A rich history in the walls of Hotel Corones

Time has moved  on but the Hotel Corones is still a sight to behold.
Time has moved on but the Hotel Corones is still a sight to behold.

In its heyday it was the hub of Charleville society, where life was a swirl of cocktail parties, women in gowns, balls and toasts to the king.

It has had its ups and downs since then, but the grand old Hotel Corones is still standing proud and, under new owners Bob and Marion Branson, is looking ahead.

The pub, which opened in 1929, was built by Harry “Poppa” Corones, who had risen from a poor 17-year-old migrant to be the first Greek hotel licensee in Australia.

It was built in the days when Australia still rode on the sheep’s back and woolgrowers were men of astonishing wealth.

The author Mary Durack, who was part of that world, described them as “kings in grass castles”. Some of them even lived in the hotel, leaving their properties in the hands of their managers and only venturing out to inspect their properties now and then.

The pub also had a close association with the early days of flight in Australia.

Guests included English solo aviator Amy Johnson, who had a champagne bath there during a stop on her celebrated 1930 England-Australia flight. Poppa being Poppa, nobody was shocked when later he rebottled the 16 bottles of bubbly.

When Sir Hudson Fysh and others decided to form an airline, later known as Qantas, several of their meetings were held at Corones. It was at Poppa’s suggestion that five of the first seven planes were named after the mythological Greek figures Hippomenes, Atalanta, Perseus, Hermes and Pegasus.

Corones was also one of Qantas’s earliest caterers. When planes stopped to refuel at Charleville, Poppa laid on silver-service feasts in the hangar, bringing out the food and staff from the hotel.

During World War II, when US servicemen occupied the local aerodrome and hospital, Poppa held dances every night.

Other guests included Blighty’s favourite songstress, Gracie Fields, who once warbled for the locals in the foyer before sliding down the banister for an encore.

Visitors can get a feel for those glory days on one of the popular tours conducted by guides from by the Charleville Visitor Information Centre.

These take two hours and go behind the scenes to areas not available to the public. On completion there’s an afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream.

A particularly impressive feature of the pub is its glorious bar.

With its Roman mosaic floor, egg-shell mottled tiled walls and counters, and stained glass windows, it still attracts a few handfuls of regulars, says Marion, although she admits the couple are focused at the moment on getting the accommodation and restaurant side of things back on track.

The historic public bar is a cool and refreshing place to bend your elbow

The historic public bar is a cool and refreshing place to bend your elbow

“It’s been a huge undertaking,” said Marion, who bought the pub with Bob in January last year.

“We couldn’t open it until March. The doors had been shut for 14 months and there was a lot of work to do.”

Since then the couple, with the initial help of their daughter and son-in-law, have done a power of work getting the accommodation back in top-top condition.

Upstairs Corones has 25 hotel rooms, reached via a majestic Queensland maple staircase that was rebuilt after the 1990 flood.

They include classic and original rooms with or without ensuite, and a heritage VIP suite complete with a kitchenette and private balcony.

There are also motel rooms with ensuite bathrooms, plus parking outside the door.

The Bransons also pride themselves on the good, hearty and affordable meals provided by chef Angela Keleher. Grey nomads are especially welcome.

The dining room is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week and pizza three nights a week – you can check out the menu at the website, www.hotelcorones.net.au 

If you're heading for Longreach and the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame from south-eastern Queensland, Charleville is just a one-hour diversion from the highway at Morven.

While there, drop in at the fascinating Cosmos Centre and Observatory and spend an evening gazing at the planets and stars amid crystal-clear conditions.

In Graham Andrews Parklands, you can check out the two remaining Steiger Vortex Rainmaking Guns, an oddity ordered by official meteorologist Clement “Inclement”  Wragge in a failed, desperate bid to break the 1902 drought.

This story originally appeared on The Senior