The Backpage: Club memberships 6



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My attitude to club memberships has been similar to the one I hold towards boats, which is that they are good things for your friends to own.

I’ve never owned a boat but become glass eyed and slack jawed at the sight of a sleek cabin cruiser or the elegant lines of a yacht. I buy magazines full of photographs of boats for sale and drool over their glossy pages.

At least once a year I announce I am going to buy a boat and my wife rolls her eyes skywards and waits for the madness to pass.

Clubs differ in so far as while I have never owned a boat, I have belonged to clubs, but not many.

My first venture into clubdom was the old rugby union club at Ballymore in Brisbane which I joined because after the game, the members’ bar was crammed with female rugby fans.

My membership had absolutely nothing to do with my appreciation of the sport and a lot to do with my appreciation of the women who followed it.

I was the only one among my peers to be a member so after watching the footy and consuming as many cans of full strength beer as was possible over a three or four hour period, we would head for the club at the top of the grandstand in search of female company.

I would show my membership badge and be waved past by the door man. I’d then go to the far end of the bar and pass the badge out the window to one of my mates who would then use it to gain entry.

Half a dozen of us would thus end up in the club although it must be said that in those days we fell somewhat short of the sartorial standards generally embraced by club members.

I wore shoes rather than thongs to the footy which set me apart from my mates, particularly Luigi, a blonde haired surfer within our band of brothers who had never, as far as anyone knew, owned a pair of shoes.

On this Sunday afternoon, the full time siren sounded and we headed for the club. I went in and passed the badge out the window to Luigi who went to walk through the door but was stopped by the doorman.

“You have to wear socks and footwear” he declared looking at Luigi’s well worn rubber thongs.

Luigi came back up to the window and said he needed my shoes. I wasn’t about to part with them but I met him halfway, taking off my socks and handing them out the window.

“Give this a go‘’, I said and so he went back down to the door wearing socks and thongs.

“Footwear and socks’’, he said to the doorman pointing to his feet and the doorman, lost for words, nodded dumbly and waved him through.

I let my membership lapse after that, sensing that I was on the point of being tossed out and not wanting to give them the pleasure of doing so.

There followed a period of clublessness which came to an end with the opening of The Journalists Club.
This had two benefits: it was close to the newspaper office where I worked and it opened until midnight at a time when pubs closed their doors at 10pm.

It also sold the worst beer in the city but to balance this, attracted a large number of women. The newspaper bosses thought the club a wonderful innovation for it gathered all their staff more or less in the one location.

Previously, they had been drunk in pubs scattered throughout the city. They were all drunk in the one place for this was at a time when, unlike now, newsrooms floated on a sea of alcohol.

Over-indulgence was not only permitted but expected and toss pottery on a prodigious scale was the order of the day from the editor down.

Two very senior executives had so refined the art of the six hour lunch that they were known collectively as The Bookends.

This was due to their tendency to lean on each other, shoulder to shoulder, as the weaved up the corridor on their way back to their office after an afternoon’s learned and well lubricated discussion.

Everyone drank at the club, the barman regularly answering the phone and yelling out the name of whoever was being sought by the office or just as frequently, wives and girlfriends.

“He’s just left” was the usual reply, as the culprit tossed down the dregs of his drink and ran out the door.

There were fights, arguments, carousing and licentiousness. It was a wonderful time and I recall one editor appearing at the club clutching a half drawn cartoon and pleading with the cartoonist to finish it at the bar so that he could take it back to the office and get into the edition.

The Journos Club closed years ago and I remain club-less, subscribing to the view expressed by Groucho Marx when he said he would be suspicious of any club that would have him as a member.

Tell us: are you part of any clubs? Which ones and for how many years?

Mike O'Connor

Mike O’Connor is a Brisbane-based motoring writer, travel writer and columnist. He’s driven hundreds of different cars, travelled widely and mingled with famous people, none of whom, he confesses, can remember meeting him.

  1. There are lots of good clubs in NSW. I just renewed my membership at Central Coast Leagues yesterday. $10 for 3 years and you get a free meal & drink.

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