Former board member John Marengon recalls a warm evening in the late 1970s when an 11-member panel voted 6 to 5 in favour of building a restaurant at The Fraternity Club.
Despite the closeness of the voting and an air of financial uncertainty, the board moved ahead with its grand plans, which resulted in a new restaurant named La Trattoria.
For almost four decades the restaurant has provided a setting for fine foods, socialisation and entertainment. But it could have been a different story.
“There was a lot of discussion and a lot of nights and hours at our meetings, deciding whether to push ahead with a restaurant,” John said.
“It was crucial to me that we built a restaurant, otherwise the club would’ve gone backwards.”
John also recalls a very dedicated group of board members in the early years, as meetings would sometimes tick past midnight and well into the early hours of the morning.
John spent 29 years as a director on the board of The Frat, before stepping down in 2008.
He signed up to become a member of the club in 1956-57 and is now a life member.
“We had many great times and social occasions in the early years,” he said.
“We held a lot of fundraising events including picnics and dances. I remember the bar area was very small, nothing like what it is today. As we were founded by Italians, we always made an effort to show the Australian people that we were part of them.”
Another memory for John was attending to the club’s first two poker machines, called the One Arm Bandit, which would often break down. They were introduced in the late 1960s.
“I was often called upon the fix the machines. They would jam quite a lot. I’d get a call while I was at home, asking if I could come into the club and fix the jam!” he said.
John is also grateful that he was provided with life membership and also made special mention of Con Corolla, who he described as a music entertainer and “lifeline” of the club.
“We have achieved so many successes over the years, and it’s wonderful to see the club doing so well today, including our La Trattoria restaurant.”
In February 2019, the restaurant underwent an extensive renovation to the bistro and kitchen areas. This time the board voted unanimously in favour of the renovations.