“OLD SHACK” IS NOW A LEGEND
By BOB CHAMBERS
Everybody in Kalgoorlie knows – or knew -“Old Shack”; he is the district’s strongest legend. “And So Goodbye” (17/7/52) might well have described that famous character. Like most legends the legend of “Old Shack” misses some of the essentials – whatever his real name may have been, for instance. He was a bottle-oh or carrier – or both – and he was famous because he had more than 300 convictions and all of them for drunkenness.
The number differs with the teller of the legend. Once it was more than 400, but has never been less than 300. “Shack’s” horse was equally famous. If “Shack” failed to re-turn to the cart, towards evening the horse would amble along and turn into the police-station yard to join his master. It became a monotonously, auto-matic procedure, so that by-standers who saw the horse passing would say: “Old Shack’s in again.”
His host of convictions and his horse’s fidelity – they are the two strong points of the legend, told so often that they are, almost confirmed local history. But there is the tale – probably untrue – that when another who loved his beer too well reached his 200th conviction, “Old Shack” became anxious about holding his record.
Others say unkindly of the Force that “Old Shack” had so many convictions simply because he was easily rounded up by the police whenever they wanted any work done around the station – and he was a good worker, they add. It is said, too, that a gold-fields publican still has “Shack’s” “last will and, testament,” written by “Shack” in the bar and bequeathing to the publican his estate in exchange for a brimming pot of beer, given in advance.
“Old Shack” has been dead for some years, but his legend will keep him in Kalgoorlie for a long time yet – a friendly, beer-loving but forgetful character for whom the police had a soft spot.
I asked at the station once to see his record card to confirm the number of convictions. “You going to write something about him?” asked the constable. “I was thinking of it.” “He wasn’t a bad bloke, you know. You’ll make it look all right for him?” “Of course,” I replied. But the card couldn’t be found and I didn’t pursue the matter. So it’s left to the legend.
– West Australian (Perth), Saturday 2 August 1952.
A barmaid in a city hotel screamed today when she found a rat sipping beer from a dreg container. Despite her fright, and while clambering on to the bar, she threw her swab at the rat and trapped it in the container. A customer rushed behind the bar, grabbed the container and carried it to the street where he destroyed the rat. Then he left for the Perth City Council with the corpse to collect a sixpenny bounty.
-The Daily News (Perth, WA) Wednesday 24 July 1946
These Hotel Signs
A sign in a country hotel read as follows:
* In order to prevent the guests from carrying fruit from the table, there will be no fruit.
* If you want the bellboy, ring a towel.
* If you get hungry during the night, take a roll in bed.
* No immortality allowed in the rooms.
* Guests on retiring at night will leave their money with the clerk, for he will get it anyhow.
– Albany Advertiser (WA) Thursday 29 February 1940
BEER FLOWS FREELY.
A report in an evening paper on Tuesday that a barman in New Zealand had pulled 4320 beers in one day, has caused quite a lot of argument among customers at the United Service Hotel at Cessnock. Many say it It an impossibility. However, we understand that Bill Young, who has had 34 years’ experience on the beer tap, is to isssue a challenge to the New Zealander. Bill reckons that if the New Zealander can pull 4320 beers in a day, he can pull 4321.
– The Cessnock Eagle (NSW) Thursday 10 April 1952.
* Pony is NSW’s slang for a seven ounce glass of beer. White Horse was a brand of beer.
PINT GLASSES REAPPEAR
A NOVEL solution of his glassware troubles has been found by an outback publican in whose districts troops are quartered. Having lost Innumerable pots and glasses through breakages and ‘souveniring’ and unable to secure adequate replacements, he decided to serve his beer in pickle bottles. One particular brand holds 12 ounces — the equivalent of two glasses of the size normally in use. It costs one shilling. Diggers found drinking from the short, narrow-necked bottles a tricky business at first.
– The Daily News (Perth, WA) Thursday 25 March 1943.
-Yours, &c, A Unionist.
– Worker (Brisbane, Qld) Saturday 25 June 1898.
It slithered down the stairs again and tried to enter the bar before it was ejected. As many as 17 cows have been seen roaming the streets of Deniliquin at night, and Alderman Walters had his garden damaged recently by one of them. The council has given orders for cows to be impounded.
– Daily Examiner Saturday 11 July 1936.
