MAX Ellis is too old to fight fires, but only just.
Mr Ellis joined the Country Fire Authority aged 18. Now 86, he's been a member ever since.
That is except for the year he worked in Melbourne and played football for Carlton.
A longtime member of South Bendigo Football Club, Mr Ellis was born in Long Gully.
He still lives there now, near his business Max Ellis Signs. Mr Ellis established it in 1973, but he's been a signwriter his entire adult life.
Mr Ellis thinks he's the longest standing volunteer from the Bendigo CFA Brigade, at about 65 years.
His brother was a also member, for more than 70 years, before he died in March 2019 aged 90.
Read more: Family and friends farewell George Ellis
Mr Ellis doesn't fight fires anymore of course, but he still goes to the meetings and votes.
He stopped active service aged around 65. His last stint firefighting was at bad fires near Ballarat.
Everybody knew every one else when Mr Ellis first joined the Bendigo CFA, with its headquarters up on View Street.
He'd joined the brigade aged 18, because his brother was a member.
But without a history of firefighting in the family, Mr Ellis isn't sure how his brother got involved.
In those days volunteers were members of the auxiliary. If there was a fire, Mr Ellis would get a call on a direct line, and they'd tell him where to go.
He can't remember his first fire, but blazes at the Lyric Theatre, the Sandhurst Trustees, and Pall Mall stand out.
The last destroyed a beautiful facade, he remembers.
The brigade was a family unit in those days, Mr Ellis said.
It's changed to something more like a business in the past 20 years, since moving to the Hargreaves Street headquarters.
"Everybody knew everybody in those days, we [were] up on View Street. There was probably a permanent bloke who everybody," Mr Ellis said.
"It has changed, in that you don't get to know everybody. Your own group you do, you go to the meetings and all them. But the permanent blokes you don't."
It's a community run thing, like the Rotary, they're a community minded. That's what it's about, the community.Max Ellis, 65 year Country Fire Authority volunteer
But the Ellis family have kept up that family tradition. Mr Ellis's son Ian has been a member of the Bendigo Brigade for decades.
Mr Ellis has maintained his membership for so long because it's like everything else: it's just something you get involved in.
"It's a community run thing, like the Rotary, they're a community minded. That's what it's about, the community," he said.
"You've got friends from the demos and that, you still meet now, over the years."
Firefighting isn't Mr Ellis's only longstanding commitment. He's spent a lifetime signwriting.
He got into the trade by accident.
"Dad used to work down at the ordnance factory, he said, 'There's an apprenticeship down there as a painter'. I said, 'I couldn't think of anything worse'," Mr Ellis said.
"Later on, next day, I said, 'Oh well, it wouldn't be too bad'."
He went down to the factory where he found one of the signwriting chaps wanted to get out and work with his brother painting. So when he left, they asked Mr Ellis to do the signwriting.
Mr Ellis had his business Max Ellis Sign 47 years.
He handed over the enterprise to his son a few years ago, but he can still be found helping out.
The artwork was done by hand when he began, but now it's mainly printing.
The business still does gold leaf overlays by hand for honour rolls and sporting club awards though.
In the 1950s Mr Ellis went down to Melbourne to get some more experience, and play football for Carlton.
It was only for a year though, before he came back to Bendigo to get married.
There were just Melbourne teams in the AFL in those days. And Bendigo was in the catchment area for Carlton.
Mr Ellis had been in the South Bendigo team in a wing position. He played with the team in the 1954 and 1955 premierships. He would have been in the 1956 premier team too, but by then he had moved to Melbourne.
A man from Echuca got in touch with Carlton when Mr Ellis moved to Melbourne, and they came round to see him.
"It was good, interesting players you used to play with," he said.
"I used to play in the seconds a lot, but I played a couple of games in the seniors."
Mr Ellis also coached until he was about 30, for North Bendigo and South Heathcote. And he did a bit of umpiring as well.
He finished up his football career playing for Colbinnabin.
Mr Ellis married wife Jacqualene in 1957. They've now been married 62 years. They have two children, Ian and Gayle.
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