It was an idea born almost 75 years ago.
Some were neighborhood kids who were looking for a place to play football, baseball or halfball. Others were young adults who wanted a place to relax and swap war stories. Later on, it became a place to fall in love at a dance on a Saturday night.
The Chadmoore Athletic Club was many things to many people in the South Philadelphia neighborhood just a few blocks north of Passyunk Avenue on the west side of Broad Street.
And to 48 members of the Chadmoore Alumni Association, it’s a great way to remember some great livin’. They still get together on a monthly basis to keep the memories alive.
“It was some real young fellas returning from World War II and Korea that decided they wanted to be more than just guys hanging on a corner,” said Joe Persico, a South Philly resident who considers himself a second-generation member, having joined the club in the 1950s. “They decided to have a sports and social club. Sports was the biggie. Then it was events. The more and more people got the word, the more it grew.”
After originally using a heatless garage to hold weekly meetings in the late 1940s, the small group migrated to the back room of a candy shop, before eventually investing rent into a club at 1838 S. Bancroft St. (now known as Jiminy Cricket’s Club and American Legion Post 200). The Chadmoore Athletic Club, deriving its name from a combination of Chadwick and Moore streets, grew to 108 members at its peak and supported sports teams, held dances and block parties and, most importantly, held themselves to a high standard.
“They ran everything,” said member Pat Tricocci. “They ran the dances, they swept the floors and cleaned the bathrooms. There was no business support or grants to help out. They sustained it themselves.”
Tricocci now lives in Runnemede, New Jersey and has the good fortune of being the closest member to the Phily Diner and Sports Bar on the Black Horse Pike. It’s the current location for a monthly get-together for the remaining members of the club. About a dozen members braved some chilly rain last Thursday to munch on omelettes and hash browns while rehashing stories of the glory days.
“I remember when TV first came out at the club,” said Orazio “Zic” Ziccardi, now a Marlton resident and the leader of the club’s steering committee. “Tuesday nights there would be a show on, which was great because it wasn’t every night that there was something on. We’d put chairs around the TV and watch. It became the place to be because no one had TVs yet.”
Ziccardi said the club had ping pong and billiards tables, and a piano on the upper floor. It eventually became a hotspot for local musicians looking to grow their popularity. Club members were forced to learn how to dance or pay a 25-cent fee. Most did eventually learn by practicing with their sisters at home and it paid off, as several members were able to sweep their future wives off their feet at the club they loved so dearly.
“The biggest thing was most of us didn’t have to look for our wives,” Tricocci said. “They were all coming up to the club. Probably 80 or 90 percent of us met our wives at the club.”
Late-night dances eventually phased out as the club moved out in the ‘60s but the members kept the relationships tight. Other forms of entertainment such as golf outings and crabbing trips prevailed.
And there’s always been sports.
Nick Carchidi, now a Mount Laurel resident, was thumbing through a scrapbook of old football memories when one of his buddies shouted, “Don’t forget who blocked for you!” from across the long L-shaped table in the diner. Carchidi was inducted into South Philadelphia High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.
“I joined this group after my brother (Vince Carchidi) played football with Chadmoore,” Nick said. “I’m now sitting in this seat (at the end of the table) because that’s where he always sat.”
Vince passed away in November and was added to a long list of names of members who were honored over the years with an annual memorial Mass followed by a buffet. More than 100 names are read off and honored, and a club banner with the words “Friends For Life” is displayed on the altar.
After more than 20 years of holding the memorial Mass, members say the one held in November will likely be the last.
“We had to tell everybody it’s over,” said Ziccardi. “For 24 years we did this, but people were dying off and we couldn’t fill the church anymore. It has to end sometime, and we feel like we ended it on a high note.”
The club, however, shows no signs of slowing down. Aside from the monthly breakfast at the Phily Diner, the group picks a late-season Eagles game each year to watch at Chickie’s & Pete’s in South Philly each year. This past December, they had more than 120 people come out for the game, which included family members and friends.
Rocco Gigante, an original member, and a Korean War Air Force veteran who is now 92 years old, says he loves still getting together with the guys whenever he can.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “We have the old guys, the middle guys and the young guys in their 70s and we all keep in touch. It all started as a group of guys hanging out on a corner but we just wanted to be more organized.”
And they’re still extremely organized three-quarters of a century later. A younger Persico would have had a tough time believing it.
“Hard to say,” Persico said. “I got into it to play sports. I was 13 years old and I was elated that I was old enough to come play 115-pound football that was totally organized. Looking back, it never even dawned on me that we’d be here all these years later.”