Updated: Aug 21, 2019
A story from "Beyond the Leopard Trees" by Petra Lester
“I never in a million years thought I'd leave Sydney, but I wouldn't go back there now,” says Dennis Corliss, owner of the Grand Hotel Childers. Dennis was a butcher by trade who became a meat inspector; and he travelled around the country to abattoirs. After 15 years the job changed and he was given a redundancy; that was the opportunity to buy a pub.
A two year search began in NSW and the Corliss couple saw 60 pubs but couldn't find one with the right price in the right place. A broker suggested looking in Queensland so in July 1996 Dennis and Pam drove up. They considered The Federal Hotel but it wasn't for sale for another 6 months. As Dennis stood out the front with the broker, he said “What about this one?” pointing across the road to the Grand Hotel. “It's too rough,” said the broker, “It's been for sale for four years.” They went and had a look anyway. Dennis says: “I only took four steps in and said, I'll buy it.” He pulled three grand out of his pocket as a deposit. “We had come through here before and loved the town; it has a nice feel to it. It made an impression on us,” says Dennis.
When they started cleaning up, Dennis was up in the ceiling of the pub one day and found a suitcase. It was full of men's clothes and a pair of shiny black shoes, perfectly intact. A train ticket showed the year 1942! The mystery was never solved. In the cellar they found two cases of 1972 Penfold Grange but that was as far as the treasures went. One day inspectors from State Heritage came in and Dennis reckons one fellow was the spitting image of Indiana Jones, right down to the hat. He showed Dennis a lot of details about the past of the building.
Dennis says the town was different in the 1990s compared with today because it was full of young people. There were more jobs available for young locals and backpackers. On Friday and Saturday nights Dennis used to put on a disco with a free BBQ. There would be at least 100 people; there were 80 jugs out the back and they always ran out. He remembers an Irish backpacker he calls The Little Bloke who came in with his mates every afternoon for eight weeks. There were also pickers waiting for their farm jobs to start. These two guys came in at 10am and drank schooners of VB all day. “They would nearly empty a keg. There are about a 100 schooners in a keg. They never had a fight and never caused trouble. The more they drank the merrier they got. You sort of miss them. Jeez, they were lovely people,” says Dennis.