The Caltowie Hotel ensures its popularity with friendly staff, good food and a musical offering most city pubs would kill for.
Story By John Kruger
The silence that envelops Caltowie’s main street is occasionally broken by the thunderous rumble of grain trucks on their way to the silos. They have an impersonal quality to them as they resolutely pass through the town. It’s a contrast of serenity and booming activity that’s only experienced in a quiet country location.
The trucks go straight past the dominant feature of Caltowie’s main street; a grand, double-storey hotel. A second storey is always an indicator that a hotel was at some stage a major part of the local economy, back at a time when towns were spaced roughly as far as horses and carts could travel in a day. The pub has been an integral part of the town’s mining and agricultural prosperity, which has fluctuated since the pub was built and named the Commercial Hotel, circa 1875.
The Laura Brewing Company owned the hotel from 1884 until 1903. Then the South Australian Brewing Company took ownership through to 1970. During that time the competition – the single-storey Caltowie Hotel – was demolished and the Commercial Hotel’s name was changed to the Caltowie Hotel.
The name Caltowie comes from an Aboriginal word ‘Carcowie’, meaning ‘lizard’s water hole’, and it suits the pub well. While many small pubs have died off in these days of modern transport in which vehicles drive straight past, the Caltowie Hotel is still busy, even if the grain truck drivers don’t always stop for a cold beer anymore.
There are quite a few reasons why the hotel is bucking the trend. Owners Phil and Anne Maree Dickins have a different outlook on what a country pub should be and do, and people from surrounding towns must agree because they patronise the pub regularly. For a start, the Caltowie Hotel has all of the basics right; good beers and wines and friendly staff. There’s also a sense of humour. There are two beer prices, with a sign written in felt-tip pen above the beer fridge to make it clear; one price for normal beers and one for fancy beers. Phil, 60, has a raspy staccato laugh that matches the youthful glint in his eye. He may stroke his grey moustache like an old gentleman but he’s got a real spark.
This story excerpt is from Issue #88
Outback Magazine:Apr/May 2013