AT the height of the infamous ‘six-o’clock-swill’, Sydney health authorities had a crackdown on pubs flouting hygiene regulations in 1946.
A culture of heavy drinking evolved in Sydney pubs during the time between finishing work at 5pm, and the mandatory closing time only an hour later.
The unintended consequence of early closing of pubs was that patrons would save their glasses during the hour before ‘last drinks’, and have them refilled in an attempt to guzzle as many as possible.
The jostling at the bar, spilt beer, and general rowdiness led some to describe the drinking hour as a ‘pig swill’ and so the phrase ‘six o’clock swill’ was coined.
Journalist John Larkin described the six o’clock swill in detail, writing “ankle deep at 5.30pm in a morass of cigarettes… a howling thirsty mass crawling over each other to demand 15 beers each to drink in the last, desperate guzzling minutes.”
More at the Time Gents’ story: Good Riddance to the ‘six-o’clock-swill’.
There was no wonder that in such conditions, Sydney pubs were deemed unhygienic, resulting in a crackdown by health authorities in 1946.
Health Officer Dr. Mater told the Sydney Daily Telegraph in November 1946 that his officers would not prosecute after finding chipped glasses in many pubs, but would first try to re-educate offenders. Glasses found to be chipped would be destroyed in the presence of health inspectors.
Western Australian newspapers were quick to report on the bad hygiene habits of pubs in the “eastern states”, boasting that their bar-room reputation for hygiene was much-better.
The Coolgardie Miner reported though that accidental breaches did occur in Western Australia, and warned readers to keep an eye out for bartenders who placed their fingers on the rim of glasses.
The newspaper advised that the best action after discovering a chipped glass or bad hygiene habits was to draw the attention of the bartender as to the fault.
Now, I can see that going over a treat with bartenders in a crowded pub of men fighting for their drinks!
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