Retiring Altona pharmacist Martin Didzys speaks with Goya Dmytryshchak about some of his strange encounters over 40-odd years.
What’s your connection to Hobsons Bay?
I’ve lived in Altona nearly all my life. I came here in 1950, went to Altona Primary School, went to Willy High, and then I found work in Altona as a pharmacist and stayed here for the rest of my days.
What do you like about Altona?
Well, in the good old days, it had a nice beach, a nice pier – it had a diving board at the end of the pier and after school you could meet all your friends and see and be seen. Now, the beach is still there and it’s a nice place to relax on, go for a swim.
What would you change?
I don’t like the fact that all the houses are being pulled down and bigger buildings put up. People are losing their backyards, streets are getting too tight, too congested. The density of Altona … the days are gone when you could recognise every face in Altona.
You’ve been robbed a few times in your pharmacy …
Once, we were held up by two fellows with knives and one of them apprehended my shop assistant at the bank counter and the other one came around the back into the dispensary and waved his knife around and told me to get on the floor. And I said no – I was in my best suit to go to a funeral. So, I sat on a stool.
I had another hold-up more recently. A young fellow came in and he held me up with a plastic gun. I thought he was after some hard drugs but, no, he was only after some sleeping pills. So, I got some herbal pills off the shelf and he was happy with that. Then he saw the till was half ajar, so he grabbed $135 out of there and went for it. I chased him outside. Two young men came in the opposite direction and I said, ‘Hey, help me catch that fellow, he’s just robbed me’. One of these people … ran after him and caught him up and grabbed a fence post. I saw him whack him over the back and I saw the post splinter into pieces and the robber stumbled and fell.
Then the mum rang the next day to say how sorry she was for me.
You’ve had other unusual customers …
There was a tiger snake curled up in the corner. I had a small hessian bag and I coaxed the snake into the hessian bag and I carried him over past the school into one of the paddocks and let him go.
Then, we had a horse … he went plod, plod, plod into the shop and I thought, gee, we’re gonna knock things over. But he was very calm. He obviously wanted some medicine – he was a bit depressed.