Unlocking the Past: When Abe Saffron came to Kurri Kurri

For most of his sensational career notorious crime boss Abe Saffron was dubbed 'King of the Cross' because his empire was based in the inner Sydney suburb of Kings Cross.

What is lesser known is that for a year he owned a hotel in Kurri Kurri.

In September 1944 Evelyn Sophia Kincaid bought the licence for the Station Hotel in Victoria Street, Kurri Kurri. She was the wife of Hilton Granville Kincaid, a business partner of Abe Saffron.

Hilton and Abe had just embarked on what went on to become their pub business model, buying hotel licenses in the name of dummy owners and operating them behind the scenes. Hilton's wife Evelyn was named as the Licensee of many of their venues and so it was in Kurri Kurri.

Abe Saffron had been a WWII serviceman. He left the Merchant Navy in July 1944 and shortly afterward hooked up with his equally dodgy friend Hilton Kincaid, together they bought the Station Hotel and moved to the country.

STEEPED IN HISTORY: The Station Hotel, Kurri Kurri. Picture: Tooth & Co. archive, Australian National University

STEEPED IN HISTORY: The Station Hotel, Kurri Kurri. Picture: Tooth & Co. archive, Australian National University

At this time the Station Hotel was well established and had been operating for four decades, named for the (then) nearby Stanford Merthyr railway station. It had opened in 1904, operated by Scottish hotelier Robert Robertson and was designed by renowned Maitland-based architect James Warren Scobie.

It was then and still remains a beautiful two-storey building with spacious full-length balconies and inside boasts a large dining room and an enormous public bar.

Abe's son, Alan Saffron, recalls his father telling him that he rode a horse to work at the pub every day and was very sociable, knowing all his regulars by their first name. He also routinely took the train back to Sydney to visit his parents, his brothers and sisters.

Whether Abe Saffron just enjoying a tree change after his war service, or there was something different at play, we may never know.

Ultimately Abe only spent five months in Kurri Kurri. The bright lights of Sydney beckoned and in February 1945 he sold the hotel's licence.

Kimberly O'Sullivan is the Local Studies Librarian at Cessnock City Library. Email kimberly.osullivan@cessnock.nsw.gov.au

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