FOR little towns like Tungamah, the pub is at its heart.
It sits on a corner of a four-way intersection in the middle of town, cricket is playing on a TV above a pool table inside, planes made of beer cans hang from the ceiling with sports memorabilia on the walls.
The watering hole hosts thirsty farmers, footy functions, wedding receptions, reunions and broken hearts.
On November 30, it was where men and women with haunted looks on their faces came to drink.
Two of their own had been killed in two crashes within two hours and less than 20 kilometres apart.
At 4.30am, a 47-year-old Tungamah woman died on the Yarrawonga-Benalla Road when her car left the road, climbed an embankment and was thrown 10 metres into a paddock, bursting into flames on impact.
At 6.30am, a 39-year-old father of four from nearby Tallygaroopna crashed into a tree on the Tungamah Main Road, a kilometre out of town.
“It has a huge impact on our little town,” publican Peter Chisnall said.
The woman hadn’t lived in the town long but Mr Chisnall said she was friendly and embraced others quickly.
The Tallygaroopna father was also well-known, transporting grain regularly for farmers in the district.
Mr Chisnall, a Corowa boy and former North Melbourne football player, stood behind his bar remembering the faces of those he saw in his pub that night.
“The people in our emergency services ... I could see the impact on them was immense,” he said.
The headlines of November 30 have faded but he said the effect had been lasting.
He regularly takes keys off punters and drops them home himself after closing.
“I know the care people are taking now from our community,” he said.
“I think there is a message getting through.”
The 62-year-old is probably the only publican in the North East who prefers a cup of tea rather than a beer.
If you saw five people die in a car crash when you were 15 then you might not want to drink either.
It was the 1960s and Mr Chisnall was in a car travelling from Wagga to Melbourne with a friend.
Two cars collided in front of them and five people were killed.
“I don’t drink and drive,” he said, sipping his cuppa.