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For centenarian May, Beatles tour seems like Yesterday

May Lowe 12.jpeg

Last month, shortly after celebrating her 103rd birthday in May, Bolton Clarke at home support client May Lowe was recalling a very different anniversary.

Fifty-five years after The Beatles set hearts aflutter across Australia in late June 1964, the Kew resident can still remember the crowd that gathered to see the band outside the Southern Cross Hotel.

May shared her story as part of Bolton Clarke’s Centenarian Club project, celebrating the lives and contributions of centenarian clients and residents.

Reflecting from her retirement community of 12 years she recalled a Port Melbourne childhood in far less stately surrounds: a two-bedroom house shared with her mother, father and eight younger siblings.

“It was cramped, but Mum bought blinds for the verandah and back porch, where two of the boys slept. The rest of us shared the other rooms," says May, breaking into a hearty laugh for a 103-year-old.

By today’s standards the Irving family didn’t have much, but with May’s father an employed home owner during the depression, they were considered wealthy.

She fondly recalls little treats in tough times: cocoa on Mondays at school, films at the local theatres and sweets from the biscuit factory where her father was foreman. But she enjoyed giving more, not least the soup doled from a billy to needy residents of her grandmother’s nearby boarding house.

“People were struggling terribly back then,” she says. “But when the war broke out, it created a lot of work and things got better.”

Early in World War II, at a local ballroom dance, May met Reginald Lowe - a bricklayer with a soft heart, callused hands and two left feet. “He asked me to the floor and I said yes. I didn’t know him. I had nice patent leather shoes on, and said, 'Excuse me you’re standing my feet.' I finished up marrying him.”

While the War disrupted their early marriage - Reginald was sent to Queensland to build munitions factories - they eventually raised four children in the Albert Park home they shared for 55 years.

“It was a wonderful neighbourhood,” says May, who took her kids often to the nearby beach (but never dipped her own toes) and to Luna Park occasionally. They'd regularly walk the family's seventh member, Trixie the 'Bitsa' dog.

If May liked something, she followed it, whether Essendon (and later the Swans) every week or The Beatles.

She volunteered for 20 years with Meals on Wheels and raised thousands of dollars for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, which presented her with a framed a certificate of thanks. After Reginald’s death she returned to the workforce.

“I worked in Flinders Lane making clothes. I did everything but use the cutter. I loved working there. I think the factory is apartments now. Everything’s from China these days.”

May still loves life and the people she shares it with, enjoying her regular card games and Fish and Chip Fridays. "I wake up every morning and think, goodness, I'm alive," she says.

"Every day is a bonus. I've seen a bit of the world (Asia, Europe and "beautiful" London) and my children are all very kind to me; one does the shopping and one does ...  (she breaks into another hearty laugh) ... let's just say I have jobs for them all."