Those Places Thursday: If Only Walls Could Talk - El Rey Country Club


If you – or your ancestor – was a bright young thing in 1940s Auckland, chances are the name El Rey might ring a few bells.

The El Rey Country Club was a nightclub operated out of an Arts and Crafts style house on Hillsborough Road in what was then still farmland. The location was panoramic, set amidst acres of bush and with gorgeous views out across the Manukau Harbour to South Auckland. Equally as panoramic, it might be said, were the goings on in the El Rey itself. It came under the eye of the law for illegally serving liquour several times, and regularly featured in the Auckland Star’s Lost and Found column:

“Topaz ring in the vicinity of the El Ray, substantial reward.”
“Watch, gold, ladies between El Rey and Devonport.”
“A five pound reward for the return of a diamante evening bag and contents, lost or taken by mistake at the El Rey.”
“A raincoat, marine officer’s, between Farmers and the El Rey night club. Reward”
“Watch, wrist, chromium with brilliants, El Rey Saturday night. Reward.”
“Fur cape, brown velvet, New Year’s Eve between Grand Hotel and El Rey.”
 (All from Papers Past)

Visiting American soldiers, aka “bedroom commandos,” also added glamour to the scene. As noted in The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Te Ara, they flocked to the El Rey and other clubs “where they could dine on steak and drink whisky as a swing band played the latest hits of Glenn Miller.”  If you did fancy dance music and couldn’t make the trek out to Mt Roskill on a Saturday night, 1YA would relay the dance music on the wireless.

Interestingly, Te Ara also reports that the El Rey was a favourite club of the intrepid Admiral Richard E Byrd who used NZ as a base for his Antarctic explorations.


Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19400410-41-1
The El Rey ran from 1934 to 1944. In 1944 the Americans had gone back home, and the house and land was subsequently sold with plans to use it as a rest home. But only six years later, the land was subdivided and the house sold again. This time to the Presbyterians who planted a new church - St David’s in the Fields. The congregation soon built a hall alongside the house, with plans to one day knock down the old den of iniquity, turn-of-the-century house, and erect a brand new church. That never eventuated, and so, the former El Rey nightclub lived on– albeit these days as a church office and Sunday school rooms.

Joanne

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