A balcony fit for Juliet

By Chris Thomson | posted on February 23, 2018

THE first balcony at the Albany Club on which a woman member is allowed to stand was officially launched on Monday.

And like the decision almost 30 years ago to open the then exclusively gentlemen’s club up to women, the opening of the balcony door to a gentle easterly was an understated but liberat- ing affair.

Optometrist Alison Steer, whose father Geoff is a long-term member, said that in 1990 when she became the club’s first woman member, there was no- where else in town appropriate for informal business meetings.

“This was a nice, secluded place to bring business people and reps,” she said.

“I guess I got a bit of inside knowledge about the club from Dad feeding me bits about what was going on.

“I knew all the members anyway; they were family friends.”

Graham Wroth and Alison Steer at the balcony launch.

In the lead-up to Ms Steer’s membership, renovations were hastily arranged for the 1887-built clubhouse, which had no women’s toilets.

“I’ve heard the story that in the club constitution, when it was first written, that because there was no dream that women would even be involved, it just listed ‘member’,” she said.

“So there was no constitutional change needed, and there was very little excuse for them not to let me in.”

Ms Steer said there were lots of behind-the-scenes whispers about her signing up that she heard “bits and pieces of”, but once members “got their heads around it, it really was a non- issue for me when I first rocked up”.

“At first they wanted me to stay in the front bar, but no-one else was there, so I said ‘that’s not going to happen’ , and quickly walked into the main billiard room, and everyone said ‘hello’,” she added.

She said the new balcony, overlooking Aberdeen Street, was “unbelievably fantastic”.

“There used to be a door up there that led nowhere, but now it leads on to the balcony, and the building looks complete,” she said.

Club President Daphne Cotton and Mayor Dennis Wellington at the balcony launch.

At the launch, Mayor Dennis Wellington unveiled a plaque.

He recalled that in the 1980s, when he was a real estate agent and club member, he tried to have a business meeting with a woman sales manager from Skywest Airlines at the venue, because it was the nicest spot in town.

“There were a few coronaries in the pool room, and I was told it was totally unacceptable,” he said.

There have now been three women club presidents, including current president Daphne Cotton. The club’s next project is to revive a spindly 110-year-old rose bush out the front that’s seen far better days.

Photos: Chris Thomson