Most clubs are now gambling dens. Forget Raffles of Singapore or the Kurhaus of the Dutch Scheveningen, they played Baccarat and Écarté then.
Mischa Elman en Wladimir Horowitz, Richard Tauber, Lucienne Boyer, Greta Keller, Marie Dubas, Maurice Chevalier, Herbertvon Karajan, La Argentina, Duke Ellington, Ray Ventura,
Bela Bartok,Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, George Brassens, Maria Callas, Marlène Dietrich with last but not least the Rolling Stones, are some that performed in The Kurhaus till about 1965.
Clubs are all populated by spinning wheels and flashing lights now and we play the poker-machine. Participants sit grim faced behind those flashing electronic machines. They feed money in them as if there is no tomorrow. For many there is no tomorrow. The tomorrow has been fed into the machines. The plastic shopping bag with food is all that some of them will (hopefully) come home with.
Lately clubs are advertising that they, more than anyone else, are encouraging ‘problem gamblers’ to seek counseling. What the clubs are less enthusiastic about is minimizing the number of poker machines and/or limit players money withdrawals from their ATM’s…Poker machines are worth their weight in gold and pubs and clubs know it.
Anyway, it was on a stormy day. The temperature was 8c and the day loomed long and overcast. We decided to visit a local ‘workers’ club.
The origins of Australian Workers Clubs seem to have got lost in the bowels of history. I can’t find much in that area on the internet. It is interesting that in one of the largest, The Revesby Workers Club they have a large insignia at the front of it depicting a crossed plumber’s wrench and hammer. This seems to hint at a communist influence in earlier days. One can just imagine the board of directors compromising after a heated debate to allow a hammer and sickle design. They replaced the sickle with a very large plumber’s wrench, Ha, ha.
The general advertised aim of clubs is to provide good amenities for families to meet and spend enjoyable social times together. The clubs are non-profit where all income (from gambling) is ploughed back in many areas for the welfare of communities. Sports, leisure, care for the aged are just a few social items that most clubs are involved with.
We arrive and after entering were met by a very nice warm blast of air conditioning. At the desk we complied with a very odd and much questioned ritual of filling in a form requesting our full name, address and driver’s license. We are not a member of the club but even so are always very welcome as long as we comply with this ritual. Whenever we ask; why this strange procedure?
Answers vary depending on the level of club expertise, ranging from ‘getting a win on the pokies and not paying taxation’ or; most common, ‘well, that is the law!’ Some vaguely mention liquor laws and the distance of the venue and the non-members home. Others mention that the law allowing people to drink a beer on Sunday (after church) was only passed (1962) if clubs would comply with this compulsory form filling by non-members. This, as so many other typical Anglo oddities remains a mysterious puzzle for us pragmatic Europhiles.
The Workers clubs in Australia are very popular with well designed pleasant architecture combining nice affordable food with range of beverages of coffees, wines and everything in between. The services are excellent and the gambling part well away from the family or diners. There are open fires, comfortable seating with lounges and soft furnishings. I could easily spend my days there, reading up, sipping a short black and observe its clientele, including the non-members. When we were there many just enjoyed the warmth away from the hostile bitter cold blasts swirling the tree branches around outside.
I had a lovely rump steak (rare) with a vegetable mix of cream sautéed potatoes, beet root, baked pumpkin with fresh coriander. With this steak& chips came a real silver boat of pepper sauce, my favourite! My lovely H decided on a Beef burger which was so huge, she took half of it home and even then it needed several tissues to wrap it up. Milo looked hopefully up to H when the other half was eaten in the evening. No luck though. He had just been given his chicken neck. This is Milo’s favourite as well.
So, in summing up; clubs do provide enjoyable venues and do much good in the communities, but… all on the back of those gaming machines which causes immense miseries for many.
Would a higher taxation on all income be a better option, still have clubs but without all those poker machines?
It is all so difficult.