CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
SOUTH CAMDEN BOCCE CLUB
408-410 Line Street
The SOUTH CAMDEN BOCCE CLUB was active in Camden from the 1930s into the 1970s. Bocce is a game that was brought to America by Italian immigrants who began arriving in the latter part of the 19th Century. South Camden's large Italian-American community had many social clubs such as the Sons of Italy, the Union of Brotherly Love and the South Camden Bocce Club.
In 1934 the South Camden Bocce Club club obtained a liquor license for a building at 329 Spruce Street. In 1939 this license was transferred to a house at 306 Spruce Street. This may have been the result of some division with the club, as a South Spruce Bocce Club also obtained a liquor license in 1930, for 331-337 Spruce Street. The South Spruce Bocce Club was short-lived, it's liquor license being revoked in January of 1943, and it appears that the club itself had disbanded many months before that.
By February of 1941, the South Camden Bocce Club had moved to 410 Line Street. maintained a clubhouse at 408-410 Line Street in the mid-1960s. The 1947 Camden City Directory lists the address as 408 Line Street, while in 1967 the club's liquor license renewal application says 410 Line Street. The building, oddly enough had been the home of the First Nazarene Baptist Church as late as 1924. The club remained at Line Street until the summer of 1973 when it moved to the second floor of 416 Line Street. The liquor license appears to have expired after that, and perhaps the club as well. A liquor license was issued that year to Leonard Antonelli of 3312 Rowe Street in Camden. He operated the bar as The Tiger's Den until November 1979.
Although the South Camden Bocce Club is long gone from South Camden, as are many of the neighborhood's Italian residents, there are still Bocce clubs in the Delaware Valley. In the 2000s Philadelphia alone had seventeen different clubs. Louis Soncini, if the Overbrook Club in Philadelphia, wrote this brief history of the game:
Bocce is an ancient game, its birth lost in the shadows of antiquity. Some authorities claim it originated in Egypt about 5200 B.C.; others, that the game was started in Greece during the 6th Century B.C. The most reliable sources agree that Bocce, as we know it today, was played between battles during Rome's Punic Wars against Carthage, which started in 264 B.C. Soldiers selected a small stone called a "leader" and threw it first. Then larger stones would be thrown at the "leader" and the stone coming closest to it would score. The game provided exercise and relaxation for the soldiers. Teams were composed of two, four, six, or eight men and the score would vary from 16 to 24 points per game.
The game continued to be played until 1319 when Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV ordered its discontinuance as he thought that, because of its popularity, it would interfere with sports of a more military nature.
Years later the prohibition was lifted when the Medical Faculty at Montepelier, France, declared that Bocce was the best exercise to prevent rheumatism.
An interesting historical note on Bocce claims that the English Admiral, Sir Francis Drake, was informed of the approaching Spanish Armada while playing a game of Bocce. Drake, in his usual cool manner, replied: "First, we finish the game; then we have time for the Invincible Armada."
Bocce was played throughout Europe. Emperors, Admirals, Generals, poets, sculptors, scientists and men from all stations of life were active participants in the sport. It was a favorite with Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Throughout history innumerable Bocce games have been played in the streets, alleys, squares and country greens of every European country and in North and South America. Lovers of Bocce will play wherever there is adequate space available. Pennsylvanians are fortunate in their Bocce facilities. In Philadelphia alone there are 17 Bocce Clubs. There are many other clubs throughout the state.
In June of 1967, when the South Camden Bocce Club applied for the renewal of its liquor license, the officers were as follows:
As of 2005, the building is the home of the Anna M. Sample Family Shelter, a temporary emergency shelter for 75 residents, operated by the Volunteers of America. This facility accommodates single parent families and intact families. Single women are referred to the shelter if the Single Women's Transitional Housing Program is full.
The family shelter provides 24 hour supervised housing, 3 meals a day, emergency clothing and case management. We also provide life skills workshops, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational enrichment, enterprise initiatives, a referral network and child enrichment activities.
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