The Federal Hotel - Serving Parched Miners Since 1899

We didn't have to walk far from the bin to quench our thirst. Only meters in fact. 

On closer inspection we had no doubt what we expected to find inside - skimpies:  the Kalgoorlie barmaid of myth and legend. 

Note the sign on the right giving the names of "This Weeks Skimpies"

Ordinarily AustralianBeers.com wouldn't go near a 'strip club' or a 'men's bar' with a ten foot pole. Such establishments are sleasy, and not properly considered part of the Australian drinking culture. However, in Kalgoorlie it is different. The 'skimpies' are interwoven with the history of the town. It would be impossible to review Kal's pubs without visiting the skimpy bars - quite honestly there wouldn't be very many places left to visit. Further, the skimpy is so much part of the town culture that the sleasiness is reduced considerably, if not absolutely.  In other Australian cities, such as Sydney, a man goes to a club where women are scantily dressed to see those women. To perve on those women. In Kalgoorlie, a man goes to a pub with skimpies for a drink with his mates.  There just happen to be skimpies working there, as they do everywhere and have done so forever. Therein lies the difference. 

Having reassured ourselves of the distinction, we took a deep breath and ventured into our first skimpy bar. 

The bar itself is not unusual. Much like any other. Men sat down each side of the bar, drinking beer and watching televisions.  There just happened to be women in their underwear behind the bar serving the beer.

We took tentative steps up to the bar.  The men looked dirty, and hard. As though they had just finished a hard day's work in the superpit - the latest and largest of mines in and around the Kalgoorlie area. 

Massive trucks look as ants in the Superpit (the photo only shows half of the pit)

One just ahead of us ordered a drink, "Glass a super thanks".  Considering ourselves experts on the vernacular, our eyeballs bulged in anticipation as we waited to see how the skimpy would react to such an order. Without blinking an eye she grabbed a 7 ounce glass and proceeded to fill it with one of the local lagers - Swan.  Another variant to add to the ordering page

Even having witnessed the local ritual, we didn't have the guts to follow through and ordered our own Swans by name. We sat at the bar beside an old bloke and waited for some action.  Prior to entry in Kalgoorlie we had seen documentaries on the skimpies, and the practice of throwing them a two dollar coin in return for a flash.  According to the documentary, the state government based in Perth wanted the practice banned. No-one in Kalgoorlie wanted it banned - especially the skimpies. They made a fortune every night because of it.  No ban was forthcoming. 

Despite this, after two beers of observation we were beginning to be of the impression that no cultural rituals would be forthcoming either.  Then, one of the skimpies who genuinely appeared to be what is known colloquially as being 'drug-f**ked', walked around with an empty jug.  She stopped at groups of men sitting at the bar and they appeared to be putting money in. She stopped in front of us and said something that made no sense whatsoever. Literally, she couldn't pronounce the words. They just wouldn't come out. It was a mess. 

She only sat there for a second, and looked a little shy. She could tell that we were not locals, and that we were not really interested in the ritual taking place (little did she know we were interested from a cultural point of view). But, pleased to take part in whatever was happening, we tossed a couple of coins in the jug.  Not having deciphered the original words, it may have been for a chook raffle for all we knew. 

After doing the rounds she returned to where she was originally standing. She then proceeded to count the money that had been put into the jug. How bizarre, we thought.  Perhaps she had been collecting for a local charity.  After several minutes though, she started performing some form of Houdini trick, with her arms going everywhere.  Eventually it became clear - she was taking off her bra under her shirt (which was partially see-through) and this was part of the ritual that involved the jug. 

Having done that, she proceeded to walk around the bar to the men. She didn't seem particularly interested, and neither did any of the men.  It was a pathetic site to behold. Not sensual in any sense.  In front of one group she tried to move her body in a suggestive way. The only response we heard was one bloke yelling for her to move away from the TV. She was blocking the cricket. 

Then it seemed to end. The only other item of note was when she seemed to get confused when pouring a beer off the tap and left it running. Eventually the manager came running as well and turned it off before slowly teaching her how to fill up a glass and attempting to instil in her that beer was too valuable to let run down the slops tray. It must have been her first night, as it was ours. Either that or she had taken so many drugs she had forgotten her name. That seemed just as likely to be honest.

All in all an interesting experience. One of many we hoped, as we proceeded down Hannan Street, in this great town of Kalgoorlie.


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