Bonito Club

Just in case you were wondering where my Twitter and blog name comes from, may I introduce the Bonito Club…

In 1966, when I was seven years old, we sailed on a four week voyage to the UK on the liner Canberra. I don’t remember much else about being seven, but I think I remember every detail of those four weeks.

I know I felt very grown up when I went down to the children’s sitting in the restaurant where I got to order whatever I wanted from the menu. I ordered savoury mince, mashed potatoes and chips for lunch and dinner every single day for 4 weeks. I also remember that lunch was called “luncheon” and the chips were called “chipped potatoes”, which even then I thought was terribly posh.

We were down the back of the ship in tourist class, but one morning I got together with a friend and we snuck across to first class. It was all thick carpets and dark wood panelling, and high up on the games deck overlooking the first class pool there was a fantastic night club called the “Bonito Club”.

This postcard, from a set of interior photos sold on board the ship, described it as “During the day a place to relax after a dip in the pool. At night a gay rendezvous for music and dancing.”

“Step inside from the pool area and you will find a gay, romantic atmosphere. Light filters down from the glass ceiling through honeycombed cells, and the tables have their own inner radiance glowing softly through translucent tops. Spotlighted against a richly-coloured aboriginal mural, the orchestra plays, summoning the dancers onto the smooth, sprung dance floor.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to 1966, just for one night?

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17 responses to “Bonito Club

  1. I love the whole fashion and decor of the era – but also know my role at that time would be ‘barefoot, pregnant & in the kitchen’. Suppose you can’t have it all.

  2. Yep, the social attitudes would suck… I’m pretty sure there were no same sex couples dancing the night away in the Bonito Club either.

  3. strawberriesofintegrity

    Oh my goodness.
    We went on the Canberra and the Orsova- to and from UK in 1966 (when I was 5) and then in 1972 on the Fairstar and the Ellinis (I know that is spelt wrong). My dad was an academic and we went back to England for his sabbatical year. Loved it! Our trips took almost six weeks each way and we stopped at all sorts of exotic places. In 1972 I ran wild on the ship- only saw my parents first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
    My parents have scrapbooks of the trips- which I must scan someday- the daily printed menus, the daily shipboard newsletter, the certificates when we crossed the Equator…
    thanks Tony!

  4. Oh wow! Yes you must do something about those scrapbooks! I have a box full of old menus and photos, and a crossing the equator certificate. I remember the ship’s nurse getting chucked in the pool by some guy dressed up as King Neptune.

    We were meant to sail back to Australia on the Iberia, but my brother broke his leg on the Canberra so we flew home after he’d recovered. I remember getting off the Canberra in Yemen where mum bought us battery operated robots, and in Naples I got some new brown shoes 🙂

  5. Hmmm, I spy one too many gay venues on that ship. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Of course there is no such thing as a gay cruise ship. Is there?
    I’m just glad that sort of thing is no longer encouraged, especially in the AFL where all right-thinking individuals are now encouraged by senior big-mouthed players to get straight back into their closets.
    Next thing you know people will be saying there are gay cricketers or horses. Who knows when it will stop?

  6. Mal, I did notice the lady chatting with two confirmed bachelors having dinner together in this pic

    "Canberra" - Pacific Restaurant

  7. Hi Tony,

    My Mum told me stories about when their family migrated to Australia on a huge ship like this. She was 8 I think, and like you can remember that period of her childhood vividly. She remembers stopping at different ports, running all over the ship and not having to go to school! Must ask her what she ate for luncheon though : – )

    Cheers, Ruth

  8. Hi Ruth,
    No wonder your mum has vivid memories too, it was such fun…

  9. I want one of those frocks! The hairdos are also a joy. Your childhood voyage sounds so wonderful.

  10. Oh WOW!!!
    I had no idea… I love it!
    (I know, too many exclamation marks for one post, but… 😉
    I think i remember the Cricketers Tavern from my childhood visit. By the time i did my very brief three day trans Tasman crossing in the early 80’s, the ship had changed significantly. One class only for a start.
    As a child i even had a model of the ship. It had those distinctive double funnels. It really was very elegant and of it’s time. Didn’t Pattie Menzies launch it?
    What a wonderful ongoing interest you have. I also like the other images you have collected. Perhaps you should have a themed party at some stage and recreate the Bonito Club. I’d certainly dress for the occasion.

  11. Pingback: One of the world’s most sophisticated nightspots | Bonito Club

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