Badge of honour

Longtime members would remember the quaint membership badges that once hung ever so proudly from their key rings, writes avid collector Nick Pezikian.

Every man and his dog wanted to become a member of St George Leagues Club as the mighty Dragons began their 11-straight premiership streak in the late 1950s.

Membership almost quadrupled ? from 991 to 3,890 ? between 1955 and 1958 when a waiting list was created to appease frustrated applicants.

At that stage newcomers were issued a cardboard membership card presented with a number and in a leather folder.

The precious red-and-gold metal badges were first issued when membership reached 13,900 ahead of the 1963 opening of the "Taj Mahal". With an even bigger waiting list and the arrival of 100 new applications each day, Club Directors were forced to cap membership.

Although licensing authorities approved an increase in registered members to 20,000, it was still nowhere near enough. The glory years and the panoply of acts that made the Club Sydney?s pre-eminent entertainment venue skyrocketed membership to almost 36,000 in 1972.

To become a member of the "Blood and Bandages", your name was listed on a notice board and hopefully accepted at the next Directors? meeting. Approval meant everything to avid fans: access to post-match celebrations and the chance to rub shoulders with greats such as Norm Provan, Reg Gasnier and John Raper in Dragon Den.

In the early years the No.1 cardholder was founder Arthur Lawes followed by his son Reg and Chairman Baden Wales.

In the beginning, women could only enter the Club when signed in by members, although the latter were issued special cards for ladies. In May 1972, the Club voted in favour of welcoming ladies as associate members.

Membership badges were numbered in ascending order with the first 10 numbers reserved for the Directors.

The advent of a computerised membership system in 1980 saw existing members retain their badge number.

Badges survived until 1994 when technological advance saw them replaced with plastic cards, a bit of a shame for those enamoured by the talismanic charm of the former.

If members have any unwanted badges or pins or any information on the Club?s lapel pins, please call Nick on (02) 9958 8176.


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