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Puritanical Barmaid

CADDIE, A SYDNEY BARMAID.-Constable, Lon-

don.

rPHIS book is a curiosity

that will make some women weep and strong men gaze searchingly into their

beer.

Caddie (for professional reasons she does not give her full name) has produced what the publishers inelegantly term on the title page "an autobio- graphy written by herself"; and she has done it quite well.

In an introduction, Dymphna Cusack reports that she met Caddie in 1945 and persuaded her to write about herself. Caddie, then about 45, set to with colossal determination and wrote draft after draft of the story.

The published book is the fifth draft; and the result of all that effort is a strange mixture of slang and solemnity.

Caddie seems to have a com- plex character, with a Puritani- cal strain in it. She was born at Penrith. Her mother was down in-the-worid genteel and her father-"he was a grafter" worked in the bush and drank heavily. "Saturday nights we feared most . . . We often slept out in the paddock."

The mother died and the daughter ran away to Sydney and became a waitress. She was good looking, and at l8 she married the son of a well-to-do widow. He was selfish and unfaithful, and after several years Caddie ran away again, taking her two children with her.

It was then she began her long

[Career as a barmaid. She had

never touched liquor, and, at first, everything shocked her.

She had good reason to feel startled, because bar-room condi- tions in 1924 were apparently much the same as now. Foi example:

"Soon the six o'clock rush was in full swing. It was a long time before I learned to handle that evening rush with any degree of skill. The beer foamed over the tops of the glasses, men com- plained of 'too much collar on it.' The first arrivals crowded against the counter, less fortu- nate ones called above their heads, latecomers jostjed and shouted and swore in an attempt to be served before closing time. It was a revolting sight."

..* .

f\N her small pay and tips,

Caddie had difficulty in keep- ing her slum'home and paying for the minding of her children. So she developed "almost a dual personality" and became efficient in her work; or, to put it more realistically, she efficiently met her employers' professional re- quirements.

She displayed, it seems, the needful smiling vapidity ("a good listener, I avoided voicing an opinion wherever possible") to encourage custom and discourage argumentation ("for a brawl takes the crowd's mind off drink- ing").

She learned "to put the boss before sentiment," served inferior spirits at top price to drinkers who didn't know the difference, and, in the days before dye was put in the drip-trays, regularly strained the stale beer into buckets for return to the cellar.

When not on the subject of bar-rooms, her customers and her suitors, Caddie's story is a moving, if unskilful, account of

?

her struggle to look after her children.

After years of semi-employ- ment and semi-starvation in the depression, this Puritan with a "dual personality" rescued her family by becoming an S.P. agent ("I thought I'd have to give up my job, but soon found that the Missus was only too anxious to have one of her staff as the pub S.P. as it attracted custom").

Caddie, one feels, does not suf- ficiently let her hair down, but her story is much less self-con- scious than it might have been.

-P.G.H. I

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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