Mem­o­ries re­main

Seymour Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Lewis Fis­cher

In­side the liv­ing room of Jack and Nel Ford’s home is an as­sort­ment of hand-stained wooden cab­i­nets.

Some are oc­cu­pied by photo frames, oth­ers with books, al­bums and mem­o­ries. An­other is a liquor cab­i­net com­plete with bar.

At 96 years old, Mr Ford doesn’t have the en­thu­si­asm to keep build­ing them any more, or at least not like he used to: Mr Ford did once build a boat on the sec­ond story of his house.

‘‘Ev­ery­one wanted to know how I’d planned to get the boat down,’’ he said.

‘‘I just said, ‘I’ll wait for the next flood, she’ll be right’.’’

Be­fore join­ing the mil­i­tary at age 22, Mr Ford trained as a cab­i­net maker.

He had a lot of hob­bies, and one of them was build­ing boats — some of which he raced, while an­other he built just so he could go wa­ter­ski­ing on Lake Nagam­bie.

Mr Ford moved to Sey­mour in 1957 with his brother-in-law and a friend.

The three of them opened a 24-hour ser­vice sta­tion, ‘‘The All Nighter’’, op­po­site the Royal Ho­tel, where Mr Ford worked for 30 years.

When Mr Ford re­tired, he re­turned to cab­i­net mak­ing — and build­ing boats, horse-drawn carts and wa­ter­skis. But only for him­self or when some­one knocked on his door with a re­quest.

At home with his wife, Mr Ford re­flected on life, An­zac Day, and the im­por­tance of re­mem­ber­ing.

Born on May 8, 1920, Mr Ford grew up in a house­hold of six. At his child­hood home, just two streets back from the tram ter­mi­nal at West Pre­ston, it was Mr Ford’s job to take the fam­ily cow out to graze.

In the empty pad­docks be­hind their house, which flowed all the way back to Ed­wardes Lake, Mr Ford would peg the cow in for the day with plenty of chain to roam.

He’d bring the cow back in again at night to rest, and for his mother to milk the cow again the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

His mother worked as a house­keeper for an ill woman who Mr Ford and his sib­lings fondly called aunty.

When he was 12, Mr Ford went to work for the ill woman’s hus­band at North­cote Ice Works.

‘‘I used to de­liver ice around North­cote and Al­ph­ing­ton in those days,’’ he said.

He’d make the de­liv­er­ies, bring­ing quar­ter blocks of ice to women who would wrap the ice in blan­kets be­fore Mr Ford oblig­ingly put them in their cool boxes.

Mr Ford be­gan learn­ing about cab­i­net mak­ing and com­pleted his train­ing at the night school in Colling­wood. He took on an ap­pren­tice­ship and be­gan work­ing build­ing cab­i­nets.

Then his name came up for the war.

His first as­sign­ment in com­plet­ing his ord­nance was out at Wil­sons Promon­tory. He was sent there to guard a mu­ni­tions sup­ply while a new com­mando camp was set up.

‘‘It was the big­gest pile of am­mu­ni­tion I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ Mr Ford said.

The army had planned to set up a camp there, but the bridge cross­ing the river was too light to bear the weight of the mu­ni­tions.

‘‘It was our job to stand there and guard the am­mu­ni­tion dump, with a bay­o­net, un­til they’d fin­ished build­ing a stronger bridge,’’ Mr Ford said.

The al­lies had been tak­ing heavy losses at the time and the call went out for more in­fantry to join the fighting over­seas.

Mr Ford put his hand up and joined the 2nd 18th In­fantry Bat­tal­ion. But in 1941, in­stead of join­ing the fighting in the Mid­dle East, they were sent to Malaya.

‘‘There was an airstrip there that the Japanese wanted,’’ Mr Ford said.

‘‘It was the only us­able airstrip in the land and it was our job to stop them from get­ting it.

‘‘If they got to the airstrip they could come to Port Moresby, and if they got there they could come to Australia.

‘‘They came down from the coast and we came up from the airstrip to meet them. That’s where we had the fun.

‘‘I stayed there un­til the war was over. I came home on an English air­craft car­rier, it had just been used as a hospi­tal ship to bring home POWs.’’

These days Mr Ford sleeps in and has a late lunch.

To­day it’s soup, with a slice or two of toast. He still drives but there’s no need to rush.

When I asked Mr Ford, ‘‘What is the most im­por­tant thing about An­zac Day? What does it mean to you?’’ — his wife an­swers first.

‘‘Jack gets emo­tional ev­ery An­zac Day,’’ Nel Ford said.

‘‘All your friends go away and they don’t come back.’’

Mr Ford put down his soup spoon and sat for a mo­ment in si­lence be­fore re­ply­ing, ‘‘Re­mem­brance.’’

❝ It was the only us­able airstrip in the land and it was our job to stop (the Japanese) from get­ting it. If they got to the airstrip they could come to Port Moresby, and if they got there they could come to Australia.❞ Jack Ford

Pic­tures: Lewis Fis­cher

Few re­main: Jack Ford, at 96 years old, is one of just two vet­er­ans re­main­ing from World War II..

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