A hotel for our boys


Darling Range Hotel in 1914

Nothing makes us sadder than the unnecessary loss of an old pub. Especially one that still has skimpies. And by skimpies, we obviously mean a long and interesting history. Yet lose it we might, if plans to demolish the Darling Range Hotel for yet another service station go ahead.

Built as the East Midland Hotel in 1905 for Thomas Wilkins, the site was chosen so patrons could sit on the balcony and watch the horses at the Helena Vale Racecourse. Naturally, it became very popular. In 1914 it was sold to a man with the wonderful name of Welbourne Keatley Lamzed, who arrived just in time to take advantage of a new source of customers: the men doing basic training at Blackboy Hill.

No one liked the way the YMCA was running the camp’s alcohol-free canteen, and a rival wet mess for the men was quickly shut down after wowsers complained to the newspapers that soldiers shouldn’t be allowed a pint after a hard day’s training. So the Darling Range Hotel, newly renamed and redecorated, was one of the few sources of beer for the men.

However, someone started a rumour that Mr Lamzed was (whisper it now) a German, and no patriot should be drinking in his venue. The rumour was, of course, a complete lie, Lamzed was born in East London, much to the relief of those doing their training. In fact, he had supplied the short-lived wet canteen at Blackboy Hill, and argued that men should drink at the camp, rather than coming to the Darling Range Hotel, since there would be less temptation to go AWOL after a few glasses.

And Lamzed said he didn’t really want all the new customers anyway, since he had bought the pub as a quiet retreat to live out an easy life after a career spent in the construction trade. As a side note, Lamzed had erected Boans first ever store, so he has more than one claim to fame.

But the wowsers won the day, the wet canteen stayed closed, and the Darling Range Hotel became the main drinking hole for those ANZACs about to serve overseas.

Today you drink in a new tavern built at the back of the old building, which has lost much of its charm with the loss of the verandahs. But that’s still no excuse for knocking over part of our military and boozing history. Go have a drink there. Take a selfie outside the original hotel, and tell JDAP to keep their planning paws off one more piece of our heritage.

What was the Rain Baby doing in Lincoln Street?


In June 1932, Stewart Cecil Hobbs, then aged 28, was discovered in a lane off Lincoln Street dressed only in an overcoat and a pair of shoes.

It was 9.15pm and raining heavily. Hobbs told the arresting officer, one Constable Weaver, that he was simply having a shower.

On being asked where his clothes were, Stewart pointed to a neatly folded pile under a nearby tree.

During the subsequent trial, the media christened him the ‘Rain Baby’.

In his defence, Stewart said he was unemployed and had been declined a chance to get to the Blackboy Hill Unemployment Camp to work for the dole.

The magistrate ordered him to pay costs, and ensured that he was found a place at Blackboy immediately.

Sometime it pays to have an unusual shower.

What a mess!

Black Boy Hill, 1916

Black Boy Hill, 1916

Basic training for World War I took place at Blackboy Hill, a couple of kilometres east of Midland town centre. The YMCA won the contract to provide the canteen at the camp.

Trouble is, none of the enlisted men liked the way The Y ran the place. Instead of providing a service at a reasonable price, the canteen was basically run to raise money for the YMCA. The manager of the canteen was vastly overpaid, and they even had the nerve to charge rent to anyone on site wanting to use the canteen for a meeting. The building had been built by the Army!

All in all, the men serving their nation felt completely ripped off.

The officers weren’t happy about this situation, so on Monday 28 September 1914, a rival ‘wet’ canteen was opened in a tent at Blackboy Hill.

This would be good for morale, said the officers. It will keep the men on site and away from the local pubs. In any case, it would let the officers know how much the men were drinking, and restrict them to beer rather than spirits.

A welcome improvement to the training camp. No one could possibly object to this.

Welcome to Western Australia.

Naturally some pasty-faced wowser, the Mike Daube of his day, took to the letters page to rail against this threat to civilisation. Having a beer would turn soldiers to cowards, he screamed. They would become tired, be unable to shoot. Every military virtue would be wiped out as soon as a glass was poured.

In any case, drink leads to horrible, horrible war crimes. Apparently.

Perhaps it had not been wise for the officers to have seized one of the YMCA’s tents for the new canteen.

The Y retaliated to this insult (and to the end to their monopoly) by requesting that the camp commandant ban the consumption of beer at Blackboy Hill. He rightly told them to get stuffed.

But the YMCA were not to be put off. They drafted an urgent telegram to the federal Minister for Defence, explaining that the “young soldiers of this State” needed protection from the awful officers at the camp. And their “social work” was becoming more difficult, since no one wanted to eat at the old canteen anymore.

At 2 o’clock in the afternoon, on Sunday 4 October, orders came in from high command. The wet canteen was to be closed.

It had survived less than a week.

Wowsers 1. Anzacs 0.

This is an edited re-post of an earlier article. But we like it, so are sharing it again with our new followers.

The war on the home front

What is there wicked about a glass of good beer?

Today is the centenary of the AIF’s departure from Albany.

Strangely, for all the media coverage, and expense, it is not often mentioned that this party has little to do with West Australians. Our boys departed through Fremantle, not Albany, and there seems little money to be spent on recognising WA’s role in WWI.

So we thought that Dodgy Perth should get in on the heritage juggernaut and offer up our own slant on the Great War.

West Australians were trained at Blackboy Hill, located a couple of kilometres east of Midland town centre.

The canteen was provided by the YMCA. This proved controversial, with the YMCA accused of operating the mess as a profit-making concern, overpaying its manager, charging rent to the canteen for use of a government erected building, and generally ripping off the enlisted men.

So, on Monday 28 September 1914, the officers opened a ‘wet’ canteen in a tent at Blackboy Hill. They believed that this would be good for morale, keep the men away from the local pubs and at camp, and limit alcohol consumption to beer rather than spirits.

All in all, you would think, an improvement to the training camp to which no one in their right mind could object. However, this was Western Australia.

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