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Chapter 12: Of Night Owls And Other Birds


“What hath night to do with sleep?”

John Milton: Comus

Night-owls have always been a problem. Some twenty years ago Vice-President Emmanuel Basta suggested a 1:00 a.m. curfew. Not long after this the Club moved to Fitzroy, where the planning permit allowed it to operate only between 8:00 am and midnight. But the night-owls could not be eliminated: they played lightning until daybreak, with the gas-heaters blazing away, and when the club-rooms were opened by Committee members at lunchtime next day they found the building agreeably but expensively warm. The Club’s by-law outlawing the practice was ignored.

Sometimes a night-owl was caught roosting in the building. Late-night patrols organized by Edwin Malitis drove the offenders into the outer air. But they kept coming back. In 2003 a special committee reporting on the future of the building protested that it “should not be used as a doss-house”. Finally, in 2009 the Committee succeeded in ridding the building of nocturnal occupants.

Over the years other birds of prey have at times made themselves at home in the club-rooms. These,, when no watchful eye was present, would swoop down on anything that could be stolen: cake, confectionery, soft drinks, coffee, telephone calls, chessmen. One tournament player thoughtfully assembled his own home chess-set by filching a man or two each night. The honesty box for phone calls was repeatedly ignored. In 1985 the Club had to ask Telecom to bar the making of overseas and Australian trunk calls. A check made in 1990 showed that four out of five local calls were being stolen. Another check five years later showed that sales of food and drink yielded not the expected profit but a loss.

Another form of dishonesty that has always plagued the Club is the failure, and often the deliberate and brazen refusal, to pay visitor’s fees. A number of persons have been banned from setting foot in the club-rooms because of misbehaviour of one kind or another, often as serial offenders. Regrettably, some strong players seem to claim a divine right to free entry.