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