It’s 1999. Hunter Street, Newcastle. Pubs aplenty. Peter Wansey has just bought one, the Family Hotel.
“NEWCASTLE rock stalwarts THE SLOTS have been familiar faces at the Family Hotel for the past 15 years.
While the Slots, which play the Family on Saturday, are likely to remain on the hotel’s books, a new range of bands will be introduced by the new owner.
PETER WANSEY, who recently bought the hotel from GARY WATSON, is planning to bring in a new style of music to the pub.
Currently renovating the venue, Wansey said he would be changing the hotel’s entertainment to attract the surfie/rugby union crowd.
The revamped hotel is rumoured to undergo a name change as well.
Calling your pub band The Slots is only slightly less genius than calling it The Pokies. Anyway, Wansey believed that the pub’s new name should attract a new, younger demographic, and what better way to do that than with a 1930s colloquialism.
After 10 nutty years, the hotel’s name was changed again to the Silk Hotel. Yawn.
I’m wondering what demographic they were trying to capture with this name change, and all I can think of is haberdashers.
Like most of Hunter Street, the Silk is a pretty quiet place these days. I’d suspect most of its clientele wander in on a sense of ballsy nostalgia, or maybe because of the outrageous name still visible from certain angles outside.
Staying in the Silk may sound like a luxuriously comfortable notion, but think again:
Ooh, that ain’t too silky! How about a second opinion?
Ouch, that’s a kick right in the duck’s! If this wasn’t bad enough, Newcastle police had the cojones to close the Silk for 72 hours last October after a spate of violent incidents at the pub. In the wake of such misfortune, maybe it’s time for another name change, something maybe a bit less deceptive? Might I suggest the Plastered Bastard?
Get comfy, this’ll be a long one.
Sometimes, it’s not so much about what a place has become as it is about how it got that way. This is certainly true in the case of Auburn’s Melton Hotel. Ordinarily I, like any passer-by, would take one look at the Melton and think ‘I value my life too much to go in there,’ subsequent to the instinctual thought of ‘Just another pub.’ Situated along Parramatta Road at the corner of Station Street, there’s just nothing that sticks out about the hotel in any way; not even the jovially named ‘Hey Hey Kebab’ adjoining gives cause for anything more than a mild double-take.
So why, dear reader, am I subjecting you to this dry account of a seemingly humdrum pub? Well, what piqued my interest (as I’m sure it will yours) was the simple fact that the street running parallel to the hotel’s side of the block is called Melton Street South.
This got me thinking: why was the pub named the Melton Hotel if it wasn’t actually on Melton Street? Clearly it was time for some field detective work, because I knew if I didn’t solve the mystery it would bother me all day. I couldn’t find anything about anyone named Melton in the area’s history (it’s not even clear to historians why the area itself is named Silverwater), but I had a feeling if they were honouring some local hero, they wouldn’t just name a pub and a street after them. First port of call: the Atlas of the Suburbs of Sydney, ca 1885-1890.
This map of Auburn shows that neither Station Street nor Melton Street South existed at the time. Today, they’re located between the map’s Stubbs Street and Sutherland Street (now Silverwater Road).
Next: time to research the pub itself. Thankfully, the pub in question has an illustrious history; according to the hoteliers, its license dates back to 1811 (when it was owned by Samuel Haslem, of Haslem’s Creek fame), attached to an inn located not too far from the current site. In 1877 a former jockey, Fred Martineer, became the licensee of the Melton Hotel and held that position for over 30 years, firmly establishing the pub as a favourite of the area’s myriad meat workers.
Tragedy struck in 1914 when, after too many cases like this…
…the public was swept up by a need to reinstill a sense of public decency via a series of local option acts. The acts enforced a six o’clock closing time for pubs and resulted in 293 hoteliers losing their licenses, including Martineer. Despite the pub’s closure and with flagrant disregard to the after hours prohibition, he continued to live in what became known as the ‘old Melton Hotel’ until his death in 1918:
The Old Melton had been named sometime prior to 1895, when it appeared on that year’s list of Hotel Licensees. It’s this hotel that sat on the corner of Melton Street South (then Melton Road), so from this we can assume the street was named after the pub. But, like me, the Martineers couldn’t let it go. In 1929, the Martineers built the NEW Melton Hotel at its current location, which at the time seemed to take up the entire section of Parramatta Road between Melton Street and Station Street.
That’s all well and good, but today it’s a very different story. Nothing remains of the Old Melton, the New Melton is nowhere near the corner of Melton Street, and there’s a string of dingy shops between it and its namesake street. What happened?
Discounting the obvious greed associated with subletting the Melton Street side of the block to said dingy shops, the true answer seems to lie in the Melton Hotel’s parking lot. The hyperbolic claim of “stacks & stacks of parking” is betrayed by the truncated nature of the car park itself. Here it is, seen from Station Street:
…is all that remains of this side’s former life as an entrance/exit to the Melton’s car park, and indeed of the Melton’s connection to the street it inspired. A closer look at the other side of the fence backs this deep bit of insight up.
The kerb is clearly a lighter shade of cement, indicating the spot where the driveway used to be. The two bushes are doing a laughable job of hiding the wooden fencing that blocks off those driveways.
