I’ve wished to walk on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge that spans the Bay to connect Marin County to San Francisco, but it was unlikely to happen. For about ten months of the year, the bridge is socked in with fog for hours, and as we rarely go to San Francisco, we could not plan on doing it.
However, earlier this week, we took a two-night trip to the City, and as promised in travel books, October is often fog-free there, the weather warm and sunny. It was a wish come true; we got to walk the Bridge!
The Golden Gate the “most photographed man-made structure in the world,” was built during the Depression era, l933-1937, through the marvel of civil engineering. There is a plaque commemorating the names of visionary persons and counties that participated in planning and building it at a cost of $38 million and done in four years. (The 75th anniversary was celebrated in 2012.)
Although the bond and interest were paid by 1971 with toll charges, to continue to pay maintenance costs, vehicles driving into San Francisco still pay a toll. It now costs $6 and no longer does traffic slow down at the toll plaza to pay, but payment is done via Fast Track passes or bills sent after a photo of each vehicle’s license plate is registered.
On the morning of our walk, we drove north on the bride from the City to the scenic overlook where parking is free. A statue of a Coast Guardsman stands at the circle, and restrooms are provided for persons planning to do the bridge walk or sightseers to enjoy the panoramic view of the Bay Bridge, parts of San Francisco’s Marina and Financial districts, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz and Angel Islands.
Because it was a warm, practically windless day,the skies blue and cloudless, the rather narrow walkway was crowded more with cyclists than pedestrians. WE could walk at our own pace and stop to lean on the railings to admire the view or take pictures of the scenery. We waved to tourists on tour boats.
There was no graffiti, but some persons had scratched initials and symbols on the railings. But maintenance workers who paint the bridge year-round will eventually cover markings to keep the bridge looking bright and orange.
A small annoyance was the cyclists who rode in the pedestrian lane, not heeding the symbols painted on the pavement indicating where pedestrians and cyclists belonged. Luckily, there were no collisions.
Although there was no swaying or shaking of the bridge as we walked, the din of the hundreds of vehicles driving swiftly by was deafening.
When a pickup pulling an empty trailer passed, it’s rattle went BUMPTY BUMP! We wished we had earplugs; ear muffs would’ve been perfect.
At each of the towers there were emergency telephones and signs reading, “THERE IS HOPE. JUMPING FROM THE BRIDGE IS FATAL AND HAS TRAGIC CONSEQUENCES.” The bridge is a magnet for suicides and statistics report an annual average of thirty who jump to their deaths. Suicides occurring unwitnessed during the dark of night are not counted.
WE are proud we walked the round trip of about three miles, an easy stroll, and I silently dedicated it to the memory of my father who wished he could but did not have the opportunity to do it.

