This may come as a shock to my younger readers, but before text messaging, e-mails, cell phones, and even before TV and radio, after-dinner entertainment for families and friends often involved story telling. (I realize this may seem inconceivable to those who can’t envision life before “American Idol.”)
Around the dinner table, or in the living room, or by the fireplace, family and friends gathered. (And not to play video games.) Through story telling, histories were passed from generations. The stories, some of which might include scary and funny tales, would excite and amuse the imaginations of young minds, and instill a reverence for language. (And I don’t mean “Yo, dawg.”)
I’m delighted that the Edgemar Center for the Arts on Main Street has embraced story telling. As part of their eight years of “Senior Moments” programs, they have scheduled a show for Saturday at 7 p.m. It will feature compelling and often touching memories as told by some of our most distinguished senior citizens. The 10-minute tales, colorful mental postcards, will be about their lives, their loves, their joys and pains. (And to think none of this will involve texting.)
The six seniors range in ages from their mid-80s to their late 90s and all but one live at the wonderful Silvercrest Senior Apartments on Fifth Street run by the Salvation Army.
I’ve previously written about one of the participants, Jerry Rosenblum. Jerry’s column in 2010 was entitled “Memoirs of a Mensch” and covered his event-filled nine decades of life as a high-end haberdasher (men’s clothing store salesman and manager).
Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s character Zelig in the movie of the same name, Jerry had the knack or luck to encounter some of the world’s most famous and interesting men. (And women buying clothes for their men.) Jerry memorialized his often humorous experiences in a book, “Guess Who I Met Today?” (Jerry is also a tremendous singer and will close the show with his version of the famous Sinatra song, “My Way.”)
Cecilia Rosenthal, 98, is also in the program. Cecilia was in the Navy during WW II where she was a “celestial navigator,” stationed in San Diego. Because flights to Hawaii were the longest over water and thus most dangerous, and there needed to be radio silence, pilots had to navigate using the stars. It was Cecilia’s job to teach them these life-saving skills. She served four years in the Waves and left as a full second lieutenant. So here’s saluting Cecilia!
Sam Polk is a retired lawyer who served in the Colorado state legislature. Among his varied interests, Sam plays classical piano. Perhaps his most unique accomplishment is that he is credited with being the one who helped invent and popularize the Frisbee. (So the next time at the beach when a Frisbee hits you in the head, you’ll have Sam to thank.)
The only “non-Silvercrest” senior on the program is Saul Salka. An army veteran, Saul lives in Bel-Air and worked in real estate all his life. He will be 95 in a few weeks and tells a wonderful story about getting married while on furlough from the army.
As I listened to their inspiring stories I was amazed at how ahead of their times these people were and, for that matter, still are. One reoccurring theme was how they didn’t let convention stop them from following their dreams.
A perfect example is Kit Soo, who at 85, is referred to as the youngster of the group. Kit Soo was born in Malaysia and went to Duke in 1947. A remarkable achievement right there, she went on to receive two degrees. An avid skier, she also attended the University of Geneva, studying French and international relations and was a Malaysian government representative at the Unesco Conference in Paris. But Kit’s passion in life continues to be holistic health involving body, mind, soul and spirit.
Perhaps the most touching story is that of Trudi Weiner, 94. Growing up an orphan, she always longed to one day be in a position to help other children in difficult circumstances. So it was that after her own kids were long grown, Trudi joined the Peace Corps and served in Jamaica from 1990 to 1992. (And did so in her 70s!)
Trudi taught a variety of educational and life skills to as many as 42 children, ages 11 to 18, and also many young girls who were pregnant. The deep satisfaction of “giving back” and helping disadvantaged kids stays with Trudi to this day.
Kudos to all the story tellers and also to Michelle Danner of Edgemar and volunteers Jacinta Marasco and Shayne Anderson. (Edgemar also has a story telling program for kids.)
Postcards often include the salutation, “Wish you were here.” With the Edgemar Center so close, there’s no reason you can’t be.
(Editor’s note: This column originally appeared on June 22, 2012.)
“Senior Moments” plays June 23 at 7 p.m. at the Edgemar Center for the Arts at 2437 Main St. and admission is free. For tickets call (310) 399-3666 or visit online www.edgemarcenter.org. Jack can be reached at email@example.com.