Retiree avoids sedentary life

June 26, 2003 12:00 am

By ERIN MAYES

"I've got to have something to do," Weldon Allen says. "I get too fidgety."

That's Allen in a nutshell.

He's been "retired" since 1991, when he closed his aircraft maintenance business in Oakland and stopped commuting from his Sonora home, where he has lived with his wife, Joan, since 1989.

But since then, he hasn't been able to keep his hands off airplanes, many of them based at the Calaveras County Airport.

His restlessness may have something to do with the 14 cups of coffee he drinks each day, a habit he picked up as a child, when coffee was cheaper than cocoa and doctors didn't fret about the effects of caffeine.

He was born in 1929 — the beginning of the Depression — and last month turned 74, or as he says, "almost three-quarters of a century."

Whether it's the caffeine or a force of habit from 50- and 60-hour work weeks, Allen has only recently been able to take a breather.

Sort of.

Soon after retiring in 1991, a friend said he had a "hot job" for Allen to work on.

"It was supposed to be a couple of jobs, and I ended up working there 10 years," he said of Weldon's Maintenance and Repair, the business he only recently closed at the airport near San Andreas.

A flying leap

Born on a ranch in the south plains of Texas, near Amarillo, Allen was 6 when his family moved to a home near Grand Junction, Colo. At 17, he joined the military.

By 18, he considered himself a "real salty sailor," after being stationed at naval air bases in Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, Tenn., as an aviation metalsmith.

"I fought the battle of the U.S.," Allen said with a laugh. He called himself lucky — he was let out of the service after three years, rather than the customary four, because there were too many servicemen enlisted.