As with other immigrant communities, the families that made up the Venice-Hylo settlement not only worked together but also socialized together. Hylo-Venice Harvest of Memories (Rose Country Communications, 2000) and the unpublished history compiled by
Anthony P. (Tony) Bonifacio
Venice Alberta 1914: The Pioneers and Others provide an insight into the life of the community. One of the earliest clubs in the area was the
Duca d'Abruzzi Society. An article that appeared in the Edmonton Bulletin of January 5, 1917, provides some insight into its functioning:
The Duca d'Abruzzi Society of Venice, a few miles south of here, invited all their compatriots of the Colony to a Christmas celebration at the residence of
A. Piemonte. There was a huge Christmas tree and a fine feast, dainties from sunny Italy, presents for the signoras and nuts, candies, cakes and oranges for the bambinos. The Society, whose main object is the colonizing of Italians in the forming districts of Venice and the neighborhood, extends free guidance to desirable homesteads to newcomers and helps them otherwise. It is extending its scope by furnishing its members with free medical aid and pecuniary assistance in case of sickness. The presidents are F. A. Billas [Biollo] and A. Piemonte and the directors are Messers. A. Guerra,
E. Manca, T. Piemonte and
The establishment of the parish Il Redentore [Holy Redeemer] in 1924 gave additional structure to community life. Father Carlo Fabris came from Italy and was there until 1927. He was the only Italian priest until 1979 when Father Giuseppe Perroni was assigned to Lac La Biche. The building of the church and parish hall gave the community a centre for religious and social activities. The importance of the priest to the community is evident in Tony Bonifacio's community history:
He came from Northern Italy and he brought a ray of hope to the colony. He performed mass on Sundays and taught catechism to the children after school and on weekends. He had many ambitious dreams, and one was the pine trees that were planted around the church in 1927. When planted by the parishioners in 1927 they were about three to four feet tall. They were dug in the bush across the road west of the church and Tony Bonifacio and Arthur Biollo
transported them one at a time on a little four wheeled wagon
that the priest had. Not too many know why the pine tress were
planted in the pattern that's there and the purpose of the pattern. The way that the trees were planted in that pattern was to represent the Colonnade of the Vatican in Rome.
Mr. Bonifacio also mentions that in 1926 a co-operative society was formed and the men pooled their resources to purchase various pieces of essential machinery. This was used to break more land. But the society also had a social purpose, according to Toni Bonifacio. The men erected a shack, which was actually a granary on the Bonifacio farm, so that they could hold monthly meetings. Mr. Bonifacio was put in charge of making wine from fermented raisins and sugar. The group remained together until the equipment became obsolete.
The school house dances provided an opportunity to let of steam
and Mr. Bonifacio notes that they were sometimes wild. They were a means by which teenager could get together. He also mentions that on Sunday afternoons families would hitch up the wagon in summer, or sleigh in winter, and go visiting. They brought with them musical instruments and everyone sang and danced and passed a few pleasant hours. The mothers prepared food and the children would be given treats. They made their own pleasure and it was centered around family and community. Mr. Bonifacio writes:
"During these years, our home was an open house [his parents were Pio and Lucia Bonifacio and original homesteaders]; people would come and go-the door never was locked. . . .Mother and Dad were never lonesome, as there always was someone around. When the Fraser Grain Company built the elevator in Venice, there was a crew of carpenters from the city doing the building. Mother and dad boarded the men at our house for the duration of the project. It was quite an experience for my mother and dad, as they only knew the odd word of English and the others knew no Italian. . . .There was a lot of laughter and fun; everyone enjoyed the good farm food and mother's Italian style cooking."
for a time, also had its own bootlegger, Frank Devono. He did not farm but distilled moonshine, which was sold at local dances. His trade cost him a six month sentence in the Fort Saskatchewan Penitentiary. On his release, he continued to brew moonshine until he retired to Edmonton. Hylo also boasted a dance hall with a pool room at the back built by Charles Keehn. This was popular with the young.
From the earliest day, the men in the community hunted and fished. While, initially, this was done to subsist, these activities were also of a recreational nature.