Wally hits a century not out


Not many people can lay claim to making it to the ripe old age of 100 – but even fewer are in such good nick at their centenary as Albany’s Wally Green, who reached the big milestone today.

Picture by Laurie Benson: Albany’s new centenarian, radio pioneer Wally Green with the 1911 Darracq

Sharp as a tack and sprightly on his feet with the aid of walking sticks, Mr Green is quick to assure he doesn’t quite remember every minute of his 100 years – but that’s only because he “was squealing too much in the early days”.

Born in Albany in 1911, Mr Green has lived almost all his life in the seaside city – except for 10 years when he went “up north” for work.

Wherever he’s been in WA, for the greater part of his life Mr Green has harboured a passionate interest in radio, culminating in making several world records in radio communications.

Mr Green’s curiosity in all things electrical and mechanical was piqued as a very young boy when he saw a phonograph for the first time.

“Mechanical interest has always been with me since a very young age,” he says.

“My mother took us to see her friend Mrs Carter at the Happy Days tea garden at King River, where she had an Edison phonograph.

“So we had a listen to that, and hearing the voices coming out of the cylinder and wondering where they were coming from, it made the brain start to work.”

From that point on Mr Green’s childhood fascination turned into a lifelong passion.

According to his daughter Violet Wilson, who wrote a book about her father called A Radio Pioneer: The Life of Walter William Green, “electricity and radio filled his thoughts, almost to the exclusion of anything else” from then on.

Despite having limited formal education after leaving school at age 14, Mr Green is proof that fascination and passion can be turned into all manner of achievement and success.

Nicknamed “Marconi” by his family, ever since he was a young boy Mr Green would devote hours and days to experimenting in a wooden shed in his parents’ backyard.

“Mum always said to me before she died: ‘If money stuck to you like junk does, I’d be a millionaire’,” Mr Green says.

His nephew Bill Dixon says his uncle’s passion and self-taught knowledge of radio was before its time.

“He’s been outstanding in his field since the very, very early days,” he says.

“They couldn’t go down to the shop and buy their parts of the radio, they had to make their own bits and pieces. The valves and things, they used to make them out of bottle tops.”

In 1924 Mr Green decided to study for his amateur radio operator’s licence and bought a set of headphones and a Morse key, frequently visiting the post office to listen to telegrams being sent to hone his efficiency in reading Morse code.

While Mr Green’s voracious appetite for radio experimentation was put on hold during World War II, when amateur radio equipment was held in bond until the end of the war, Ms Wilson says by the 1940s her father was a forerunner in radio wave experimentation.

He discovered that when high pressure systems were in or near the Great Australian Bight, in conjunction with a moon phase, seasons and weather conditions, the potential for tropospheric propagation was increased and high frequency radio communication was more likely to be successful.

Ms Wilson said her father’s shared interest in microwave communication with his friend Reg Galle enabled them to pioneer long-distance contact between Albany and Adelaide.

The pair went on to set several world records for ultra-high frequency communication, some of which still stand as Australian records.

Mr Green’s wife Grace passed away about 25 years ago and these days he still lives in their house close to town.

He still holds his driver’s licence and happily gets behind the wheel to visit his nephew Bill.

As for the secret to his longevity, Mr Green’s big tip is to keep the mind and body active.

Mr Green will be honoured with a luncheon at the Senior Citizen’s Centre this Saturday, although as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, it will be more of a gathering of family and friends accumulated over a lifetime.

He will be travelling to the luncheon in style in a car built the same year as his birth – a 1911 Darracq restored by his nephew Mr Dixon.

But Mr Green isn’t holding his breath waiting for his telegram from the Queen;

“If she reckons I’ve been too bad she might not give it to me.”

Got a story? Email katherine.mountain@albanyadvertiser.com

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