Thank God it was Friday! It’d been a long day and busy week in the office. Around I walked into the apartment, kicked off my shoes and plopped myself down onto the sofa. Smocka jumped up on my lap ready to tell me about his day. The phone rang.
“Honey! Can you come to the pub as soon as you can? Most of my staff haven’t turned up. I need your help,” Randall pleaded on the other end of the telephone.
“But, Randall…I’ve never pulled a beer in my life! It’s Friday night! My God! It’s going to be bedlam city down there tonight!” I exclaimed.
"You can do it! I know you can do it! There’s no one else I can call this late in the day! C’mon, sweetie! Please, I’m in dire straits here!”
In for a penny, in for a pound! I figured I had nothing to lose other than my pride, my dignity, face, my sense of humour! Quickly changing into a pair of jeans and comfortable shoes, I raced down to the Regatta Hotel, which was just down along Sylvan Road from where we lived in Cadell Street, arriving right on seven. The place was a-buzz with Friday night revelers. I had no time to think about what I was letting myself into. Randall pointed me in the direction of the cash register that would be mine for the evening and left wishing me luck. Luck! I felt I needed bucket loads of it plus more. If I could have found a hole in which to hide, there I would have been in a flash, but before I could dwell on my plight across the bar in front of me were many eager, thirsty faces holding out hands of cash with pleading looks in their eyes. How could I refuse? It was Friday night in the large lounge bar of the Regatta Hotel, Toowong, one of the most popular hotels in
The evening became a blur. One face blended into the other. The laughter and noise of the increasing crowd grew as the evening progressed. Beer flowed freely. Glasses of mixed drinks splashed like surging waves. Every so often, Randall wandered out to the lounge bar from the public bar to see how I was progressing. I didn’t have time other than to nod at him, recognizing him vaguely as someone I should know. A customer came up to me, ordering eight mixed beverages, all different. I felt like choking him! A while later I noted he was back for refills. I pretended not to see him.
“You’re ignoring me, aren’t you?” He said with a knowing smile on his face.
“Yes, I am. How did you guess?” I replied, half-smilingly. “I won’t be a moment.” Fortunately, he understood the pressure I was under.
Closing time loomed. The thirst of the patrons heightened. Panic began to set in for last drinks. The air was electric. The pressure was tangible. Voices from the verandah overlooking the bottle shop rose above the wave of noisy heads. Any moment I expected trouble. I wasn’t disappointed. Someone looked cross-eyed at another and blows ensued. I asked someone to get Randall. A couple of tables were upturned in the melee. A few soft punches thrown as some cheered on. I kept mixing drinks and pouring final beers. It was the end of my shift. The ruckus soon settled down. The two culprits who started the fray quickly decided either wasn’t worth the trouble and went on their way. Everyone else finished their last drinks and headed off to greener pastures. In the meantime, my heart was pounding, not from the “rumble in the jungle”, but from what the tally of my cash register would be at the end of the night.
Fearing the worst, expecting my register to be way out when I totalled it, I broke out in a cold sweat. I’d been thrown into the deep end, not knowing the prices when I began the night, I gingerly waited as Mrs. Milo, the wife of the hotel manager counted my takings.
Turning to me, Mrs. Milo said. “I don’t know what you’re worrying about, Lee. You’re eleven cents over!”
My “end of shift” drink was most welcome. I sighed with relief. It certainly had been a rude, swift introduction into the bar industry. And it was the last time I helped out at the Regatta Hotel. My adrenalin still raged when back at home, Randall and I sat recapping the evening’s events over a couple of scotches.
Shortly after that night, Randall gained employment at a new restaurant in the city. “Scaramouche” was the brainchild of Peter Fluckiger (later to become Peter Hackworth when she married Colonel David Hackworth, the most highly decorated soldier in the
"Scaramouche” was being fitted out when Randall joined the family of staff members. He helped with the interior construction of alcoves etc. The building had been a church in its hey-day. It consisted of high, vaulted, wooden-lined ceilings and had ambience beyond description. Upon opening of the restaurant to the public, Randall waited tables during lunch and in the evenings he waited on tables at “Manouche”, the sister restaurant to "Scaramouche" on
Again, I was at the right place at the right time (or vice versa!) when Randall called me in to help out at Scaramouche one Friday evening. Peter’s “goffer” was away sick and couldn’t make it in for the Friday night trading. Of course, Randall put my hand in the air for me. As soon as I finished my day job at Kolotex, I raced into town from Fortitude Valley to don a different guise (or disguise!). Not satisfied with polishing glasses, writing up the blackboard menu and re-setting tables, I helped serve meals and didn’t leave until after closing time. Again, I’d been bitten by the “restaurant bug” and there was little I could do about it. Randall, finishing earlier at Manouche, arrived at the apartment before I did and was surprised not to find me at home waiting for him. I walked in about an hour later, satisfaction glowing on my face.
Peter asked me to come in again the following night, Saturday. Thereafter every Friday and Saturday night, I exchanged my daytime office attire for my waiter’s garb of a long black skirt, white blouse, comfortable shoes, grabbed my “waiters’ friend” (wine and bottle opener) in readiness for the restaurant’s three sittings. Somehow or other, I was delegated the front, main section and my nights were spent racing between tables, re-setting for the next influx of diners. I loved it.
Meanwhile, being paid “cash money” with the bonus of tips, both Randall and I were able to put away a lot of cash away from the greedy hands and prying eyes of the tax man! One was able to do so at that time until the tax department decided in its “wisdom” to clamp down on such practices!
Two doors up from the apartment block where we lived a little worker’s cottage came up for auction. Randall announced we were going to attend the auction, not only as spectators but as bidders. The Saturday morning arrived and I was a nervous wreck! I let him do the bidding as I stood off to the side. We failed in the bidding, but during the following week managed to purchase the property next door to the original cottage for $17,000.00, two thousand less than the one that went under the hammer. Both were similar in age and construction.
To be continued....
To be continued....