Most of you know, that’s if you’ve been following my rants for any length of time, will know, that I lobbed into Sydney way back in the 1970’s, early 1974 to be exact; and for reasons that escape me stayed!
I was having a drink at the Tatler in George Street, weighing my options: head back to the West, or go down to Melbourne, and I got into conversation with a Scot, who was giving it a bit of a lashing; (getting stuck into the booze) he explained why! 🙄
His name was Joe, we didn’t bother with last names; and he was a window cleaner. Not any old window cleaner, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmAeijj5cMbut ; and not that sort; but a high rise window cleaner. This sort; and as his nerves were just about shot, he needed a drink before going out there to work.
Well it made sense to Joe. He asked what I was doing, told him “nothing at the moment, passing through trying to make up my mind what to do”. He asked where I was staying, I told him in a pub up near Central, he told me that his local pub, in “The Rocks”, had decent rooms and his publican another Joe; I know; we’re supposed to be on about George, was always looking for someone to work his bar.
Believe it or not, I had no idea about “The Rocks”, even though back in the 60’s I’d spent plenty of time in “Steak & Kidney”, I’d never been to them, wasn’t even sure where they were, disgraceful really when you think that “The Rocks” is pretty well where the ‘First Settlers’, settled. The birth place of Australia, as we now know it! 😮
Joe told me to catch any bus going down George Street, and I’d get there, no worries! He forgot to tell me that some didn’t go to The Rocks, they went round to the Opera House instead, needless to say…………..
Eventually, I found my way over to The Rocks, was I in for a shock. All thoughts of moving on went. The place was literally bursting with life, full of character and characters; I was hooked, love at first sight. I found the Orient Hotel, which wasn’t hard, it was right where Joe told me! 🙄
Went in met Joe Hutchins, the publican, who turns out to be the laziest publican you could ever wish to meet. Was an industrial chemist by profession/trade; more on this later. He asked where I was staying, told him, he said that he had a room if I wanted it, I said why not, so back up to Central, got my stuff and checked out and moved into the Orient.
It didn’t take long for Joe to ask me if I ‘wanted a bit of work’, “Why not” says me, great little pub, good atmosphere and wouldn’t have far to go to work. Two flights of stairs! Had a great room, top floor at the front overlooking Circular Quay, a multi-million dollar view; what could be better ❓
Within a week I was pulling more hours than Joe, told you he was lazy! He liked to sit in the cellar looking at the kegs of beer for some reason, damned if I could ever figure out why. One day he told me.
Being an industrial chemist, he knew exactly what went into making Toohey’s New and the process, so Honest Joe, made his own kilderkin (that’s 18 Imperial Gallons – 20 fluid ozs to the pint 8 pints to the gallon) of beer a week, and bunging it in a bank.
Mightn’t seem much; but it gave him over 280 middies (10oz/half a pint) of beer for next to nothing, and he paid no tax or excise on said kilderkin of beer; pretty well all profit. He made one a week 😀 Now Honest Joe’s wife, Margaret, being a very devout catholic, heartily approved of Joe’s work. Had to love ’em 😈
It didn’t take too long to settle in in The Rocks, and not only that, but to be accepted by a very close knit community. Within a couple of weeks, I’d been invited into quite a few homes, which was fascinating for me, as most that I went into, had been built in the 19th century, and hadn’t changed much.
Just for the record, in 1974, George Street North, boasted five pubs over a distance of approximately 335 metres! That’s around 365 yards for those that don’t understand or are not familiar with the metric system. There was no need to worry about where your next drink was to be had 😀
The Rocks had 13 Hotels/Pubs in total, some have gone all have changed; some might say for the worse, and I’d be one of them. 😥
The first you’d come to was The Fortune of War, then up to The AS&N, cross Argyle Street and you were at the Orient. a little further along, you’d stumble into the Observer, after which you would stagger a little further and finish up at the Merc, that’s The Mercantile not a Benz! 😈
By the bye, George Street is not the ‘George’ in the title of this rubbish!
I worked for Honest Joe at the Orient off and on, we had a hate/love/hate relationship most of the time. We’d have a blue, and I’d tell him where to stick his pub,and go pull a beer at anyone of the other pubs, no worries. Naturally, I never moved out of the Orient, why would I, had one of the best rooms in Sydney! 🙄
After a few days, I’d be back with Honest Joe and Margaret, as if nothing had ever happened.
Sometime, early ’75 I think it was, Joe decided that he’d start serving ‘counter lunches’;I don’t know if this is a distinctly Australian thing, I know it started back in the 1950’s in Melbourne. Lunch time came and instead of having a sandwich you’d slip into the nearest pub and have a decent hot lunch for a couple of bob. Was better that Cole’s Cafeteria!
Back to Joe, and his counter lunch, I think he really started it to help a mate out. This mate was a dinki-di Chef; He’d been working at the Australia Square, 47th floor’Revolving Restaurant’ and had turfed it in!
At that time Australia Square was the tallest building in Sydney, which probably made it the tallest in Australia,
but not the tallest structure, that went to a Yankee tower over at the Exmouth Gulf, in the West. This tower was the set up, so that the USN, could stay in contact with their submarines, pretty well world wide. Well thats what we were told! 😈
Now this Chef mate of Joe’s wanted someone to help out in the kitchen, and Joe asked me if I’d be interested in helping out this Greek mate ….ropopoulus or something like that, until he could find someone permanent, and I said why not, I’d done a bit of cooking, and filling in for pub cooks, in the west, and here was a chance to work with a fair dinkum Chef, why wouldn’t I say yes?
The Chef duly arrived and Joe conducted the introduction, sort of “G’day George”; “this is Smithy he’s going to help you out in the kitchen ’til you get settled” “Smithy this is George the mate I told you about!’
Yes indeed, this is the last of my George’s! A real life flesh and blood George: George V died when I was one, I never got to meet George VI, although I did see him on a few occasions, George Formby, I wouldn’t have recognized if I was sitting next to him in a bus, only knew him by his silly songs! 😀
Now what sparked this rant and ramble? Well it was something I saw on the TV a while back, and it kind of wound me up; and as this is getting a it long winded, I’m going to finish and write another episode in this saga.
Hope you will stay for the next episode, which, with any luck, will be the last in this little lot.
All pictures and photographs in episode 1 and 2 and 3 (when it’s finished) are courtesy Google Earth and Wikipedia