People enjoyed a surprising amount, and range, of leisure despite the long hours they spent in workshops, kitchens and laundries. Much of men’s leisure was consumed in pubs, but there was time for other pursuits. Church social activity was almost as important for women but – again – allowed other activities.
Rowing and sailing were immensely popular from the mid-nineteenth century, and men could compete in regattas against champions from all over Sydney. Swimming was just as popular, and the public baths were also a great venue for water polo, at which Pyrmont excelled.
Boxing matches, and wrestling, were staged in local halls, such as Elder’s Hall until it was destroyed.
Two Association Football clubs competed in the early 20th century. That code was eclipsed by Rugby League, once the game became professional (1907). Games were played on Wentworth Park, where there was also a speedway for motor cycles and cars (1928-1936). Greyhounds took over in the 1940s, and many residents kept racing dogs in their yards. Cricket was played formally and informally in parks – and indoors at the Boys’ Brigade complex until it was destroyed.
These pastimes were more or less formal, with structured competitions. By contrast, Two Up was informal, illegal, and wildly popular among working men – and wildly unpopular with their wives.
The games that children played – on waste ground and in the streets until the motor cars drove them out – were likely the same as children played elsewhere in Sydney.
Equally important, but much less publicised, was music. Like other Australians before Marconi changed everything, families who amassed spare cash often bought a piano, to create music in their homes. The increasing popularity of guitars, and then their electrification, transformed music from a domestic to a public activity.