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100 years of memories for Centenarian, Allen

An elderly gentleman with his War medals

Avonlea Grange resident Allen is the latest member to join Bolton Clarke’s Centenarian club, marking his 100th birthday surrounded by friends and family at his home in Mentone.

Allen was born on a soldier settlers' block in Birchip. His mother, Lucy, had a novel way of alerting her nearest neighbour, Mrs McLaughlin, who lived a kilometre away, of her children's imminent birth and need for assistance - she would wave a bright yellow flag.

The family of six siblings moved to Cranbourne, Dingley and Mentone in the 20s, before settling in Beaumaris when he was 10. 

Beaumaris Primary School was okay, but Allen preferred time in the neighbouring orchard, where he often enjoyed a surreptitious feast. An enterprising child in impoverished times, he sold ice creams along the beach for Ricketts Point Teahouse and caught rabbits for the school principal at two shillings a pop.

At 14 he joined Keefers Engineering, working on the turret lathe to make screw nipples, nuts and bolts for airplanes. He helped establish the plant’s inaugural cricket team but cut short an engineering course at Caulfield Tech to join the war effort. 

As an able seaman, Allen served as a gunner on supply ships to the north of Australia, travelling as far as East Timor.

After the war, he was a linesman for the State Electricity Commission, a builders labourer working on spec homes in Rye and a fencing contractor. 

Horse racing was a lifelong passion and he ran quadrellas for a syndicate at his final workplace, SEMCO, where he oversaw grounds and maintenance and had a little luck. His biggest win, however, was the heart of a Bayside lass called Leila, whom Allen met at a Hampton dance in 1948.

"Have you been to the races today?" she intuitively asked him. Sure enough, he had.

Allen and Leila enjoyed 64 happy years together. He never quite shook the Depression years, making sure to save and never spending frivolously, including sticking to strict betting limits. 

For decades he famously grew and shared fresh fruit and vegetables (Leilas's jams and chutneys were the stuff of legend) and regularly hosted social gatherings for a wide network of friends.

“I loved gardening, and I loved going floundering at night and catching fresh fish to barbecue,” he said.

 He and Leila were active members of the Early Planning and Retirement Club of Sandringham, where Allen played tennis and table tennis until he was 90. 

“The best advice is to live cleanly,” he said. “Everything in moderation.”

Allen recently celebrated his 100th-year milestone at Avonlea Grange on September 28, surrounded by proud friends and family and plenty of happy birthday singalongs. Interestingly, Allen’s Aunt was Constance Tatham, the President of the Melbourne District Nursing Society which became Bolton Clarke.

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