Bob and Helen Banks retire from the Gloucester post office

Part of the history: Helen and Bob Banks called the oldest business in Gloucester home for the past thirty years. Photo Anne Keen
Part of the history: Helen and Bob Banks called the oldest business in Gloucester home for the past thirty years. Photo Anne Keen

Thirty years ago Bob and Helen Banks decided to move to Gloucester.

They thought they’d give it a go for two years but they never left.

It was 1988 when Bob applied for the postal manager position at the 2422 post code.

Before his interview, he and his wife Helen attended an Apex conference in Gloucester. By the end of the weekend, Gloucester residents Vic Hebblewhite, Bill Williams and Hilton Yates were already calling him the new postmaster.

Needless to say, Bob got the job and the Banks family, including their two sons, Warren and Paul, moved into the historical building which houses the oldest business in Gloucester, the post office.

Bob joined the Postmaster-General's (PMG) Department in 1968 as a young man following in the footsteps of his eldest brother. It was around a similar time he met the girl next door, fell in love and by 1973 Bob and Helen were married. 

From a postal officer to a postal clerk, Bob held several positions around Sydney before taking the senior postal clerk position at the RAAF Williamstown post office.

When I started a stamp cost 5 cents

Bob Banks

As Bob journeyed through his career changes, so did the postal service. The PMG disbanded in 1975 forming separate communications departments including the Australian Postal Commission, trading as Australia Post, becoming the Australian Postal Corporation in 1989 but retaining the trading name.

When they moved to Gloucester, Helen was hairdresser and Bob managed the post office.

As the changes in the industry continued, Australia Post began offering licensing agreements, meaning private ownership of the retail outlet, for some of its small locations and in 1996, Bob and Helen decided to take the plunge. 

Now, after 22 years of ownership and for Bob, 50 years of service, the pair have retired.

They officially handed over the business to the new owners, Charles and Monica, on September 25.

Over the years, Bob has seen many changes.

“When I started a stamp cost 5 cents,” Bob smiled. “It’s now one dollar.”

Computerisation and electronic scales are among the list of things that drastically changed, and although at the time each involved a large learning curve, each provided the ability to work more efficiency. 

Bob Banks first made the pages of The Gloucester Advocate on Wednesday February 10, 1988.

Bob Banks first made the pages of The Gloucester Advocate on Wednesday February 10, 1988.

“When you look back now, you really notice the improvements,” Bob said.

After opening five days a week from 7am until 5pm, Helen and Bob are now learning how to sleep in and have holidays together.

“We’ve only have one week holiday together in the past 22 years,” Helen said.

They even got to attend their first school event for their 10 year old granddaughter.

Although they originally only planned to be in Gloucester for two years, it turns out they fell in love with the place.

“It’s a pretty hard place to beat,” Bob said.

The quirks of living in a small town is just part of the appeal. Helen remembered a time they received a letter with an interesting address on the envelope.

“It was addressed to Nanny, Poppy and Buffy, Barrington Street,” Helen laughed.  “Our son had a friend who had a dog named Buffy, so we were able to work out who it was meant for.”

Bob and Helen will miss their customers and the lovely gifts they have received over the years, all part of the small country town charm.

The gifts and friendly small town nature has now been passed on to Charles and Monica.

“We wish them the best,” Helen said.

 And to their customers.

“We’d like to thank everyone for the good wishes.”