Safe was not safe
My colleague, Beck Moloney, recently posted a blog about the stationery cupboard that was originally a part of a strong room here in this heritage building. Beck included some photographs of the space, including one of a sign cautioning people not to put keys into the safe and close the door.
This jogged my memory of a story that a visitor had told me a few years ago, of an incident that had occurred when she worked here in the years following World War II. In 1947, with tea and sugar still controlled by rationing, a young woman on the staff of a senator went into a safe to collect these items to prepare morning tea when someone inadvertently closed the door behind her.
Of course the woman, Miss Jean Longhurst, had the key with her and because the door could not be unlocked from the inside, she was trapped.
The visitor recalled there was genuine concern for the safety of Miss Longhurst, and a fear that she may suffocate.
An engineer was called in immediately and after trying a few different things to open the door a small hole was bored through the brick and steel above the safe. The woman was able to tie the key to a piece of string that had been lowered into her, which was then pulled out again, bringing the key with it. After some two hours, she was finally released.
The Canberra Times reported on Saturday 31 May 1947, the day after the incident, that Miss Jean Longhurst was ‘none the worse for her brief imprisonment’.
I bet she didn’t volunteer to make the tea again in a hurry!