A favourite with the marines: Sydney barmaid becomes internationally famous

australia hotel 1936

Australia Hotel, Castlereagh Street, Sydney (Now the site of the MLC Centre) opened in 1889 and was demolished in 1971.

Freda Hall

Australia Hotel barmaid: Freda Hall.

DRINKERS at the Australia Hotel bar are all “boys” to Elfreda Hall, 33-year old barmaid who this week became internationally known.

The reason was that 16 US Marine Corps officers (all “ordinary fellas”) in Virginia, who drank at Freda’s bar during the war, heard that she was ill, and wrote to the American Consul in Sydney. They asked him to forward a letter to her, promising her several pairs of nylon stockings. Miss Hall was at Lapstone Hotel, recuperating after a major operation when her telephone began to ring.

“The newspapers got a copy of the letter from the boys, before I even knew that it existed,” she explained yesterday at Lapstone.

“I had so many telephone calls that I didn’t get much rest for a couple of days, and I don’t feel at all well,” she added.

Miss Hall has been at the Australia bar since 1942. The 16 Marines who signed the letter were all her “boys” when they were on furlough in Sydney during the war. She still remembers most of them. Many sent personal messages with the letter.


Gregory “Pappy” Boyington

Stan Bailey wrote: “Freda, remember how mad you got with Boyington? My four trips to Sydney were spent at your section of the bar. Best regards.”

Miss Hall said that she knew the US air ace, Gregory (“Pappy”) Boyington. She has a complete collection of American insignias. Boyington is the only American who has been twice awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by different Presidents.

“All the boys are just ordinary fellas, some good looking, others not, but they were always good friends to me,” said Freda.

Freda is a blonde, who describes herself as being “5ft 7in tall (without shoes), very fair and big, without being fat.” Before her illness, she weighed 14 stone. Now she is 13 stone. Freda’s nylons haven’t arrived yet.

– Sydney Sun May 18 1947

You may be seeing her in the movies

freda hall 2

Freda Hall

BIG, blonde Freda Hall, barmaid at the Australia Hotel, doesn’t think her personality got her the chance to make a film test for the part of the hotel proprietor’s wife in “Eureka Stockade”, “Holy cow, I’ve got about as much personality as a fish,” she said.

We interviewed her in the little lounge which is an offshoot of the saloon bar. Freda was out to lunch when we called. We waited half an hour for her. She came into the lounge like a tornado. An ample blonde, she wore a black frock and a three-roped string of pearls. Her legs were encased in one of three dozen pairs of nylons sent her during a recent illness by 16 US Marine Corps officers who drank at her bar during the war.

“Crikey, I don’t want to be interviewed. The papers just wouldn’t leave me alone when I was ill at Lapstone. Honest, I was so ill I could hardly scratch myself. It got so bad, I had to leave the hotel.”

We asked her what she thought about a film test. “Me and cameras, we’re born enemies,” she said. “You should just see the photo they took of me at Lapstone. Makes me look like an old bag.

“Now this film test. I’m going out there tomorrow and I don’t know one word of the script. It’s been hanging in the bathroom for days. Peter Finch is going to crown me when he finds out I don’t know anything about it.

“I think they’re looking for a bit of a character for this film part, so maybe I’ll do.”

Fr-eda, who speaks with a strong American accent, was born in Australia, but she’s had so many Americans in the bar, she said it was natural for her to speak like an American.

“My boyfriend’s an American,” she said with her ready laugh. “I was married once, you know. I’ll get married again if you can find me a nice presentable fellow.

“I’ve been in this bar for six years. I know how to handle fellows and beat them down when they’re a nuisance.”

We asked her if she made dates in the bar. She laughed scornfully: “Of course I do. How else do you think I get my dates?”

Freda says she likes to swim in the summer and go dancing in the winter. We asked her what were her hobbies. She laughed; “That’ll trick you. I like reading historical novels. Period pieces, that’s me.”

– Sydney Sun August 24 1947

Can anyone held out? What ever happened to the famous Australia Hotel barmaid. Freda doesn’t seem to have made the part in the movie, and her five minutes of fame faded quickly soon after… Time Gents would be interested in learning of Freda’s fate. 


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Categories: Barmaids, Sydney hotels

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1 reply

  1. Hi Some info for you on the barmaid Freda Hall, she sounds quite a character!

    From the Sydney, Australia, Anglican Parish Registers, 1814-2011 on Ancestry, Elfreda Hall married Wilfred Juan Scofield on 26th July 1937 at St Matthew’s Manly. Her age was 23 and occupation was barmaid and his was butcher. She listed her parents as Thurston and Anne Ingrid Hall both deceased and that her father was a soldier. Elfreda gave her place of birth as Sweden. From NSW State Archives Elfreda divorced Wilfred
    NRS-13495-16-328-1631/1942 | Divorce papers Elfreda Scofield – Wilfred Juan Scofield [Photo]
    31-07-1942 to 16-05-1946
    It’s possible her middle names were Olive May as there are 3 electoral roll entries for an Elfreda Olive May Hall in 1937 living at the Westralia Hotel, 18 King Street, West Sydney, home duties
    1943 at 12 Challis Ave, East Sydney, barmaid
    1949 at 12 Challis Ave, East Sydney, hotel employee
    1954 at 12 Challis Ave, East Sydney, hotel employee

    Wilfred may have died NSW, SCHOFIELD WILFRED 6454/1987 JONT ALICE

    She remarried in NSW 1957
    Registration Number 15847/1957
    Groom’s Family Name ARMSTRONG
    Groom’s Given Name(s) BENJAMIN JOHN E
    Bride’s Family Name HALL ELFREDA OLIVE M
    Bride’s Given Name(s) ELFREDA OLIVE M
    District SYDNEY

    1958 she’s on the electoral roll alone at 10B Challis Ave, Darlinghurst, home duties with first name as Elfrida
    1963 Elfrida still alone at 10B Challis Ave, Potts Point, home duties
    1972 and 1977 Elfrida/Elfreda still alone at 1/10B Challis Ave, Potts Point, home duties

    Her death, from NSW BDM
    Registration Number 15158/1980
    Father’s Given Name(s) THURSTON
    Mother’s Given Name(s)

    Can’t locate an obituary or death notice for her unfortunately.

    Benjamin Armstrong died in 1979
    Registration no. 105755/1979
    Fathers names BENJAMIN CHARLES
    Mothers names RAECHEL ANN

    He and Elfreda don’t appear to have divorced (well I couldn’t find a record of one, only his divorce from first wife!)

    Hope all this helps, factual stuff only but no knowledge of her as a person sadly.

    Best wishes

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