Peter Allen - widely known in the Goulburn region due to his extensive community activities - is turning 100. As his birthday on November 21 draws near, his son David shared the story of his life.
Peter John Allen - also known as Peter the Greek - was born in Athens, Greece, on November 21, 1921, the oldest child of George and Evangelia Zambakis. Peter later had a sister, Kooler.
Peter changed his surname to Allen by deed poll in 1946 - it was difficult to be foreigner in Australia in those days and assimilation was important to Dad.
Peter's parents wanted a better life for him, so he travelled with his mother and sister to Australia at the age of 10 to find that better life. It was a difficult period economically in Australia because of the Depression so they remained in Australia for several years, then returned to Athens in1932.
Peter returned at the age of 16 to Australia in 1937 and went to work for his Uncle Theo in Brisbane and in south-western Queensland.
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In those days the travel from Greece to Australia was three months at sea and with no government handout so decisions to travel weren't taken lightly, and separation from his immediate family was difficult for Peter - he didn't see his family again until 1965, more than 30 years
Peter worked with his uncle in cafes in Queensland located in places like Roma and Kulpi and he used to talk fondly of that area of south-west Queensland, including places like Charleville.
Peter never relinquished his Greek heritage and was proud to be a Greek.
Peter the soldier
At the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Peter was 17 so he was too young to enlist.
Then when Greece entered the war in October 1940 Dad signed up.
As it happened he enlisted on April 9, 1941 in Brisbane, still too young, and by September that year he was in the Middle East seeing active service in Syria and Palestine.
If anyone happens to be in the Goulburn War memorial sometime you can see a picture of Peter with one of his mates and a donkey resting under a tree - the photo was taken in Palestine.
Peter remained in the Middle East until February 1942 when his company, part of the 7th Division AIF (known as the silent 7th), was recalled to Australia when Japan entered the war. Peter was in a ship returning to Australia when the Japanese bombed Darwin on February 19, 1942.
Peter was very proud of his Army service - proud that he enlisted voluntarily, proud that he was part of the Australian Imperial Forces, proud of the Company he was in, proud of the service medals that he was awarded and a proud Australian.
He remembered with great pride and excitement the fact that while stationed in Queensland near Noosa at Tewantin that he and his unit were responsible for driving and testing the amphibious Army Ducks that were later to be used in many amphibious landings and on many fronts of Pacific battles.
Dad served 450 days overseas in both the Middle East and the Western Pacific.
He saw active service in Australia in the Northern Territory and Queensland totalling more than 1200 days.
Dad was awarded:
- The Pacific Star
- The Defence Medal
- 1939/ 45 Star
- The War Medal 1939/ 45
- The Australian Service Medal 1939/ 45
- The Australian Service Medal 1945/ 75 with clasp
Peter's journey to Goulburn
In 1941 during Peter's training, the AIF had a training camp set up in what is now the Workers Arena and while travelling to Goulburn he meet a young girl by the name of Dorothy Graves who was attending school in Sydney and travelling back home to Goulburn for the weekend. They corresponded and met occasionally for brief periods.
They were engaged in 1944 and married in 1946 just prior to Peter's discharge from the Army on April 23, 1946.
Following the war Peter worked on the railway and moved to Goulburn where, with help from mates and family, he and Dorothy built their home in Robinson Street, cutting every piece of timber, hammering every nail and mixing every metre of concrete by hand. He was very proud of that home - he called it his castle.
Peter had three children and always wanted the best for us. He was proud of our achievements, whether they were athletics, community activities, those at church, their careers and happiness in life.
Peter always served his adopted community, willing to give whatever he could to assist others and he has a strong sense of social justice that I believe grew out of his days as Greek boy doing it tough in Australia in the 1930's and in his time in the Army.
- a founding member of the Goulburn Workers Club and served for many years as a committee member
- coach in the Goulburn Amateur Athletic Club - 1950 to 1972
- chosen to carry the Olympic torch through Goulburn in 1956
- a boxer
- a runner - NSW Country Amateur Marathon Champion - the first from Goulburn
- a trainer for Goulburn United Rugby League and the Taralga Tigers
- a member of the Goulburn Workers Fishing Club
Peter worked most of his post-war life for the railways as a carpenter this was interspersed with time as:
- a waiter at old Parliament House where he worked while waiting to undergo a technical training course
- a driver for PDS
- a Carpenter NSW Railways
Peter retired from work when he was 65 - he had done his duty, he had brought up this family, built a life for them and a home.
Peter in life
Peter was always a very social person - an extravert - which drove a need in him to mix with people. It was a very natural thing for him to be seen each day at Centro, sometimes talking but always watching what he called the "passing parade".
Walking with Peter around the shops or in Auburn Street he was always saying hello to people and them to him - almost all he knew by name and many were the children of the people he knew as peers and friends. Peter had generational friends build over many years.
If you go to a number of businesses they have Peter's photo on the wall - the Paragon Cafe, Goulburn Charcoal Chicken and even the Taralga Pub have a picture with him on their wall.
Peter hasn't tired of life, however he has seen all of his workmates pass on. He seen all the original Workers Club committee pass on, all of his war mates pass on and he was heartbroken when his first son Peter John was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 1964.
Peter never smoked, used to drink "socially", that is never had beer at home except at Christmas or the like. Somehow he got the passion at first to win Lotto. He was going to share it all out with his family, build a new wing at the Base Hospital and, it seemed, take many people in Goulburn on a long overseas holidays.
If there are a few words to describe dad then some of them would be loving, family focused, with a sense of duty, proud of what he'd done, strong willed and with conservative values.
As Peter would often say, "I came to this country with nothing - couldn't speak the language but tried to do the best I could."
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