By MICK ROBERTS
REGISTERED clubs, with their assortment of restaurants, bars and
cafes, gymnasiums, and ‘mini-casinos’, have come along way from the timber cottages, offering dominoes and newspaper and magazine libraries, that began to appear throughout colonial New South Wales during the 1890s.
Prior to this, membership of early colonial clubs was confined to the elite. The premises of the first clubs emulated British gentlemen’s clubs and accommodated the style of living to which their members were accustomed. Club entertainment principally consisted of drinking, dining, billiards, card games and a literary library.
Clubs catering for colonial working class men first appeared in the late 1880s and 1890s. They first opened in the Illawarra as workmen clubs, chiefly established to cater for coal miners. They were men only venues, far from what members expect of their registered clubs today.
In 1898 the Mount Kembla Workmen’s Club was described as a four roomed cottage, containing bar room, committee room, bedroom and storeroom. The building was lined with pine and the ceiling with calico:
“The bar room had a plank nailed to the wall for seating. In the corner of the room was a short piece of timber with a counter and some shelving. Committee room had three tables and three chairs covered with pieces of casing board. Bedroom contained a wooden frame about 13 feet long, across which was placed a number of casing boards, upon which was seven beds made of bagging and filled with straw, as was pillows. There was no kitchen. The beds were for drunken miners to sleep off their liquor.”
Read the full story at the Looking Back website.