Back in the 1970’s I worked at a family clothing store called Robert Hall located in the city of Saint Ann. The store was on the main drag that went through half a dozen suburban towns and next to the only indoor shopping mall in the area at the time so our store was a busy place. We saw lots of crazy things.
I was the store cashier, bookkeeper and sometimes salesclerk. My office was on a raised platform in the rear of the store, designed to give me a full view of the sales floor. Off to my left, in full view of my desk, were the ladies’ dressing rooms. I was expected to keep my third eye open for suspected shoplifters. When I had a lag in my office duties I would go check the fitting rooms for merchandise left hanging in the rooms. Account for the empty hangers, where possible and just tidy up.
One day, a lady was trying on swimwear. She came out to check herself in the large mirror a dozen times. Then she came out in a skimpy bikini that certainly showed off too much if you know what I mean. That was against the rules. Customers were supposed to keep their underwear on when trying on swimwear. Unfortunately, when she went back in to change she got her feet tangled in the tiny string garment and suddenly she fell out of the fitting room, landing on her back on the floor, in her birthday suit. If I had had a camera I could have been arrested for shooting porn.
On another occasion, I noticed a lady go in but did not see her come out. After a while, I went to check on the room. All I found in the room was a bloody mess and an aborted fetus about 20 weeks’ gestation. That is when I learned there was an abortion clinic just down the road that would give injections and tell the ladies to go shopping to help along the results.
One night when I was working the closing shift I went over to the men’s side of the store to help straighten and clean up. When I opened the door to one of the dressing rooms I found the store manager in a compromising position with the sixteen-year-old stock clerk. I shut the door and walked away. About a week later two police officers came into the store and arrested the manager. As they were leading him out of the store he tossed me the store keys and told me to call the district manager. Apparently, after my bad timing at the fitting room, the girl decided to confess all to her parents who called the cops.
We got a new manager and it wasn’t long before I began to notice that things were amiss. First, the store had a policy that no one could be in the store alone. The opening manager had to wait outside until another employee showed up before unlocking and entering the building. I was usually the first person and I kept finding the manager in the building. Next petty cash was disappearing from the locked box in my desk. Several times the small amount of money kept for making change disappeared from the part of the safe that was unlocked during the day. I knew it had to be the new manager but could not prove it. I did report him to the district manager, on his next visit, and he began making unscheduled visits and spending more time in our store. Then, an inventory showed there were quite a few men’s suits and expensive Jeana Theresa ladies knit suits missing from our inventory. Before the person could be caught our store was closed and the manager was left in the store alone for several days to await the liquidation company. Far as I know he was never caught and I wonder how much more inventory disappeared during that time.
That was the only time I applied for unemployment, but before I could start to collect it the district manager called me and offered me a job working with him. He had been hired to help set up several stores in the St. Louis area for a new company called Marshall’s. Once the stores were up and running Mr. Barry was promoted to district manager and he offered me a job working in the store closest to my home.