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Men, Women and Alcohol

Christmas dinner, Tennant Creek, 1934In the early days of Tennant Creek it was a wild town with a strong drinking culture. Occasionally there was violence. But the pub which was a source of the grog, also functioned as a refuge. Margot Miles remembered:

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But I must add one thing that was very good about the Tennant Creek Hotel. It had the biggest ladies’ toilet. It was half as big as this room, in half, you know. I don’t know why that is, you know, because they had pans in those days. And there was a big broad seat on it.

But what happened there, what we used to do, the women that worked there, was: the men used to get very drunk, and they’d go home and thrash their wives. So we told the wives, you see: “You come down here, and we’ll look after you.” So we used to stow them in the toilet of course, because the men used to come back and rage around lookin’ for their wives, and they never dreamed of looking in the toilet, you know. They used to bring their kids, and a blanket, and they’d camp there for the night.

There wasn’t many women that drank, and there wasn’t many women on the staff, so they had plenty of room. I don’t know why he built the – they was, in each pub, they were so big – the toilets, ladies’ toilets you know.

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 835 and NTRS 1723 RTP 5218, Margot Miles]

The women were safe there mainly because the miners would not think of looking for them there. In those days women rarely went to hotels. Even when Ruby Reed came to Tennant in 1947 she remembered:

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Oh, I think it was a man’s town. It was a very rough town. It was more men, that what there were women. And I was brought up that – my Mum used to say women were not allowed in hotels or anything like that, you know. In the olden days they said this and oh, I thought it was disgusting to a woman go into a hotel. Now I do it myself!

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 577 and NTRS 219, TP 725, Ruby Reed]
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