Nestled in amongst the melting pot of businesses at Beverly Hills, the Leisuredome Gym has become a local institution since it opened in 1985.
The Leisuredome prides itself on being “one of the very few real gyms Sydney has to offer”, and I’d believe it. The exterior is unpretentious, lacking all the condescending trappings of the modern influx of gyms. What’s interesting is that the gym’s opening times – 6am-9:30pm Mon-Thur, 6am-9pm Fri, 9am-2pm Sat and 4pm-7pm Sun – seem to be frowned upon by a world of gym junkies spoiled by the new 24 hour centres. I can’t help but wonder if the more specific hours would translate into a more focused workout? But I digress…
The Pleasure Dome also prides itself on being able to “transform” bodies (presumably only for those who found enough keys), but it’s not just the beefcakes who underwent a transformation here…
If you go around the back (and why would you?) you’ll find a dirty little secret beyond Thunderdome:
That’s right, sometime before 1985, Beverly Hills’ squash courts felt the burn and pumped iron, turning from zero to hero in just six weeks or its money back. Meanwhile, anyone in need of a game of squash (I’m…almost certain they’re still out there) had to rack off to Roselands.
Can I just say, is there a more 70s sport than squash? It’s hard to know exactly when this squash court was built (but if you do, get in touch), but it’s safe to say it was around for the 1970s, an age when fashion at times took lessons from the squash scene, and squash itself was a fitness fad not unlike planking or zumba. Would this particular court have been a major player on the Sydney circuit? Were tournaments held here? Did hoop dreams live and die at this very location? It’s easy to imagine any number of marriages driven to the brink over a spirited game of doubles squash. Perhaps there are still bitter exes in the neighbourhood who still seethe when they spot the Leisuredome logo that disguised the secret location of their heartbreak…until now.
When the large, mysterious building next door was built, the sign was hidden from the world, and wasted away into its deplorable current state. To have a sign here at all suggests that once upon a time, this wall faced the world and attracted squash fans passing via either King Georges Road or the East Hills train line.
The ‘dome may have been flexing here for 30 years, but it may soon have some competition. Someone’s finally decided to put Large Mysterious Building to use, and I don’t think the location is a coincidence…
Sometimes, places of historical interest may be buried in the most unlikely, mundane places – and it doesn’t get much more mundane than IGA.
Penhurst IGA, and the Punchy’s Gym that sits above it, may not look like much, but in 1925 this was the site of the newly opened Nash’s Penshurst Theatre. C’mon, look again and tell me you can’t see the resemblance. Let me just say it’s been extremely hard to find anything at all on this theatre, other than that it was owned by a Mr. W Nash, opened in 1925 and stayed open until at least 1954. At some point it was closed and transformed into the building that exists today. While it’s not immediately identifiable as the theatre, if you look closely you can see that the same basic frontage is there (albeit crimped), and the IGA is certainly big enough. Anyway, as we know, stranger things have happened. As always, if you know more, please let Past/Lives know.
One interesting anecdote: in 1932, the Penshurst Theatre was taken to court by Raycophone, a Sydney-based company (with a factory in Annandale) which manufactured speakers and amplifiers for motion picture theatres.
Allegedly, Penshurst Theatre thrashed the Raycophone ‘talking picture sound reproducing equipment’ they hired, and returned them in unsatisfactory condition. Scandalous! Even worse was that in their defence, PT claimed that they’d received the equipment in that poor condition. I know that today we have DTS and THX surround sound and all that, but seriously, how hard must Nash have been cranking the likes of Shanghai Express, Scarface or Red Dust to blow the speakers off their Raycophone? Dudes were wild back then.
Massive thank you to reader Carmen for the picture of Penshurst Theatre, and to reader Shaun for the hot tip in the first place!
Doing its best to hide its 70s facade behind 21st century bleating that ‘it’s all about YOU’ is Carlton’s Lifestyle Fitness Centre. Sometime around the turn of the last decade, public consciousness as a whole decided that going to a ‘gym’ was suddenly either retro or gay, but attending a ‘lifestyle fitness centre’ was the new yoga.
The Pacific Gym (formerly the Odeon and later, DeLuxe, Theatre from 1925-1964), not wanting to be branded retro or gay, caved to the peer pressure and started catering to lunch-break athletes and muscle-monkeys from all over the St. George district. That said, I could be completely wrong, and they just have that Pacific Gym roof mural on a standard escape-proof gym membership plan.
UPDATE: The Pacific through the ages. Here it is in 1939…
…and finally, 1970.
Really makes you realise just how ugly that gym is.
There’s a sick sense of humour lurking behind the decision to turn an old Pizza Hut into a gym. It used to be that you’d walk out of the Bankstown Hoyts 8 cinema and straight over to Pizza Hut for all you could eat, but now you’re faced with a reminder that if you have that plan, you more than likely also have a few curves.
Sadly, for those hoping to undo the damage of years of pizza abuse at Curves, you’re out of luck. The building appears to be empty now, further adding to the wasteland feel of this part of Bankstown, and with his ad-hoc adjustment of the number of years he’s been in Bankstown, Frank isn’t helping.
UPDATE: The Curves gym is still in operation, functioning as a kind of Masonic secret gym society for women only. It’s rumoured that an angry husband of one of the members caused a fuss inside the gym once upon a time, and ever since, men have not been admitted…maybe the guy was just peeved that Pizza Hut was gone. Whatever the story, this sign awaits anyone with the balls the enter (so to speak):
Imagine a Pizza Hut toilet, and then imagine how many times that manager must have been notified. Thanks for the tip, Irmgard!