Bocce bites the dust

FIFTY years of history will come crumbling down this week when Lismore City Council starts demolishing the Continental Music, Sports and Recreation Club, known locally as the 'bocce' club.

It was the social hub of the Italian migrant community for decades, but in recent years the clubhouse has been abandoned and the council considers it to be dangerous because of asbestos and broken glass on the site.

It was also where German tourist Simone Strobel's body was found in February, 2005.

Before the demolition crews move in, the council has been working with the Italian community to work out the best way to commemorate the contributions of Italian settlers on the site. No decision has yet been made.

One person working on the project, Ellie Gava, said the club was an important part of the region's history.

“The young kids grew up, learnt bocce (a game broadly similar to lawn bowls), spoke Italian, learnt card games and they learnt about their history and culture,” she said.

As the migrant community became accepted by the wider community, there were often more Australians than Italians turning up for the bocce games, she said.

Silvina Bravin is one of the Italian settlers who has fond memories of the club. She said although bocce was traditionally the domain of the men, she and some of the other women enjoyed playing too.

“It was just the thing we did every Sunday. We would come down, meet up with friends, have tea then go home. A lot of Italians did that. It was a day out for us. It went on for years,” she said.

Mrs Bravin and her husband, Larry, had a banana plantation at Repentance Creek, north of Rosebank.

“Most of us started out on banana farms. It was very hard work. Slowly people came into town as they retired or as the banana industry went kaput with beetle borers and cyclones.”

Mrs Bravin said despite the name of the club, and that one of the stated objectives of the club was to 'promote, facilitate and encourage the extension of interest in Continental Music', she couldn't remember much music being played there.

Lismore Mayor Merv King said: “I think everyone will be happy to see the old building removed and the site turned into an open area that people can enjoy, one which will celebrate the contributions and achievements of the area's Italian settlers.”

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