One former Warrnambool and Allansford resident, who once narrowly missed out on watching Dame Nellie Melba perform at the town hall, has now received special birthday notes from the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.
Stewart Cook, who was born in Terang hospital on December 7, 1918, celebrated his 100th birthday with family in Melbourne on Friday but said it “feels like only yesterday” he was a young lad swimming in the Hopkins River and catching crayfish with his mates near Middle Island in Warrnambool.
"Everything I wanted to do, I've done,” Mr Cook said.
“I'm like Frank Sinatra – 'I did it my way'. And if I had my time over again, I'd do it all exactly the same.”
Mr Cook attended both Allansford Primary School and Warrnambool Technical School.
He said he and his brother Frank were so good at shooting marbles the other children gave up challenging them.
He was a young boy when electricity was first introduced to homes in Allansford in the late 1920s, ending the days of candles and kerosene lights.
And he can also remember feeling a small pang of jealousy as his father and sister rode by horse and jinker down a dirt road to Warrnambool to watch a 67-year-old Dame Nellie Melba perform at what is now the Lighthouse Theatre in 1927.
Mr Cook enjoyed eating three-course meals for just one shilling – a special price only for regulars – at Pope’s Cafe on Lava Street, and was in town the day the Hotel Mansions, now Hotel Warrnambool, burned down in 1929.
“It was a classy place,” Mr Cook said.
When World War II broke out in 1939, Mr Cook moved from Warrnambool to Melbourne to work at an ammunition manufacturer in Deer Park, where he worked 10-hour shifts making signal cartridges for the army.
“It was tough work but we enjoyed it,” he said.
“And we all knew people in the army and thought we could at least do out bit for the war effort.”
He met his wife while taking a “forced holiday” with his brother to Healesville during the war.
Rene Cook, who passed from cancer in 2002, was then an 18-year-old on vacation with two friends and asked Mr Cook for a game of tennis.
The pair married in 1945 and were on honeymoon in Lorne when peace was declared on August 11 that year, before returning to Warrnambool and pouring over 6000 concrete blocks to build their first home at number three Bailey Crescent.
Mr Cook would then set ups his own repair shop, S.J Cook Motorcycles, on Fairy Street, which had been a long-term ambition of his.
”I've done lots of things and seen many people come and go,” he said.
“When I come to Warrnambool now I don't know the people in the shops. And all the young people who were my age are all up in heaven or wherever you go – there's hardly anyone I knew still around, because you don't see too many people reaching this age.
“I don't feel 100 years old...but I've had a happy life and a long life, and I'm still happy.”