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Waiahole School, the rural Oahu elementary school I attended for nine years, celebrated its 130th anniversary this September.
When begun in 1883, Hawaii was a royal kingdom ruled by King Kalakaua, and it was during his rule Waiahole School was begun as “an English language school… on September 17…”
Between 1932-1961, there was always one or more of my eight siblings and I attending the school we still share fond memories of as aging adults.
Situated in the lush Waiahole Valley, where archival papers report was once home to five rice fields that got water from the many streams, later harnessed by the Waiahole Water Tunnel that fed the pineapple plantations on the lee of the Koolau Mountain Range, the school was a community center to the small village of truck farmers and blue collar workers. It was a mile from the two-lane Kamehameha Highway that skirts the windward side of the island, and often the first school for newly minted teachers who commuted from Honolulu. Usually a veteran teacher and the principal lived in the teachers’ cottages behind the school.
When I attended between 1942-1951, Hawaii was a territory of the United States. After King Kalakaua’s death shortly after the school’s inception, his sister Queen Liliuokalani succeeded him, but within a few years she was overthrown and the Republic of Hawaii was established in 1893. The United States annexed it as a territory in 1900.
In 1942 the territory was under martial law after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and so we were never taught the historical aspects of our school, the war effort taking precedence over everything else. And perhaps thought unimportant, we continued on with contemporary events instead of being taught our school’s rich history.
So in 1983 I was astonished to learn it celebrated its 100th anniversary! And now this year I was nudged into remembering thirty years had passed and a big celebration was planned.
I didn’t attend the celebration, but sent three stories to contribute toward the commemorative booklet, and learned one was included. I won’t know which story dealing with happy memories such as working in the cafeteria, going to school barefooted, or celebrating May Day is included until I receive the booklet a classmate promised me he’d send.
When Waiahole School began students from the region of about a ten-mile radius attended. During my time, the school had two long wood buildings housing the office, a library, a home ec room with kitchenettes, and several classrooms; three separate bungalow classroom buildings, a cafeteria, and a cottage-like classroom that had been there from an earlier era. We thought the school of approximately 350 pupils “big” as we were rural kids not used to large numbers of persons together in one place. The large yard was our playing field, and we gathered at the steps of the office for assemblies.
Last year my husband and I visited the campus, and it was entirely different from what I remembered. Gone were all the wooden structures, replaced by brick and plaster buildings, gone the teachers’ and principal’s cottages. All the kids wore footwear, a contrast to my barefoot days.
When I attended, it was a k_9 school, but now K-6. On rainy days we ran from one building to another to avoid getting wet, but at the new facility, there are overhangs and concrete walkways everywhere. The only remnant I recognized was the drinking of three outlets that was in front of what had been the oldest little classroom. The student body had shrunken to about seventy, but they were still of ethnic minorities as when I attended.
Waiahole was once owned by a large estate and lots leased to residents, but about forty years ago, a developer bought it with the plan to build tracts of houses. Fearing that would cause a loss of the rural style of living, activist farmers and former students involved with the state Legislature fought hard to keep that from happening. Rallies were held, letters and petitions sent, and finally the State bought the land and gave long-term leases to the residents. The rural characteristics remain, the community and school vibrant,
It’s said, “you can’t go home again,” and if buildings are the benchmark, that’s very true, but otherwise, Waiahole School continues undiminished through the third century from its inception under royal kingdom, the Republic, the territory and now statehood.

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Whenever the local brewery cooks their hops, the redolent odor permeates the neighborhood and reminds me of the smell of cooking taro. Taro is the tuber that is harvested from taro patches in Hawaii and Polynesia, and pureed into poi. Poi was once the starchy, vitamin=rich staple food eaten in my native Hawaii, but replaced by rice and breads. Now, however, no luau is complete without a smidgen of poi tourists don’t much care for.
There was a poi factory at the corner of the road that led to my elementary school, and for the nine years I attended there, we enjoyed the smell of cooking taro as we passed by it, and the sight of muscular men and their woman boss rolling barrels of poi to the truck that carried them away.
On cold mornings we like to eat hot oatmeal, the one cereal we have practically all winter for the breakfasts my husband has learned to cook well. I am reminded of my immigrant mother cooking a big pot of oats with evaporated mile for our large family. She called it “mush” she pronounced “ma-shee,” thick and creamy and yummy on rainy mornings.It was good to keep us energized for the entire morning of school work.
Another wonderful aroma is roasted pork, especially kalua pig cooked in a white hot stone-lined pit for a luau. It was the piece de resistance for our neighborhood luaus, and when the mouth-watering smell reached our noses, we knew it was time for the luau to begin. Pit bbq is not quite the same as kalua, but suffices here on the mainland.
And who cannot be tempted by the powerful appeal of popcorn? It is synonymous with going to the movies, and even when not in the theater, its distinctive aroma cannot be ignored.
Bread baking in the oven wafts through out the house and through open windows, the yeasty odor bringing to mind comfort food of buttered bread. Now, as in the past, I like to pass by a bakery fragrant with the smell of baking bread
There are other wonderful smells like bacon frying, fried chicken, steaks grilling, apple pies baking, ripe guavas and sweet cantaloupes, but a non-food that brings to mind the delicious odor of the countryside is linens dried on a an outdoor clothesline.
We did not have a dryer when I was a kid, and had to hang laundry on lines, a tedious task we didn’t much like, but rewarded with the smell of fresh laundry when dry.
Now in hot weather Chico, we like to save on gas by hanging our laundry outside, and oh, when the sheets and pillowslips are put on the bed, it is off to dreamland breathing in the aroma of fresh air and sunshine reminiscent of my childhood.

