The Oasis Roadhouse has a bar that’s just 54 centimetres wide, but that doesn’t make it any less of a cog in the community wheel.
Story By Sam Richards
Not surprisingly, there is little standing room in Australia’s smallest bar on record. At the byway to Gulf Savannah country, the Oasis Roadhouse could in fact have the smallest bar in the world. In the Guinness Book of World Records, a small whiskey bar in Switzerland has been claimed as the smallest, measuring 8.5 square metres. Further research reveals that a former railway signal box at Cleethorpes, England, is smaller again, standing at only 5.95sq m. But both of these are big compared to our tiny northern Queensland watering hole.
The varnished wooden bar top shines alone at 54 centimetres wide and 142cm long, and the drinking room slips in at only 138cm in length, with a 142cm leeway in width. Amusingly, 23 family members of the present-day owner Pauline Royes have managed to squeeze inside this half-pint space. This included Pauline’s daughters, 27-year-old Laurel and 26-year-old Karley, who talked her into buying the place. “It was supposed to be my retirement,” Pauline says, “but it didn’t quite work out that way.”
It’s little wonder why, with the roadhouse sitting two kilometres below the Lynd Junction at the intersection of two main inland arteries – the Kennedy and the Gregory. These developmental roads pump colourful life into the region, bringing drillers, fossickers, explorers, heavy haulers and an occasional car rally into the Oasis for a cold one or a feed. Most travellers cross through the ironbark country today with minimum fuss, a stark contrast to the early days when John and Carol Jones first bought the Oasis.
“In 1967 the Greenvale nickel mine didn’t even exist [it is now closed] and the roadway down to Charters Towers consisted only of two wheel ruts and rough creek crossings,” says John, who should know because he drove the first semitrailer and first road train of bullocks over it.
Originally the Oasis began as a fuel depot for North Queensland Transport, owned by the three Kidd brothers, Don, Max and Percy. John bought out their business, ran it under the name of Oasis Stock Transport, and ran steers out into cattle-fattening country such as Clermont and Charters Towers. “Loaded, it took me 12 hours down to Charters Towers, and it took 12 hours unloaded to get back,” John says. Today, the 252km trip takes only a few hours, give or take a few road trains and drenching downpours.
The Joneses eventually gave up the trucking side of their business to concentrate more on the roadhouse aspect. John, who became the local fire warden, stock inspector and justice of the peace, built on from the existing log cabin and two fuel bowsers, obtaining the first merchant retail licence. As a bar was a requirement for the licence, John built one on from the existing cold room, thus becoming the first Oasis publican. “The size of the bar was of no concern as there was plenty of room outside,” John says. “Back in those days you would get a flask of rum, a tin of Coke and a plastic cup.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #64
Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2009