WHEN a progressive publican spent £2,000 in 1946 making his Western Australian goldfields’ hotel family friendly, he came in for some criticism from the old-guard; those who thought pubs should be exclusively for the pleasures of men, and strictly for drinking.
Harry Walker of the Boulder City Hotel, near Kalgoorlie, told the newspapers of the day that his hotel amenities would “brighten the lives” of local women.
The Boulder City Hotel was built and opened in August 1897. The pub was located at the northern corner of Piesse and Hamilton Streets, Boulder and traded for over half a century. There’s no trace left of the pub today. It has long gone.
I’ve been unable to put a date on when the pub closed for business, and eventually demolished.
The hotel was described by the Kalgoorlie Miner newspaper on August 5 1897 as a commodious and substantial building, containing well-appointed public and saloon bars, billiard-room, dining room and parlours, as well as a large number of bedrooms and other apartments.
Harry Walker took over the Boulder Palace Hotel from Jack Weir in 1946 and immediately put in place extensive alterations, while trading from temporary premises.
Walker bought a block of land adjoining the hotel and converted it into an “entertainment garden”. It had three open-air coke fires for barbeques, and seating for 400! It was some beer-garden!
In addition to beer, the hotel offered a three-piece orchestra, a dance floor, artists, a badminton court, table tennis, several dart boards and card tables.
When his new house of entertainment opened in 1946, old-timers, who believed a pub should be just for drinking, and strictly was the domain of men, were not impressed.
In a yarn, published in Smith’s Weekly on July 26 1947, by John Quinn told of his uncle’s negative views on making pubs more attractive to families.
His Uncle Obadiah Quinn wasn’t impressed. In a series of articles, John Quinn recorded some truly amusing interactions between himself, his wife, and Uncle Obadiah during 1947.
“Men were men in Kalgoorlie in them days,” Uncle Obadiah said. “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.”
Although Harry Walker had considerably increased his turnover by attracting extra customers, newspapers reported that the liquor consumption at his pub had decreased!
Walker attributed this to the recreational facilities he provided. He was a publican ahead of his time. During the winter Walker hosted Friday family games nights.
Patrons brought their own steak and chops, which were cooked on the coke fires in the beer-garden. Saturday was dance night during the winter. In summer, when dances were more frequent, two celebrity artists were engaged.
Walker originally planned to include a children’s playground in the garden to provide entertainment for the whole family. The scheme for the children, however, was disallowed under the Licensing Act of the time.
The Smith’s Weekly reported July 26 1947:
Grog & Uncle Obadiah
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.
*Can anyone help out with information on when the Boulder City Hotel closed for business, and was eventually demolished?
*With thanks to the East Goldfields Historical Society
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