The Canton Town Club was founded in 1939 as a non-profit social men's club dedicated towards serving the town and its citizens. Celebrating 70 years of dedicated service to the town the Town Club has become an integral part of the social, athletic and charitable fabric of the town of Canton.
The Town Club has come a long way from its origins at the old Sherman Street School to an exquisite town house at the corner of Bailey & Pine Streets in Canton.
The Prestigious Town Club was formed in 1939 by a group of young Canton men for the sole purpose of promoting Athletic and Social Activities in the Town of Canton. These local men were recent high school graduates who wanted to dedicate themselves to developing an outside constructive interest to the Town of Canton.
Canton was also interested in organizing a semi-professional football team, which would become the trademark of the Canton Town Club in its first few decades of existence.
The organizers, with permission of the Canton School Committee and Board of Selectmen, were allowed to use the Sherman Street School to hold their first meeting. Ed Howard was elected the Town Club's initial president. At that first meeting Bill Donovan (coach of all sports at Canton High School at the time) was invited to discuss assembling a football team.
Donovan was a major force with his unlimited encouragement and involvement with the young men. He offered the team the use of Canton High School’s pants and jerseys for their games. With this "encouragement", the informal Town Club's first football team was promptly named the "Canton Young Men's Athletic Association".
Meanwhile the Sherman Street School was used one night a week for meetings and discussions. These meetings consisted of plans of organization to encompass more than just a football team. About six months after the first meeting the newly organized group, rented space for a "Club Room" in the Brooks Block on the corner of Washington and Bolivar streets.
At that time the Brooks Block Building was the largest of its kind housing stores and offices in Canton. A fire did severe damage in 1942 and subsequently led to the destruction of the building in 1945.
Previously in 1941, it was in the Brooks Block Building that a set of by-laws were created and the name, "The Canton Town Club", was officially adopted.
As was previously mentioned, the goal of the Canton Town Club was to promote social and athletic events that in turn would provide young men of Canton with a place to meet and get to know their fellow neighbors. The football team, in their initial two years, prospered with the help of local merchants supplying the funds to purchase their own equipment. Unfortunately, most of this gear was destroyed in the Brook Block Building fire.
In April 1943, a fund was started to raise money for the purpose of buying land and erecting a permanent building. This became reality with the purchase of land and subsequent construction of a handsome clubhouse that now exists at the corner of Pine and Bailey Streets.
During World War II, the Canton Town Club saw most of its members joining the armed forces. About one hundred members left to serve their country. The Canton Town Club was kept alive during the war by its older members until 1945 when the war ended and the town of Canton saw the return of its young men.
Tragedy struck the town of Canton and the Canton Town Club as the war progressed. 98% of its members served in World War II while 75% served in the Korean War. Unfortunately, some members never returned.
By war's end there were almost two hundred members of the Canton Town Club and it immediately became very active in community affairs. During the late 40's and early 50's, the Canton Town Club became "famous" for its Christmas Parties that were attended by nearly one thousand children. Incidentally, this was front page news, supplied in addition with a picture to the Boston Newspapers.
The Canton Town Club's present charter was approved in 1946. In its early years, the dominating aspect of the Club was its semi-professional football team which was the scourge of the Southeastern Massachusetts Semi-Pro Conference.
After World War II, semi-pro sports enjoyed their greatest interest and the Canton Town Club earned the reputation of being one of the best football teams in the State of Massachusetts. The Town Club's schedule included Fall River, New Bedford, Fitchburg and Greenfield, with additional football hotbeds in Arlington, Whitman, Middleboro, Bridgewater and Brockton. Out of state teams from Rhode Island and Connecticut also participated in contests against the Canton Town Club.
Originally, The Canton Town Club was made up exclusively of Canton residents. However, with its added excitement and style of play, it attracted the likes of the best high school and college players from surrounding towns.
Again the Canton Town Club was on the move, literally. Before the Bailey and Pine Streets building was completed, the Club moved from the destroyed Brooks Block Building to the Holmes Building beside the dam on Washington Street. Next it moved to the Sydman Building over the Woolworth's 5 & 10 Store and then on to the Trayers Building at the corner of Wall and Washington Streets.
With the increasing success of the football team, the Canton Town Club expanded its membership to over two hundred-fifty members. Due to a very generous gift of land from the Russell Brothers, the Canton Town Club moved to its present location.
The building was built entirely by the physical labor of the members and from funds loaned to the Canton Town Club by twenty members. Included for members only in this facility were clubrooms, showers, a pool table, ping pong tables, a sauna etc. A hall was available to the members and outside parties for social events.
In the new location, the Club prospered and grew to three hundred members in the 1950's. The football team was still known as the best semi-pro team in the State. In 1956, the Canton Town Club had five former captains of college teams in its starting lineup. Growing interest in professional football on television saw the dissolution of semi-pro football and the Town Club was about to play its last games in 1959. Eventually, the team was disbanded when rising costs and maintenance problems became too difficult to overcome.
However, the Canton Town Club never lost interest in Canton Football after donating its uniforms to the high school. The Canton Town Club has an annual banquet for the high school football team and awards prizes for outstanding effort in the traditional Canton-Stoughton Thanksgiving Day Football game.
Yes, Town Club Football was big business!
