Almanac Life: Blunt’s Room

Do you think that the National Trust would bestow heritage protection upon a room? If they did, I know of a room which would be worthy of their consideration.

 

‘Blunt’s Room’ was a small area within Williamstown’s Steam Packet Hotel, not even half the size of what were once commonly known in pubs as ‘saloon bars’. But it was here that my mates and I cut our drinking teeth, under the watchful tutelage of a crew of Williamstown elders who themselves should have had their own National Trust listings. As is often the way with young men just out of their teens, we did not realize just how good we had it; for is there any group of people less forward thinking, less appreciative, and less reflective than 20-year-old males? Not long out of school, maybe working, maybe studying, the world was our oyster.

 

Friday nights were the highlight of the week. And when it came to unwinding, socializing, learning lessons about life, all roads led to the Steam Packet. Those too young to have missed this ancient hotel’s halcyon days would scarcely believe the size of the crowds which were crammed in cheek-to-jowl at the end of the working week. In summer, the enormous beer garden would be packed from fence to fence. Proving the adage that it is a small world, on any given Friday every person in your wider social circle could be within 250 square metres of where you stood.

 

Not everyone was willing to drink in the atmosphere of ‘Blunt’s Room’. It was windowless and dark, and forbidding to newcomers who were not fortunate enough to be familiar with those who resided within its confines. But the room had its own private bar hutch, and woe betide any bartender who was misfortunate enough to turn their back on an awaiting ‘Blunt’s Room’ patron. The walls were adorned with sailing ephemera, a miniature replica of Australia 2’s winged keel, Salvation Army hats (the Salvo’s were generously rewarded regular visitors), and old pictures of a Williamstown which, outside the very walls of the hotel, was disappearing into gentrification before our eyes. It was a privilege to be in the company of old salts such as Bob Blunt (after whom the room was named) and Scotty Warner, from Blunt’s Boatyard, the gentlemanly Kenny Shaw, and locals such as Pat Cannon, Bill Black and Dick Carter, men whose generosity and conviviality knew no bounds. There were others as well, whose names have been lost to me in time. The unspoken rule was that when you entered, it was your shout. It was a sight to see the long table almost buckling under the weight of dozens of full beer glasses – for when the old blokes shouted, a beer was purchased for you whether you wanted one or not. Dim-sims purchased from the Chinese takeaway around the corner were a necessity. And you had best leave any airs and graces outside the room’s bi-fold entry doors, whilst at the same time being sure to bring your wits in with you, for no-one was beyond having the piss taken out of them by this crew.

 

For the gormless – which we callow youths most certainly were – the learning curve was steep. The tall tales told sometimes contained elements of truth. The best advice, quickly learned, was to listen. The pace was such that the older crew would all be gone by 8pm, most having been escorted out by their wives, with us youngsters left to our own devices. We felt like the heirs to a kingdom. The Packet’s 11 o’clock closing bell was regularly mistaken for the clang of a ringside boxing bell, and stoushes were commonplace. On these occasions we would pull closed the doors to ‘Blunt’s Room’, and remain cloistered from the commotion outside.

 

Of course, nothing stays untouched for perpetuity. The drive-through bottle-shop and beer garden were first to go, the land beneath them deemed far too valuable to be without apartments built upon them. This was the beginning of the end. The door leading outside to the men’s toilets was boarded up, and new ones were constructed adjacent to the dining room. Although the pub is still an excellent place to have a quiet beer, some intangible part of its character was irrevocably altered. ‘Blunt’s Room’ is now more private dining room than dingy drinking den.

 

As a few of those old characters are no longer with us, it is perhaps incumbent upon us to return in the near future, charge our glasses, and enjoy a drink or two. And we should once again listen, on the off chance that we might hear the ghosts of ‘Blunt’s Room’, whispering to us from beyond, that “It is your shout!”.

 

2015: Even at his own wake, Patrick Cannon was generous enough to buy a final round in Blunt’s Room.

 

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About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Another fab yarn Smokie! There is certainly something special about a special place in a special pub with special mates! Mine was at the Prospect Hill Hotel, Kew on Thursday nights during the late 60s/ early 70s where it was pool, pizza, footy , and cracking yarns.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Nicely done, Smokie! You evoke this past pub experience vividly.

  3. Daffy Wallace says

    Tales me back to some very interesting discussions held in that room. Never to be repeated again. True characters those men. If I could only just clearly remember some of the minute details after the smoke and beer haze fog , let alone the years between have melted away.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    “for when the old blokes shouted, a beer was purchased for you whether you wanted one or not”. That statement takes me back to being 18-19 and learning the ropes!

  5. Nathan Asher says

    I remember having many a punch on at the “Packet” I even remember getting knocked out by a Sheila from Williamstown Lacrosse Club. Miss that beer garden.

  6. Wally from Williamstown says

    Smokie, as you are probably aware, the Packet is currently undergoing a major, major renovation (been ongoing since the shutdown in March) – it is to be hoped that the remnants of the Blunt Room survive. Another classic Willi institution, love that picture outside the pub on the A-frame of the donkey at the bar back in the day.

  7. Rulebook says

    Well played Smokie ! Mind you I reckon we shut up and listened and learnt far more than the youth today

  8. You haven’t got an Irish heritage have you Smoke?!

    I think this encapsulates why I love an old pub.

  9. You write like a dream

  10. Rick Kane says

    Great stuff Smokie, you took us right inside the pub and Blunt’s and rattled our own fading memories of local watering holes. When I arrived in Melbourne in 92 we made the Empress in North Fitzroy our home away from the small, cold flat in Holden St. Love the photo of Pat Cannon shouting at his own wake!

    Cheers

  11. JEFF OTTER says

    JEFF OTTER
    JULY 1 2020 AT 5.30 PM

    I FONDLY REMEMBER EVEN AS A REGULAR AND A YACHTIE ONE DID NOT STEP INTO BLUNTS ROOM WITHOUT AN INVITE.MORE TIMES THEN NOT GRAHAM KELLY FREDDY WARNER OR CAPTAIN JACK WOULD COME OUT TO CHAT.

    WHAT A GREAT PUB IT WAS .

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