In, not on, “The Rocks”
My last post on this subject I finished by stating that I met a Scot moved to The Rocks a move that changed my life forever, so time to elaborate.
I actually didn’t know Sydney to well in 1974/75, true I’d spent some time travelling back and forth between Melbourne and Sydney in the period 1963/64 when I was working with Ansett ANA at Melbourne Airport, and usually for a party being held on the lower north shore, Mosman, Cremorne, Roseville & Chatswood, where the younger flight crew members of Ansett liked to live, some of these parties could go on for days and I usually got an invite even though I wasn’t flight crew; as an STO I was on very good terms with many pilots and air hostesses, we still called them that back then. It was one of those parties that eventually cost me my top job with Ansett, it went on for about a week up around Chatswood and I forgot that I was due back to work on a Monday to handle the first flight out of the first jet in Australian domestic service. The party time is a blank!
To get back to the post, I met up with a young Scots bloke at a bar on George Street, I can’t recall the name but it was down below the Grace Bros store or Myers whatever on the corner of Market Street, anyway it’s really not important, the Scot was named Joe and Joe was 1) a drunk and 2) a high rise window cleaner 3) which was the reason for 1), Joe didn’t like heights in fact it scared the living daylights out of him, but window cleaning was all he knew and it was okay until the buildings started going up and up and he was required to go up with it. A complicated story and enough said about it here as it has nothing to do with what I’m writing.
Joe was pretty hard to understand, his accent was so thick you could cut it with a knife, and with a few schooners under his belt it was nigh on impossible to make head or tail as to what he was saying. Joe was living in a pub in The Rocks, it seemed that there was 13 pubs in the Rocks area of Sydney at that time all going full tilt, and I’d never heard of the place. The utter shame!
His normal ‘watering hole’ was The Orient Hotel and to the Orient we quickly adjourned where upon he introduced me to the publican (always good to meet the publican), another Joe, Joe Hutchins, after a chat Joe told me that he had a room available for a semi-permanent guest and I was welcome to it If I wanted it and I thought “Why not” and took him up on it, went back to where I’d been staying collected my gear and moved into the Orient. I have no idea of the dates or even the time of year but think it must have been around March, April 1974, I’d stopped my infatuation with dates long before.
Naturally I started chatting with Joe the publican, it wasn’t always the busiest of pubs during the day, people would drift in have a quick beer and off and of course it got around to what I’d been doing and I told him about my experience in the pub business, and he asked me if I wanted a bit of casual work and I thought again, “Why not” and so I started doing a bit of work behind Joe’s bar now and then, as publicans went Joe was the laziest that I’d ever come across, he was actually an industrial chemist by profession and seemed to like sitting down in the cellar on a keg cogitating on who knows what.
A visit to the cellars soon convinced me that Joe really needed to get himself organized and I made a few suggestions to make his life a bit easier but he didn’t seem to like my interference even though he did impliment what I’d suggested so I never bothered again and let him battle on, he didn’t seem to care or worry, he lived in a world of his own. He also made a barrel of beer (a kilderkin 18 Imperial gallons) every couple of weeks which he’d slip into a bank and nobody noticed the difference after all it was probably industrial chemists at the brewery who were responsible for making the beer. It cost him next to nothing to make and he had 280+ middies of sheer profit. Joe was a very good, very devout Catholic as was Margeret his wife!
Being the publicans (I always had the impression that Margaret was the money) they were required to live on the premises and Margaret never did a stroke of work for or in the pub, Joe copped the lot; and she would sit in her parlor of a night and play her grand piano, and when she found I was fond of music invited me into her parlor to watch and hear her play, it made a break from reading in my room.
Now Margaret was even a more devout Catholic than Joe (sometimes I wondered about Joe when it came to religion, but I’m not going into that) which was to come in very handy for me later. She would, with some friends have prayer meetings, saying the rosary or some such thing, I’m not up on that subject and one of her very close friends was Mrs.Jean McGrory also a very devout Catholic who happened to be the Company Secretary to a company whose building was right next door to ‘The Orient’
This company was an “Artists Supply Company”, ( I’m omitting the name as there is now a Western Australian Company trading under the same name); and naturally enough after work The Orient was the watering hole for those that enjoyed a drink before making their way home,and one night I noticed a young woman with a couple of blokes; storeman/packers they may well have been from this next door company. From what I recall they struck me as a pair of scruffy individuals but anyway this young woman kind of took my fancy.
She was knee-high to a grasshopper, or perhaps a bit shorter, but perfectly proportioned so to speak, I think she was perhaps a wee but taller when sitting on a bar stool rather than standing at the bar. A blonde, natural, but with a tint whatever and if she weighed 7½ stone (105lb for those that don’t understand stones) when wet I’d have been surprised, she didn’t seem much of a drinker, a half Scotch ice and water looked about the size of it, and I quietly pegged her off.
What I liked was the way she acted with these men. I could see that when they were speaking she was watching and looking them in the eye and listening to what they were saying with interest, somewhat unusual and when she spoke she was definitely stating her piece it was obvious that she was saying what she thought not what was expected. She was certainly different.
I decided that it might be a good idea if I stuck around a bit longer!