The Sacred Heart Society of Little York
Fellowship and Good Food…
In the early l920s, the Sacred Heart Society of Little York was formed by a group of Italian men, most of who immigrated from the Province of Palermo, Sicily, to the United States. Many of them earned their living by farming on the north side of Houston. The men brought their Sicilian-Italian culture to Houston. Often the men would go out in the evenings and weekends to congregate with others. The gatherings provided socialization for those who worked hard to make a living for their families.
Conversation, playing cards, bocce ball, and of course eating pasta and drinking wine were common activities. ln addition, these social gatherings developed camaraderie among the Italians and served as a support group for these immigrants, who were struggling to make a new life in Texas.
During the 1920s, Little York was a small community on the north side of Houston. The area was dominated by truck and dairy farms. Horses and mules were used for plowing the fields and transportation into the city. There was one grocery store, which was owned by the Porcarello family, at the corner of Airline and Little York. The roads were unpaved and there was no electricity. ln the dark early mornings of winter, people made their way to work and school by the light of kerosene lamps.
The Italians of this community did not have much of material wealth, but they got along with each other and raised children who prospered. A large part of life was centered around the Sacred Heart Church. The Sicilians called this area "Tarucco", which formally became Little York, the name that identifies this part of Houston today. Little York Road was the main thoroughfare through the Italian farming community. Oral history tells us that the Road got its name from the Sicilians who settled the area. When these folks landed in Galveston, they traveled north with the intent of ending up in New York. Instead, they settled in the north-end of Houston, naming the area "Little New York", which was shortened to "Little York". Hence, the name Little York Road stands today.
On March 9,1923, approximately 27 leaders of the small community known as Little York met with Father D. Viola, Pastor of the Sacred Heart Church, for the organization of the Sacred Heart Society of Little York. The gathering took place in the backroom of Tony Porcarello's grocery store at Little York Road and Airline Drive. The men were all of Italian descent and of Roman Catholic faith. They later began meeting in a little barn in back of the little white church of Sacred Heart.
The first home of the Sacred Heart Society was built in 1940 and shortly thereafter the membership
increased to approximately three hundred hardworking men. ln 1951 additions were made to the Sacred Heart building to include a meeting room, a bar, and seating accommodations. Unfortunately, in 1952 the building burned to the ground. The members moved quickly thereafter to purchase 1-1/2 acres of land on East Whitney Drive to assure fire protection for the new building from the City of Houston. Throughout the years many improvements have been made to the property. The Sacred Heart Society of Little York, currently consisting of 405 members, has more plans for the future. It is the desire of the membership that those who follow will only improve upon what they leave behind. Membership is open to those who are Italian or of Italian descent.
Sacred Heart Pasta Thursday
The tradition began in 1953 and continues today. The Sicilian/Italian lunch menu is a favorite of many in the Houston area. For over 50 years, the Whitney Oaks Hall is packed with people from Houston, Galveston, Tomball, Bryan and other surrounding areas. Whitney Oaks Hall is located at 816 E. Whitney Drive, Houston, TX 77022.
What draws so many people on a regular basis? The answer seems to be "The Sugo" (Pronounced (Sue-Gah). The men of the Society prepare the spaghetti sauce (sugo) and meatballs as they have for over 50 years with very little change in the recipe. The sauce is cooked in 35-gallon stainless steel vats, which are attended to by men of the organization. There are usually six large pots of boiling water for the spaghetti. The desserts are baked by ladies of the women's auxiliary.
Source: Whitney Oaks Hall - http://www.whitneyoakshall.com