WARRNAMBOOL's Gordon Ballis has stamped his name in racing history after selling race books at Warrnambool for more than 70 years.
His work is steeped in family tradition, with the Ballis family performing the task for at least a century. It started with Mr Ballis' grandfather Jack and then his dad, Gordon senior, before Gordon and his children took up the old Gladstone bag to call out the familiar cry of "race books, race books".
The Warrnambool Racing Club acknowledged the 82-year-old's efforts on Saturday with a special presentation.
"This is all a total surprise to me," Mr Ballis said. "I thought I was just turning up to another race meeting to sell race books, the same thing which I've done for more than 70 odd years, and the next thing I'm asked upstairs to the committee room."
The one-eyed Collingwood fan, who has no intentions of retiring from his role, has many fond memories.
"I was only a little fella when I started selling race books. I can remember the Depression years like they were yesterday everyone was doing it tough. It was really hard to earn a quid," Mr Ballis said.
"I can still remember heading down to the Warrnambool railway station years ago when they would bring the horses down to the May carnival by train. The train was called the ghost train. It would get in around 11pm and there would be people everywhere with their horses and I would be selling them race books."
Mr Ballis, his wife Shirley and their children Ronald, Shirley and Mandy have all helped at various stages over the years.
"The May race carnival used to be huge for our family when we would go into all the pubs, clubs and cafes selling the books each night of the carnival. All that has changed now because of health and safety issues, but May race week is still pretty big.
"I've been lucky to have met some wonderful people ... racing people are just a different breed of people. The majority of them are pretty genuine types of people."
The quietly spoken Mr Ballis said he had only missed a few race meetings in those 70-odd years.
"I had pneumonia and was up in the Warrnambool hospital. It would have been three years ago. They put me on the 'last chance' machine (life support) and it got me going again," he said.
"I missed a couple of meetings back then. I really mean it. I did miss those meetings because I missed out on all the gossip that is always around the race track."