Yesterday, the 85-year-old Richmond Galileo Club dedicated new street signs that identify a portion of 23rd Street as “honorary” Galileo Club Way.
The Galileo Club of Richmond, California was founded in 1932 as a men's social club for Italian Americans, the largest ethnic community in both Richmond and the greater Bay Area at the time. The present-day Galileo Club building is located at 371 South 23rd Street (on the comer of Virginia Street), just north of Cutting Boulevard. The clubhouse was built in stages, starting in 1938, after the club had outgrown its early meeting rooms in members' houses and a local boarding house.
Men gathered informally at these clubs to play cards, drink, and play bocce, were a traditional feature of Italian village life. These clubs were introduced throughout the United States by immigrants who wanted to establish fraternal relationships, speak their native language, and preserve aspects of their cultural heritage. In the early twentieth century the clubs also offered many recent immigrants an important gateway to life in a new country, providing contacts for employment, marriage and housing. An anniversary edition of the Richmond Galileo Club newspaper, The Galilean, published in 1981, enunciated the club founders' desire to "uphold the dignity and preservation of their Italian heritage, and their love for each other." They "decided to form a small social club so that they may have a central meeting place to play the card games they loved so much, and perhaps to even have a small piece of open land so that they may enjoy the sporting game of their fathers known as "Bocci Ball".
San Francisco, with a large Italian-American population, had a number of well-established social clubs thatserved as a convenient model for Richmond. One of the Richmond Galileo Club's founders, Dominic Roberto (nicknamed Noto) made frequent trips across San Francisco Bay in 1932 to visit clubs in San Francisco, drawing upon the wisdom and experience of his compatriots to provide a solid foundation for the new club in Richmond (Barbero 1981).
There were also many Italian social clubs in Oakland - in the immigrant neighborhoods of West Oakland and theTemescal district of North Oakland. Most of them were founded in the 1920s or early 1930s. The East Bay clubs competed with one another for members and amenities but were joined together in the Italian-American Federation of the East Bay, which originally had official ties to the Counsel General of San Francisco.