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Alma's lifelong Blues love

Alma's Blue birthday surprise Lifelong Carlton supporter Alma Pearce received a surprise visit on her 100th birthday.

HER love for her beloved Blues’ is lifelong.

And yet Alma Pearce, who turned 100 last Wednesday, can lay claim to a kindred club connection from as far back as 1882 when her grandfather Mick Whelan first chased the leather for the only team old Carlton knows.

History records that Whelan, recruited from local outfit Star of Carlton, turned out in 97 matches for the Carlton seniors through seven seasons in the-then Victorian Football Association.

Whelan’s early time at Carlton was, to say the least, tempestuous. In August 1883, he and teammate Ted Barrass, having been found guilty of misconduct on a team tour to Maryborough,  were suspended by the club for the remainder of the season.

In protest of the Club’s decision and in support of their teammates, nine senior players tendered their resignations and joined the nearby Normandy Football Club – a Carlton off-shoot which morphed into Fitzroy and was admitted into the VFA the following year (1884).

 

The mass exodus also prompted Alderman John Gardiner, a former Carlton captain and Victorian MLA, to come out of retirement and again don the Dark Navy.

An unnamed correspondent from The Herald, in reporting the alleged goings on beneath the headline ‘MORE FOOTBALL ROWDYISM’, wrote of the alleged misbehaviour of the two unnamed players thus;

“The alleged misconduct is of so abominable a nature, that nothing short of the prompt and perpetual expulsion of the offenders will be sufficient to meet the gravity of the offence”.

But Whelan returned - and in doing so forged a respected on-field Carlton career, which in 1887 earned him an illuminated address from the club for long service and universal acknowledgment from The Australasian as amongst the elite Victorian footballers.

Fast forward to the 1960s, and Alma’s son Ron Pearce turned out for Carlton as a kid, in the days when Adrian Gallagher and Denis Pagan were amongst the local tryouts.

An outstanding photograph of the Carlton 5ths of 1961 shows Pearce posing with team members Pagan and Gallagher, and ‘Gags’’ old man the-then team manager of the fifths. Ron made it through to the reserves, while ‘Gags’ went all the way.

Alma's son Ron Pearce (bottom right) for the Carlton fifths, featuring captain Denis Pagan. (Photo: Supplied)

This week, Ron reflected with great pride on his mother’s story – a wonderful social study reflective of a time and place when football was truly tribal.

“Mum grew up in Garton Street across from the Carlton Football Club and being one of 19 children was a Blue since birth,” Ron said.

“Mum and her sister (Ruby Chalklen) were involved with the Blues’ cheersquad during the 1970s and ‘80s and went to most games, including those in Sydney.”

As with Alma, Ruby was a true Blue all her life. As a youngster, Ruby famously gained entry into the ground via the groundsman’s house, known as “The Lodge”, through a side gate located at the Garton Street end.

Ruby immersed herself in Carlton cheersquad activities from the 1970s through to the 1990s and actively encouraged young Carlton devotees to join.

In later years, Ruby regularly headed up the Hume Highway to watch her beloved Blues take on Sydney. A 70-year Life Member, she died at the age of 96 on May 9, 2017.

 

But back to Alma, and Ron graciously availed two photographs of her – one from her days at the footy; the other taken last year when she was awarded Life Membership of the RSL for her work for the Pascoe Vale branch, in crocheting football cushions and selling them for charity.

As Ron said: “Mum is still an active Committee member of the PVRSL and sells raffle tickets each week at their bingo sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays”.

Alma’s commitment to the RSL has everything to do with the fact that six of her brothers served in the Middle East and later New Guinea through the dark years of the Second World War.

And with five children, nine grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild to fawn over, Alma’s lust for life shows no signs of abating.