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Our church holds a rummage sale each fall. A rummage sale is like a giant yard sale, and with donations from members and friends, there is a huge collection of eclectic items not found in private yard or garage sales. It’s a win-win fundraiser because members can donate anything they wish to discard while the church makes a profit at a weekend event run by volunteers.
Donors can feel virtuous donating items to the church that result in cash instead of direct cash donations.
Moreover, the community can find bargains they’d not find at most thrift shops. It is truly “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”
Small items are unloaded in the social hall where tables are set up to display the goods. Large furniture and shoes are put into the hallway.
Although priced, each item can be bargained down to the purchaser’s offer.
From my experience as a volunteer worker, I have helped unload bags and boxes of donated “stuff.” Each bag is a grab bag that may contain treasures of new garments with tags still attached, or “gently used”clothing, kitchen appliances, books, planters, vases, children’s toys, large and small pieces of furniture and some unidentifiable.
But not infrequently, we workers are surprised finding goods that clearly belonged in the trash can. At our recent sale,I unloaded a bag that had a pair of shoes with dirty toe prints, frayed straps and worn heels.Perhaps it was the donor’s favorite pair, and unable to trash it, put it into the bag so someone unsentimental would discard them for her.
Another volunteer had to clean off the dust-encrusted filter bag of a newish shop vacuum perhaps junked because the dirty filter caused it to run perfunctorily. There were planters that had to be washed of remnants of potting soil and spider webs still stuck inside. And of course there were torn clothing, some shirts with white deodorant stains at the underarms, cracked bowls and chipped plates. You get the picture, not all donations are necessarily honorable.
As a shopper I was delighted to find Noritake stoneware in perfect condition priced under five dollars! The underside verified its authenticity it was Made in Japan. One year I found a rice cooker for a dollar that cooks perfect rice, and a West Virginia crackled glass vase.
Other bargain hunters happily showed off best seller books, jackets, slippers in unopened bags, brand new dresses, men’s wear and children’s clothing and toys. Also, handmade quilts and hand-knit sweaters, some crafter’s skillful work, but no longer treasured by descendant recipients.
Rummage sales are a lot of work for volunteers, but a great way to enjoy camaraderie among members working together for a short weekend fundraiser and bargain hunting by customers.

