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Vale Gipsey Poulos: Life after ‘yes please’ was one big ball for the kid from Collymongle

IT was about 1986 and the shy young bank johnny waited to be served.

It was the lunch-hour rush at the Spic ‘n’ Span Delicatessen and the place was absolutely humming.

Gipsey Poulos juggled salad rolls and toasted sandwiches as she served and joked with customers.

Her husband, Manuel, was down the other end of the counter slicing leg ham and wrapping cheeses.

The timid young bank employee waited patiently. He was almost too shy to speak.

Gipsey peered over the sandwich bar display shelf and spotted him.

“Well, for God’s sake, I didn’t see you there. How are you today,” she asked.

The shy young bank johnny smiled awkwardly.

“Well, actually, I’ve been a bit crook . . . I’ve had this wog for about a week now,” he said.

Gipsey just smiled.

“A week, huh,” she replied.

“Think yourself lucky; I’ve been stuck with one for more than 30 bloody years.”

As the throng of customers broke into a chorus of laughter the shy, young bank johnny went redder than the slice of beetroot Gipsey was adding to the salad roll she had laid out on the cutting board.

Turn the clock back even further, to about 1967.

The lunchtime crowd at the Deluxe Milk Bar – where the ladies-wear section of Assef’s now stands – had filed out and Gipsey was tidying up the fruit and vegetable display counter at the front of the shop.

Manuel was down the other end quietly pacifying an argumentative drunk who had just wandered in off the street.

While Manuel was being as diplomatic as possible, Gipsey decided to do things her way – the Timmins way.

She grabbed a banana from the display counter and hurled it overarm the full length of the shop, at least 70 feet.

It was a surreal moment.

The banana lurched and arched, almost in slow motion, and struck the annoying drunk smack-bang on the nose.

Gipsey and the drunk were as shocked as each other.

He ran from the shop holding a bleeding nose; Manual grimaced, shook his head, and went back to wiping down the end cubicle.

Gipsey just smiled and continued straightening the fruit and vegetable display, quietly amazed – and proud – of her unerring accuracy.

Manuel and Gipsey Poulos between dances at Moree Memorial Hall.

These are just two anecdotes from the life and times of Gipsey Poulos, who sadly passed away on February 14, aged 90.

Gipsey, born Anne Constance Timmins in 1929, often joked that she would one day write a book and call it Life After ‘Yes Please’.

That book was never written, however there are enough stories and memories to fill several volumes.

Gipsey was one of seven children born to Bill and Maud Timmins out Collymongle way, on the eastern side of Collarenebri.

She was the last surviving member of a family steeped in history and bush folklore, and with her death the final chapter of an amazingly resilient family now stands complete.

Her niece, Alison Robinson, said Gipsey was “very special”.

“I feel like it is the end of an era . . . aunty Gips was the last link to our childhood,” Alison said.

Gipsey and her siblings, Billy, Nelson, Stumpy, Buck, Lance, and Zane, grew up the hard way.

It was a tough life during even tougher times.

As family friend Robert Jurd said so perfectly: “They were as straight as an ironbark strainer-post from the flat country.”

As young teenagers Gipsey and Zane shared mail-run duties with a horse and buggy between Collarenebri and Bangate and their brothers all helped their old man on Collymongle Station.

And when not delivering mail, Gipsey worked as a housemaid at the main homestead on the huge property.

There wasn’t much time for schooling but the Timmins kids learned plenty – more than any school could ever teach – during their years growing up in the backblocks around Collarenebri.

When their father Bill died suddenly in 1943, aged just 38, Maud and her family moved to Moree to start afresh.

It was here Gipsey began her working life at Hong Yuen’s Manchester and Grocery Store on Balo Street.

One of her daily chores was to collect the morning teas from the Deluxe Milk Bar across the street, owned by the “good-looking young Greek man” – and it was here that a romance blossomed.

Manuel and Gipsey were wed in 1954 and in the next decade four children arrived: Theo (1956); Rene (1958); Billy (1961) and Jane (1965).

Manuel and Gipsey juggled four kids with long hours in the milk bar.

There wasn’t much time for a social life.

