A fortunate life for Frank McMahon
AT one of last week’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a man by the name of Frank McMahon.
Frank, who is in his 90s, is someone for whom Remembrance Day holds special significance.
A secondary teacher for most of his life, Frank very nearly entered the Second World War as an air-gunner.
However, he was spared his deployment into combat thanks to the ceasing of hostilities following the dropping of the nuclear bomb, and the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Empire.
“I had just finished my training down at Somers, and was about to be posted when the war ended.
And that God it did, because I saw what happened to the other air-gunners, and I have no doubt I would’ve been killed.
Instead of facing that life, or perhaps that death, Frank would live what he described as a charmed life.
Frank was the head teacher at the tiny Trawool school when he was called up to begin his training during the war.
At just 17 years of age he was made head teacher, in just his second year of student teaching.
“That’s just the way things were during the war,” Frank explained.
“When all the men were away everyone else had to step up and fill the void.
“I don’t think I looked any older than the students!”
After the war ended Frank returned to Melbourne, where he had completed his teacher training at Melbourne University years earlier.
He spent the majority of his teaching career in the eastern suburbs, teaching English and French.
“I moved quickly through the ranks as a teacher,” Frank said.
“I had a good relationship with the students, whom I felt I was able to get the best out of. I never put a kid down, you see. I believe that any teacher who teaches for power should not be allowed in the classroom.”
The rapid promotion came at a cost, in Frank’s mind.
His passion was for the classroom, and any further advancement would likely mean entering into the administration side of things as a principal or deputy.
“I knew if I had stayed they would’ve given me the job,” Frank remembered.
“So I resigned and took off overseas. I knew I wouldn’t be a good principal. It’s important to understand yourself and know your abilities, and mine weren’t in administration.
“Virtually no sooner had I landed when returning home than they offered me my job back.”
His abilities in the classroom to connect with students translated onto the athletics track.
Frank was a great runner and steeplechaser in his younger days, competing at an A-grade level for the Oakleigh Athletics Club.
He was a very good athlete, but he was a great coach.
As the head coach of Oakleigh, he led them to great success in the school championships, and was approached by a number of the top runners and steeplechasers for tuition.
The names included Trevor Vincent, an Olympic Steeplechaser, and Ron Clarke, the accomplished middle distance runner who set no fewer than 17 world record times during his career.
“I was regarded as one of the top running coaches at the time,” Frank recalled.
“I think a lot of the success I had with the young athletes was to make training fun.
“I had kids flocking to training without any coaxing at all.”
Frank bought a house in the Dandenong’s, where he would train athletes to run around the hills in Melbourne’s outer-east.
“Aerobic training is the key. Anaerobic stuff will get you fit quick, but you go off it just as fast,” he said.
While a top runner then, Frank admits he could barely manage a fast walk now.
He has lived in Violet Town for the past 28 years, a time he describes as the best year’s of his life.
“I love Violet Town. The people look after you so well, and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my remaining years,” he said.
What little money Frank has, he gives to organisations like the Violet Town RSL.
President Ross Walker believed that the donations he has made to the RSL over the years would be well into the thousands of dollars.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life. I survived pneumonia as a child, the Great Depression, was never sent to war, and was able to do what I loved. “So I’m happy. “I’ve been a bachelor, but I never regretted that, because I think with my running I wouldn’t have had the time to do both.”
Recently, Frank has also received another slice of good fortune; being able to see his beloved Doggies win the premiership in 2016.
Unlike many long- suffering supporters, for Frank, this is the second Dogs flag he has witnessed.
CONTENT: Frank McMahon, a top running coach and former secondary teacher, who has called Violet Town home for the past 28 years, considers himself to have had a most fortunate life.