Jack's Bar

'C'mon Jack!'

'Go Higgo!'

Unfortunately, with all the egging on, Ron Higgins lost control on the turn and crashed, badly injuring his hand. Jack still claimed the win. Maybe riding kids' bikes around the saloon bar was not one of their better ideas. But it sure was fun. On this  occasion it was Jack and Ron Higgins the baker, but there were plenty of others.

Tom's grandsons Trevor and Paul used to leave their Dragster bikes out in the yard next to the empties. Sometimes when changing a barrel the temptation was simply too great and another bike race ensued. Trevor and Paul lived at the pub and they'd get up Monday morning to go to school and find their bikes broken yet again. A pub's 'yardman' or 'boots' did pretty much any outside job that was going. In this case, Sid Scheggia fixed the bikes, pumped up the tyres and sent the kids on their way.

Maybe it was Jack, Brian or some of the other saloon bar staff; maybe it was the drinkers; maybe it was the room itself; whatever the reason, the saloon bar - Jack's Bar - seems to have more than its fair share of stories ...


As the dust settled and they gradually dared raise their heads, it was apparent that someone had shot the telly in Jack's bar. The patrons had been on at Jack for years to replace the old black and white TV with a colour one, but he'd always refuse.

'Only need black and white!'

Being a mad keen Collingwood supporter, this was Jack's usual response. His mate Brian 'Ned' McDonald, who was also a barman there, had forced the issue in emphatic fashion with the use of his shotgun.

The patrons were very happy with their new Rank Arena colour telly, which you can see in the photo below.

One definition of a saloon bar is: 'a section of a bar or barroom separated from the public bar and often having more comfortable furnishings and a quieter atmosphere.' So much for quiet.

There wasn't always a saloon bar. When the Phillips family took over the pub in late 1944, the room was first used as the billiard room and a meeting room. By 1948 the post-war beer shortage started to ease, and as they began to see the limitations of the small main bar, Tom and the boys decided to set up a saloon bar to be run by eldest Jack. As well as the extra space, the business also benefitted from having a slightly different type of bar for those who wanted it.

And so, Jack's Bar was born.

The building in which the saloon bar was established was originally not part of the pub. The Dunnes had bought the Union Hotel in June 1928 and soon renamed it Hotel Australia after the well known and respected Sydney hotel of the same name. Then in 1933, they bought the 'brick office' next door in Fryers St and leased it to the Agricultural Society as a meeting room. We don't know when the doorway was put through to the pub; maybe around 1939 when the owner of the brick office is given for the first time in the rate books as 'Hotel Australia'.

But such was the success of the saloon bar - and shortage of space for all the drinkers - that it was almost tripled in size during the early 1950s. This was the same time as the bedroom wing was added to the existing three brick rooms upstairs at the front.

There were lots of characters like Ned McDonald and Ron Higgins who enjoyed the different atmosphere Jack and the family had created in the saloon bar. Many became lifelong family friends. Pat Deane was a solicitor and helped convince Dunnes to sell the pub to Tom. Tailor Pat O'Sullivan talked Tom into into buying an eleven acre property in Numurkah Rd which turned out to be a very good investment. There was Mick Carey the farmer, Joe Magee,  Cec Howard the butcher, Hughie Naughton, father Gerald Moylan and estate agent Mick Ryan.

Mostly the activities in Jack's Bar were just fun and didn't result in such carnage.

Ed Phelan had one of the first hearing aids and was keen to show it off on his next visit to Jack's Bar. After boring people to death, the next time he went to the toilet, the others decided they'd have some fun.

Ed returned to an eerily quiet Jack's bar. He could see the others' lips moving but there was no sound. He'd ask a question but only get moving lips as a response

After attempting to adjust the hearing aid's volume for the third time, they all yelled 'Your shout!'

In fact, the Phillips family worked hard to look after their patrons, for their own wellbeing and for the comfort of others. If someone had too much to drink, they would be sent on their way. This was ultimately good for business and later became law.

Tom was the master at getting people to go quietly, with tricks like 'have this one last drink on the house, then on your way'.  And he'd show the others how it's done.

In the main bar there was once a customer who was so extremely irritating that he was driving patrons away.

Tom asked Brian for ten bob, which Brian gave him. Tom then proceeded over to this annoying person and gave him the money. Brian was puzzled.

A week or so later, Tom asked Brian how things were going in the main bar.

Brian thought, then said: 'Very good since so-and-so's gone. How did you do it? And by the way, where's my ten bob?'

Tom replied: 'If you loan money to someone like that, you'll never see them again. And that valuable lesson just cost you ten bob.'

Of course, Tom wasn't always right there when needed, or sometimes a little more persuasion was required. Rumour has it that Laurie or Corky might occasionally be called in to persuade.

And sometimes a more coordinated effort was needed to send someone on their way.

'Sorry, Paddy!'

After having a little too much to drink at the main bar, Paddy Hartin would get kicked out. He would then head around the corner to Jack's Bar and with pursed lips, stick his head in and look around as if to say 'can I come in?' Paddy never spoke, he just looked. Unfortunately for Paddy, Brian would have already phoned ahead, so Jack would say 'sorry, Paddy', and off he'd go.

Paddy Hartin was one of the many characters quickly recalled when pub stories were being told. For the definitive - and extremely funny - version of this story, you need to have witnessed Jack's rendition.