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You’ve heard the adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, at seventy-six I believed I belonged to that category.But I wanted to learn to swim, and this summer tried to dispel that old saying.
For many years I wished I could, but did nothing so just continued to sit poolside or at the beach envying others who could. Wishing without taking action confirms another saying,”if wishes were horses, beggars would ride”.
On my last birthday, I came to the realization I was now a year closer to being a centenarian than I was to fifty, and the days were figuratively galloping toward that darker end.
I decided I’d take swimming lessons.
But I didn’t know where to get lessons for elderly(ugh, I hate that term!) persons, but luckily, my son knew a swim teacher who would. She was the mother of his daughter’s friend, and calling the NVS school, I was given an appointment for four private lessons in June.
As a college freshman, I had taken group lessons required of all incoming students unless medically waived. It was the one class I dreaded because I was convinced I had no buoyancy nor coordination to swim. I was especially afraid of deep water, a common fear of many of us who lived in rural Hawaii where only the ocean was available for swimming .
It’s difficult to learn in moving water, and going into the ocean with the tides moving the waves ever closer to the beach was frightening, especially when a huge wave hit us and pushed us down, covering our heads with salt water. Water went up our noses and into our mouths. Our non-swimming parents also discouraged swimming citing cases of persons who drowned swimming or while fishing.
In that freshman beginners’ swimming class of about twenty other non-swimmers, we tried to stay close to the shallow end. The coach paired us, and my partner, a big gal twice my size, would tug me hard when she panicked, causing me to fear I’d be pulled under.
There were girls we could dog paddle so they advanced quickly while we who couldn’t lagged behind.
During the nine-weeks class we went through the basics: floating on our backs had me sinking like a piece of lead; freestyle: my arms and legs and breathing weren’t coordinated and I swallowed water while some went up my nose, causing me to sputter and feel uncomfortable; treading water: going to do it in the deep end was frightening, fearing I’d sink and drown. I clung to the gutter and went through the motions and glad when the nine-weeks ended.
On the rainy afternoon of the final exam, determined I was not going to retake the class if I failed, I gritted my teeth, jumped and managed to get three-fourths of the pool’s distance!
Probably owing to my perseverance, the coach passed me with a “D.” He was coach to gold medal Olympians but alas, had not succeeded in teaching me or some of my friends to swim.
In the ensuing years, I enjoyed soaking in hot tubs and hot springs, but never tried “swimming” again.
My husband had worked as a lifeguard and swim instructor during his college years, but you know the adage, “You can’t teach your wife___(to drive, to swim, etc.)…” So while he and the children, and later the grandchildren, enjoyed swimming and frolicking in pools and in the ocean, I was always just a spectator.
“KLUTZ” is an apt description of me, poor in any physical sport except hiking.
But I decided if I tried, I just might learn to swim as I had learned to ride a bicycle at age thirty-one so I could cycle to grad classes rather than ride the bus.
To prepare for my swim lessons, I bought a new bright burgundy and aqua swim suit that,by summer’s end, had faded badly from the chlorinated pool water.
Although my private lessons were only fifteen-minutes each, I discovered I could float, albeit not well. I learned the basics of properly kicking, stroking and breathing. Learning one-to-one from a stranger who could critique and evaluate my mistakes, especially problems kicking/stroking with my left limbs, were more effective than had my husband tried to teach me.
In order to put newly taught skills to work, practicing was required. Thus we joined the gym to swim in their pools.
So the past two months, it has been PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE M-F with Coach Hubby. He has been patient and diligent to put the teacher’s lessons to work. Often it’s been “one step forward, five backward.” In an educational psychology class, the professor had lectured, “perfect practice leads to perfecting skills, while poor practices do not.” So it’s not been easy but I’m determined I’ll soon join others swimming recreationally, or, save myself from drowning if the need arises.
From joining the Gym, we have observed the water aerobics classes have some members using kick boards, belts, noodles and other floatation devices We have seen swimmers in the lap pools using fins and snorkels. I thus bought a floatation belt that has helped my buoyancy problem considerably.
While those who can swim without floatation devices may think it’s a crutch, I think it’s not different from persons who need a cane or crutches or walkers to aid them walking.
You won’t find me competing in the Senior Swim Olympics, but after this summer I hope to be a participant and not a perpetual wallflower.

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News stories and store ads of back-to-school shopping remind me of the excitement I felt preparing for a new school year each September.
My siblings and I had helped all summer on our small truck farm and so going back to school was an anticipated respite. Best of a;;, we could go school shopping and get some new things!
For us country kids, going to Honolulu’s department stores was like a much anticipated field trip. We’d already listed everything we wished, although knew we couldn’t afford all since my family was large, our parents’ income small.
We were especially thrilled to go to Kress’s. What a delight to find everything we wanted there at the famous but now defunct five and dime store.
Kress’s had a cornucopia of things and displays we rural kids could only gawk at. The soda fountain where sophisticated city folk dined was especially alluring. It was my secret desire, not fulfilled until I was a working adult, to sip a milkshake or savor an ice cream sundae at the counter.
Our parents gave us money to buy pencils, tablets, crayons
and sometimes a pencil box or a fancy eraser. WE didn’t have back packs but home sewn totes into which we put our books and supplies.
The wonderful day was topped with an ice cream sandwich that cost only a dime.
On the way to the country limo that was bus service to the rural areas, we window shopped at the department stores, wishing we could buy clothes dressed on the mannequins.
But ready made store clothes were not in our parents’ budget. Instead, a fabric peddler visited farmhouses to sell yardage from his van. My mother allowed us to choose cloth for five new dresses to replace outgrown ones. Of course I often had to accept hand-me-downs from older sisters so didn’t get all new clothing.
The fabric peddler was our parents’ “landsman”(i.e., someone from the same village in Okinawa) so he trusted Mother to put the charges on her tab, meanwhile enjoying “talking story” which in pidgin means to catch up on gossip.
On a day free of farm chores, my older sisters and I trooped over to a dressmaker who lived on a distant farm, sometimes taking a short cut walking on the banks of taro patches along the way to arrive at her house. She was a stay-at-home mom who earned extra money sewing for neighbors while her children were in bed or at school. We’d select styles from the Sear’s catalog and she copied them as similar as possible.
Mother always directed they were sewn to “grow into” so at the beginning of each school year we looked almost matronly in oversized dresses until we later achieved more height and weight.
Later, when my sister and I were freshmen, my mother insisted we attend summer sewing classes run by the minister’s wife. Now there was no need to hire a dressmaker as she and and I sewed for the entire family. Although the garments didn’t look professionally sewn, they had to do. I kept sewing for years afterwards for myself, my husband and children, until fabric and pattern costs got prohibitively higher. Now when I need clothing, I go to the department stores and invariably ask myself,”can I sew it cheaper?” and the answer is a resounding NO! so my sewing machine remains dormant.
Reminiscing about school shopping leaves me nostalgic for the halcyon days of our youth, and I still enjoy hearing school bells ring.

