It is difficult to separate the clubs history with that of the town of Johnsonville itself. One hundred and ten years after the arrival of one Frank Johnson in 1840, Johnsonville had progressed from being known as the Cow town of Wellington to a workingmen's village, but a working man couldn't buy a drink! The town had been' dry since 1908 and despite a Royal Commission recommendation in 1946 to change the law, things would remain as they were until the 1970's.
A group of local men who held a Friday night social gathering in a sawdust pit at Barlow’s Timber and Joinery, decided they were not going to wait that long. In March 1950 a decision was made to set up their own place, buy bulk beer in Wellington and bring it to Johnsonville, enabling them to have drink on their own premises after work and at weekends. The establishment was called the Johnsonville Men’s Club and the very first bar was located up a ladder in an old loft at Barlow’s Timber yard in Railway Terrace (now Bill Cutting Place.
Alcohol was purchased individually by each member and stored in lockers for later consumption, this quasi-legal practice was common in the day and became known as the Locker System;. At the time of the clubs inception, Johnsonville was still a semi-rural village, having a blacksmiths shop and billiards saloon in the main street, few people owned a car.
Membership soon outgrew the initial cap of 25 and members began to tire of hauling their beer up to the loft by rope. A solution was reached in 1954 when the club bought a nearby house at 28 Johnsonville Road, the site of the present day Post Shop. Steps were also taken to consolidate the clubs legal position and it became an incorporated society in the same year. The final chapter in the clubs relocation came in 1970 when, prevented by the council from expanding the old house in Johnsonville Road, another house was purchased and the club moved its operations to 1 Norman Lane.
Later, in 1980 the club embarked upon its most ambitious project yet, building new premises on the Norman Lane site, which has become a landmark on the Johnsonville skyline.
Aerial View 1950
Johnsonville Mall in 1972
Inside Johnsonville Mall 1969