Our July Senior of the month is 95 year old Frank. Frank is a jeweller and has a special place with me as he made my nanna, my mother and my engagement rings! He also served in WWII in the middle east amongst other places, this is some of his story.
Frank was born in Elwood a suburb on Melbourne in 1919. He was the youngest of 3 children having an older brother and sister. His family moved to Murrumbena in 1921 when Frank was 2 years old. Frank went to Carnegie state school. In 1925 Frank’s dad opened a jewellers shop in Carnegie.
At 14 years old Frank finished school and went to work at Joe Peret’s the local grocer. Frank would deliver the groceries which were stacked in a fruit box on his bike. After a few years of this Frank then started a 5 year apprentice jeweller in his father’s jewellery store and was earning 10 shillings a week.
In 1940 Frank did 3 months compulsory training with the army artillery division. At 21 years old he then joined the army and went to war. Frank was sent to the Middle East to Palestine and Egypt and was stationed here for around 18 months. Frank used a bofor gun which he said required 3 men to operate it. One turning it left, one turning it right and the other loading the ammunition. Frank was placed around an airfield on anti aircraft duty. His job was to protect the planes on the airfield and shoot at the enemy who tried to bomb the planes there. He said there were around 6-8 bofor guns spread over a 3 mile radius.
After the Middle East Frank was sent on anti aircraft duty to Buna at the end of the Kokoda track in Papua New Guinea. He remembers it has hot and steamy and you just got on with the job you were sent to do. He was also on anti aircraft duty protecting Australian planes and said they struggled to get proper materials like artillery. I didn’t like to press Frank on war details so didn’t pursue a line of questioning here.
After serving in Papua New Guinea Frank was sent to help protect Australia from the Japanese initially in Northern Queensland and then to Western Australia. Firstly in Geralton and then Perth for around 6 months.
As the war was ending Frank came back and joined his dad’s jewellery store again and there he met Shirley his wife. Frank and Shirley had one son Stephen and he has one granddaughter. Frank and Shirley bought a block of land in Hughesdale for 300 pounds in 1945 and spent 2,000 pounds building a house. Shirley passed away in 2002 but Frank still lives in the same house today with his son and his family.
I asked Frank some of our usual questions:
What’s your biggest achievement?
Marrying Shirley and having our son together.
What do you remember about the depression?
I was around 10 or 11 years old. My dad had to shut his shop cause people couldn’t afford to buy jewelry so my dad tried to make ends meet doing odd jobs here and there. Things were tough, we had to walk a long way to school and back because we couldn’t afford the public transport fare. No wonder they called it the depression, cause things were so depressing.
Do you have any regrets?
No. It’s just a shame I have outlived every single friend I had and I’m outliving all my customers too!
What do you wish you’d know about back then that you know now?
The price of land and houses, I would bought more if I’d know how much it appreciates.
What’s the biggest change you have seen in society?
Safety. When people own their own houses, everyone knows everyone, that’s not the case nowadays there’s also a lot more crime.
Any advice for the younger generation?
Treat people the same way that you would like to be treated.
Lastly, what’s the secret for getting to 95?
Have a drink of wine but not too excess and keep working with your hands all your life. Even now I’ll try my hand at fixing things but I’m much much slower which is frustrating.. I’ve never bothered with exercising, I just keep myself busy! I’ve had a great life!
It was an honor to talk with such an amazing man and I feel so blessed to have had him make my beautiful engagement and wedding rings.