The licensee of an hotel in Exhibition street was charged with allowing a drunken person to remain on the premises: Inspector Oliver alleged that a young woman was taken to the hotel by a man, who induced her to take brandy, .which made her mad, and she climbed out of the window. Evidence for the defence was to the effect that the woman was known as “Mad Fanny.” The charge was dismissed.
–The Newcastle Sun Tuesday 3 March 1953.
FREE BEER !
Street cleaners envy their opposite numbers down in Tumut, that picturesque and, slubrius town, which expects to be a city some 25 years hence when the Snowy River project nears completion.
In that shire a very old custom prevails.
The street sweepers are entitled to call on every pub they pass (or don’t pass) and there are seven pubs there, and have one beer per man at the pub’s expense. Very nice, too, on summer
days. There are no vacancies on the street cleansing staff at
– Molong Express and Western District Advertiser (NSW) Friday 4 January 1952.
Woman Makes Hotel History
MISS DOROTHY HARTIGAN is the first single woman in NSW to be granted a hotel licence. Single women were previously ineligible for licences. Miss Hartigan has never tasted liquor.
– News (Adelaide) Friday 4 October 1946.
IN the latter years of the depression, my father Ernie and his younger brother Ron Swan, came up with an idea to make a few bob by oranising a raffle with a duck as the prize.
The problem for the enterprising Swan brothers was, that whilst having the initiative to oranise the raffle and some raffle tickets, neither their fiances nor intentions extended to providing the lucky winner with a duck of the feathered variety.
The winning ticket was held by Mrs Luscombe who, with her husband operated the Bulli Family Hotel.
The ever resourceful brothers obtained a crate used by the local shop keeper to transport breakables and wheeled it, with Ron inside, to the hotel. Mts Luscombe was then presented with her prize “Duck Swan”, a nick-name that Ron (Uncle Duck) carried proudly till his untimely passing.
– Barry Swan (C. 1996)
Pubs and entertainment
PUBS were the principle venues for entertainment early last century.
From simple singalongs between coal miners at the bar, to paid musos belting out favourite songs of the era on the piano, the pub was the place to be entertained prior to the popualrity of licensed clubs in the 1960s.
Some “localised scribble” in the late 1990s from an anonymous 77-year-old correspondent recalls the days of the pub entertainer at Bellambi Hotel in the 1940s.
“I have been living here, near the hotel for over 50 years and remember a young man entertaining customers at the hotel every Saturday. There was lots of singing between the radio broadcasting of horse racing, while the bookies were taking bets. The bookies were always keeping a watchful eye for police raids.”
The Piano player, named “Ted”, lived nearby and he was paid by the publican with a bottomless mug of beer, which always sat in arm length on his trusty instrument.
Ted used to play in Sydney for the Soldiers during the war before they left for Europe. “Oh how the miners loved the old time songs, a lot of singing and dancing till closing time at 6pm.”
With the rise in popularity of licensed clubs in the 1960s new venues were built to accommodate the entertainment needs of the people of the northern suburbs.
Pubs were replaced by clubs during the 1960s as places to be entertained on weekends.
Stately Grieve & the Harp Hotel
CRAMPED and outdated, the small Wollongong coaching inn, known as the Harp Hotel, had outlived its usefulness by the mid 1880s.
George Clout took the reigns of Wollongong’s oldest pub in 1883 and during his ownership the pub developed an unenviable reputation as one of the township’s rougher establishments.
The local Licensing Inspector, Senior Sergeant Grieve was known as a tough cop who ruled with an iron fist. He tried unsuccessfully to have the Harp closed in June 1885 after branding Clout an unfit publican who ran a disorderly house.
The stately and solidly built Sergeant told the Magistrates that Clout conducted the Harp badly, drunken persons were allowed to “knock about the place at all hours” and the pub opened illegally on a Sunday.
Complaints had been repeatedly received about drunken men insulting passers-bys and that many of the larrikins congregated at the intersection of Crown and Corrimal Streets he argued in his case to close the old pub.
The Harp was a tough pub to operate during these times with the Illawarra railway works in progress and hundreds of men employed on the monstrous labour intensive project frequenting its bar.
Clout had around 15 of the contractor’s men boarding at his pub, although not sleeping there, they made it their base and, of course, their recreation venue. On weekends many of the navies would pitch their tents in the hotel yard and head for the bar for a heavy drinking session. Arguments were frequent and Clout had his hands full trying to keep order.
