THE BENNETT BLOG
Celebrating 40 years with James Bennett
‘So you must be the new one,’ said Old Bill. These were the first words that greeted Vicki McPherson when she began work at James Bennett 40 years ago on the 31 October 1973. ‘Old Bill’ was an ex-WWII Merchant Mariner who, on retirement at 65, found a job at Bennett’s. Old Bill looked after the ladies in research and invoicing and Vicki, a young mum returning to the workforce after having a baby (no such thing as maternity leave), became a member of ‘Bill’s Harem’ (try that one today!).
Vicki brought many skills to James Bennett: she was a shorthand typist, was able to use a clunky old calculator and had many administrative skills she had learnt working in a legal practice. James Bennett, the man himself, once described by the now defunct Australian Bulletin magazine as a ‘socialist tycoon’, was at the helm of the company he had established from the back of an old blue VW car, walking around the city with his wheelbarrow piled high with books.
According to Vicki, Mr. Bennett knew all about cost control; staff were required to tie rubber bands together, hand in pencil stubs before getting a new pencil and pieces of Tippex paper had to be shown to be fully used before they were replaced. For all his frugality, Vicki speaks very fondly of Mr. Bennett (no first names) and said ‘he was greatly respected and admired’.
In 40 years Vicki has seen many changes, from forced resignation when a baby was due to 12 months maternity leave, clunky old calculators have been replaced by computers and sophisticated systems software, and short hand skills are, mostly, a thing of the past.
Vicki has demonstrated a capacity to change also, she commenced as a shy clerk in research, followed by stints in order entry, accounts and computer operating before moving to her current position in customer service. In the days of computer operations tending a data general machine with an unreliable power supply Vicki would often get out of a warm bed in the middle of the night to go in to the office to shut down the system during wild electrical storms. Now working in customer service the not-so-shy-anymore Vicki ‘is responsible for a group of public Libraries in three Aussie states’. The one thing Vicki says has not changed is the company-wide commitment to exceptional customer service.
Asked what her outstanding memories were, she nominated two specific days: ‘the day James Bennett left the company’, can you imagine the tears? And the day her life’s partner walked into the office 30 years ago; they are still going strong, as is Vicki as she continues to make a significant contribution to James Bennett.
Vicki’s many friends and colleagues wish her well as she looks forward to her 45th anniversary celebrations!
Vicki with Managing Director, Chris von Hinckeldey and General Manager of Library Services, Nada Stanojlovic