It’s pretty true to say that in any large group of men, and I suppose the same applies to women, that there is or are one or two individuals who stand out from the pack, and there were one or two stand outs in my ‘Wet’ (not counting me of course says me modestly).
Foremost amongst them was Chuck, his real name was Charles, or Charlie, of course but Chuck was Chuck, too everybody and it also helped to distinguish him from another Charlie, and a very important Charlie, the other one was too; he was the bloke that lit the fuse for all the blasting, besides laying and setting all the explosives, he had other blokes to help him, but he was the man.
Very quiet sort of bloke, mostly drank by himself, I joined him once for a drink when he was alone; he usually just sat at a table, with another quiet type, a member of his crew, they never seemed to talk much. I asked him, naturally, enough about the blasting, and how he went about it, and lit the fuses.
Charlie knew I was a tyro, when it came to the mining, and blasting business, and I couldn’t help thinking that he was pulling my leg, when he told me that when it was time he took his smoke out of his mouth, touched the fuse, and ran like hell, but when I asked another bloke later, he assured me that that’s what Charlie did; lit the fuse and ran like hell.
I think they were all having a good laugh at me, on this one. Putting me back in my box, because of my strict rules in the bar. Might go into that later.
Back to Chuck, he wasn’t a big fella, about my height, I was around 5′ 9” (back then we hadn’t gone metric) he had a bit of a paunch, not much, but I suppose stuck in a HaulPak for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for months on end ,doesn’t do much for anybody’s physical well being, he was just a few years older than me, I was around 38 at the time he was in his early/mid 40’s. You sensed the leadership about the man, as soon as you met him, just had that natural instinct, which a few of us have.
We clicked from the word go, and rarely did a day go buy when we didn’t share a drink or two. Chuck was from Sydney, he’d left his wife a few years earlier. Seems he’d had the good fortune to win a Sydney Lottery, I don’t know if it was The Opera House Lottery, it would have been around that time.
Anyway he won first prize of $60.000, he didn’t tell his wife, (obviously they didn’t get on to well ) he went to his solicitor, -we called them that back then, lawyers today – they don’t like the connotation that soliciting has – and split the prize money up into three equal trusts for his 3 daughters, went home, packed his bags, and headed west, with precious little in his pockets, but free from his wife.
His children well taken care of, back in 1970, $20.000 was a small fortune, today it would just about by a small car, then a couple of small houses. I recall being a car salesman, before getting into the hotel business, I sold Ford’s, and a new Cortina could be yours for $1860. even less, if you twisted my arm hard enough.
As a consequence Chuck, didn’t feel that badly about his girls, he didn’t have any contact with his wife, he didn’t talk much about his girls, I suspect that he may have had some contact with them. Anyway he was a good bloke, well liked and respected, by everyone, top dogs, from the mining company included.
It actually made my job a lot easier, having Chuck on side, he being fair bit older than most of the other mine workers, they kind of looked up to him, and as he always treated me with the utmost respect, and courtesy, they did likewise.
I never ever had a moments trouble, the whole time I spent at Shay, I’m not saying I would have had trouble ,if he hadn’t been there because I wouldn’t. I was the boss and in control of the beer, and I made sure that all the men knew that, and that I wasn’t afraid to cut anybody off, and ban them from the booze.
I had occasion to do that shortly after I took over, some young yahoo was getting over the top, and when he refused to listen to me I said, “fine 2 weeks your out!” He said something like “ya gotta be joking”. I said “try me, your beers off for 2 weeks and if any of my casuals try to serve you, they’re fired and barred to boot”. I told him that he was “welcome to come into the ‘Wet’ and play pool or the jukebox, drink coke or lemonade, (I sold a little of that stuff, not much just a little); but don’t even think about asking for a beer”.
With that I left him, and the silence was beautiful, and the message was sent. I never experienced any trouble.
My casuals were working out well, and it allowed me to roam around amongst the men, later in the evenings, when the rush had died down. I was getting a small rush period now, as the business picked up, after 3 weeks I was pulling more than 6 kils a week, up more than 50% on draught; and the can sales were on the rise too; which gave me a little leeway with my beer, I’ll go into that next time.