Marburg Hotel celebrating 80 years in Bowden Family

MARBURG HOTEL celebrates  80 Years Stewardship with the same FAMILY  – The BOWDENS
        (Story courtesy MBNews) 

A  WOODEN sign and discussion about celebrating Oktoberfest led to the realisation that the Marburg Hotel was about to celebrate 80 years in the Bowden family. The first owners in the family were Arthur (Yub) and Alice, followed by their son Dan and his wife Julie, some 50 years later. Today their son Matt and his partner Lauren Thompson work alongside Dan, taking on more responsibility in the family business. Matt said a mate had a sign to made hang in the pub which had the date his grandparents took ownership. “We’d been discussing Oktoberfest and when we registered that this year was 80 years as we looked at the sig, we knew that celebrating that milestone was the way to go,” he explained. With his dad, Dan, they began to plan how they would recognise the significant milestone and said what better way than a celebration with their clientele.

Last Saturday a number of food and drink stalls were set up around the Marburg Hotel for an afternoon and evening of entertainment and find with live music. On Saturday morning, the community started the day with a market to kick off the celebrations. Locals were keen to enjoy a cold ale or two on Saturday as they congratulated the Bowden family on the occasion. One of the regular patrons, Hector Peters, said the day was a ‘bit special’ for him, laying claim as a third generation drinker at the pub. “My Grandmother, Jean Peters, was a barmaid here for Yub, so our family have that link to the pub,” he said as he raised his glass to the current owners.



Arthur (Yub) and Alice Bowden arrived in Marburg a couple of days after their wedding just 80 years ago in October 1936. This was during the great depression, but their hope was to make a success of running the Royal Post Office Hotel. This was a small single story hotel of classic Australian country style and it stood diagonally opposite the Marburg Hotel.

Arthur and Alice had learnt the skills of hotel life while working for Jack and Alice Abercrombie who ran a very successful hotel in Rocklea in Brisbane. The Abercrombies were an excellent example of hotel keepers of the old tradition where the host and the hostess were characters not only amongst their patrons but also in the wider community. The depression years also taught many small business people of that time that to survive only the best would do.

With the much larger hotel opposite the early years for Arthur and Alice were not easy and competition was close and direct. Arthur joked in later times that many of his early customers were friends who had come from Brisbane to see if he had gone broke. Eighty years ago farming areas around Marburg were closely settled and many farms were self-sufficient and did not suffer as much as urban areas in the great depression. Gradually Arthur and Alice built up a loyal clientele and made friends for life.

When the Brisbane to Toowoomba highway went through Marburg during the thirties, Marburg became known as the ‘half way stop’. Trade in the town was boosted and the Royal Post Office Hotel (the little pub) had a neon sign which read ‘Half Way Inn”. Hospitality, cleanliness and a good refrigeration system made it a hard place for the traveller to pass.  When the highway was being built gangs of road workers were camped in Marburg. The foreman of the gang went to the Marburg Hotel and being short of cash asked the publican for the loan of a few bob. He was given a lecture about hard times and was humiliated in front of his mates. He went across the road to the Bowden’s Pub and without any fuss Yub lent him ten bob till next pay day. After this the Bowden’s Pub became the ‘working man’s pub’. This reputation helped to secure the future of Bowden’s Hotel.

To serve the most refreshing drinks possible to the thirsty customers, Arthur began chilling the glasses before filling them with beer.  He often claimed to be the first one to do this over 70 years ago.  From the beginning the Bowdens employed local girls at the hotel. Some of the girls were graduates of the renowned Marburg Domestic Science School of the time. The domestic science teacher also boarded at the hotel.  Participation in other areas of the local social and sporting scene was important and Arthur’s donations to the local cricket club date back to 1936. After the Second World War Arthur donated equipment and helped restart the Marburg Cricket Club in the local competition. He was honoured with the position of patron and life membership of the club. He and Alice were also active in the Marburg Tennis Club. He also loved the horses and was a member of Ipswich, Gatton and Toowoomba race clubs. His judgement of a good horse was respected and many customers called each Saturday morning a tip.

During World War 2 the Bowdens and the hotel were very involved in the war effort. To US soldiers stayed for a time at the Royal Post Office hotel when the US entered the war. Arthur was also active in the VDC. Alice was active in the War Comforts Fund and the Marburg CWA.  Rationing brought in during the war affected the hotels and they were allocated amounts of alcohol in line with what they were ordering prior to the rationing. The RPO Hotel was doing quite well at the time, but not so well the Marburg Hotel. Such was the situation that the Marburg Hotel had to close its doors so the Bowden’s Hotel became the only pub in town. In March 1944 Alice Bowden who was the official licensee of the Royal Post Office Hotel since October 1936 took over the licence of the Marburg Hotel and had the right to operate both. For a time no liquor was sold at the Marburg Hotel and during this time officers of the Australian Army made use of the building as and Intelligence Centre and Arthur told how some war operations of the New Guinea campaign were planned at the hotel.

In mid-1947, because of expanding business, the Bowdens decided to move across the road to the Marburg Hotel. Not long after this the Royal Post Office Hotel was pulled down and rebuilt as a boarding house in Ipswich. This gave the opportunity for them to expand and a long list of teachers, bank workers, inspectors etc all enjoyed time at the hotel and some of them stayed full time for many years and others used it as a work base.  For a time it also had its part in the art world. Booking into the hotel in the ‘50s and ‘60s one weekend a month was the Marburg Art Group whose shingle hung from the front corner of the hotel for many years.

In the late 1960s the new highway bypassed the Marburg Township and the pub changed from being a highway pub to being a local village pub. During this time the pub became a centre for the locality and many ideas and organisations had their beginnings at the hotel. The Marburg Residents Association was one on these and from it came agitation for park land, the Marburg community Centre, the SES, and annual Marburg Festival, a local historical society, the Marburg Central Pony Club. The Marburg Hotel was a major fund raising centre for many of these as wells as others such as the Blue Nurses and the Cricket Club. Alice was the mainstay in this regard. After her retirement Dan and Julie Bowden took up the baton.

For over 80 years the Bowden family has had a significant impact on the social and economic life of the Marburg district.

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