Annette Bennett was a nursing sister in charge of the clinic of David Jones Elizabeth St department store in the 1960s. In this interview she talks about her work, social strata amongst staff and customers, aspects of life in the Sydney CBD and her husband’s souvenir business. In the excerpt below Annette recalls the drama of accidents and deaths in the store.
The first day I started a little boy was sitting on – they had one wooden escalator left in the store – and he was sitting on the escalator and didn’t stand up in time. He had the most shocking lacerations on his buttocks. It was like working in a small country town, really, because there were thousands of employees and a steady stream of staff and customers. What did they have? Either migraines, miscarriages, fractures, death, vomiting. And then of course the customers who were the shoplifters who were having instant heart attacks, we had to go down and attend to them to see, “Are they really having heart attacks or is it just because they’ve been caught?”
What did you find? Oh, well, they’d just been caught …. I only was on duty, I think, for one death, but it seemed to happen in the toilets. People would go in and then something would happen and they’d die for whatever reason, I don’t know, but then of course the big kerfuffle of trying to get the door open and, oh, the whole tragedy of that.