Kermie's found his new local
NEVER been one for pubs as a rule. Well, until more recent years anyway.
When I was young it was always around to someone's place to party with a bottle of gin or cider and get-on-down to Karl Fraser's Creedence Clearwater Revival collection. Karl took them to every party and we had no other choice.
Got older, went to work and wine bars became my thing. Seemed there was more chance of meeting pretty young things at wine bars. I failed much more than I succeeded, but I enjoyed the failures.
As my second marriage disintegrated, I took solace at the Grand Hotel in Healesville and enjoyed the company and camaraderie of a country pub. It became my home away from home and is where I met my Rita.
When I first got involved in the trucking industry, the sales manager - based in Sydney - would come down to Melbourne regularly and I'd run him around on sales calls.
The first couple of times he stayed at fancy hotels in the city until I pointed out to him that sod all of our clients were there and he was making me back-track every time he came down.
I suggested he should stay at the Grand instead.
Pete, being a pub lover, readily agreed and suggested I pick him up at the airport and arrange a couple of appointments on the route to Healesville.
"But make them in the morning so we can arrive there by lunchtime.”
As we drove into town around noon, it was Pete who, upon seeing the sign "Welcome to Healesville”, rechristened the town Hooterville.
We pulled up outside the Grand Hotel: "So this is The Hooterville Hilton”.
I took him to his room adjoining the balcony - the scene of many Sunday music extravaganzas.
This (fairly tired and old) room was the biggest the pub had to offer and stood out for having a door opening directly to the balcony bar and having one of those old but big rear projection TVs. That room became instantly known as "The Presidential Suite”.
A great lateral thinker is our Pete.
Down to the bar and there we stayed for the next 13 hours. It's not that long ago really, but beer (and scotch) was more affordable then.
Money would be put on the bar and the bar folk would take what was owed for the next round. We could both head to the dunny and no one would touch the cash.
Those 13 hour sessions became standard on the first day of his many trips down south and we managed to solve the problems of the world - at least until the next day.
Pete loved the place so much that he'd arrange his trips to start on a Friday so he could stay over for the weekend and join in the Sunday music fests.
I arrived on the balcony one Sunday arvo after a particularly heavy Saturday with him and he asks, "How are you?”
"Mate! I feel like shit,” I replied. To which I got a laconic "Welcome to my world”.
They were great days indeed.
The Pete moved on, much to the relief of my liver, and the price of a drink went up to the point that my pub excursions dwindled to the point of non-existence.
Then we moved to MooTown and I think I may have been to a pub twice in the last 20 months - our entertainment reverting to having folk around at ours.
Which takes us to last weekend.
There was a car show on at Rochester, 50 minutes up the road and I suggested to Rita we should have a gander.
Driving around this small country town, we could see neither hide nor hair of a car show until Rita spied a small sign pointing us to the Rochester Hotel.
Funny place for a car show, but we're there so we'd better check it out.
Like the Grand (as it was when I frequented it), Hotel Rochy is a tired old pub that has seen better days. And like the Grand, when I walked in it felt like home.
We had a look at the cars and bikes parked around the back and decided to stay for lunch.
As we were about to leave we heard music out the back and went to investigate.
There we met publican, Bruce Fisher, an old truckie, who immediately placed a couple of chairs in front of the brazier and bought us a drink.
Long story short, we left sometime after 9pm and could have easily stayed longer.
Bruce would love to see a truckie or three, having spent 30 years on the road, so if you're up that way, drop in and enjoy a pub as a pub should be. Might see you there.
Take care of you,