You could say 1941 was the beginning of the legend of Town Club Football, and as luck would have it, a score of 0-0 did the trick. A well established Brockton team, spearheaded by center Rocky Marciano, a well known Brockton Fighter, hosted the Cantonites at O'Donnell Field with Mayor Fred Rowe of Brockton in attendance. Pregame talk had been on how much Brockton would score and if Canton could contain Brockton's reputation. Incidentally, on that same day, Ted Williams belted out six hits in a doubleheader lifting his average to .406 in the final game of the season. The Canton Town Club's reputation had commenced as a result of the 0-0 tie with the powerful Brockton Football Team.
In 1954, there was as much excitement in Canton over the Town Club's effort on the football field as there was over the previous 40 year history of the Club. It was during this season that the local men struck pay dirt.
This was the second undefeated Town Club team since 1949, but this version was about to become a little more popular. Their season consisted of wins over St. Paul's 21-0, Mansfield 25-0, Middleboro 14-0, Hingham 7-0, Whitman 27-13, Fairhaven 19-0, New Bedford 25-6, Hyde Park 27-0 and Randolph 44-0 with a scoreless tie against a strong East Boston team. A crowd of well over 3,500 people witnessed the East Boston affair against the Tornadoes, who were Park League Champions the previous four years in Boston. Notables in that game were Art Bougas and Mike Uliano with coaches Bob Gibson and Bill Duggan calling the signals.
The game in Stoughton on November 27, 1954 was for all the marbles, but this time against the South Boston Chippewas, which ended the season as the Park League Champions. Over 9,000 people crammed into Stoughton with extra police called in for traffic control, which backed up for two miles on route 138. It was a confrontation of the biggest and best semi-professional football teams in Massachusetts. Canton took a 6-0 lead as Earl Leonard pitched out to Mike Uliano who trotted fifty yards. Shortly thereafter, Kris Bainton traveled five yards on the ground, putting the good guys up 12-0. However, Southie came back, overtaking the Canton Town Club 14-12 in the late stages of the game.
At the Town Club on January 20, 1955, the Eastern Massachusetts Champs were honored with guest speaker and professional boxer Tony Demarco in attendance.
As mentioned before, the Canton Town Club had activities other than football.
In 1946, Paul Rogers became President for the sixth consecutive year, becoming one of the key forces in stabilizing the movement of the Town Club. Post war meetings were held and a benefit fund was also discussed, to be set up to meet the medical expenses of those suffering injuries sustained in sports sponsored by the Town Club. In 1947 and 1948 the Canton Town Club coached by Dick McLeod won the Canton Softball league Championship behind such standout players as Les Hincliffe, Dick Gardner, Johnny Biles, Charlie Stevenson, John Quenna, Charlie Bougas and Elgin Earley.
In 1949 a pool table was received as a gift from Paul Draper and Joseph D. Galvin.
On December 3rd 1953, hundreds of members jammed into the new quarters to celebrate the opening of the Town Clubs new home. The Building Committee of the Town Club was spotlighted in the Brockton Enterprise as Bill Duggan, Bernie Fallon, George Jones, Charles Tolias, Paul Rogers, Joseph Marinaro, Renzio Piana, Dom DeMayo, Frank Romanelli, Joseph Teague, Joseph Carrara, Walter Nervi, Charles Cerello, Robert Barbaglia and Joseph Conlon were mentioned. On December 10, 1953, 125 Town Club members honored Rogers, whose past twelve years as President earned him quite a reputation as the driving force behind the popularity of the Town Club. Jim Stevenson was the master of ceremonies and presented Rogers a beautiful wrist watch, a photo–identity bracelet and a sterling silver life membership card to the organization. The guest speaker was Charlie Stevenson the Canton High School and Town Club Football coach.
During the early 1950's there was also boxing at the old Brockton Music Hall with Bucky Doody and Willie Clark throwing punches under the Town Club's colors. On Monday nights, Charlie Moore fought while home from the Marines. Mike Uliano also fared well. All were coached by Gus Brown and Gus Knowles.
In 1955 Rogers was again elected the Town Club's President with Jones being named Vice President.
The Canton Town Club held its twelfth annual football banquet honoring its semi-professional team with head table guests Robert Gibson, Charles Rogers, Ed "Butch" Songin, Richard MacLeod, Bernie Fallon and Paul Rogers.
In 1959 Jones replaced the former mainstay Paul Rogers, who first served as President back in 1940. Other Presidents throughout the sixties were Mike Berteletti, Dom DeMayo, Joe Thompson, Chalice Rogers, Jack Converse, Dick MacLeod, Bill Duggand and Frank DeFelice who opened the doors to the seventies, after being named one of the youngest presidents in the history of the Canton Town Club. Joe Uliano carried on the same distinguished leadership of the Club from 1972 to the present, making the Canton Town Club one of the more refined organizations around.
All in all the Canton Town Club has taken part in many social events throughout the years. The Club proudly sponsors a Christmas Party, a New Year's Party, Las Vegas nights and a golf tournament each spring. All benefit the Town Club Scholarship Fund. In addition, the Town Club holds several other events which are of significant value to the citizens of Canton.
Today the Canton Town Club proudly carries on with its rich history of supporting the Town of Canton. Under the continued leadership of Joe Uliano, the elected officers, the board of directors and the membership, all contribute to maintaining the Club's current level of stature and prestige.
The Club's hospitality and friendship to all is in evidence whenever you enter the clubhouse.
History notes by Joe DeFelice