Opened in 1839, the Harp was an important public building in the developing little town of Wollongong. The Campbelltown Mail Coach arrived and departed from the house with a passenger booking office situated in the pub’s yard. The Coachman, who lived on the premises, would leave the pub for the overland trip to Campbelltown Railway Station to collect the Illawarra’s mail. Many gathered there to receive news from the outside world.
Grieve’s concerns fell on deaf ears in 1885. The court heard that the host had never been convicted of any offence during his sojourn at the pub and the case was dismissed.
Clout remained as host until 1886, later becoming an Alderman on the Lithgow Council and conducting a hotel in the Maitland district.
The little inn’s days, however, were numbered and the license was cancelled because of the “dilapidated condition” of the premises in 1891.
A new pub replaced the old inn during 1893.
Out the back for a fight
FIGHTING was – and still is – a result of heated arguments in Aussie pubs. The best way to sought differences out was to head outside to see who “is the best man”.
Often the fights turned into a circus with bets being placed and set times organised for the tussel. This was the case in one of Bulli’s early watering holes during March 1880.
The Black Diamond Hotel (1876-1889), on the South Coast of NSW, wasn’t a place for the faint hearted with hard and tough coal miners frequenting the bar.
A fight between two men, Robert Crompton and Richard Covil, arose from a quarrel on a Saturday night in the Black Diamond’s assembly room.
At 9am the next morning the two men confronted each other for 15 shillings a side in “Campbells Padock”. The 48 rounds was fierce and savage, both men covered in blood, with “the bigger man” taking the pickings.
The crowd of 50 onlookers had no worries about their entertainment being interupted with the local constable being sent on “a wild goose chase” when he was told the fight was to be held on the Bulli Pass.
Sly Grog at Otford
ANN Brewer, in custody, charged with sly grog selling at Otford, pleaded not guilty… Senior-constable Henry stated that he and Constable Saunders went to the defendant’s tent, and saw her serve a woman with some rum, and also heard the woman ask the defendant to have some herself; he saw defendant pour the rum out of a black bottle, and saw the woman pay a shilling; defendant said: “You will want all the money you can get to pay your fine”; the woman replied, “Never mind”; defendant then said, “Well leave it there”; we then entered the tent, and asked defendant if she had a license; she replied, “no; this woman brought some rum in, and we divided it; you will not find any rum in the tent”. We searched the tent, and found half a bottle of gin and two other bottles (produced), with rum in; the defendant had been convicted before, and has the reputation of keeping a shanty. By Mr. Muir: I had been in the adjoining tent before I entered the defendant’s; I decline to answer whether I asked this woman to go and get a drink from defendant; I also decline to state who told me that defendant had a bottle of rum ; the woman in the tent searched the defendant. Constable Saunders deposed: I heard voices inside the tent, also glasses being used; I heard the female inside the tent ask for drink, and also heard the money jingle on a tray; the senior constable and I then entered, and saw two empty glasses; I smelt the glasses, and one contained rum; we searched the place and found the bottles produced, containing liquor. Constable Streatfield stated: I arrested the prisoner at Otford; she was secreted in a house and locked in a room belonging to a person named Gardiner; I started to search the house, when Mrs. Gardiner said ‘All right; wait a moment;’ and then went round tho back and unlocked the door; defendant then, came out; I read the warrant to her, and she replied ‘The vile hussy; she has put me away; she is a sneaking serpent in the grass; I got out of my bed and gave her some rum, and she gave me a shilling… I have received several complaints about the defendant’s tent being very badly conducted, especially on Sundays. Defendant stated: I know Mrs. Gardiner, who lives with a man who was convicted for sly grog selling; she came to my tent late last night, and said she was dying, would I give her a drop of rum ; I gave her a small drop, and she threw down a shilling ; I said ‘Take it home, woman; I will not have it I could get plenty money washing for the miners, without selling grog; I have the gin in the tent for my own use, and the rum for making sauce for my boarders; I never told her to leave the money; I never handled the money; I was once treated the same as I am now, but not in this district. Fined £30, or two months in Wollongong Gaol, the alternative being accepted.
– Illawarra Mercury Saturday 22 May 1886.