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Last week five us had a mini-reunion in Monterey. It included two husbands and three of us “girls” who’ve been friends with one another since we were first graders in Hawaii seventy or so years ago.
Our backgrounds were similar: children of of struggling Okinawan immigrant truck farmers; attended the same schools and church; among the first in our large families to attend college to become teachers. and for a few years taught in various Hawaii schools before moving to California.
Except for my husband who is from Pennsylvania, the rest of us, including the husband of one, still have siblings living on the old family farmlands. Though that seems irrelevant, it’s important because we have kept in indirect contact through them as well as among ourselves.
However, after each of us moved to California, we got separated teaching in different school districts and meeting and marrying our respective spouses within a year of that change.
So for the past fifty years, we were “too busy raising families” to see one another, although an hour or two driving could have kept us in direct contact. Instead, except for a rare visit, we only kept in contact via Christmas letters. It seemed we didn’t value our friendships as we should have, although often keeping one another in our thoughts.
But in the past year, one of the gals became widowed and said several classmates and friends had died or were in poor health, and she e-mailed we “ought to get together.” She meant in the Los Angeles area where two of them lived, but we had moved to Chico five hundred miles distant and so I countered, “Yes, but let’s meet mid-point like in Monterey where it’s nice and cool.” Agreed.
One got us to compromise on two days in late July, the other found a AAA approved hotel in downtown Monterey and made reservations for all of us, and I went to the AAA and got advance tickets to the Aquarium.
On the given first day, my husband and I began the drive to Monterey at 7:00 a.m. Until Stockton, traffic was light and driving easy, but then we encountered heavy construction work, slowing us down to a crawl. We had planned to go via I-5 to Los Banos and over the Pachedo Pass, but decided to go via Tracy, the Altamont Pass and Fremont which was a new route for us. Traffic then became more rushed and I had to navigate looking closely at AAA maps. Thankfully, we only made one wrong turnoff at Livermore and were going into the residential district before we found a shopping center to ask for directions. The woman we asked knew how to get us back on the route toward Fremont; often on past trips asking at a convenience store was useless as the clerks seemed to know nothing outside of their businesses.
Our early start found us in Monterey by l:30, giving us time to scout the area from the inn to the Wharf. In the meanwhile, our friends had had a late start so didn’t arrive until about 5 p.m.
Greeting one another as if it was only yesterday since we had last seen one another, we decided to walk down to the Wharf for dinner after they checked in.
En route to the restaurant, we were delighted the Tuesday afternoon farmers’ market was in session and we of truck farming backgrounds had fun inspecting fresh fruits and vegetables, wishing we could take back some were it possible to keep them fresh for more than a few days. I was nostalgic of how my parents who had, in their later years, taken their produce to similar farmers’ markets in Oahu.
At the Wharf we had samplings of clam chowder from several restaurants that had workers outside enticing diners, and we decided on one near the very end (of course!)was the best to try.
WE had delicious chowder in sourdough bowls; a regular bowl would have sufficed for our aging tummies, but just dining together and the ambiance of seaside dining made it pleasurable until bedtime when some antacid was needed to get me to sleep.
During our short time together, we went to the Aquarium and delighted in the displays of fantastically beautiful jelly fish, near-mythical sea horses and dragon fish. WE did a quick look through Cannery Row shops, and ate more seafood at a nearby eatery. Not as good as at the Wharf, but our feet rebelled from the morning’s activities and we were glad to sit down.
Later we took the Seventeen Mile Drive and had dinner downtown at a small Greek cafe. There weren’t any of the restaurants familiar in malls, but that is probably in keeping with the historicity of Monterey.
After breakfasting at the inn and dining together for two short days reminiscing about the “good old days,” and catching up briefly about our kids and grandkids, we decided we were still compatible in spite of fifty years apart. We are now thinking of a longer trip together, probably Europe. Let’s hope nothing comes up to prevent us from doing so!

