Meeting Mrs Lucky

Susie Clark at home.

PHIL JARRATT meets the lady who won everything

When Susie Clark was a young girl, she won a television spelling bee in which the winner was to receive a huge ice cream cake, while all the other kids received much more modest ice cream bricks. But Susie had barely accepted her accolades from the studio audience when one of her rivals made off with the cake, leaving her with a second-rate brick.

This dirty deed could have turned the young girl off entering competitions for life, but instead it had the opposite effect. She became a compulsive entrant, and an incredibly frequent winner. “I didn’t win everything I entered,” says the Noosaville retiree who moved here from Melbourne a few years ago, “but I won often enough to keep me interested.”

Over more than half a century, Susie has won overseas holidays, cars, lounge suites, motor bikes, push bikes, fur coats, mixmasters and enough clothing to tog out a small army.

At the start she would only enter a competition when the prize was something she really wanted, but over time she couldn’t walk into a suburban shopping centre and see the big barrels they used to have for promotional competition entries without racing home to fill out a few dozen forms, then put them in envelopes she would cover with intricate designs, or carefully fold them into unusual origami-type shapes.

“If you fold your entry like everyone else, you haven’t got a hope,” she says. “And those envelopes – sometimes I’d spend up to four hours decorating each one.“

Mostly the competitions were games of pure chance, but Susie’s first big win came from a contest that required deduction. A hardware chain was offering a cruise to New Zealand on the luxurious Flotta Lauro and a Mini Minor for matching a long list of products in the correct order.

A mathematician friend worked out that Susie would need to put in a few thousand different entries, but she cracked it with about 20, and had entered so many other competitions that she couldn’t remember which one she’d won when the telegram boy delivered the good news.

She was a single mum with young kids when she threw about 100 entries in the barrel at the Westfield Shoppingtown in Doncaster, really, really hoping to win the prize of a trip to California and Hawaii so that she could take her eldest for his fifth birthday.

On a warm summer evening she took the kids down to the centre still in their bathers and watched as the organisers pulled one of her entries from the barrel. In addition to the trip of a lifetime for one adult and one child, she walked out with a Polaroid camera, a set of suitcases and $400 worth of clothes.

Becoming a little bit famous now, she went on Ernie Sigley’s television show and won a fox fur coat. She recalls: “I wasn’t nervous at all. I think winning things gave me far more confidence than I have now!”

Next she won a trip to the Treasure Island resort in Fiji at the Box Hill Plaza. It was for two adults and two children but they let her change it to three adults and she took her mum and dad. Her mother had been somewhat scathing about the time Susie “wasted” filling in contest entries, but she changed her tune now and joined in, soon winning two first class round-world airline tickets.

For Susie a skiing holiday at Mount Buffalo followed, then another trip to New Zealand (been there, done that, gave it to the parents), a holiday on Phillip Island, travelling by helicopter (mum and dad), a Sunbeam MixMaster (which she adored), a dinner party for eight at a luxury downtown hotel, and so many more things she’s forgotten about.

And then a trip to China and Hong Kong in a celebrity chef Elizabeth Chong promotion. Susie puts this win down to the fact that the Sydney Olympics were on at the same time so there weren’t many entries.

These days most competitions are online, and Susie, now in her seventies, admits she’s not yet a computer person, although it’s on her to-do list. But she’s not sure she’d still have her lucky streak.

She says: “People used to say I was born lucky, but it’s like anything else, you have to work at it, like with the design of the envelopes. But they don’t do it like that anymore. The problem now is that if they get your phone number or your email address they contact you trying to get you to buy things. That would drive me crazy. But, you know, if I ever see a barrel in a shopping centre again, I might be tempted.”

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