By JOHN QUINN
“STRIKE me,” said Uncle Obadiah Quinn, “what’s this about a Kalgoorlie publican spending £2000 on additions to his premises to discourage excessive drinking?”
“Name of Lionel H. Walker,” I said.
“Licensee of the Boulder City Hotel.”
“First I ever knew there was such a thing as excessive drinking,” sniffed Uncle Obadiah. “Never could get enough of the stuff meself.”
“And look at you now, you besotted old wreck,” said Mrs. Quinn.
“Who’s a wreck?” shouted Uncle Obadiah.
“Here I am 94 and I don’t look a day over 90.”
“Now, now,” I said, “weren’t we talking about Mr. Lionel H. Walker? I understand that Mr. Walker’s hotel not only offers its patrons beer, but such attractions as a three-piece orchestra, complete with dance-floor and artists, and badminton courts, ping-pong tables, card tables and dart-boards. There are also open-air barbecues.”
“What the hell does he want barber queues for?” said Uncle Obadiah.
“Only last Monday I waited two hours in a barber queue for a haircut and then it turned out it wasn’t the barber-shop at all but the baby health centre. I weighed a hundred and twenty four pounds stripped. The nurse said I should cut me teeth soon, too.”
“Barbecues,” I explained, “are used for cooking. Instead of ruining food in the oven like Mrs Quinn does, you spoil it over open-air fires.”
“What sort of food?” asked Uncle Obadiah.
“Chops and steak and maybe sucking pig if you’re in with the butcher,” I said.
“Mean to say blokes go to this pub and grill steaks instead of drinking beer?”
“That’s what I hear.”
“Just as well me old pal Pat Hannan never lived to see this day” said Uncle Obadiah.
“You never had an old pal Pat Hannan, you liar,” said Mrs. Quinn.
“Ho, no?” sneered Uncle Obadiah.
“Let me tell you, miss — “
“Missus,” snapped Mrs. Quinn.
“Let me tell you, missus, that me and my old pal Pat Hannan discovered Kalgoorlie. Not that we knew we’d discovered it, because it wasn’t there when we found it. Terrible time we had. Day after day fighting our way through hostile spinifex, clearing a track through salt-bush 300 feet high.”
“No salt-bush is 300 feet high,” I said.
“Of course it isn’t now, we cut it all down,” said Uncle Obadiah.
“What were you and Mr Hannan doing?” asked Mrs Quinn.
“Dry blowing,” said Uncle Obadiah.
“What’s dry blowing?” asked Mrs. Quinn.
“Dry blowing,” said Uncle Obadiah patiently, “is when you pour imaginary beer into an imaginary schooner and blow the froth off.
“Well, there was old Pat Hannan and me in the middle of the Western Australian desert dry blowing like mad because that was all we had to drink, when one day we walked over a sand hill and Pat Hannan said, ‘there’s Kalgoorlie’, and I said, ‘How do you know’? and Pat said, ‘on account of there’s the Golden Mile and everyone knows the Golden Mile is in Kalgoorlie’.
“Well, he was right and as soon as word got round that Paddy Hannan had found Kalgoorlie, prospectors came from all over the place.
“Men were men in Kalgoorlie in them days. None of this nonsense of going down to the pub for a quiet game of badminton or ping-pong. As for darts, we used to play darts with crowbars and the barmen buried the losers. I bet the barmen aren’t like that now. I bet what with orchestras and these barbecue things they need a pass in domestic science and likewise a diploma In music from this feller Goosey——”
“Quiet, you ! And I bet the miners are frightened to go near the pubs at all in case they find their wives down there cooking the dinner and they’ll have to peel the spuds.
“When they oughter be out staking their claims they’re wasting time claiming their steaks instead. It would make old Paddy Hannan hopping mad,” said Uncle Obadiah bitterly. The old gentleman tottered outside to dig his bottle of rum up from where he’d buried it behind the dog’s kennel, muttering as he went:
“A pound of steak, a pint of beer, And thou,
Beside me in the wilderness,
Would make the wilderness a flaming cow.”
– Smith’s Weekly Saturday 26 July 1947