Ross Township senior citizens program takes step back in time

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

Even little trinkets can hold tremendous memories.

But that's what Vickey Trader, Ross Township's assistant parks and recreation director and head of programs for senior citizens and children, was counting on when she started the “Step Back in Time” program for seniors.

Now every fourth Wednesday of the month at 11:30 a.m., participants can join in the parade of stories culled from some precious piece of personal history.

“They come, and they think they have nothing in common,” Trader said of the seniors, many who have become part of her extended family.

“This is a way to get out to mix and mingle. It's a nice way for people to share some of their day.”

Each Wednesday affords local residents — they needn't be from Ross — a chance to get together in the township's community center, 1000 Ross Municipal Drive.

The Senior Advisory Council is held on the first Wednesday, when people can share their ideas about the township and hear a guest speaker. On the second Wednesday, it's lunch at a local restaurant. Potluck brunches are held every third Wednesday. “Step Back in Time,” which started in September, wraps up the month with conversation and light refreshments.

Eleven residents, all from Ross, kicked off the inaugural trip down memory lane. While the items they brought were intriguing, the stories behind each one were more so.

Inside Debbie Sucha's little plastic bag were the remnants of a love story. The bracelet, ring and locket had belonged to her grandmother.

“This ring has been on someone's hand since 1912,” said Sucha, placing the narrow gold band on her finger. Its rubies and diamond flashed.

Her grandmother wore it with the bracelet bearing an engraving of her maiden-name initials. They were gifts from her husband-to-be.

From grandmother to mother to daughter, the jewelry had passed through a full century. And inside the locket, photos of the first happy couple smile on their wedding day.

Sucha, 58, has enjoyed both the jewelry and the sentimental story that belongs to it. In fact, her father might not have married her mother because she had worn the little ring on her left hand.

“The ring could have cost me my life,” she said with a laugh.

Franklin Hood, 79, selected a book filled with some of his mother's recipes for this show-and-tell session. Rather than holding menus from his family's dinner table, the pages were part of a project his mother, Georgia Lippert, had completed in 1920 for her seventh-grade cooking class.

It would be 13 years later that Franklin would be born.

A miniature sewing machine grabbed the group's attention. Singer, the manufacturer, had given them to electric machine buyers after the Great Depression.

Sally Hergenroeder, 76, remembered how she and her mother would make doll clothes using the tiny appliance.

“It was a chain stitch,” said Hergenroeder, as she turned the hand crank that pumped the needle.

“This is very precious to me.”

Music and photos accompanied Anny Harran, 63, to the program.

“We kept chickens in Brooklyn,” she explained in her unmistakable accent.

There was her mother, standing in the backyard and smiling in 1947. Also captured in black and white were young Anny and her mother at the beach. Then, in color, her father poses on the beach on Fire Island in 1968, a year before his death.

One of Harran's music boxes chimed its tune; the notes were sweet, a perfect accompaniment to the memories.

This sharing is what Trader hoped would bring the group together. She had developed this program when she served for a decade at a senior center in Etna, her hometown. There, the seniors were in their 80s and 90s.

“Here, they're mostly in their 70s and mobile,” she said.

“They have a better social life than I could hope to have.”

Trader's contribution to “remembering when” was a charm bracelet she got from an uncle in Detroit when she was 6 years old.

The sterling links are filled now. Among them hang a representation of the Civic Arena with a roof that opens; Three Rivers Stadium; and the Duquesne Incline with wheels that move.

“I can't fit it around my wrist anymore,” Trader, 58, said with a laugh.

Margaret Zamboni, 81, brought a knife with twine on its handle and Buddha decorations. It was found near the river.

A woodsy landscape painting was Kathleen “Mickey” Chittenden's prized possession to share. Her niece had it reframed and presented it to her.

“I remember the painting hanging in my grandparents' home,” said Chittenden, 83.

The artwork was done in 1892 by Mrs. John Roberts for Hiram and Louise Eastland, her grandparents. It was a gift when the couple had lived in Alden, N.Y.

Revolvers, glasswork, Art Deco ceramic pieces and a copy of a Londonderry newspaper account of births in Ireland in 1841 took center stage.

Then, in recalling a college graduation gift, tears came to Elaine Buttenfield's eyes.

At age 68, she remembered her commencement in 1968.

“My mother was a candy-dipper at Gimbels,” she said.

It seemed that Buttenfield had admired a ring sold at the department store. The piece of jewelry, a smoky topaz set in gold, became her surprise graduation gift.

“She earned $26 a week,” Buttenfield said about her mother.

“She saved for a long time. I wore the ring a lot.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or

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