St George 'Taj Mahal' hits half century

50 years on: St George Leagues Club stalwarts Beryl Mackie, Bruce Hancock, George Anthony, Lorna and Doug McClelland, and Mahesh Kapadia outside the building, which was dubbed the Taj Mahal when it opened on July 20, 1963. Picture: Chris Lane
50 years on: St George Leagues Club stalwarts Beryl Mackie, Bruce Hancock, George Anthony, Lorna and Doug McClelland, and Mahesh Kapadia outside the building, which was dubbed the Taj Mahal when it opened on July 20, 1963. Picture: Chris Lane

MANY memories will be stirred by the 50th anniversary on Saturday of the opening of St George Leagues Club at Carlton.

Dubbed the "Taj Mahal" at the time because of the expanses of white marble and overall opulence, the new building stunned everyone who walked through the doors.

It became the social hub of the area, with its big Saturday night stage shows rivalling those at city venues.

State government-imposed limits had resulted in an 18-month wait for membership.

Former governor-general and NSW premier Sir William McKell said at the official opening on July 20, 1963, it was "perhaps the most magnificent club not only in Australia but anywhere".

"This club is a symbol of the tremendous advance that has been made in our social relationships," he said.

"Who would have ever dreamt of such a club a few years ago?"

Assistant general manager Michael Derrig said the club still had 800 members who were on the books in 1963.

Membership had grown at one point to 50,000, but had since declined to about 30,000.

Mr Derrig said that for many years St George Leagues had been "No.1" in many performance facets, including its profitability.

"We are still in the top 20 clubs in NSW for profitability, but all of us have experienced tough times with smoking laws, gaming taxation and changing social habits," he said.

"The club has adapted, and we have reduced costs to the point where we are trading reasonably well at the moment."

Mr Derrig said that it was hoped a new buffet, which a catering sub-contractor would operate from next Wednesday, would build on the success of the similarly structured Crown Dragon restaurant.

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