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Senior citizens to recall youth for 7th-graders

| Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2001

SPRINGDALE: An idea hatched from a romantic tale of love almost 85 years old will help 11 local senior citizens write their personal memoirs in a scrapbook.

Starting in mid-September, the senior citizens from Amber Woods assisted living home will meet over lunch with Springdale High School seventh-graders to talk about their more hectic days.

A true story stuck with Janet Tyree, director of the Springdale Free Public Library, and inspired her to ask for others in the hopes that senior citizens' memories might gush like a dam after a hard rain.

The story Tyree heard was about a young couple who went out a few times. The husband-to-be left for unknown reasons, possibly military service.

The girl waited for him but eventually fell in love with another man and went so far as to buy and furnish a house. Days before that wedding the former boyfriend knocked on her door. The wedding was canceled and the couple was reunited.

Stories like that show a side of grandparents that children today might not know, Tyree said.

'I feel that everybody should have a written history of their life,' she said.

'It's very important to know what you're history is. Then this stuff won't get lost in the shuffle.'

Senior citizens selected to help put together a scrapbook are in their 80s and still have a good memory, said an Amber Woods activity assistant.

'I think it'll be good for them because they enjoy being out and being with young people,' said Barbara Cendrowski, activity assistant at Amber Woods along Freeport Road in Harmar. It has about 57 residents.

The group will join in a monthly conversation each third Monday for six months. The plans are to talk about their history, starting with specific questions about family origins and dates.

One proposed question - if the elderly folks ever played hooky in high school. The answer has proved to be a historical diamond mine in past conversations.

Tyree remembers doing an American Association of Retired Persons program in which a group of elderly folks were asked that question.

'They said they had played hooky to go watch Frank Sinatra,' Tyree said.

That seems like a much cooler story than today's youth's future stories of cutting out to watch the Backstreet Boys on MTV'S 'Total Request Live.'

Tyree holds a library day at the assisted living center twice per month and sometime shows slide of the 1930s and 1940s, Cendrowski said.

Usually, residents spend hours talking about those years and the soda shops they used to go to, Cendrowski said.

A $750 grant from the Allegheny County Library Association will help pay to place such memories in a book and cover lunch costs, Tyree said.

Students are scheduled to finish the scrapbooks by spring and each receive a copy for themselves and participating senior citizens.

Constance Craven, assistant superintendent at Allegheny Valley School District said, 'It'll be a pairing that will bring an appreciation to each generation and maybe even a friendship.'

Jeff Jones can be reached at jjones@tribweb.com

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