Another version of the story has Paddy getting kicked out of Jack's Bar first, then being refused when he stuck his head in the corner bar, and again when he stuck his head through the Maude St door - all because Jack had phoned ahead to warn Brian and Don. I'm sure both versions are true.

Jack 'Working' at the Pub

It has been said that Jack spent a lot more time at work than he did working. While no one's sure exactly what Jack did for all his non-bar time at the pub, apart from maybe in the office counting the money, he was a key part of the business including company secretary for TJ Phillips & Sons Proprietary Limited. Jack was responsible for communications including annual reports to the various company register forerunners of ASIC. And while he was also responsible for calling monthly meetings of shareholders, he might have missed the odd one or two.

After Tom, Jack worked the longest time at the pub, from February 1946 when he was the first of the three eldest boys to return from the war, until when the pub was sold in September 1979.

The Hotel Australia then changed hands a couple of times before in 2013, new owner Paul Tsorbaris re-established Jack's Bar in recognition of the Phillips family's time in The Aussie and their 'old school' publican values. This was 65 years after it was originally established.

The Phillips family returned to the saloon bar in March 2013 for a family reunion. This coincided with the renaming of Jack's Bar and with Jack's 90th birthday. Jack Phillips died a year later on his 91st birthday.

TJ Phillips and Sons

When Tom leased the pub from Dunnes in November 1944 for £25 a week, there were no partners in the business.

Tom Phillips and his family bought the Hotel Australia in mid-1948. The lease had included an option to purchase and by 1948 Dunnes were finally persuaded to sell. In August 1948, Tom's licence was transferred to the new partnership of TJ Phillips and Sons. This partnership consisted of Tom and the three eldest sons, Jack, Reg and Laurie.

All five boys have held shares in the business, but never all at the same time. The first half of 1955 saw big changes in the company structure. In April 1955, they formed a proprietary limited company consisted of Tom, Sis, Jack, Laurie, Don and 19 year old Brian. Reg took his share from the earlier partnership to persue other business ventures, the first of which was Mensland in Maude St. Sis was now part of the company structure for the first time, as were Don and Brian. Between them, Tom and Sis had a small majority share holding. Tom was nominee in the new company and Jack was company secretary.

Tom Phillips had purchased the Hotel Australia in mid-1948 for £50,000 and in September 1979 the Phillips family's business was valued at over $1 million. Their investment had resulted in an average rate of return over a 30 year period of about 8%, well above inflation.

Managers and Office Staff

While the family did as much as they could, there were still a number of people who held the title 'manager' over the years. Or in the case of 'Miss K Barry' in November 1944, manageress. Kathleen Barry had previously managed the Victoria Hotel for 14 years. From the early 1960s, Lil Cato was manageress.

Another person from the very early days described as a manager was Harry Williams. That's the title used in correspondence with the authorities regarding the pub's pitiful wartime beer quota. He has also been described as manager-bookkeeper and just bookkeeper. Harry lived for years in a room on Maude St next to the saloon bar.

Various members of the Phillips family displaced some of the managers, but there were several other managers and assistants over the years. Ros Lynch and 'Karen' were others who helped with the books, but that was from around the late 1960s. Then around 1973, as the last of the children moved out of the pub, and with Tom and Sis now in their 70s, live-in managers were again employed.

Constant Change

Right from the November 1944 lease, Tom continually adapted to survive, then thrive in his venture. The 1948 purchase gave him the freedom to invest and put some bolder plans into action. And his family was with him every step of the way. Tom led by example and his family quickly followed. They all contributed to significant achievements and saw enormous changes during their 35 years in the pub.

Through continued effort and investment, the hotel's value increased tenfold. Beer sales went from lowest in Shepparton to top three in country Victoria. Accommodation increased 50%. Functions went from a minor to major part of the business. And the pub provided good jobs for scores of locals.

But it wasn't easy, and Tom and the family had to adapt to a huge number of changes - in drinking and eating habits, in beer and wine production, in licensing laws, and even in some of the road rules.

They were engulfed in the rise then demise of the six o'clock swill.

They weathered the storm of licensed eateries and bulk liquor outlets. In 1944 if you wanted a beer you'd go to the pub; by 1979 it seemed you could get a beer anywhere you could get a meal, and dedicated liquor outlets sold beer by the boot load.

Wine drinking went from the preserve of the Europeans to something half the population did.

In the beginning, people worked hard to pay for a couple of beers after work, but by the end anyone could afford to drink.

The 1960s rise of motels and family car affordability greatly restricted income from accommodation.

The days of bona fide travellers driving 20 miles after a drinking session gave way to a 'don't get caught' mentality, and then to .05 and designated drivers.

House of Phillips

Tom is reported as saying in 1979 that the downstairs lounge on Fryers St was the only part of the pub unchanged from when they moved in 35 years earlier. In fact the lounge changed slightly in the late 1950s, meaning that every part of the pub has been shaped in some way by the Phillips family.

While Tom was the early driving force, with the dozen family members who worked there, they built the Hotel Australia into the The House of Phillips.

Hotel Australia, Shepparton c. 1972

Tom might have been a risk-taker and a gambler, but he always had a smile on his face. And for good reason. His time in the Aussie, and his whole life, had been one big adventure.

Tom Phillips, c. 1979

Tom Phillips died in December 1980. He was 83.

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Home: House of Phillips

Further reading:

Timeline of Hotel Australia events and of people who worked there

List of references used in creating this story