More than 150 people packed the Binnaway Golf Club on Sunday, 1 May to celebrate the achievements of community stalwart, Len Guy, on the eve of his 100th birthday.
Guests travelled from Sydney, Dubbo, Coonabarabran, Bathurst, Orange, Tamworth and Canberra for the momentous occasion, which also recognised the centenary of the Guy family’s settlement in Binnaway.
The community event was coordinated by the Binnaway Progress Association and supported by the Binnaway Lions Club, Binnaway Jockey Club and Binnaway PAH&I Association - four organisations that Mr Guy had long been associated with during his 90 years living in the town.
At his birthday celebrations, representatives from these organisations paid tribute to Mr Guy’s unrelenting work within the community.
In addition to a beautiful photo book cataloguing his journey in the Binnaway district, he was also presented with Lions Club International Foundation’s highest honour, the Melvin Jones Fellowship, for dedicated humanitarian services.
This acknowledgement is also a testament to Mr Guy’s long life, as he was born a year before Melvin Jones founded the first Lions Club in 1917.
While Mr Guy’s 100th birthday is not until Wednesday, 11 May, he thoroughly enjoyed his early birthday party.
“I had a wonderful time and would like to thank everyone who put it together,” Mr Guy said.
“There was a terrific crowd and I really enjoyed coming back home and catching up with everyone.”
The past century has been one of massive industrial, economic and global change, and Mr Guy has been privy to witness these changes in their entirety.
However, he cites the centralisation of services in the bush as the most noticeable change he has observed during the past 10 decades.
“In Binnaway during the booming 40s and 50s, we had four to five retails businesses, a doctor, pharmacist, active saleyards, hospital, grain -receiving facilities and rail,” he said.
“The population was reported to have approached the 2000 mark!
“Unfortunately, times have changed and the services that Binnaway once had have disappeared and that is disappointing for the local community.”
A brief, long history
The son of Chinese migrants, Choong Hoong Gui and Ethel Maude Quong Kee, Mr Gui was born in Bendigo in 1916, with his family relocating to Binnaway when he was one.
“My parents spent a lot of time in the mining camps, out at Cobar and Hill End, until one day my father picked up the paper and saw the rail line was coming to Binnaway and that’s where they went,” Mr Guy said.
“They established Guy’s Friendly Store in Binnaway in 1917 and it remained in the family for four generations.
“It was originally a one-stop shop, and like all country stores in the old days, it sold everything from hardware to horse shoes.”
Despite a Buddhist father and Anglican mother, Mr Guy said his parents negotiated their way through the differences in religion.
This resulted in Mr Guy receiving a Chinese education in Hong Kong for five years, while his only sibling, brother, Stan, attended school at All Saint’s College in Bathurst.
Mr Guy spent a further five years away from Binnaway while he lived in Sydney during World War II.
He had travelled to the city with the intention to enlist, but was rejected due to poor eyesight.
Hoping to still aid the cause, he joined Essential Industries and worked in a factory producing munitions.
“Australia was in a bad way at the time and the fear of invasion by the Japanese was a real threat,” Mr Guy said.
Upon his return to Binnaway following the end of WWII, Mr Guy and his brother took on the family business, where he worked until his retirement in 1981.
This afforded him more time to foster community spirit through his work with local organisations, including the NSW Rural Fire Service, of which he was a member for 35 years.
Mr Guy married local girl, Dulcie Hubbard, in 1930 and welcomed four children - Paul, Jennifer, Mark and the late Jill Andrews.
He has 11 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and three great-great- grandchildren.
Mr Guy moved to the township of Tullamore, located west of Peak Hill, 18 months ago, where he now lives with his son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Noelene Guy.
Noelene said Len still led an active life - pottering in the veggie garden, trading shares on the internet and helping wherever he could.
“He is amazing! He has no walker or hearing aid and only wears glasses to read. He is in very good health,” Noelene said.
As well as doing things in moderation and avoiding stress, Mr Guy attributes strong friendships to his long life.
“My philosophy is that it’s not the material wealth that brings you happiness, but surrounding yourself with good friends and family.”
At his 100th birthday celebration in Binnaway, Len Guy was presented with a photo book cataloguing his life in the Binnaway district. Photo: Amanda Andrews.