Celebrating 100 YearsTuesday, January 26, 2021
It was unanimously agreed by this small committee consisting of Paul Calcaterra, Ron DiBartolomeo and Frank Pompa that we should, in our first article, honor and remember those people who have passed. These are the people that made the Chamber what it is today, primarily a group of professional and business people that live and serve the southeastern section of Michigan.
Please keep in mind, this list is not complete. It began twenty years ago and will miss many peoples that passed during the period between 1919 and 1997. Additionally in the mid-seventies we experienced a fire where we kept our records. This destroyed most of our archive information. So please if you know of any Chamber member who should be included; and is not, please contact Deborah at the IACCM office.
Let us attempt to visualize the beginning in 1919. A period of Model T’s competing on muddy roads with Horse and Carriage form of transportation. Radio is in its infancy; no television or computers, cell phones or any of the technology that we enjoy in today’s daily life. The life expectancy for men in 1919 was 48 years. Only 10% of homes had telephones. Fuel for cars was sold in drug stores. Fuel for heating homes was mostly soft coal, which meant soot covered walls and serious wall washing every spring. The average US wage earner made $ 300 to $ 400 dollars per year. 95% of child births took place at home. High school graduation was around 10%. The point being that compared to today’s life, things in 1919 were very primitive.
Yet somehow a small group of Italian American men and the Italian Consulate were able to communicate and organize to what today we call the “Italian American Chamber of Michigan”. Originally it was called IAC of Detroit.
We have included the names of our founding fathers even though we have no official notification of their deaths.
Founding Fathers: Pietro Cardiello (Consulate), Joseph Shippacasse, Anthony Esperti, Dr. Vincent Mancuso, Andrew Maglia, Mark Valenti Sr., Frank Leverde and Raymond Coumo.
Pride of Heritage
Looking at our Honor Roll there are not many of us that reach a status of fifty years of IACCM membership. Why?
There are many reasons that people have joined our Organization. Let us list some of these reasons.
- Business opportunity or means of providing financial growth for yourself or your employer. This is a normal approach and sometimes can work for one’s enrichment. It is unlikely that all will enjoy this kind benefit; some have, but I am guessing that most do not and therefore exit early.
- Social – your friends or business associates convinced you this is a great way to sit down to a great Italian meal, enjoy a glass of wine and meet some fine Italian Americans. Nothing wrong with that reason and many of us stay around until we can no longer navigate the circuit. I think this category fits my purpose.
- Death, or the need to relocate (move out of State) for business or employment opportunity.
- Pride of Heritage - this should be our number one reason for joining and staying in the Chamber until our Maker decides otherwise. What better reason than to be proud of where you, your parents or grandparents came from. The Italians have made great contributions to mankind. When we think of great food, there is no better memory than your Mothers Pasta; which she learned from her Mother etc. When you think of art and architecture, it is very difficult to compete with the Italians. When you think of love of Family, the Italians are great providers and good at dishing out discipline when it is needed. When you look at construction of homes and even the high buildings of New York and other American Cities, the Italians played a large role in bringing those skills to the level of today’s world. When you think about fine Automobiles, it is tough to beat the Alfa Romeos, Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini, wow beautiful vehicles. On the other hand when you look at basic transportation the Fiat 500 has been moving people for more than 100 years.
- We could go on and on; the point being, our people have made (and continue to) make great contributions to the World. We therefore have many reasons to be proud of our heritage. Remember in spite of our many differences and current social problems, we are American’s first and foremost and have the privilege to live in the best Country in the World. But we also can boast of our Italian Heritage. So as the saying goes “mange pasta and be happy, love your Family and fellow mankind. God bless you all and be proud of the IACCM. Convince your IA friends and associates to join the Chamber. Enjoy some of the old archives photos we have intermixed with the above.
A Better Chamber
How do we make this a better organization?
As we approach our second century, we all individually and collectively have the responsibility to see that we continue to exist. Also of importance is that we make every effort to make the Chamber a better organization. This is no easy task. Let us brainstorm this.
