When wowsers wuled the woost

Emu Bitter, for the hipster in you

Emu Bitter, for the hipster in you

We at Dodgy Perth don’t believe in moderate consumption of anything. If you’re going to do it, go hard and go often is always our advice.

Speaking of totalitarian health fascists, what is it about Curtin University which seems to churn them out like a production line? One wowser from that place—sorry, ‘alcohol researcher’—Tanya Chikritzhs has now announced we should stop encouraging people to drink small amounts of red wine. Because everything that is fun is bad for you. Everything.

Professor Tanya Wowser would have found a number of friends to be miserable with in Western Australia in 1921, 1925 and 1951. For in both those years we had referendums on introducing prohibition. The first two were in the middle of the American failure of an experiment, but the last is just bewildering.

Just shows how strong the dark forces of wowserism have been in WA politics, if not among the population.

In 1921, the referendum managed to confuse everyone by offering four options: were you in favour of increasing licenses, keeping the same number of licenses, reducing licenses, or having no licences? It should be noted that in Claremont they voted overwhelmingly for prohibition.

But the entire State didn’t want it, so the Government set up a ‘Licensing Reduction Board’ to force every pub and hotel to justify their existence. Massive numbers of attractive drinking venues were closed simply because the licensing board decided not enough people were boozing at the time they visited.

Since this didn’t satisfy the killjoys, so in 1925 the question on the ballot paper was much simpler: “’Are you in favour of prohibiting the sale of intoxicants in Western Australia?”

Turned out around a third of people wanted prohibition, and two-thirds didn’t.

That should have put an end to it, especially as it was easy to see how prohibition had been a disaster in the USA. But nothing stops a health fascist with a righteous cause.

So in 1951 we were asked again if prohibition should be brought in. 72% of voters told the wowsers to get stuffed.

But here we are in 2015, and they’re still at it. Perhaps it’s time for a referendum on whether all prohibitionists should be sent to Manus Island. Or at the very least forced to go on a bender so they can see what the rest of us get out of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, raise your glass

What a beard!

What a beard!

How many people can claim to have saved a Western Australian icon? And what would WA be without Swan Draught? Ladies and gentlemen, we present Mr Thomas Wall Hardwick.

In 1887 a company bought both the Swan Brewery and the Lion Brewery, and together they (unimaginatively) called themselves the Swan Brewery Company. The outcome was a disaster. For the next two years the business bled money and was on the point of bankruptcy.

Enter Thomas, who spent decades in England running breweries before being enticed to take over the operations at Castlemaine in Victoria. Castlemaine? As if that’s even a beer.

After a couple of other jobs, Thomas was invited to Perth to save the Swan Brewery, which was distinctly on its last legs. He was horrified by the industry he found here, but promised he could work out a more efficient management system which might make it pay.

The directors offered him a very substantial salary if his vision could come true. And it did. His new beers were first sampled in 1891, and they were so popular that the turnover of the company went through the roof.

And now the grand house Thomas built in West Perth is due to face the wrecking ball, so some luxury apartments can be built in its place.

Horrible modern front, but could probably be restored

Horrible modern front, but could probably be restored

There is a function room at the redeveloped Old Brewery named after Thomas, but that is about all the commemoration he gets. While we at Dodgy Perth reserve judgement on the price of progress, it does seem a shame that his house will be lost without raising at least one tinnie of Swan Draft at 37 Mount Street before it is finally lost forever.

Who wants to join us?

Meet Thomas Jones


I still think we need more beer.

There’s drunk. There’s very drunk. And there’s Thomas Jones, a middle-aged, grey-haired man. In June 1920, on his way into town, Thomas felt thirsty, so he stopped off at the Commonwealth Hotel (now the Hyde Park) for three pints of beer.

He was a little hazy as to which pub was next, but remembered having six pints. Then another hotel. Two, maybe three, pints there. On arrival in town, Thomas decided to have a few at the City Hotel (now the Belgian Beer Café), before wandering down Hay Street.

Unfortunately our hero was not unknown to the Perth constabulary. Sergeant Johnston, noticing an unsteady gait, decided to place an arm-lock on poor Thomas. Perhaps lacking full control, Thomas fought back and used some choice Anglo Saxon.

In court, Thomas tried for sympathy. He denied resisting arrest.

Thomas By Jove, your worship, I really don’t seem to get much of a chance in Perth, when I think of it. As a matter of fact, I should be charged with drunkenness—I was very drunk. I may have used a little warm language—I really cannot recollect.

Prosecutor I don’t think you can remember much of what happened at all, if you had had as many drinks as you say.

Thomas Sir, I can remember things which happened in my boyhood’s days!

Magistrate Oh, we needn’t go so far back as all that. We’d be here much too long. Are you calling any witnesses?

Thomas Sir, of course not. I have no witnesses for the defence. As a matter of fact, I’m not quite right in my head.

The sentence was 28 days.

With friends like these…

StevesA prisoner of war when this photo was taken in 1943, on the right is Steve McHenry, owner of the infamous Steve’s in Nedlands.

A couple of years earlier the Perth men had been fighting in Libya, and from the accounts of their time there it’s hard to know if they were soldiers or students tumbling out of Steve’s at closing time.

Camp at Benghazi was described as a lot like the bar at the WACA after an interschool sports meeting. (Wait. You could drink beer after school sports day?)

However, although the local beer tasted okay, the Western Australians complained it was too low alcohol for their taste. Apparently the native wines and spirits were awful, but fortunately there was a good supply of Australian beer.

If good Aussie beer turned up, though, “no one bothers about buying a bottle—it’s a case or nothing.”

As a result of this hard drinking, the English soldiers started calling the Aussies ‘the queer men’. Not what you’re thinking. It was because they considered them all stark raving mad when on the juice.

If an Australian wanted booze he became impossible to deal with. After having a few, if they could be forced out of the canteen without starting a brawl, the Aussies would go away and bring their officers back to start another fight.

Other than fighting in the canteen, the Aussies mostly fought while playing Australian Rules, of which there were games every afternoon. A friendly would not usually last more than ten minutes before it became an all-in brawl.

And they had an odd way of making friends with the English. After a Brit was returning from a reconnaissance flight, he spied half a dozen Aussies lazily sailing his private 16-foot yacht around the bay. (Wait. You could have private yachts at war?)

The Englishman flew round and let off a few machine gun bursts to show his annoyance.

Strangely, the next day, the yacht mysteriously went up in flames. How that happened, we’ll probably never know.

War is hell. If you’re the owner of a 16-foot yacht anyway.