Bondi’s Seedy Buildings
Berkeley Court: Home Of The ‘Berkeley Club’
During World War II, particular blocks of flats in Bondi became notorious for housing prostitutes, bookmakers and illegal gambling dens.
Initially set up to separate American servicemen from their money, big profits were to be had by also catering to the fast-living Sydney crowd. By the time the war ended these premises had enough local clientele to continue to thrive.
The apartment block ‘Berkeley Court’, still standing today on the corner of Beach Road and Campbell Parade, was home to the so-called ‘Berkeley Club’, where officially people could play cards and order a sandwich, but unofficially could place large bets on horse races. It soon became the most popular illegal betting house in the Eastern Suburbs.
Crime author Vic Darminian describes The Berkeley Club:
“The room had been set up in a similar style to the lounge at the Bondi Hotel, with comfortable contemporary furniture, a service bar near the kitchen, and a long bench-style table at the back of the room which could easily accommodate three booking clerks. A blackboard extended the length of the table on the wall behind it where details for race meetings Australia-wide could be displayed. A bank of phones in one corner completed the set up.”
Run by Jack ‘Mo’ Reynolds, a bookmaker, it also employed gunman Kevin Gore to “look after the card games”. They must have been wild card games. In 1965 Reynolds was fined for having a revolver in his possession. He told the arresting police that he had found it at the Berkeley Club and “it went off and wounded me in the chest”.
The Balconies: Bondi’s Seedy Tearooms
The Balconies, on the corner of Notts Avenue and Campbell Parade, South Bondi, was a ramshackle building containing a hotel, tea and coffee lounge, and rooms for holiday and budget residential accommodation.
It was built in the 1920s on the site of the notorious Bondi Dance Hall, where a riot had occurred on Boxing Day 1884. The Balconies’ seedy reputation continued right through World War II, with the property becoming infamous for providing illegal gambling and sexual services in the rooms below the tearooms.
Sydney underworld kingpin Frederick ‘Paddles’ Anderson was involved with The Balconies’ shady activities. Anderson was described by crime journalist Bob Bottom as “the titular head of organised crime in Sydney in the 1960s-1970s”.
The Balconies was demolished in the 1970s by Vaucluse celebrity builder W. J. Shipton, and today a luxury apartment building occupies the site.
Crime author Vic Darminian described The Balconies:
“The Balcony Apartments were at odds with the beauty of the bay. Situated at the southern end of the beach, they were a timber and pole construction which clung to a fairly severe cliff face, almost like a crab holding onto a rock for safety, while at the same time inviting the caress of the waves to wash over its back.”
If you would like to learn more about the colourful history of the Eastern Beaches area you can call Waverley Council Local Studies Librarian Kimberly O’Sullivan Steward on 9386 7744 or you can send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.