Once I’d unpacked and stowed my gear I had a bit of a nap for an hour or so then after a good long shower, (there was no shortage of water at ‘Shay’ even though we were stuck on /in the Great Sandy Desert, I’ll go into that at another time;) I presented myself back at the town managers office to meet up with the outgoing ‘Wet” manager.
I can’t recall this blokes name or much about him except that he was Irish, didn’t much like or give a damn about the running of the wet canteen just enjoyed the money; it was a good paying job with all food and accommodation thrown in; but he was anxious to move on.
At this time he was getting ready to open the bar for the night session. The ‘Wet’ operated two shifts , morning from 09.30 ’til 11.30 and afternoon from 16.00 ’til 22.00. The idea being to give the man coming off the afternoon/ night shift time to get cleaned up have their dinner/breakfast then get some sleep before heading back out to the mine site to start again in the afternoon.
Those on the day shift had the nights off and they got their drinking done between 18.00 and 22.00, and the gluttons for punishment would then wander over to “The Club” and stay drinking there ’til they closed around 23.30 I think it was, I’d slip over some nights after closing up my place and have a couple of quiet ones with some of ‘my boys’. I didn’t do this often as I had an early rise seven days a week; and I’m going to tell you why shortly.
My Irish ‘chum’ gave me the run down on the ‘Wet’ as he was getting ready to open and we ran through the bookwork which was pretty straight forward and simple.
I found that the ‘Wet’ sold only beer; anybody wanting wines or spirits had to join “The Club”. I also found that the ‘Wet ‘ was not a very busy place doing 4 kils (kilderkins) a week and around 40 cartons (24 cans per carton), I thought Paddy (I’ll call him that for want of a name) was having me on. Here we were in a mining town in one of the hottest if not the hottest place in Australia and he was pulling 4 kils and 40 cartons in a township of just under 800 souls mostly single men.
Really, I thought he was having me on, the Irish are supposed to have a weird sense of humour, but no he was fair dinkum. I asked him what he was doing and he just sort of shrugged. He really didn’t care.
When we were going over the books he advised me that Perth (Poone’s) were happy to get around $78 a keg, the landed cost at Shay was just under $27 which gave them around $50 profit a keg, he was not selling enough to pay his wages and they were happy? Something funny going on here. The margin on the cans wasn’t as good by a long chalk.
Anyway when he opened up I could see why the place was only doing 4 a week, the place was dead there were two pool tables and a few bored blokes playing, I got the feeling that the reason that they came in was to eye off the new bloke (me) and as I wasn’t actually working I had a few beers with some of my new customers to be and made myself known.
Before I go too far I’d better explain the beer. In Western Australia back in the 70’s they were not using the standard drink sizes as put out by the AHA the drinks came in the following sizes; a glass 5 oz, a middy or schooner 7 oz , a pot 10 oz and a pint 15 oz.
The most common/popular was the pot and the serious drinkers stuck with the pints. And me? I stuck to the glass; I would have several drinks during a day and I never varied I stuck to the 5 oz. and I never reneged when it came to my “shout”! I’d been in the business too long.
My first and only night with Paddy was an eye opener, he had four taps hooked up to two banks of one keg a bank. I’d never seen anything like this, the total spillage at the end of the night was probably more than he sold, I said nothing.
The next morning was pretty much the same except while he was getting the bar set up and ready he had his first, I can’t say best, customer for the day. The main singles men’s mess and the senior single management staff mess were part of the same building as the “Wet Canteen” and the Chef was in the habit of coming in while Paddy was setting up shop and keeping him company by downing two or three or more cans of beer while the cooks were working away in his kitchens. He was Swiss and a drunk with a bit of an ego. Naturally he never paid.
Paddy asked me when I thought I’d be ready to take over and I told him that I’d take over after he closed up for the morning, he thought I was kidding and I assured him that as far as I was concerned there wasn’t much that I couldn’t work out for myself and if he wanted to finish up it was fine with me.
After we closed up for the morning he handed over the keys to me and we said farewell; I never saw him again. Whether he was able to leave town that day or not I didn’t know and I didn’t really care, I thought he was a lazy useless bludger and I wanted to see the back of him as soon as possible.
I could see plenty of prospect for ‘The Wet’!