For Bolton Clarke Darlington, Banora Point residential aged care resident Alan Ferguson, celebrating his 100th birthday with a cake made perfect sense.
Alan, who turned 100 on 3 February, grew up in a bakery as part of the family business that would become Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses, which now has 76 stores across Victoria.
Born at 518 Sydney Rd, Brunswick to Percy and Misa Ferguson, he spent his earliest years living at Coburg and Moreland, initially above the family cake shop where he helped from an early age.
Alan served his apprenticeship during the Depression, when his father – an award-winning pastry chef – kept the business afloat by expanding into catering.
“As a student I was hopeless, but I had different skills,” he says.
“I left school when I was a little over 14 – my father was having trouble with staffing and I requested that I be able to leave and work for him.”
He met his wife Norma in 1940 during a trip to the beach, and they married later the same year.
“I’d taken my Aunt to Bonbeach so I could get the car from my father,” he says.
“I was with a friend and the girl he was taking out brought an extra girl, and she eventually became my wife.”
When war broke out in Europe, he joined the 58th Battalion Militia and later signed up for the RAAF.
While based in Darwin he experienced the bombing of the city first-hand.
“I was in the fuel dump and I remember one plane flew over very close, only metres away,” he recalls.
After the war Alan and brother Jack became partners in the family business, with Alan in control of the bakehouse and Jack running the Coburg shop, the busiest of several Ferguson’s outlets around Melbourne.
Ferguson’s was famous for its lamingtons, vanilla slices, and the fruit cake that had started the business in 1901.
As ingredients became more readily available again after the war, Ferguson’s began to produce its famous 12-egg sponge cakes. By the 1950s the Coburg store was serving about 13,000 customers a week, with customers queuing for the doors to open every Friday and Saturday.
Alan and Norma were married for 64 years and in their retirement moved north to the Tweed region.
He celebrated his birthday with family and friends including daughter Penny, declaring a happy family and good food among the reasons for his longevity.
“I don’t really have any other advice and I think younger people would probably be better advising me,” he said.
Alan is among the newest members of Bolton Clarke’s Centenarian Club, celebrating the lives and experiences of centenarian clients and residents.