When we look at our current Officers and Board members we see a group of bright and educated people who, when given the task, are capable of solving problems. It is the responsibility of the President and the Board Chairperson to identify and decides who, what, and when to find ways to make this a better Chamber.
First is membership retention. For reasons unknown we have too many people that join the Chamber, find that it does not meet their expectation, they then leave. The bad thing is that we make no attempt to find out why they left or try to get them to reconsider. So we must suggest that when a member decides to unjoin we should send her/him a survey which attempts to find out why. Most of these requests will be ignored. But if we receive 20% return, that is better than what we have now, which is zero. Secondly the President should make personal contact with the person and attempt to have her/him reconsider. The point being is we must do better than what we are doing now.
If it is determined that the person left for financial reasons, we should put in place funding to provide short term assistance.
The growth of Women in the IACCM has been disappointing to say the least.
We have a total of nine women by our current count. This includes regular and corporate membership. We have one female that has been active as a Board Member and Officer position. We have in recent years had a few ladies on our ballots, but they have failed to get elected. Why?
It has been ten years since the Board was able to pass the acceptance of Ladies into The IACCM, prior to the first attempt made thirty years earlier (1979). This at that time was met with male bias rejection. Here we are, today 10 years of female member acceptance and we have been able to attract only nine females. Why?
Now we must realize that women have a more difficult schedule than men. Being that in addition to being a professional or business person, they are likely to being homemakers with children to care for. Yes you must admit that the Ladies have a more difficult life. So what do we do to attract more ladies? This is something that must be addressed.
We need to honor people who made contributions to the Chamber that contribute toward the betterment of the organization. These people for most part will be past or present members. However they can also be nonmembers. A list for consideration has been provided to current Board Chairperson David Galli. There needs to be some action on this by the Board. It would be very progressive if this is addressed prior to our 100 year celebration.
Let begin with the above mentioned and attempt to make some progress. If we don’t talk the talk, it becomes a non-issue.
THE NEXT 100 YEARS
Please try to imagine the hundred year period 1919 to 2019. From horse and buggy's competing with model T's. A small group of men starting an organization named "Italian American Chamber of Commerce of Detroit". Somehow it still exists in a much different form; larger and more involved in community activities and perhaps more charitable. But without a doubt we live in a much more complicated and dangerous world. We have been involved in many wars, some as long as fifteen years and no end in sight. We have seen so much growth in technology that it is mind boggling and difficult to stay current with the changes.
Our previous article made it clear that we as Chamber members must all see that as an organization we continue to exist. When we look at our current Chamber member life style, most of us are not wealthy, but also we are not needy, we enjoy great lifestyles we live in a country where no one needs to go to bed hungry. We are prepared to feed all people when needed.
We are involved in so much political differences, that it is impossible to have a calm and intelligent conversation with any one regarding our individual beliefs, unless of course they have similar views.
There is no way to predict what this beautiful country will look like or even if we will continue to exist in our present form in 2119. There are many in the world today who would like to see that the freedoms we enjoy today… go away.
Why do they hate America? Is it because we historically have been very generous to help all who are in need and attempt to be the world’s peace makers? The point is that there are some people in today's world that want to continue with conflict. It brings them employment. Income and ability to expand their culture, language and religious beliefs. Some of this is coming from within, meaning they may have been born and educated here, but still resent our way of life and want change. I had no intent of getting into world politics; however there is no way to predict the future without considering the possible loss of our freedoms.
So let’s thank God for all of our current blessings which are numerous. They include the ability to provide shelter, food and security for our families’ freedom of speech, the ability to maintain our borders, our language and of course our culture. That is where most of us are, or have been through. Let us not forget our Chamber or the Italian pride of heritage that brought us all together.
We wish you all a happy 100 year celebration, a healthy and prosperous life. May God bless you all!
FA Pompa 9/27/18