A Dropper's Paradise
Many a story has been told about the village 'Droppers'.
The township was situated on the western side of the Waikato River known as the King Country. By treaty with the early Maoris of the area it became a 'dry' locality until a law change and a liquor poll turned it into a 'wet' area.
During those 'dry' years many a resourceful lad dreamed he would have it made by bringing a regular load of 'grog' into the village or camp to sell at 'Black Market' prices - despite the penalty of instant dismissal from the job and loss of home if the offender was caught.
Usual storage place was a shed or garage in the back yard or a spare bedroom in the house.
A 'dropper' in the single men's camp usually had his hut so crammed full there was hardly room for a bed.
So enterprising was old Arthur in the camp that he actually rested the wire woven camp mattress on top of a nest of crates of beer so as to cram in an extra layer. He later acquired a spare hut next door for the overflow.
There was Maurice, not to be outdone; who had it 'laid on' for his regular customers. His hut was nicely decorated with pictures of racehorses, boxers and girls in the briefest of briefs. He catered for all trades. Two stools each side took up half the length of the hut just leaving enough room for his bed and small dressing table. In the middle of the hut was a neat little table for glasses. Ashtrays were supplied free of charge. A radio was tuned in on the racing station to create the necessary atmosphere.
Maurice recalled the time when the law enforcement officers decided to put an end to the sly grog dens in the camps. By the time the police had raided a few 'dropper' huts, news had spread to the rest to clear the boys out of their huts and hide the illicit evidence. Panic set in. Maurice ordered his clients to leave in a hurry and began hiding glasses and ashtrays. A feeble attempt to cover the crates with blankets from his bed was interrupted when the first law enforcement officer poked his head through the doorway. Looking rather surprised, yet annoyed, that the raid had been foiled, the officer glanced quickly about the hut and saw nothing which he could 'pin' on Maurice, but noticed the hut was still full of smoke.
"Er ... I see a lot of smoke in here for one small joker" said the officer with a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
"I guess you're right" blabbed Maurice " but hell, I couldn't get rid of that too!"
There was Nick the 'Big Time Dropper' who migrated from another hydro scheme where it was said he had bee secretary to a Christian organisation. But visualising the fortune to be made a local 'dropper' in the new camp, he got away to an early start. First, with his own hut as a storeroom, he branched out into a spare hut next door. Then to keep abreast of pressure from the increasing trade, he acquired the use of a disused contractor's garage across the main road, not two hundred yards away.
One night some high spirited lads had bought plenty of 'sly grog' from Nick and set to for a real night's hobbed-nail-harmony. As the night wore on the music and the singing grew louder and the crowd swelled. By midnight all the grog had gone. A few of those boys decided that their need at that moment was greater than Nicks. Besides, he didn't drink anyway - and how would he know how they felt halfway through a beaut party and running short of booze and no dough to buy more?
So a couple of the lads were assigned to the garage area across the road and there they began clanging and smashing empty bottles to be sure an alert Nick would hear. Sure enough, out of bed climbed Nick still in his pyjamas, waving a torch around frantically, he dashed across the road yelling in a most unchristianlike manner at the would-be thieving sods, while the rest of the boys quickly emptied his hut of every available crate.
When Nick was satisfied his hoard was safe he went back to his hut to discover it had been 'rifled' in his absence. The boys were back singing in full melody. A hymn at that .... such sweet music filled the still night air!
There was Danny who cashed in on the idea of making a fortune and retiring at an early age. He ordered himself, to start with, a truckload of grog and few crates of spirits for good measure. He invited some potential customer friends in to celebrate the 'opening'. All finished up having a glorious week off work drinking to Danny's good health and prosperity.
The cost of a week's wages, plus a truckload of grog taught Danny the 'droppers' didn't always prosper.
Another ambitious character decided that by mixing his own concoction on the cheap and selling it for the full black market price would net him a small fortune. The only thing was that he forgot to sample the rotten stuff himself. A few local camp hard drinkers like Cyril and Andy ended up with the DTs. 'Purple Death' was for many years avoided like the plague.
To be a newcomer to the village and be allocated an ex-dropper's home meant near torture. Imagine being awakened in the early hours of the morning by a total stranger requesting a dozen or two of the best. All the protesting in the world would not convince the would-be customer that the resident was not nor ever had been a 'dropper'!