By MICK ROBERTS ©
THE year before the original Tower Hotel was demolished, 300 weeping customers staggered from the bar after a mystery person dropped a “tear gas bomb”.
A practical joker, it seems, left a ‘gift’ for customers of the Hawthorn pub in 1953, before it was demolished the following year.
Built by James Call in 1876, the Victorian pub was a popular drinking hole with workers from Clarence Hicks’ Junction Saw and Moulding Mills, as well as those from the Upper Hawthorn Brick Company on the corner of Roseberry Street.
The old pub was demolished on Saturday, December 4, 1954. The new Tower Hotel was built on the east side of Camberwell Road in 1959 and still stands today.
The year before the original building was demolished, newspapers reported that 300 weeping customers staggered from Dennis’ Tower Hotel after a mystery person dropped a “tear gas bomb” in the bar. Drinkers gasped and groped for handkerchiefs as the acrid fumes swirled around them.
They rushed for the doors and packed the Burwood Road footpath in tearful groups as the gas became thicker. The Sydney Morning Herald Thursday 25 June 1953:
MELBOURNE, Wednesday.- Three hundred weeping customers staggered from the Tower Hotel, Burwood Road, Hawthorn, a suburb of Melbourne, late to-day after someone had dropped a tear gas “bomb” in the bar.
Two hundred other drinkers on the far side of the island counter braved the fumes rather than lose their places.
Ten barmen, wiping their eyes continuously, stayed to serve them.
The bar was crowded with home going workers when the “bomb” was dropped at 5.30pm.
Drinkers gasped and groped for handkerchiefs as the acrid fumes swirled around them.
They rushed for the doors and packed the Burwood Road footpath in tearful groups as the gas became thicker. Many decided to risk the fumes as closing time approached.
They stood with handkerchiefs in one hand and glasses in the other while barmen tried to find the culprit.
The licensee, Mr. J. Dennis, said later: “It was not an ordinary stink bomb. It gave off a sharp, acid-type smell which brought tears to the eyes and drove hundreds of customers into the street.
“I questioned dozens of people but couldn’t find out who dropped the bomb.
“I think someone was playing a practical joke. We have a social club here and the members are always playing tricks on each other.
“Most of the customers treated the whole thing as a joke.”
First published 2014. Updated 2021
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2021
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