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A road trip is fun and a sketchy itinerary allowing for unplanned side trips makes it even more enjoyable , compared with that of commercial tours that don’t deviate from their set goal.
But beware of weekend events to spend the night at a seemingly small, sleepy town can be a surprise and change one’s plans drastically.
Such as a marathon, or antique car show, a flower or quilt show, a graduation, or a bicycle race.
Such was our experience on our recent trip to Washington.
We’d already spent a week in Seattle, driven to Bainbridge Island for the Bloedel Reserve and to Sequim to see their gorgeous lavender fields on friends’ recommendations and derived unexpected enjoyment, then to Crescent Lake to discover for ourselves the magnificent site we’d not known of, and down along he Hood Canal before we reached Tumwater.
It was about 5 p.m. and tired after a day’s drive and excitement, we decided we’d stay at a favorite chain motel. Well, NO Room!
Wondering why all rooms were booked so early I inquired of the reason and told “there’s a bicycle race from Seattle to Portland.” Our hearts sank as the distance was one hundred miles and we were only at the midpoint along a freeway that showed smaller towns toward Portland and few on highways on either side.
It was the famous STP race, we later learned from a cycling friend, unbeknownst to us who don’t cyle.
But optimistically, we tried other motels south toward Portland, and at each received the same answer. Some motel clerks suggested calling ahead to other towns, and consulting our AAA tour book, I called one and was rudely answered,”We only have one room selling for $299 plus taxes.” It was one of those basic motels that advertise for $49.99 or something similar on usual days. No thanks, we weren’t buying.
Finally, my husband spied an Indian casino with lodgings so back tracked a few miles. There, to our surprise, a large number of cyclists with their bikes were already pushing their wheels toward their rooms while some others with race numbers on their backs stood in line to register. Each had a reservation and quickly taken care of.
When we got to the desk, the clerk didn’t say “No” but brightly said, “Let me look” and typed into her computer. “Oh, how about a queen for $399 plus taxes?” Nope, we weren’t that desperate yet; it was still an hour to sunset so my husband decided to drive the nearly sixty more miles to Portland, and then for good measure, drove past so could secure a room without outlandish rates.
Gosh, all we wanted was a clean, comfortable room. The motel we stopped at was an answer to prayer; it was nice, reasonable and had a good breakfast.
Unlike the motels set out to charge unreasonable prices just because they could take advantage or weary travelers who’d failed to make a reservation, perhaps a year in advance for an event?
What was an otherwise wonderful trip was somewhat marred by the motels that would gouge travelers just because they could take advantage of the situation.
I think they are as usurious as stores that charge excessively for necessities after a disaster.

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Everyone I know likes freebies, something gotten free merely for patronizing a business.  Unlike BOGOs where you must buy one of an item to get another free, or coupons with price limitations, freebies are like the piece of candy given by some shops for going in to browse. Or samples at stores pushing the sale of specific items, or even the free cup of coffee at some bank

But the freebies I’m nostalgic of are real items tha you could take home to use.

I still have three knives as gifts for buying gas during our early years of marriage when there were stations at practically every intersection on busy streets competing for business.  You could buy five gallons of gas for a dollar and they even filled your tank for you.  The knives aren’t the ordinary utility knives, but specialty ones: a  small boning knife with a thin blad excellent for testing the doness of cakes, meatloves or fruit breads and muffins.  A grapefruit knife useful for cutting through the rinds and segments of oranges and lemons besides grapefruits; and a tomato knife intended for the vegetable(or fruit if you prefer to call it that)and for slicing small cakes and breads.

