Many area senior citizens are proving that moving into their “Golden Years” may be a rite of passage, but that’s about it.
No longer is the 60-plus community turning to its rocking chair, picking up the paper and watching life pass them by. This new millennium of grandparents and seniors alike is shattering the once popular image of granny with a bobby pin fixed bun and wire rim glasses.
Sunday, Sept. 13 marks the 31st observance of National Grandparents Day.
A concept originated by Marian McQuade of West Virginia, it was ultimately proclaimed to be celebrated the first Sunday following Labor Day each September by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
According to grandparents-day.com, the purpose of such a day was threefold: to honor grandparents, to offer grandparents the opportunity to show love for their children’s children and help children become aware of not only the strength but information and guidance available through the older generation.
Through the past several decades the role of grandparent has grown more important to the lives of many children. As their lifespan increases, so, too has their role as provider for their families. Often times, when their children, nieces or nephews have made bad choices or faced an early trauma, these are the people called upon to raise the young.
It is no longer uncommon to encounter a grandparent raising a grandchild or great-grandchild.
Staying true to their ‘grand’ name, they are often the first the family turns to when in need and the last to turn from the family when called upon.
Need for Speed
Rene Allen has raised six children, survived four husbands and had multiple generations of family members pass through her home. Yet at the tender age of 88, this Oakdale senior is far from finished with life.
Earlier this month this hot roddin’ granny made the decision to part with her 1982 Datsun 280 ZX. As a driving enthusiast and woman with an appreciation for speed, she shared she felt the decision was necessary.
“I’m afraid if I don’t get rid of this thing they’re going to take my license away,” Allen said.
At the age of 88, Allen knows her limitations behind the wheel. She does not drive after sundown due to night blindness and she is a self-described defensive driver.
“You always gotta be looking at what they’re doing,” she said of the other drivers. “You can control what you are doing and how you react to their decisions.”
One thing Allen admits to having a hard time controlling is her need for speed when positioned behind the wheel of her 280 ZX. Earlier this summer, she was stopped for exceeding the speed limit while enroute to Manteca through Escalon. Traveling at a speed of 93 miles per hour seemed to surprise the officer who pulled her over, but was no surprise to Allen.
“As I came around that turn and saw the straight road ahead I decided to stretch it out,” she said of her 93 mph in a 55 mph zone.
“I’ve always loved driving,” she added. “I’ve been driving since I was 13 years old. I can drive 700 miles in a day without a problem.”
Allen stated that she often takes trips to see family in Oklahoma, stopping to sleep once along the way.
“I don’t know I like visiting, but I like the trip more,” she said of her travels.
This senior loves driving so much she once drove a school bus. In between shifts she took classes at Columbia College to become a teacher. Teaching turned out to be less than she had hoped and after developing an ulcer, was advised by her doctor to find different employment. After a few odd jobs, working behind a desk, she was ultimately approached about learning to drive a forklift.
“He came in and said you like to drive, don’t you?” she said of her past supervisor. “I said ‘I sure do’ and he said ‘how would you like to drive a forklift.’
“So, I learned. Best job I ever had.”
Allen drove and operated a forklift for 17 years. She was 52 when she made the career change.
As she prepares to sell her fast wheels, she reminisces about a Datsun she owned prior to this one.
“I had another one before,” she said of her car. “That one was a 1974 and it could fly. It was cuter and smaller than this one and it could go 200 miles per hour.”
And it did.
When asked if she ever tested the speed of her ’74 Datsun, Allen simply stated, “Well, of course.”
“I go past the limit every time I drive it,” she added of the ’82 model. “I’m afraid if I drive it anymore I’ll get another ticket and they’ll decide I’m too old to drive.
“I’ve never had an accident and I’ve only had two tickets. I’m a good driver. I watch, you have to watch for everybody.”
Betty Plummer, 69, has done her own sort of watching for the past two decades. In 1991 Plummer decided to join the Avon organization as an independent sales rep. After five years and multiple accomplishments with the organization she was forced to become a helper in the mid ‘90s.
“I had to have both of my knees replaced,” Plummer said. “So I became a helper.”
With her recovery now long behind her, in 2003 she returned to full-time status with the company and began to once again visit her clients.
Earlier this year, Plummer’s efforts and dedication paid off as she was awarded a Second Place Albee for increased sales in the District, which includes Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and Modesto.
Plummer shared she was surprised by the award.
“I wasn’t going to go,” she said of the awards night. “So I was totally surprised, when I did.”
She cited the customers as the part of the job she enjoys most.
“The customer relationships,” she said. “Talking with different people. A lot of them look forward to my visits.”
Avon, founded in 1886 as the company for women, is a leading global beauty company. The company’s core values of trust, respect, belief, humility and integrity have not only transcended generations, but continents as well. It is currently marketed to women in over 100 countries and sold through 5.4 million independent Avon Sales Representatives.
“I treat people the way I want to be treated,” Plummer said of her success. “I don’t try to push Avon down their throats. I learned a long time ago, if you do you are going to eat the order.”
Many of the members of the Oakdale Senior Center may spend Sunday, Sept. 13 celebrating with grandchildren, but a handful of them will no doubt be thinking of their upcoming performance that following Friday night.
On Friday, Sept. 18, ten acts of varying talents will grace the main hall of the Oakdale Senior Center as part of the Seventh Annual Senior Talent Show. The show will begin at 6 p.m. and tickets are just $5. Refreshments will follow the performances.
According to Recreation Supervisor Linda Royalty, the scheduled acts will include singing, piano solos, tap dancing, dog tricks, juggling and skits.
When asked what she enjoys most about the annual event, Royalty stated, “That the groups that practice all year long are able to perform for their families and their friends. We changed it from a dinner to refreshments so more people could attend and it keeps the cost down on tickets.”
Mercer Campbell, 87, will be one such senior gracing the stage, much to the delight of many of his peers. Campbell has served as Master of Ceremonies for the event since its first year.
“I’ve always tried to have a joke between acts,” he said of his contribution to the event. “This year I’m going to change it up a little and make it more personal. I plan to share stories about myself.”
The active community member will grace the stage at 88 years of age, as his birthday falls on Sept. 17. Campbell relocated to Manteca from Oakdale earlier this year. While he may not be as permanent of a fixture as he once was at the Senior Center, he is anxious to return.
“If I can handle it and they’ll have me, I’d love to do it again,” he said of future Talent Shows.
The talent show will be hosted at the Gladys L. Lemmons Senior Community Center, 450 East A St., Oakdale. For information call 845-3566.
Do you have a special memory or photo of a grandparent you would like to share? In observance of National Grandparents Day, the Leader is seeking photographs accompanied by brief stories sharing what makes your grandparent special for the upcoming Sept. 9 issue. Direct photos, stories and questions to Teresa Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.