Thursday 5 March 2009

Squashed frogs, and other tales

This photo, of all things, brings back memories (look closely at the window).

When I was at uni, one of our favourite watering holes was Steve's, a beautiful old pub on the river in Nedlands. The pub suffered the cruel fate of having wowserish NIMBYs move in next door some 60 years after it opened for business, and at one point (years after I left town), it was forced to close.

Perth is home to a number of what might be called "mega-pubs". I've never figured out why. Perth people love drinking in enormous packs - they congregate in one small area like Emperor Penguins, and drink until they regurgitate. The cosy little corner pub is a concept that struggles in WA. The advantage is that instead of trawling from place to place trying to find people, you just went to the appropriate "session", and were sure to find at least 50 people that you knew.

Part of the attraction of Steve's was the beer garden, but as usual, liquor licensing stupidity managed to get in the way of proper drinking in the late 1980's. You'd be having a lovely beer or 20 in the beer garden, and then the group would decide to move inside. The bouncers would count heads, and refuse entry to all and sundry - even though inside was sparsely populated. Some goon in a wig had decided that indoors, patrons needed 187 square miles of floorspace each, meaning that there was always enough room for an impromptu dwarf throwing competition (if that sort of thing took your fancy).

Our Regiment faced this snag one day after we'd been out on exercise for the obligatory two weeks. There were at least 100 of us in the beer garden - all infantry, young, fit, parched and hyped up after two weeks of intense physical activity, lack of sleep, shooting and blowing things up. There is something about being young, male and armed that brings out the inner animal in us all (although all the firearms were safely back in the armoury by this point, it's much harder to put the animals back in their cages).

We were getting a bit rowdy when the call was made to move inside. Being kind of sober and fairly clean cut, I managed to sneak past the bouncers before the rest of the horde decided to descend on the inner sanctum. The bouncers took one look at the drunken pirate crew heading their way, and decreed that inside was "full". Which it was anything but. There were maybe 10 women in the entire pub, sheltering from the mayhem outside, and having a quiet tipple.

When asked if I was associated with the apes running amok in the beer garden, I denied having anything to do with them; even though we all stank of gun lubricant and diesel, had traces of cam cream in our ears and on our eyelids and shared a number 3 buzz cut, deep sun tans and a liberal coating of beer.

I thought I was getting somewhere, leaning up against the bar and having a good chat when all the women screamed and ran away. The bar had floor to ceiling plate glass windows facing the beer garden. My section had decided on a method for clearing the bar, and thus eliminating the bouncers excuse that the place was full - they backed up against the windows, dropped their pants and did a section brown-eye. That was the point at which the women fled.

They then turned around and did the "squashed frog", which involves squashing the nether regions up against the glass. The barman dropped the glass he was drying and fled as well.

The bouncers relented, probably because someone put out the call to "nude up", and over 100 guys started to disrobe. Spending time in the infantry tends to utterly eliminate any modesty that a man might have, and getting nude on a regular basis in unusual places was just something that we did when we felt the urge.

The bouncers decided to have the last laugh however by calling the Police. They got a nasty shock when the Police arrived and refused to do anything - since they were also all Reservists from our next door Regiment. Perth used to be that kind of place, back when it had about 500,000 less people.

So there you have it - squashed frogs.


M said...

I'd like to think that you boys have changed your ways since the good ole days of Steve's and the Uni Tavern. But me thinks me is not so sure...

Anonymous said...

Lovely post Boab; brings back many happy memories of sessions in the 80's at Steve's (and the Cap S) with the merry stalwarts of the Uni Rugby Club.

Anonymous said...

Some flashback. In 1977 I drove a combi from North Qld to Perth and spent 6 months there before heading off to Asia and Europe. A bunch of us occupied a dirty old unit on the beach at Scarborough which was later flattened so Bond could build his big highrise there.

We shared our social time generously between Steve's and the Scarborough Hotel and as Steve Harley would agree 'they were the best years of our lives'. Mehaul.