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The significance of an MCC phone box

From the Members Thursday AUG 06


By Katie Johns

The Melbourne Cricket Club has been ingrained in my family for as long as I remember, and the legacy has endured for 100 years. My great grandfather, William Johns, born in 1886 became a member in the 1910s and my grandfather Max subsequently was inducted into the club for the 1936/1937 season after playing lower grades district cricket.

When my father Geoffrey Johns was born in 1945, he was put on the waiting list. Dad said that this was the greatest thing his father ever did for him and he became a junior member when he was fifteen years old.

Coming from an avid Melbourne Demons background, my dad went against the family and supported Essendon, passionately. From there, he became a member of the much-coveted Long Room Food and Wine society, and eventually was a 50-year member. He was a people person, always chatting to everyone. When we tagged along in the MCC restaurants and bars, somebody would always know him and stop for a chat.I was born on a cold, wet Saturday in September, 1975. Fathers were shunned from the delivery room back in those days, so off my Dad went to the MCG to watch the semi-final between Richmond and Carlton. The hospital was only five minutes away, so no problem. In the old members stand there were three phone booths carved into the wall. He rang the hospital at quarter time from the centre booth to discover that he had a new baby daughter born at 2:23pm. Off he rushed, leaving his umbrella in his seat – which he cursed me for whenever he had the chance. Richmond won by nine points and went on to lose the preliminary final the following week.

Every time I was in the members with Dad and we passed the phone booths he’d say, “That’s the phone booth I found out you were born.”

They don’t exist anymore, having been lost to the 2006 Commonwealth Games redevelopment.

Growing up through the 1980s, I attended many matches – we enjoyed the 1984-85 back to back Bombers premierships, the first day/night one day international between Australia and England in December 1984 where we witnessed the MCG lights shine bright for the first time ever. History in the making.

As a young adult, through the 1990s when Essendon moved its home matches to the MCG in 1992, we knew the secret car park in the Deaf Society – proximally fabulous, only $10 and a quick get away! I remember the 1990 Grand Final, arriving at 7am to claim our Western Stand seats – the AFL members were given access to the MCC reserve that year – my dad really showed his love of the MCC tradition – disgusted with the “riff raff” wearing tracksuit pants who were being let in! We were amazed by Essendon’s 47-point comeback on Anzac Day 1992 to win by one point. We were at the Ablett/Salmon goalfest in Round 6, 1993. And who could forget the 52-goal match between Essendon and the Kangaroos in Round 16, 2001?

Katie and her Dad
Katie and her late father Geoff.

More grand finals ensued – 1993, 2000, 2001 – we shared a blanket and took turns sleeping in the car waiting at the turnstile from midnight for the 2001 Essendon-Brisbane Grand Final. It rained, and when the gates opened at 8am, our particular turnstile broke and all the other queues streamed past us. Some pushing may have occurred!

I used Dad’s Ladies Ticket – so he didn’t nominate me until 1998 when it became evident that VFL Park was not going to be the hub of football. He nominated countless newborn babies to be put on the waiting list, and received phone calls from young adults giving him heartfelt thanks for the nomination. He said it was the most gratifying part of being an MCC member, as long as they bought him a drink in the Long Room to celebrate!

So (impatiently) I waited for my own membership. I was excited about the prospect of walking through the gates on my own merit! My brother was put down only five years prior to me, yet he had his through within nine years. Not me. One day I would be part of the club….one day.

In the meantime, I lived overseas, returned and produced another generation and even moved interstate.

June 24th, 2016 – 18 years on the waiting list and I received the letter – the letter I was waiting for offering me my very own membership. It was a bittersweet moment. Of course, I accepted eagerly but the first thing I did was message my Dad on WhatsApp.

“Dad – your nomination finally got me my MCC membership” – something I know he would be happy and proud about. He read the message; the little ticks turned blue. He couldn’t reply. It is the last written message I ever sent to him.

My proud Dad, who taught me everything about the traditions and history of this great club, left this earth ten days later.

A baton had been passed.

Written by Katie Johns, in loving memory of:
her father, Geoffrey Maxwell Johns, 55-year MCC member number 83822
her grandfather, William Maxwell Johns, 54-year MCC member number 362
her great grandfather, William Johns, 59-year MCC member

Katie and Rory
Katie and her son Rory.

Katie Johns is a Medical Radiation Scientist at the Tweed Hospital in northern NSW. Having moved away from Melbourne in 2013, she still relishes her relatively new status of Provisional Member after attending the football and cricket throughout her childhood with her late father Geoff. She remembers the old members stand with its corridors in dark mahogany and green carpet, showcasing amazing cricket and football paraphernalia. She travels down to Melbourne at every opportunity. While this has been put in a COVID holding pattern, she can currently see her beloved Bombers playing at Metricon Stadium, on the Gold Coast, an experience which is devoid of any sense of nostalgia 🙁 Oh, the sacrifices we make!