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Memento : Issue 31
A man and his Malvern Star long distance cyclist ernie old wanted to do something to help his beloved australia – but he was knocked back because prime minister robert menzies was afraid that he’d drop dead! In 1955, australia was gearing up to host the olympic Games in melbourne. ernie old, an 81-year-old long distance cyclist, thought he could do his bit to help with the games publicity. he wrote to prime minister menzies, suggesting that he ride around australia, delivering letters of invitation to the games to all the state premiers. ernie old was a public personality at the time – his marathon rides on his malvern star were legendary. the year before, he had completed an 80-day ride, averaging 80 miles per day and finishing up in melbourne’s albert park on his 80th birthday. between 1945 and 195 he carried out eight other marathon rides around australia, and published his autobiography. the prime minister’s office was tempted to take ernie up on his offer – in fact it was noted to be the best publicity offer it had received – but eventually declined because, to quote the prime minister’s secretary, ‘if he dropped dead while delivering notes from you to the premiers per cycle, you would be put down as a heartless creature!’ despite the knock-back, ernie kept cycling. his last ride was in 1960, when at the age of 86 he rode on his malvern star from melbourne to bendigo and back again. You can see the entire correspondence file from ernie old to prime minister menzies by going to our website at www.naa.gov.au, and clicking on ‘Find of the month’. You can also see more evidence of his remarkable life by looking at his service records from the boer War and World War I, or by doing a search on ‘ernest old’ in recordsearch. Zoë D’Arcy [above] bicycle maker malvern star chronicled ernie’s impressive list of achievements in this 1954 advertisement. [top] crowds in melbourne welcome home ernie old at the end of a 000-mile marathon ride, at age 84. FInD oF tHE MontH naa:a463,1956/147part1naa:a100,l38704 memento WINTER 06 17