There’s a lane not far from my home which I often walk down. It’s a pleasant, 80 metre shortcut through the backstreets of Ashgrove, Brisbane. During the day it’s frequented by school kids, bike riders, pedestrians and bush turkeys, which often descend on it in a spasmodic flurry from neighbouring fences. At night it’s a favourite haunt of spiders, cane toads and invisible creatures that rustle in fallen leaves strewn along its edges.
My son is scared of it at night. The shadows, the faint noises, the squashed toads and rotten leaves which slide out suddenly from under your feet when it’s wet. Because of this I’m forced to walk down this lane – which we’ve coined ‘spider alley’ – with a torch at night. However as I recently strolled along it for the umpteenth time, I wondered: who was Allan Kropp? And just why was this seemingly innocuous pathway named after him?
Allan Kropp Lane – A bit of local history
Allan Kropp, it turns out, was a man who lived largely before my time. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 91. If I’d lived in this suburb a bit earlier, there’s a good chance I would’ve seen him about town as an old man, wearing a bright red beanie and a badge on his shirt that read “recycled teenager”. Evidently Allan Kropp was a man of style.
He was known by the girls of Mt St Michael’s College as “chicken man”, for brazenly calling them ALL chickens. While Mr Kropp sounds like just another colourful yahoo, there was – I found out – more to his story. Ashgrove’s legendary chicken man spent much of his last days mowing the lawns of elderly war widows. One day when his lawnmower was stolen, the Ashgrove community, Mt St Michael’s College, radio station B105 and a local lawnmower manufacturer raised funds for a new mower.
Himself a veteran, Allan Kropp spent much of his time in his 80s visiting and looking after young war veterans in hospitals. He also reputedly delivered flowers to hospitalised mothers on Mother’s Day and worked for many years delivering food to folk via Meals on Wheels – a not for profit organisation that fed elderly, incapacitated and disabled people.
Allan Kropp also served the RSL (Returned Services League) for 50 years and was a staunch member of the Australian Labor Party, although I won’t hold that last part against him. It seemed he was a bit of a hero in my home town of Ashgrove, enough to have a small lane named after him.
There’s also an eponymous park in the centre of town called Allan Kropp Gardens, which I explored today. It’s wedged between a busy intersection, made up of patchwork grass and memorabilia to the fallen, a tree that comes from Gallipoli and a plaque set on a typically lonesome seat, dedicated to Ashgrove’s chicken man.
Take a wander around your local neighbourhood, discover something new.
Maybe even a secret.