Manny Blankett celebrated his birthday last week with fish and chips at a local pub and, as an added treat, received the rare honour of a Freedom of the City.
As part of his ceremony, the oldest living man in the Square Mile on Wednesday (24 October) signed a book at the historic Guildhall that world famous composer Stephen Sondheim had signed just weeks earlier.
World figures including Princess Diana and Nelson Mandela are among those who have received honorary freedoms, the City’s highest honour.
The Corporation’s members can also choose to make special nominations for people like Mr Blankett in recognition of a contribution to London life.
Mr Blankett was born in the East End on 17 October 1917, when Londoners were still travelling around in horse and cart.
“There was one right opposite where we lived, I saw it every day,” he recalled. “Everything was transported – people, deliveries, there were no motorcars in those days.”
He lived through the First World War and then the Blitz, and led an adventurous lifestyle – travelling over land to India before serving in the Second World War.
“It took a month to get there. It was quite a thing.”
Mr Blankett worked as a hairdresser, then in the family fur business, and later as a lifeguard at the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park. He is a keen sportsman, and active in the peace movement demonstrations of the 1960s.
He said the middle of last century was probably his favourite time in London.
“Oh dear, I can’t remember – it was a long time ago, what can I say? London was different: There were lots of dance halls – strictly dancing. There’s nothing like that today.”
Many friends and family were with him as he received the honour from the Corporation, which governs the Square Mile financial district.
Common Councilmen Jason Pritchard and Munsur Ali of the Portsoken Ward, where Mr Blankett lives in the Middlesex Street Estate, had nominated him.