One of the more interesting aspects of all of this is the sign that once guided thirsty drivers into the parking lot. Hidden by overgrown branches and worn away by years of neglect, there’s no real reason for the hoteliers to have left it there – least of all what it’s advertising. After all, if it hadn’t been for the sign, I never would have stumbled upon this madness in the first place. No, for me, the real gold is the sign’s reverse side:
While it would be nice to think that this was Tooheys doing its part to avoid another 1914 Local Option fiasco, the way the ad puts a jokey spin on drunken violence and employs a disturbing tagline clearly aimed at the breathalyser crowd suggests a more cynical set of motives. For better or worse, this didn’t take, and by 1995, 40 years after the Local Option acts were repealed, 2.2 was 6.0 feet under. It’s worth pointing out that 2.2 was supplanted in 1998 by Hahn Premium Light, which is now Australia’s top selling light beer…and owned by Tooheys. A fascinating trail of the significant episodes of 2.2’s short life can be found here (WORTH READING). I think the lesson here is don’t give your beer a name that invites terrible Richie Benaud impressions.
But back to the Melton. Also of note are the apparent remains of either a garbage can or a phone box (remember those?) located between the two driveways.
Let’s stop for just a second to process this. Regardless of whether this was in fact a garbage can which spent countless nights being chundered into by melting Meltonians, or a phone booth which spent its Friday and Saturday nights listening to endless pleas by hopelessly pissed pub patrons for their wives, girlfriends, parents or less drunk mates to come and pick them up, and then being chundered into, the fact remains that it was located BETWEEN the two driveways. How is this a spot for either of those objects which both appear as bright flames to drunken moths? The line for the phone alone would have been both long and drunkenly ignorant enough to queue across the nearest driveway. You can’t tell me this didn’t cause at least one clipped wing.
Even worse is the pub’s proximity to Auburn North Public School. Anyone foolish and drunk enough to ‘breathe easy’ and attempt to drive home via the Melton Street exit (or entrance, depending on the level of drunkenness) on a weekday afternoon ran the risk of knocking over a kid on their way home. If it didn’t happen or nearly happen, I’d be surprised.
With these reasons in mind, it’s easy to imagine just how and why the Melton would have had these driveways sealed up, thereby severing its ties to its own history. It’s also easy (and funny) to imagine particularly OCD and DUI pub patrons attempting to drive out of their usual exit and smashing the fence, otherwise why the need for the bushes and the potplants? Sure, the Melton could have chosen to seal up the Station Road driveways, which face the old Joyce Mayne complex, but it turns out that a child’s life is worth more than that of a shopper looking for bargain whitegoods. Who knew?
And all because some public spirited men didn’t know their limits and couldn’t hold their beer.
Of course, I could be wrong about everything, and I might owe both the Melton and overdrinkers everywhere an apology, but have a look at this:
You may have just read all that and be wondering ‘what was the point?’ or ‘where’s the remove bookmark button?’, but more inquisitive (or less demanding) readers may be wondering ‘What was so drastic that happened to Melton Road to cause it to be split into Melton Road South and Melton Road North?’
Next time, baby.
Rozelle’s an area renowned for several reasons: it’s the gateway to Balmain, there are plenty of former mental patients roaming the streets, and it plays host each weekend to fantastic markets. Darling Street is peppered with great restaurants and op shops, but since the suburb isn’t as working class as it once was, not all of these are able to stay afloat. Case in point: La Bettola, an Italian seafood restaurant. The place gets big points for having that big fish mounted above the building, and I’d like to think he fell off on the day they closed their doors for good. Why did it close?
Gee, that fellow at the top wasn’t very happy, was he? Perhaps they closed in November 2008 and he just didn’t realise.
Prior to its life as La Bettola, this was a pub dating back to the 1920s. Rozelle’s pub scene dwindled once the area became less industrial – with a lack of workers needing to quench their thirst at the end of a hard day, the business dried up, so to speak. One other interesting footnote from the life of this building: in 1944, a time when lotto winner addresses were still made public much to the delight of extortionists everywhere, Mrs. P. Nolan and her aptly named “Lucky Last” lottery syndicate won fourth prize in the week’s lotto draw.
With foresight like that, you think she would have done better.
The Bank of Australasia first moved into this address in 1879, establishing their ‘Southern Sydney’ branch in a rented building. The current building was erected in 1886, but remained under the ownership of the Estate of a James Powell until 1902, when the BOA suddenly remembered it was a bank and could take any property it wanted. It bought out the site, which remained a bank until 1998. The Bank of Australasia became a part of the ANZ in 1951, and rebranded this site as an ANZ bank in 1970.
Although the interiors have been refurbished, the exterior of the building is in remarkably good condition considering what the site is now – the 3 Wise Monkeys pub. Established in 2000, the 3 Wise Monkeys has a reputation as a live music venue and as a place where wisdom is not on tap. Of all the places in Sydney to not want to be seeing, hearing or speaking evil, George Street is probably at the top of the list.
Built in 1931, the Belfield Hotel has seen better days. Specifically, open ones. For many years now, this pub has sat closed. Eerily, the front bar still has all the chairs, pool tables and stools set up. Glasses still sit on the bar. It’s like the patrons and Lloyd the bartender just vanished one night when the clock struck twelve.
Around the back of the Belfield is the pub’s former gaming room, ‘Lasseter’s Lounge’, which now serves as Belfield’s watering hole. It’s more like a pokie room that also serves beer. The Canterbury Council is proposing that the building be heritage listed, and I’m presuming the proposal involves sending a copy of The Shining to the powers that be with a note attached reading ‘SEE?’