Woolies workers from Maitland reunite after 45 years

​It was Maitland’s Big W of the seventies and a store where just about everyone in town knew someone who worked there.

Woolies variety store in High Street was one of the most popular businesses on Maitland’s west end and probably one of the most talked about after it was bombed on December 19, 1980.

WOOLIES WORKERS: Some of the Woolworths Maitland staff pictured at last Saturday's reunion.

WOOLIES WORKERS: Some of the Woolworths Maitland staff pictured at last Saturday's reunion.

Located on the current site of The Reject Shop, Woolworths employed a myriad of people, many of them getting together last Saturday night for a reunion.

EXTORTION:  A bomb caused $300,000 damage when it exploded in Woolworths on December 19, 1980.

EXTORTION: A bomb caused $300,000 damage when it exploded in Woolworths on December 19, 1980.

Many of the workers had not seen each other for 45 years.

Organiser Nola Burton said about 42 former employees attended the event at Club Maitland City.

“There was a lot of reminiscing going on and a few stories shared that a lot of us didn’t know about,” she said. But what happened at Woolies, stayed at Woolies, Mrs Burton said.

The guests also played a game of Woolworths Maitland trivia on the night recalling various employees and section managers. “We were like a big family. It was a great place to work.”

Among those attending was former assistant manager Barbara Van Haren and section managers Andrew Baker, Helen Farley and Yvonne Bowden.

“Everyone was happy on the night and said they had a great time and we are now going to plan a second reunion," Mrs Burton said.

During the sixties and seventies Mrs Burton said the store had a record bar which was very popular.

“There was also a very long lolly counter with loose chocolates which we would weigh and sell. You could buy a nice cold mix-up drink, everyone liked to help serve on confectionery counter when the service bell went for help. We weren't supposed to sample the chocolates but i am sure everyone did,” she said.

“We had separate counters for hosiery, stationery, haberdashery, toiletries, we had a front and back cash and wrap to service the men’s wear, children’s wear, ladies wear. There was also gardening, manchester, kitchen and toy sections,” Mrs Burton said.

The 1980 blast to the Woolworths store caused $300,000 of stock damage.

A bomb had been lowered through a vent near the back car park of the variety shop.

Police were aware that Woolworths at Warilla had also been bombed with gelignite using a timer attached, and it too had been lowered through the roof.

Three days after the Maitland bombing, Woolworths in George Street, Sydney received a call and a letter addressed to then company executive Mr AJ Harding with a list of demands.

These included proceeding with stage two of the bombers plan – daylight explosions during peak hours and $500,000 in used unmarked 20 notes; $250,000 in 10 50-ounce gold bullion bars; $250,000 in loose diamonds one carat or greater.