Before long, I was introduced to an Australian Pub. It was large, the main bar was open plan without tables or chairs. Dotted around the floor were columns with round trays on top to allow people to rest their beer. There was no carpet on the floor. There was no sawdust either.
Foolishly, I asked if they had a brown ale. This, they said was known as “Invalid Stout” and could be obtained in the lounge. The lounge did not look like it belongs to the same pub. It had carpet on the floor and tables and chairs around on which there were several women. Women were conspicuously absent from the bar.
I decided not to ask for Invalid Stout and went back into the bar.
The serving of the beer was quite automatic. It is all they sold. The barmen were armed with what looked like a garden hose with spray attachment. There was only one size of glass, a seven ounce glass. Into this, they squirted the ice cold beer pumped up from the cellar. If one stood at the bar, finished your drink and placed the glass down on the counter, the barman would immediately fill up your glass while holding out his spare hand for the shilling it cost.
To stop the continuous process, one had to turn the glass upside down. This you might do if you had finished your drink before your companions. If you were there, glass upturned, for any length of time, it would be made quite clear that you were blocking trade and should move away.
The beer was very strong and a few of the small glasses would be enough to make you know you had a drink.
The pubs, at that time, were open from 10 am to 6pm daily. This, apparently, was due to the shortage of beer during the war and other wartime considerations that were never explained to me.
There were great efforts to have the hours changed but there was considerable opposition, not only from the Churches, but also from the licensed victuallers themselves.
Eventually, the pubs would close at 6pm and open again at 7pm. This was said to allow the drinkers to go home and get something to eat before embarking on a night’s drinking. However, this would happen some years later.
When I changed companies and went to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s Channel 2, I was introduced to the “six o’clock swill”. We would leave work at 5.30pm (when we could) and three or four of us would go round to the pub. Each would go to the counter and order a jug of beer. We would sit outside and consume the jugs one after another. They had to be drunk by 6pm although there was a ten minute allowance for “drinking-up time”.
Being of reasonable intelligence, we would quite often leave at least one jug on the table. We would witness others who would not leave until they had emptied their jugs. From time to time there would be a police car waiting in the car park. This was known as the “Meat Wagon”. They were guaranteed customers every time.
To be continued