Dapto Leagues Club was formed on 12 July 1955 at a public meeting in Mr Jim Timbs’ Billiard Rooms in Bong Bong Road, which later became the first premises occupied by the club. During 1958 a new club building was constructed, with membership being 700 at that time.
The club traded until 1964, when what was then the largest auditorium in the Illawarra region was built. From 1965 the club hosted live entertainment with the Saturday Night Cabaret show a huge success – Some of the early entertainers were the Bee Gees, Dave Allen, Johnny O’Keefe and The Delltones.
In those days gentlemen were not allowed to enter the auditorium without wearing a coat and tie, supper was served at a cost of 50c, and God Save The Queen was played by the orchestra (all in dinner suits) at the conclusion of the evening (midnight).
Beer was served in jugs and 7oz glasses (later this was changed to middies), and Porphry Pearl, Cold Duck and Ben Ean Moselle were the popular drinks with the ladies.
The most popular supper meal at the time was Chicken Maryland (nobody in Dapto knew about garlic at this stage!).
More club extensions followed in 1971 with a bistro (‘The Hungry Habit’), new squash court, cellar, entrance foyer and snooker rooms, plus an ‘island bar’.
Membership now numbered 7,000, and the club became Dapto Leagues Club Limited in 1973.
In the following ten years, membership grew rapidly. The schedule of entertainment saw Dapto become a leading light with all the biggest name imported artists “treading the boards” at the club.
Every Wednesday the auditorium became ‘Rockys’, the biggest and best disco in the Illawarra region. Over 1,000 people packed Rocky’s every week. At the height of the disco era, it was THE place to go in the Wollongong region.
By 1981, club membership had reached 9,000 and more renovations were completed with the addition of the upper lounge area, new snooker room, upstairs auditorium and the Chinese restaurant ‘Treasure Court’.
The upstairs area was opened in February 1982, long remembered by locals as the day the Illawarra Steelers rugby league team played their first trial match against South Sydney at the Dapto Showground (the club played host to both teams after the game).
1981 was also a year well remembered for a fire at the club. It started with a deep fryer in the kitchen and caused extensive damage at a cost of about $60,000.
By 1989 club membership was 12,000 and the club had changed almost beyond recognition.
A selection of artists who performed during this period
Dusty Springfield | KC & The Sunshine Band | The Bachelors | Vera Lyn | Johnny O’Keefe | Don Lane | Sherbet | Janis Ian | Rolf Harris | Jose Feliciano | John Farnham | The Bee Gees |Canned Heat | Cold Chisel | Split Enz | The Bay City Rollers | Harry Secombe | Val Doonican |Andy Gibb | Gerry & The Pacemakers | Cilla Black | Tina Turner | Suzi Quatro | Des O’Connor | Max Bygraves | Little River Band | Meat Loaf | Joe Cocker | Matt Monro | Al Martino | Dick Emery | INXS | Freddie & The Dreamers | Donny & Marie Osmond | Johnnie Ray |Peter Allen | Midnight Oil | Australian Crawl | Roy Orbison | Danny La Rue | Kamahl | Herman’s Hermits | The Searchers | Bo Diddley | Gene Pitney | Del Shannon | Blood, Sweat & Tears | Tiny Tim | Sandie Shaw | Steptoe & Son | Ronnie Corbett | America | Smokie | Norman Gunston | Demis Roussos
With thanks to Allan Robertson, Secretary-Manager