which organized in April of 1928, the club held dances, sales, minstrel shows and carnivals to help raise the necessary funds to begin the project. Eventually they were able to purchase their present Webster Street site. Plans for the building were drawn up by member Richard Mitchell and in November, 1927, a fledging group broke ground for a club house.
Everyone pitched in to help with the digging. A contract was given for the foundation. In May, 1928, an 8 foot granite foundation was completed by Cornelius Cusick of Rockport. The job of putting up the building began. Local contractors installed the plumbing and electrical systems assisted by the club members. Other than these three major contractors all of the work in building, the club was done by its members.
The completed structure measured 60×40 feet. The basement housed club rooms and kitchen; the upper floor consisted of an auditorium and an elevated stage complete with footlights and necessities for presenting theatrical productions.
The club house was dedicated in November, 1929, when the members played hosts to the public at an open house. More than 800 guests inspected the quarters, including Mayor Henry H. Parsons and the aldermen.
With a new club house as an incentive, the members voted to expand the club’s activities in social and religious events. In the spring of 1930, the Drum Corps, as it had become known to the public, held its first crowning ceremony. For a week prior to the crowning the club’s first imperator, Manuel P. Domingos, Jr., kept the magnificent silver crown on a flower decorated altar in his home where he held open house each evening, for members and friends.
CROWNING on Pentecost Sunday, a procession of club members, invited guests, fraternal and religious organizations and children dressed in their Sunday best, red ribbons across their middles, wound its way through the streets of the hill led by the Fraternity Fife, Bugle and Drum Corps. Arriving; at Our Lady of Good Voyage Church for a high mass and crowning ceremony, they were greeted by the pastor, Rev. Francisco Martins and curate. Rev. John Perry.
Following the church ceremonies, the participants returned to the club house for a banquet prepared by the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Topping the menu were traditional Azorean dishes like sopas and sweetbread resquilhas or rings.
This was the beginning, of a custom that was to continue for 27 years, culminating, in 1957 when imperator John F. Viator returned the crown to the church for the last time-until the year, 1973.
During these years the musical portion of the club gradually fell by the wayside in favor of more social and religious activities.
Participation in community activities became important, too. Members made sizable donations to projects like Our Lady’s Youth Center and the School of Religion.
More recently a scholarship fund to aid members’ children in obtaining a higher education was established in the name of Frank B. Borge, one of the club’s founders, whose 24. consecutive years as recording secretary had earned him the title Mr. Drum Corps.
Sporting events and the activities of youth in general have always had their place in the history of the club. The Gloucester Little League was founded at the club on May 10, 1953 and many a fine softball tournament, sponsored by the club, has been witnessed at nearby Matto’s playground. Drum Corps hall has been the scene of the finest table tennis competition on Cape Ann, and the club’s better players have competed with other organizations throughout the city and all over the North Shore, promoting good will, Gloucester, and fraternity. Certainly a highlight of this, their fiftieth year, was the recent privilege of co-sponsoring, along with the City of Gloucester’s 350th Anniversary Committee, the New England Table Tennis Tournament held at the Fuller School in March. The club has also played host on numerous occasions to visiting International Civil Air Cadets from abroad.
UPDATE through the years club members have donated their time and labor to the up-keep of the club house. In 1953, on land donated by Joseph E. Souza, a neighbor, a fully equipped kitchen was added on with the Ladies’ Auxiliary underwriting the bulk of the cost. In 1965, the Board of Directors along with 29 volunteers painted the entire exterior in three days. In 1967 the downstairs bar and club rooms were renovated. The Ladies’ Auxiliary donated funds for a new lavatory downstairs. In 1970, the main hall began to put on a new face. The stage, where many a minstrel show had tapped its feet, was the first to come down. A new service bar and lounge was in its place. The ceiling was lowered, paneling and air-conditioning units were added and new tables were selected. All was completed to make an attractive hall for club functions and rental. Saturdays, holidays, evenings, whenever opportunity occurred, the members rolled up their sleeves and pitched in, watched over by other members who were competent craftsmen. Nothing was too difficult for the volunteer crew to tackle. And still more long range plans are on the drawing boards and check lists of a recently organized House Committee. In the 80’s the House Committee was very active keeping up with the building making repairs where needed even organizing a group to strip and put on a new roof. That was another great time around the club. The men working to strip the roof, the Ladies Auxiliary cooking to ensure that the men did not go hungry and everybody enjoying the company of each other. In the early 90’s the club again took on a major project. The air conditioning units were not working as well as everyone would like to see. The club decided to put in central air conditioning thought out the club upstairs in the main hall and downstairs in the clubroom. This project was done by an Air Conditioning Contractor, but again the members pulled together and paid off the loan in 27 months. 2 1/2 years earlier than the note was written for. The clubroom had seen its better days it had not been updated since the BIG renovation of 1967. In 2001 a committee was put together to modernized the clubroom. Drawings were drawn and engineered by members of the club who worked in engineering and the building trades, subcontracts were put out to bid and contractor chosen to do the work. Work began in spring of 2002 and on November 13, 2002 a brand new modern clubroom was opened for the membership’s enjoyment.
As with any organization the Ladies Auxiliary is an important part of our organization. The penny sales, bazaars and other projects the ladies organize helps to raise money not only for the club but also for important projects they support. In the past they have supported a Portuguese foster child in Brazil, made clothes to dress bears and donated those bears to the local Police departments so they may help children who have been hurt or abused. They also have purchased important items for the club as were needed.
The years have thinned the ranks of the original 35 members, but the G. F. Club has continued to grow as a family organization with a full membership. There are now sons, daughters, grandchildren and great great grandchildren of the founders taking part in the club activities.
During these years in which the G F Club has been in existence, the club has not lost its enthusiasm for working and socializing together and with the community.
For more information about the club contact us through our contact form