May Lowe, 103, remembers Beatles' Melbourne concert like it was Yesterday

Paul McCartney and George Harrison greet crowd outside the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne, June 1964.
Paul McCartney and George Harrison greet crowd outside the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne, June 1964.

MORE than half a century ago Beatlemania hit Australia. It was June 1964 and in Melbourne thousands of teenage girls - and their mothers - flooded the streets of Melbourne as the Fab Four arrived in town.

There in the crowd on Exhibition Street, packed in with all the screaming fans, was 48-year-old Beatles admirer May Lowe.

It may be 55 years on, but the Kew centenarian says she still remembers that pivotal event in music history like it was Yesterday.

The band were staying at the Southern Cross Hotel and they came out on to the balcony to greet the fans.

"Oh yes, I was waving at them on their balcony," said Mrs Lowe, a Bolton Clarke at home support client. "Of course I was - it was The Beatles!"

'I was waving from the balcony': 103-year-old May Lowe fondly remembers The Beatles' visit to Australia.

'I was waving from the balcony': 103-year-old May Lowe fondly remembers The Beatles' visit to Australia.

And of course the visit made the headlines. "Ten thousand screaming, chanting struggling teenages packed outside the Southern Cross Hotel yesterday to greet the Beatles," wrote The Sun on its front page on June 15, 1964.

"Ambulancemen and a doctor in the hotel foyer treated 350 for fainting, hysteria and minor injuries. Ambulances took 40 to Royal Melbourne and St Vincent's Hospitals for treatment."

Mrs Lowe shared her memory of that day as she celebrated another - very different - anniversary recently; her 103rd birthday.

The Beatles visit is one of a lifetime of vivid memories for May, who shared her story as part of Bolton Clarke's Centenarian Club project, celebrating the lives and contributions of centenarian clients and residents.

Reflecting from her retirement community of 12 years she recalled a Port Melbourne childhood in far less stately surrounds: a two-bedroom house shared with her mother, father and eight younger siblings.

"It was cramped, but Mum bought blinds for the verandah and back porch, where two of the boys slept. The rest of us shared the other rooms.

"Nine kids. And to think, my parents weren't Catholics!"

By today's standards the family didn't have much, but with May's father an employed homeowner during the depression, they were considered wealthy.

She fondly recalls little treats in tough times: cocoa on Mondays at school, films at the local theatres and sweets from the biscuit factory where her father was foreman.

The Beatles at a press conference at Southern Cross Hotel in June 1964.

The Beatles at a press conference at Southern Cross Hotel in June 1964.

But she enjoyed giving more, not least the soup doled from a billy to needy residents of her grandmother's nearby boarding house.

"People were struggling terribly back then," she says. "But when the war broke out, it created a lot of work and things got better."

Early in World War II, at a local ballroom dance, May met Reginald Lowe - a bricklayer with a soft heart, callused hands and two left feet.

"He asked me to the floor and I said yes. I didn't know him. I had nice patent leather shoes on, and said, 'Excuse me you're standing my feet'. I finished up marrying him."

While the war disrupted their early marriage - Reginald was sent to Queensland to build munitions factories - they eventually raised four children in the Albert Park home they shared for 55 years.

"It was a wonderful neighbourhood," said May, who took her kids often to the nearby beach (but never dipped her own toes) and to Luna Park occasionally. They'd regularly walk the family's seventh member, Trixie the dog.

If May liked something, she followed it, whether her beloved Swans every week ("it broke our hearts when they moved to Sydney, we cried and cried") or The Beatles.

She volunteered for 20 years with Meals on Wheels and raised thousands of dollars for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, which presented her with a framed a certificate of thanks.

But not until Reginald's death did she take a paying job.

"I worked in Flinders Lane making clothes. I did everything but use the cutter. I loved working there. I think the factory is apartments now," she said.

May still loves life and the people she shares it with, enjoying her regular card games and 'fish and chip Fridays'.

"I wake up every morning and think, goodness, I'm alive," she said. "Every day is a bonus."

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