Guests evac­u­ated as ho­tel catches fire

Publi­can Ben Bloom comes to the res­cue of guests evac­u­ated from the fire that de­stroyed his Vic­to­ria Bridge Ho­tel, South Townsville, in 1970

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - IAN FRAZER

TWENTY guests were evac­u­ated from a blaze in Ben Bloom’s Vic­to­ria Bridge Ho­tel in June, 1970, to safety at the Fed­eral Ho­tel, another of the pop­u­lar publi­can’s South Townsville pubs.

The fire early on June 21 gut­ted the top floor of the 75year- old estab­lish­ment de­scribed by the Townsville Bul­letin as one of the city’s old­est and best known hotels

One of the guests, Pa­trick Gre­any re­ceived slight burns to his hands, face and head while clam­ber­ing over a rail­ing and down an elec­tric light pole, the Bul­letin re­ported on June 22.

Mr Bloom said al­most ev­ery­thing on the top floor had been lost, ex­cept for a cou­ple of ports of per­sonal be­long­ings. He had re­lo­cated the guests to his Fed­eral Ho­tel on the cor­ner of McIl­wraith and Dean Sts.

The ho­tel was in­sured for $ 60,000. It was built in the 1890s in Dean St on what was then Ross Is­land, near the bridge to the city cen­tre opened in 1889.

The Bul­letin re­ported the cause was un­known and that fire brigade chief, Mr E Pot­ter, was con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Mr Bloom de­cided against re­build­ing. His daugh­ter, Marie Tup­per, re­called last week the li­cence had been trans­ferred to a pro­posed fu­ture de­vel­op­ment of the Up­per Ross Ho­tel that was later built by another com­pany.

An en­er­getic all- rounder, Mr Bloom was a life mem­ber of the Queens­land Hotels As­so­ci­a­tion, a long- serv­ing pres­i­dent of Townsville Rugby League and briefly a Townsville La­bor al­der­man and chair­man of the North Queens­land Re­gional Elec­tric­ity Board.

Elected to the city coun­cil in 1976 and ap­pointed in­au­gu­ral chair­man of NORQEB in March, 1977, he was killed two months later in an air crash at Thorn­ton’s Gap while re­turn­ing from a meet­ing at Ju­lia Creek.

`` My fa­ther was a man who was very strong on fam­ily and loved Townsville, loved life and worked tire­lessly for the things in which he be­lieved,’’ Ms Tup­per said.

Born in Toowoomba, he worked in the min­ing in­dus­try on Cape York be­fore en­ter­ing the ho­tel trade, first in Cairns, then Townsville.

Apart from the Vic­to­ria Bridge and Fed­eral he also once owned the Na­tional Ho­tel in Rail­way Es­tate and the Cen­tral — later razed for the Sugar Shaker tower in the CBD.

Townsville Rugby League pres­i­dent for 12 years, he pion- eered calls of lo­cal games on Ra­dio 4TO and was heav­ily in­volved in pro­mot­ing ju­nior rugby league.

As chair­man of the Townsville Sports Re­serve Trust he was one of the in­sti­ga­tors of the rugby league club­house ad­join­ing the re­serve.

He also helped set up the Townsville Tourist Or­gan­i­sa­tion and found time to greet cruise ships at the port, some­times wel­com­ing vis­i­tors with bunches of ba­nanas.

Mr Bloom, who died aged 62, was sur­vived by his son and three daugh­ters. To­day his renown is sus­tained by 13 grand­chil­dren, 12 great grand chil­dren and a me­mo­rial park and mu­ral in North Ward.

Pic­ture: TOWNSVILLE CITY LI­BRARIES

Fire­men hose down the burnt- out top floor of the Vic­to­ria Bridge Ho­tel in June 1970.

Ben Bloom.

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