Circling the News received a tip from a resident, who wrote: “I’m surprised that you have not published a feel-good story about the 90-year-olds meeting at the Veterans’ Garden every Tuesday at noon for lunch, social interaction and bocce ball.”
The resident said that Dr. Mike Martini (who retired in 2002), Dolores Fritzsche and Al Landry (plus Patti Burns) have been meeting weekly at the Recreation Center for the past month.
Never one to miss a party, CTN stopped on Tuesday to chat with the long-time residents, three of whom showed up.
Al, who will turn 90 in August, was at a picnic table in the Marine Corps section, waiting for the rest of the group. A veteran, he and his wife Bonnie moved to Pacific Palisades in 1963. (Bonnie passed away in 2018.) The couple had four children: Joe, Chris, Lynn Lee and Dana.
Dolores, driven by her daughter Maria, soon joined us. Dolores and her late husband Bill (who died in 2009) moved to Via de la Paz in 1956 and had seven children.
Right away, the good-natured ribbing began. Dolores said she was a day older than Al, who was born on August 28, and “I don’t let him forget it.”
Dr. Martini, who drove himself, arrived with a sandwich and cookies left over from his drive-by birthday party on Saturday, when he turned 96. He and his late wife Elaine moved here in 1954. (They had six children: Barbara, Eileen, Richard, James, Joseph and Kathleen).
Martini was the family pediatrician for the Fritzsches and the Landrys.
“We heard what a wonderful doctor Mike was,” Dolores said.
“We lived in Santa Monica and went to Mike,” Al said.
The Martinis’ first house was on Radcliffe. “We paid $15,000,” Mike said, noting that they had four children at the time. They then moved to Via, where they added a fifth child.
“My wife said we should move closer to Corpus Christi,” where the family attended church and school, so they purchased a house in the Huntington for $51,000.
Mike teased Dolores, “We moved to get away from the Fritzsches.”
“We were hot on their trail,” Dolores said. “We followed the Martinis.”
She added that when they purchased their house in the Huntington, her mother pointed out that the house still only had four bedrooms, like the house on Via.
“The three girls (Caroline, Elizabeth and Maria) were in the biggest room, which had deep closets and a bathroom,” Delores said. “The little boys (Thomas and Vincent) were next door and used our bathroom and the big boys (William, Jr. and James) were downstairs – which meant they could go in and out of the windows, once we locked the door.”
Dr. Martini’s drive-by party was a huge success, with martinis given out. He was asked what his birthday wish was this year. “The health of all my children,” he said. (His wife Elaine passed away in 2018.)
The three friends were asked how the Covid epidemic compared to the polio epidemic in the 1950s, when polio was one of the most feared diseases in the U.S.
In 1952, the number of polio cases peaked at nearly 60,000, resulting in 3,145 deaths. Those who survived this highly infectious disease could end up with some form of paralysis, forcing them to use crutches, wheelchairs or to be placed in an iron lung.
“They wouldn’t let you swim,” Al said. “They closed the pools, beaches and lakes.”
“I had to do my turn in the ward, when there were more than 50 iron lungs going,” Mike recalled. “There was one boy in the Palisades that had paralytic polio and was under the care of another pediatrician.”
Al remembered that this doctor was trying to repair an electrical extension in a bathroom at home and electrocuted himself. The young patient of his who had polio then became a patient of Dr. Martini.
We all remember the paper towel and toilet paper hoarding at the beginning of the Covid shutdowns last March. Delores, Al and Mike all recalled how the country went through severe rationing during World War II, when their families had rationing cards. There were stickers for meat, coffee, sugar, butter and gas, which only allotted so much for each household.
People either received the A,B or C sticker for gas, with the lowest receiving just four gallons a week. Dolores said that since her father was a doctor, he had an unlimited amount.
Dolores’ daughter Maria (Molloy) has moved back to the Palisades with her family and has done most of the shopping during the pandemic, as has Mike’s daughter. Al said a neighbor had done his shopping, but now he enjoys going back to the market. All three have received their vaccinations.
They were asked if they thought there would be any important changes because of the pandemic.
Al predicted, “People have discovered they can be as effective in the office as out and they won’t be going back.”
Dolores said, “We changed during World War II, but then we went back.”
“We didn’t have computers then,” Al said. “I’ll think we’ll change a lot.”
Mike said, “I’m hoping that people helping people will continue,” and he believes that teleconsulting for medical issues will be beneficial for some people.
All three belong to Corpus and they say they are looking forward to in-person services at church — and playing bocce ball when it opens.