Older friends who remember going to the movies during the Great Depression relate how they were given glassware just for attending. They weren’t blown glass but now are valued as collectible “Depression glass.” 

Another freebie that’s disappeared are blue and green stamps. Markets and other stores gave stamps depending on the amount of one’s purchase. We pasted them in a book,  and when filled, could shop for items listed in a catalog at the redemption store. The catalogs were like “wish books” from Sears or Montgomery Ward’s except no money was exchanged and items valuable to the savers could be saved for.

When I was a newly wed and hadn’t accumulated a hope chest, we went to the stamp store for a four-piece dinner set for our first dishes.  And one summer in college, a housemate suddenly announced she was marrying one weeken.  We had no money for a gift but had a book of green stamps to redeem for a silver plated candy dish. It looked silvery but probably cheap chrome. “Buit it’s the thouugh that counts,” we rationalized.

Now the closest to freebis are “points” accumulated with “loyalty cards” at some markets for discounted gas or equivalent goods.

I realize rising costs contribute to profit margins and businesses can’t afford to give freebies as generously as in the past, but should there be a charge for everything as in the banks where they’ll gladly take your deposits but charge for everything else that used to be free such as check books or other services? Or airlines that charge for baggage and reluctantly offer drinks instead of including meals or even snacks? The list of “free” is practically unknown,  or there is a caveat: you’ve paid for it in the price!  But now there are more billionaires than before and some freebies would make all of us feel we are sharing some of the wealth without the widening gap of HAVES and HAVE NOTS.


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  Now resigned I am no longer a “young spring chicken” even though my mind tells me I am, I am encountering problems others euphemistically dubbed “Seniors” undoubtedly experience as well.   I thus offer some practical solutions to coping  with them.

  Aging arm muscles and arthritic hands and fingers result in an inability to tear open the simplest sealed bags. Tearing apart the tops of of a bag of chips or corn flakes is like figuratively trying to pull apart two pieces of glued wood. Ditto sealed bags of many vareties of foods  that keep them airtight and fresh.

  I’ve found a simple pair of scissors an essential tool to remedy otherwise frustrating experiences that cause blood pressures to rise or the rash act of trying to open bags with one’s teeth.

  Scissors of any size are helpful, even children’s paper cutting ones, but adult sized pairs can be gotten for a dollar at the dollar stores.  Their points are dull and not dangerous,  but perfect for cutting paper and plastic wrapping. (So if any reader needs an idea for a retirement gift, include a pair of scissors; it’ll never become a dust catcher!)

  Another source of frustration is opening  jars. You could tap it slightly against a hard surface  to break the seal, but then the contents might leak or fall out, or the jar could crack  if  tapped too hard. Or it might chip the surface of the  counter or table used for tapping against.  Simpler solutions include those round rubber pads with grips, but even t hose might not help some  of us with weak arm strength. Better is a strap wrench. It has  an adjustable loop that can fit around most bottle tops and  inexpensive at most  hardware stores.

  If you’re like me and can’t pull up the rings on top of cans meant to skip needing a can opener, use a church key or even a study chopstick to pry it up.

  Often those plastic strips keeping frozen juice cans sealed are also difficult to pull open. A plier to grip the end easily pulls it.

  And what about reaching for boxes stored on cupboard shelves too high to reach without a safety step stool? You could buy a device that grabs them, but an inexpensive solution is to use a yardstick, or, better yet, an egg turner to pull the item forward so you can easily reach it and safely drop into your outstretched hands. Of course it should be light enough not to hurt you when it falls.  Otherwise use a sturdy step stool; never stand on a chair or stool that could tip and cause a major fall.

  Also, an important but often overlooked tool every senior with “aging eyes” should consider is a magnifying  glass. Without squinting or claiming, “I can’t read it,” the fine print on directions and ingredients become legible and one need not be ignorant of something harmful or with caveats, just because the print was too tiny.

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