Snippets from Sydney’s drinking past


THE Sydney Morning Herald’s Column 8, penned by “Granny”, often featured interesting and sometimes amusing snippets of pub information during the 1940s and 50s… Here is a selection…

CAN’T WIN. They’re telling this tale around the city of a fellow’s effort to get a glass of beer. He asked the barmaid for a middy. “Have you got a glass?” she asked. “No,” he said. “Then I can’t serve you,” said the barmaid. He tried another pub and had exactly the same experience. So he went to the third, looked around, saw a glass, collared it and took it to the bar. “A middy, please,” he said. “Is that your glass?” asked the barmaid. “Yes,” he said. “Then I can’t serve you,” said the barmaid. “You’ve had your quota.”

– 10 November 1950.

FOUR detectives off duty were resting their elbows on the bar of a crowded Elizabeth Street hotel. The barmaid was so busy that she had not been able to collect the tips left for her on the bar. While topping off another round, she saw a man shoulder his way through the crowd and start to scoop up the change. He even lifted the elbow of one detective to get a stray sixpence before pushing back to the street. “You’re slow,” the barmaid said to the detectives, telling them what had happened. “Probably needed it more than you did,” said one of them.

– 21 January 1953

HOTEL customers, I understand, are having fun with the new plastic beer glasses. They have discovered that it is possible to burn a hole through the bottom of one with a cigarette. Humorists, having done this, hand the glass to a barmaid and watch her attempts to fill it while the beer is running out through the hole.

– 30 May 1952

TWO regular customers at a Goulburn Street hotel have discovered how to get quick service during the peak-hour rush. They’ve bought a little bell which they tinkle as soon as they arrive. At that signal the barmaid pulls a couple of schooners and passes them across the mob to the two regulars.

– 12 August 1950

A COLLEAGUE tells me that the supply of bottled beer now exceeds demand and that hotel customers are even daring to nominate the brands they want. He says, however, that many publicans have quickly learned to parry this insolence. They have the less popular brands ready-wrapped. Yesterday, says my informant, a barmaid in a city hotel was unwrapping some at the request of customers who wanted to know what they were buying. “Don’t do that,” the publican rebuked her. “Tell them it’s Sydney beer, and that you’re too busy to start picking out different brands.”

– 15 May 1954

A HOTEL in Mosman is conducting a campaign against beer-wasting. Each night at closing time a supervisor collects in glasses the beer from each barman’s drip tray, and compares them to see which has wasted the least. The customers take a keen interest in the ritual and applaud the winning barman. What it signifies I’ve no idea.

– 26 May 1952

IN the Bankruptcy Court yesterday was a bankrupt barman from the Bald Faced Stag Hotel.

– 27 August 1953

DOWN in the sou’west is a taciturn publican who rarely speaks when he’s spoken to. But the other day he was stirred into loquacity. “This beer,” said a customer, “is hot.” “Would you like a saucer to drink it from?” asked the publican.

–  23 December 1952

AT closing time, a Port Macquarie publican plays over the loud speaker the Maoris’ Farewell, “Now is the Hour.” As customers file out he replaces it with: “When You Return You’ll Find Me Waiting.”

– 20 May 1954

YESTERDAY a naïve citizen asked a publican in the Eastern Suburbs for a bottle of beer. He was told that such a luxury was given only to regular customers. “Well,” he asked, “how long do I have to come here before I’m a regular customer?” “Keep coming until Christmas,” said the publican, “and then you’ll get a ticket entitling you to a couple of bottles.”

– 4 March 1953

OPERATIC tenor Ivor Sheridan is not the only musician to turn Sydney publican. World – famous cellist Lauri Kennedy also acquired a Sydney tavern recently. I asked the music critic what virtue these musicians would have as publicans. “They could pick a dead beat immediately,” he said, without a blush.

– 28 July 1952

BEER-DRINKERS are finding the Christmas spirit of some publicans a little mercenary. At one city hostelry customers were delighted to get chits naming the dates on which they could pick up six bottles of beer. When the great day came they got their supplies nicely parcelled but the price was 14 shillings and 6 pence, instead of 9 shillings and 9 pence. They found that each parcel contained a bottle of unsought wine for which they had to pay the extra 4 shillings and 9 pence. Customers were not permitted to change the wine for any other form of drink.

– 14 December 1950

ALL publicans lose glasses, but one at Sutherland began to lose the lot. He found that visiting motorists were sticking them in their pockets and taking them a few miles along the highway to a place which takes a 6 pence deposit on glasses. They would hand them in at the busy bar, collect 6 pence on each glass, and thereby get their glass of beer at the cost of a penny. Incidentally, I’m told that there’s a lot of profit made out of the 6 pence deposit system. In the rush hour lots of motorists won’t wait to get their 6 pence back, and on Saturdays and Sundays some of the seaside hotels have cigar boxes full of uncollected deposits.

–  2 November 1950

A READER says he heard this conversation between two miners in the Wallerawang Hotel: “How long’s the strike going to last?” “I dunno; but if the Federation’s going to claim everybody who digs a hole we’ll soon have the rabbits in the union.” “What’s wrong with that? Might as well have the rabbits in as the goats.”

– 8 November 1948

YESTERDAY, as a Coronation gesture, the Dunbar Hotel, Paddington, admitted women to the public bar for the first time. Men took their wives and girl-friends, and in the early evening turned on the gramophone and danced until closing time.

– 3 June 1953


Categories: NSW hotels, Sydney Beer, Sydney hotels

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