“At 100 I’ve been there and done that and plan to do more”

Alan McAninch rides atop a horse in the South Cariboo in the late 50s. (Photo submitted)Alan McAninch rides atop a horse in the South Cariboo in the late 50s. (Photo submitted)
Up until recently Alan McAninch stayed fit thanks to a mix of dancing and yoga. (Photo submitted)Up until recently Alan McAninch stayed fit thanks to a mix of dancing and yoga. (Photo submitted)
Alan McAninch uses an elliptical while on a cruise ship. (Photo submitted)Alan McAninch uses an elliptical while on a cruise ship. (Photo submitted)
At the age of 90 Alan McAninch still hayed for his friends and neighbours. (Photo submitted)At the age of 90 Alan McAninch still hayed for his friends and neighbours. (Photo submitted)
A healthy sense of humour is something Alan McAninch has always had including a love for Halloween.(Photo submitted)A healthy sense of humour is something Alan McAninch has always had including a love for Halloween.(Photo submitted)
Alan McAninch rides a horse near Bridge Lake. (Photo submitted)Alan McAninch rides a horse near Bridge Lake. (Photo submitted)
Alan McAninch first moved to the Bridge Lake area in the 1950s. (Photo submitted)Alan McAninch first moved to the Bridge Lake area in the 1950s. (Photo submitted)
From 1943 to 1946 Alan McAninch was a member of the Royal Canadian Airforce. (Photo submitted)From 1943 to 1946 Alan McAninch was a member of the Royal Canadian Airforce. (Photo submitted)
At 16 Alan McAninch was already a big man working with horses. (Photo submitted)At 16 Alan McAninch was already a big man working with horses. (Photo submitted)
Alan McAninch turned 100 last month, much to his surprise. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Alan McAninch turned 100 last month, much to his surprise. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Alan McAninch turned 100 last month, and received a letter of congratulations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)Alan McAninch turned 100 last month, and received a letter of congratulations from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Alan McAninch turned 100 last month, much to his surprise. (Photo submitted)Alan McAninch turned 100 last month, much to his surprise. (Photo submitted)

He might be 100 years old but Alan McAninch still starts every day dancing.

McAninch, a longtime rancher and Bridge Lake resident, celebrated his hundredth birthday last month with his friends and family. At times, he said, he is still shocked he made it this long, crediting his success to staying mentally and physically active, something dancing is perfect for.

“At 100 I’ve been there and done that and plan to do more, McAninch said. “My advice is to talk with people, dance and travel. Have fun, after all, you only have one life.”

McAninch was born in Saskatchewan on Sept. 12, 1922, and grew up during the worst of the Great Depression. McAninch’s father, who owned a Chevy dealership, often found himself paying off the cost of vehicles bought by locals who could only afford the first payment.

“It was tough times then,” McAninch said. “My mum always had food when the guys looking for work came off the trains.”

When he was 12 McAninch found work at his next-door neighbour working as a ranch hand. He developed a close bond with the man’s horses, an affinity that has stayed with him to this day.

As the prairies dried up in 1939, McAninch decided to head west to look for work in B.C. with three friends. At 16 he was the only one in the group with a driver’s license and owned a 1928 Chev. The trip was long but enjoyable, McAninch remarking with a chuckle he turned 17 in a Red Deer beer parlour.

In B.C. McAninch worked a variety of jobs including as a fruit picker, a railway man for the E&N Railroad, a rancher, a millworker and a dozen other jobs besides. During his time working on the railroad, for 95 cents an hour, McAninch had a few close shaves. With a smile, he happily described the time he was nearly run over by a train while using a pushcart on Vancouver Island.

“We were coming home from work. My boss was there, I was there and two more guys (behind us). We were pushing the handles down and I was looking ahead and I said ‘oh train coming!” McAninch said. “Oh Al, my boss said, run back and warn the other two carts behind us. By the time I got down to the third cart, the train was just about on top of us and the bank was quite close to the track. So we threw the cart off the track and the train came by and took the handles right off. We were that close to getting run over.”

During the Second World War, McAninch enlisted in the Royal Canadian Airforce as a member of the motor transport section. He never saw combat because the war ended before he could head over. Instead, McAninch was tasked with shutting down RCAF stations and bases in Terrace and Smithers.

After he was discharged McAninch visited the South Cariboo for the first time in 1946 on a hunting trip. He said he took a liking to the area and decided to move up shortly after. One of his first jobs was working for Ma Larson clearing fields on before later taking a job as a sawyer.

In the 1950s McAninch became involved with the Bridge Lake Rodeo as a participant and later a volunteer. One of his favourite parts of the rodeo was sitting around the campfire with his friends to “tell a few lies.”

After retiring, McAninch stayed active as a rancher and a community volunteer. He made his living raising cattle and subdividing property he owned around Bridge Lake. That money allowed him to pursue one of his later life passions, travel.

For the last 20 years, until COVID, McAninch has seen the world by cruise ship visiting Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and Alaska. Everywhere he went he quizzed locals on their jobs and daily lives, noting it’s good for your mind to keep learning.

“It’s a good day when you learn something new,” McAninch said.

Even while on vacation he stayed active making use of the ships’ gyms to run, do yoga and of course, dance.

Ballroom dancing is something he’s kept up even as his back has begun to give him issues in the last year.

Looking back on his life, McAninch said being friendly and kind to others is key to living a good life. That combined with a good work ethic is what saw him through his first 100 years.

“It’s a lot different nowadays than when I was young. I’m 100 now and I don’t know if young people know what it was like back then,” McAninch said. “Now when people die they have money to pass on to their kids, but it wasn’t like that with me. I got nothing from my parents and I was on my own from the time I was 16.

“I had to move to B.C. and do many different kinds of jobs in many different places. I met many people and learned a great deal. I’ve had a hard life, but a good life. I’d do it all again.”



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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