Looking Back
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Pub and Club Entertainment

The region's pubs were the principle venues for entertainment early this 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.

PICTURE: Ron Muir (on sax) and James "Double" Orvad (piano) entertain the crowd at Woonona Bulli RSL.

Stately Grieve and 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CRAMPED and outdated, the small Wollongong coaching inn, known as the Harp Hotel, had outlived its usefulness by the mid 1880s.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.

Pub Fights

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.

Quack Quack

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.

-Contributed by Barry Swan.

The Old Village Pub

I sat in the far western corner,
To stay just out of their call,
And observe the town fold around me,
Like a fly sitting on the wall

The wrinkled old man was just swaying,
As he sung right into his beer,
His words a jumbled concoction,
Of events from yesteryear.

He talked of mates in the coal mine,
When trapped they fought for their life,
And his friend who died right beside him,
And the way he consoled his mate's wife.

The pain of his life was written,
On a face etched deeply with age,
As he talked to himself at the bar,
He was using his glass for a stage.

Depressed as I turned from the old man,
A scuffle rang out in the joint,
As I cringed back into my corner,
I saw the boys from the Point.

They assembled just in the doorway,
A mean looking mob as they stood,
The rest of the patrons were silent,
I'm sure they would leave if they could.

The boys from the Point are a legend,
In a town where first names are used,
Some say you don't even look sideways,
For fear you might be abused.

As I look around the bar its apparent,
This town has its memories, of course,
Look closer and you'll see the remnants,
Of a rail where they tied their horse.

A pub in the middle of Bulli,
Sole entertainment for young and old,
A place to share their stories,
And keep them out of the cold.

This ritual has lasted a century,
A congregation of friend and foe,
What keeps them here together?
Have they nowhere else to go?

It seems this pub has a spirit,
Not only found in a glass,
In the bricks and mortar that built it,
Are secrets of Bulli's past.