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One of the best things about my job is bringing together stories and collection material. This might be for our exhibitions, social media, our websites or public presentations. A particular interest of mine is hotels of South Australia. Not necessarily for the obvious reason, but also the way they have been places of commerce, legal proceedings, sporting and social occasions, as well as simply gathering places for people from all backgrounds. And where people gather, things happen, stories are told and mischief can occur.

When putting together Departed spirits: lost pubs of Adelaide, a Flickr album of photographs of the hotels that once existed in Adelaide, it was an opportunity to bring the stories of those fine old establishments to life. Stories of the publicans and other bar staff, police raids on sly grog sellers and SP bookies, larrikins, lurk merchants and other characters who frequented the bars and ladies’ lounges.

Many of the stories reported in newspapers are about the policing of after-hours drinking. Remember pubs closed at 6pm in SA until 1967, so there was a temptation for publicans to sell to thirsty patrons when the hotel was meant to be closed.

One of my favourite stories was reported in the Daily Herald, Tuesday 19 February 1918, (page 3) and concerned the East Adelaide Hotel. The hotel, in Roberts Street Adelaide, operated from 1868 to 1921. The building has been demolished. In fact, Robert Street, which used to run between Wakefield and Angas Streets, east of Pulteney, itself no longer exists.

Former East Adelaide Hotel, Robert Street, Adelaide, 1942. SLSA: B 10927

I think the reporter enjoyed writing this article:

Headline from Daily Herald. circa 1918.

Some merriment was occasioned in the Police Court yesterday morning when Mr TE Bright, SM, heard the case in which Margaret Prior, licensee of the East Adelaide Hotel, pleaded guilty to a charge of having allowed men unlawfully on her licensed premises.

Mr FG Hicks, who prosecuted, said that on the night of February 2, at 11.30 o'clock, the police had reason to suspect that men were on the premises. A policeman saw over the back gate that five men were in the place, and they gave chase. A thorough search was made, and in one of the rooms Constable Williams saw a rope handle to a cupboard being gradually drawn inside by-some unseen force. No doubt had the constable been a follower of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Sir Oliver Lodge, he would have concluded that occult powers were at work. Being a policeman, however and possessing common sense, he believed that there was a human force inside the cupboard. The constable allowed the cupboard to remain unexplored for five minutes or so, and then opened the door. Two men were packed in it like sardines in a tin. It recalled the case of a few months ago, when a man had been hidden by a licensee in an ice chest, and was nearly frozen to death. He understood that the man was now known round the hotels as "Shackleton."

The defendant was fined £5, with 15 shillings costs and one guinea counsel fee.

Another charge, against the defendant was withdrawn.'

Read about other pubs in the square mile at Departed spirits : lost pubs of Adelaide and other hotel stories at 13 to the dozen: the pubs of North Adelaide and Pushing the boat out: pubs of Port Adelaide.

Image: Former East Adelaide Hotel, Robert Street, Adelaide, 1942. SLSA: B 10927 

Article written by Mark Gilbert, Marketing Content Librarian.​​