Hank Flanagan, Granite Creek QLD
For nearly a decade, Hank Flanagan has led a group of volunteers 63km out of town to give motorists a reason to pause their journey, put on fun and games – and even instigate a marriage proposal.
He and wife Toni, both aged “on the top side of 70”, have volunteered at Driver Reviver about a decade as members of the Gin Gin Gypsies, at the Granite Creek site that operated alongside the Bruce Highway for more than 30 years.
To make the trip worth their while, the group of eight volunteers have made a tradition of camping at the site over the weekend.
It means that early riser Hank has had the site ready to serve coffee to motorists by 5.00am and can stay open until well after dark.
The former bus operator says they had tried to make the site fun and memorable.
“I don’t know whether we talked one fella into it or whether we conned him into a marriage proposal,” he says.
“I sort of shamed him: if he lost the game, he had to propose to her and if he didn’t, he’d have to make a sizeable donation to Driver Reviver. Of course, he lost. But she actually said `yes’ before he even finished proposing.’’
The game? He had to throw a polystyrene thong and hit his ladylove.
“He had more chance of winning Powerball on Thursday night.”
Hank and his band of volunteers use games to entice people out of their cars and forget about the road for a while.
“We’ve had kids tossing thongs at their grandmothers. We play ladder golf. We give kids packets of biscuits as a surprise.”
The Gin Gin Gypsies source prizes from local businesses such as caps, tyre pressure gauges, car deodorisers and packets of biscuits.
After all, pausing for a drink, snack and stretch only for a few minutes, could save your life, Hank says.
“By the time you get to the end of your journey, you are only 10 minutes behind the time you would have arrived – but you're alive.”
The Gin Gin Gypsies collaborated with several other community groups such as Miriam Vale Historical Society, Miriam Vale Men’s Shed and Rosedale State School to operate the Driver Reviver site for more than three decades.