No Such Thing as Free Chocolates

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
A strange lad came along offering treats.

Submitted: April 12, 2017

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Submitted: April 12, 2017

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Henry had been handling money all his young life, and although he was never told so, he knew it all belonged to his Dad’s business. His Dad was a dairyman who collected milk from dairy farms, pasteurized and bottled it and sold to other vendors for their rounds. Henry’s Dad also had his own round, delivering the milk from about midnight to 8:00am.

Back in the day, his customers, that is householders, left their empty bottles out with the correct amount of money in one of them in return the milkman left the appropriate amount of milk – or cream. People seemed more honest then, although there had been cases of looting. Henry’s Dad used to keep the takings in a milk bottle sitting in crate handy to the driver’s door of the truck, bottles full of money, usually coins were kept behind the driver’s seat

Monday was collecting day, the day Dad climbed on his old rusty bike to collect from customers who preferred to pay weekly. There were even a few who paid on a monthly basis too. Mum and Henry counted all the bottle-money on Mondays, spread out over the kitchen table. There were ha’pennies stacked in piles of twenty-four to make one shilling. The pennies in stacks of twelve to make one shilling. The thruppences were counted into piles of eighty; sixpences were counted into piles of forty; shillings stacks of twenty, florins in stacks of ten, half crowns in stacks of eight – each stack or pile made one pound. (No wonder we were good at arithmetic!) Mum counted the notes and stacked them with King George’s face up and looking to the left, she rolled the stacks, wrote a small chit then fixed a rubber band around them.

Henry carefully wrapped the coin stacks in newspaper, and put the smaller coins in small canvas bags with Bank of New Zealand written on them. While Henry was busy doing this, Mum filled in the deposit slip for the bank. All was placed in a big canvas bank-bag and Henry biked the six miles to the Sydenham bank with it. His instructions were to always go to the teller window Curly was in. Why, he had no idea. While Henry was off to the bank his Dad had an hour’s snooze.

Dad sold the milk collection and bottling side of the business and the family moved house, but not far away. A new manager’s family moved into the dairy house, and Henry was expected to welcome his son, Alan to the area and help him settle in. Therefore this Alan rooster accompanied Henry when they went with Dad, or Dad’s foreman, Sid, to fill up with petrol or do other jobs in the milk truck.

Alan seemed a generous young lad because he started bringing Mum gifts. Usually sweets, or sometimes fruit and on the odd occasion even boxes of chocolates! Those flash Nestlé ones! Henry had never seen so many luxury items. Mum never ate any of the gifts Alan brought to her, instead she stored them in a cupboard – probably for Christmas, Henry thought. But they ate the fruit.

On several occasions Mum asked how Alan had managed to find the money to buy all the stuff because it was just five years since VJ Day and luxury items were scarce and unaffordable. Alan’s answer was always the same. At Valley Road, the trams arrived in doubles, but the hill up Hackthorn Road is too steep for two carriages, so one was dropped off while the single one climbed up to the Sign of the Takahe and then returned. Alan apparently used to search the left-behind carriage for money the passengers had dropped. On several occasions Mum sent Henry off on his own to Valley Road to search for money in the carriage. He found none, not a penny and assumed that Alan had been there before him each time. Mum disagreed because she said each time Alan was away with his own father when Henry had gone on his search.

One Saturday, Henry with Alan in tow, went with Sid to Sampson’s petrol station. To Henry’s puzzlement Mum had told him to keep a watchful eye on Alan. Henry forgot and climbed out of the cab for Stan the mechanic to ruffle his hair, but quickly hopped back in to catch Alan in the act of digging his fingers into the money-bottle!

‘What’re you doing with the money bottle?’ Henry asked, wondering how he had found out about the bottle behind the seat!

Alan put a finger to his lips and cast a look at Sid, making him the enemy and thus, Henry a conspirator.

‘Is this where you find your money?’ asked Henry suspiciously.

Alan nodded affirmation. He didn’t look guilty in the slightest, but there was no chatter on the way home.

‘Mum, Alan’s been pinching money out of Dad’s money bottle!’ Henry said as soon as they were alone.

‘Are you sure?’ Mum looked Henry in the eye. ‘I thought as much!’

‘I caught him doing it and he admitted it.’ replied Henry firmly.

During his young life Henry had seen poverty, the James family of fourteen down the road were poor and Jessie, (yes, Jessie James) was a good mate, but they didn’t steal. This was the first case of theft he had witnessed. He didn’t associate with Alan any more.

‘There’s no such thing as free chocolates.’ Became a much-used family saying from then on.


© Copyright 2017 moa rider. All rights reserved.

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