However, the Saturday night dances at Moree Town Hall were always a drawcard – and when Manuel and Gipsey stepped on to the old, wooden dancefloor magic happened.

Manuel and Gipsey and their four kids lived in two rooms at the back of the milk bar for nearly 10 years and at Christmas time, 1964 moved “up the lane” to a brand-new home on Auburn Street.

Manuel and Gipsey Poulos with baby Theo in 1957.

Due to a complete rebuild of the Assef’s building, the milk bar closed its doors in 1970 and in 1971 Manuel and Gipsey took over management of the restaurant and snack-bar at Moree Services Club.

Again, there were long, gruelling days and even longer nights – seven days a week – while raising four kids.

The kids didn’t mind at all though – anything off the restaurant menu for dinner seven nights a week suited just fine.

In the mid-1970s Manuel and Gipsey left the club to embark on a new career project – the Spic ‘n’ Span Delicatessen, right next-door to where the Commonwealth Bank now stands.

The Spic ‘n’ Span soon became a hotspot, and over the years gained a loyal following from locals and visitors.

But retirement beckoned and, in the late 1980s Manuel and Gipsey closed the sliding front door of the deli for the last time and began to enjoy life.

Now, while all this was going on, Gipsey was earning her stripes as a pretty smart punter.

Daily doubles were her forte, and it all came about when, one Friday night in 1978, she dreamt numbers 8-6 landed the Sydney Daily Double.

No-one listened, of course.

The following afternoon Gipsey ventured around the corner to the local TAB and placed a $5 bet with Pat and Wally Ward.

A few hours later they handed her a Gregory Peck for $1700.

From that moment the strategy never changed however the following year, during the Melbourne Autumn Carnival, something happened that changed everything, forever.

Gipsey Poulos with grandkids Marcus and Eleana.

Gipsey discovered one of her numbers was scratched from the Australian Cup and, after talking tactics with punting buddy Dulcie Duke, looked down the list of runners for the second leg of the Melbourne Daily Double and saw the name Dulcify, No.11.

If that wasn’t an omen, Gipsey figured, nothing was.

It all made perfect sense – pure Timmins logic.

Dulcify duly won the Australian Cup at odds of 80-1, beating champions Manikato and Family of Man, and this time Gipsey’s daily double cheque from Pat and Wally Ward was for $8000 – enough to buy a brand-new Toyota Corona straight off the showroom floor, with plenty left over for fuel.

From that day Gipsey religiously coupled 6-8-11 in daily and extra doubles across three states and, more often than not, Wally Ward’s chequebook would be called upon.

Sure, there were a few dry gullies along the way but when Gipsey’s strategy paid off, it paid off big-time.

Sadly, tragedy struck in March, 1991 when, at just 64 years of age, Manuel died suddenly from a massive heart attack.

But two years later a brand-new chapter of life after ‘yes please’ began when Gipsey moved to Sydney to be with her daughter, Rene.

It was here, at 10 Norma Avenue, Belmore that a new romance began for the girl from Collymongle.

Her grandchildren, Marcus and Eleana, changed Gipsey’s life forever.

Gipsey adored them, nurtured them and watched them grow into adults – heck, she even got them after-school cleaning jobs at her favourite haunt, the Roselands TAB.

In 2005 a third grandchild, Chloe McDermott – Jane and Mick’s daughter – arrived, and despite being on the other side of the continent in faraway Perth, phone calls were often and visits frequent.

Gipsey’s life was complete.

Sadly, 2020 started off badly and Gipsey was admitted to St George Hospital, Sydney on January 5 after a fall at home.

In typical Timmins style though, Gipsey fought a litany of illnesses and maladies for six weeks but lost the battle during the early hours of February 14, Valentine’s Day.

True romantics might suggest she planned it that way – and they’d be right.

Gipsey Poulos leaves behind her children Theo, Rene, Bill and Jane; sons-in-law Mick and Theo and daughters-in-law Cindy and Val; grandchildren Marcus, Eleana and Chloe; grand-daughter-in-law Anna; step-grandson Yang; and great-grand-daughter Kayla.

Her step-grand-children David, John and Douglas predeceased her.

Gipsey’s funeral arrangements will be announced in the next few days.

May she Rest in Peace.

Words: Bill Poulos