By Justin Flynn
When Graham Coates left his home town of Noradjuha as a 16-year-old, he had no idea he would carve a decades-long career in the carpet business.
Back then, in 1962, the tiny Wimmera town, 25km southwest of Horsham, had a population of 161 and Graham got a job at the Natimuk post office, 10km up the road.
He moved to Horsham and became a carpet layer in 1965 and 54 years later, he’s called it a day.
Most people in Ocean Grove know Graham.
Whether it’s from his carpet cleaning business or just from his friendly face around town, Graham is a 73-old-year who looks much younger than that.
In 1978 he started a small carpet business.
“A bloke knocked on the door and wanted to know if I would put carpets in his display homes and I asked ‘when do I start?’,” he told the Voice.
“A few months later, I looked at the bank statement and thought ‘how long’s this been going on?’.
“It changed my life.
“The beauty of the carpet game was that I was never out of work.”
Wife Denise was an events organiser and her job took them both on many trips, both here and overseas.
But the best thing about owning his own business was that Graham could basically do what he wanted, when he wanted.
He made many crossings to the Mornington Peninsula to look after his grandkids.
“As long as my son let me know in advance, I could just take a day off,” he said.
“I’d catch the 7am ferry over and the 6pm back. I saw lots of sunrises and lots of sunsets.”
Ever the helper, Graham has voluntarily cleaned and laid carpets for the football and netball club and always keeps an eye out for those less fortunate.
“When you go to people’s houses you can sometimes see they are doing it tough,” he said.
“I’d buy a box of groceries down the main street and when they weren’t home I’d drop it off at their back door or if it’s raining, I’d get the washing off the line.”
Graham isn’t daunted by retirement and plans to stay busy by volunteering.
“I’ll reinvent myself,” he said.
Graham and Denise have their Draper Street home on the market and will move into a retirement village in Marshall.
The convenience of being closer to GMHBA Stadium to watch the Cats will be one of the main benefits of the move.
He will miss Ocean Grove, though. Especially the “interaction with the people”.
“My body won’t miss it, I was clapped out in the finish,” he said.
“I’ll miss the work but I won’t miss what it did to my body.
“I should have given it away at 65.
“The doc always said Graham you’re 1946, not 46.
“It’s kept me fit, it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve got old.
“I’ll move onto other things, whether it’s back to Meals on Wheels or something else.”
Graham has handed over the business to neighbours Rob and Polly Wilkinson.
“I hope I’ve left the town better than when I came,” he said.
And Graham just one piece of advice for the younger generation.
“Better the education, better the trade and better the lifestyle,” he said.
“If you have a red hot go in your twenties and thirties, you begin to cruise.
“But we’ve all had to work somewhere along the track to get to that cruise.”