Dickens's Dombey and Son
Dickens's Dombey and Son

‘Smell that, rotten’: Dentist’s revolting tooth scam

MY GRANDPARENTS were all skilled in the art of storytelling, in their own fashion.

Grandpa would enthral us with tales of cooking snake and goanna on hot coals, moving sheep hundreds of kilometres on horseback and using a retired World War II Bren gun carrier to clear scrub and chase illegal roo hunters from his property.

Nan remembered using thistle and hardy weeds in soups and waiting for low-flying planes to drop brick-hard bread during the drought. 

My other grandmother, Pammy, had me convinced for years that my great-great-grandfather fled Italy for Australia after getting caught up in an illegal sock-dealing ring.

Every town needs a drunken medical professional with questionable morals.
Every town needs a drunken medical professional with questionable morals.

I never questioned why the mafia would be so interested in foot garments, and I have never recovered from the cold realisation of her betrayal.

However, it was a particularly revolting yarn from Victor Calcino that to this day has me suspiciously checking the knuckles of any medical professional that ventures near my gob.

He told me about a dentist in Charleville who moonlighted as a town drunk - a capable man, but one prone to long bouts of boozing, gambling and visits to the local knock shop.

That kind of lifestyle does not come cheap, and this sozzled fang carpenter was often on the hunt for a few bob to run through the bookies, the babes or the beer taps at the Hotel Corones.

The Corones Hotel in Charleville was opened in 1929. PICTURE: Adam Head
The Corones Hotel in Charleville was opened in 1929. PICTURE: Adam Head

It was a grand pub opened in 1929 by Harry "Poppa" Corones, a poor migrant who arrived as a 17-year-old and became Australia's first Greek hotel licensee.

The structure would have still been very snazzy in those days, drawing the likes of English actress, singer and comedienne Gracie Fields and many other high-flying celebrities.

Who knows, our dental drunkard might even have watched her perform in the hotel's majestic foyer before sliding down the staircase banister for an encore - although he would be unlikely to remember.

Apparently this fellow would periodically find himself stone broke with an itchy liver, and so his greatest ruse would be put into action.

Corones Hotel founder Harry Corones came to Australia from Greece as a poor 17-year-old.
Corones Hotel founder Harry Corones came to Australia from Greece as a poor 17-year-old.

He would wait for a particularly gullible patient to walk through the doors - some out-of-town bumpkin venturing in for a long overdue check-up who was not wise to his habits.

Then it was game on.

With one deft forefinger, he would dig around the dark recesses of their oral cavity, find a rearmost tooth and shake his head with utmost concern.

The poor rube would cop a monstrous whiff of something ungodly as the dentist waved his finger under his or her nose.

Hotel Corones in the glamour years.
Hotel Corones in the glamour years.

"Smell that - rotten," he would say.

"That's going to have to come out immediately."

That was all the convincing they needed to part with cash and a perfectly healthy tooth - because they were oblivious to one key point.

Seconds before squirrelling about in there, the dentist would poke his finger up his own bum.

My grandad Victor died back in 2012 but would have been 92 on Thursday just gone.

The dentist and rigorous self-prostate examiner would presumably have been about 150, fairly pissed, sitting funny and finding it very difficult to retain a medical licence.

Chris Calcino is a senior journalist at the Cairns Post.

Originally published as 'Smell that, rotten': Dentist's revolting tooth scam


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