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