April 23, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

Reminiscing

By Joe Hipp

A True Story

On Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m., there’s a floor meeting in the Highrise where those who wish can air their grievances, celebrate an event, discuss “Resident Bulletins”, and play a game. The game is a guessing game, called “Reminiscing” given to the floor by Activities Director Felicia; by default, no one else wanted it. A youngish lady, perhaps ‘social director’, introduced the ‘octogenarians and nonagenarians’ to the game. There are five decade booklets of clues about events/songs/personalities, from the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Starting with a “flashback” clue, residents attempt to guess the answer, sometimes going through three additional clues without getting the answer. Our ‘social director’ will even play a tune from her smart speaker if it is a musical question. Amazingly, a “Senior Citizen” may shout out an answer from the first (flashback) clue.

On a recent Sunday the flashback clue from the 1940s was: “Back in the 40s, every neighborhood had a . . . “

Joan Hickey had a flashback – “A knife sharpener, he had a Jewish name. I remember him well.”

Sorry, not the answer – Clue #1, He would sing out his trade. Clue #2, “Regsenolion! Regsenolion!” Clue #3, He would sharpen knives. Clue #4, Did you ever buy anything from a peddler?

The right answer was “Rag Man”. The point of the game is to recall a story from your past. The answer wasn’t Salenfriend, but it brought him to mind; he was a peddler of sorts.

* * *

Many years ago, in an Arkansas river town, there lived a family named Salenfriend. Mr. Salenfriend, called a Jew by most people, owned a dry goods store; Mrs. Dorothy said he was a Hebrew. Guess that meant the same. He and his family were the only Hebrews in the county and were friends of my Methodist grandparents.

Mother taught grades one through eight in a country school. She began teaching when she was 15 years old, courtesy of a test given in Arkansas. One wet winter morning, several of her children did not show up for school. She asked the ones who made it to school that morning about the ones who were absent. One of the more vocal boys (who was almost her age) said, “Miss Floy, they ain’t got shoes!”

That evening back in town with her parents and grandparents, she told them about the kids who didn’t have shoes, and on cold, wet days didn’t come to school. The next day, her father (my grandfather) went to see Mr. Salenfriend and told him about the kids without shoes. I don’t recall Mr. Salenfriend’s first name, but he was on a first name basis with my grandfather. According to the story I was told, he said, “Joe, find out from your daughter what size shoes they wear.”

A few days later, Mr. Joe showed up at the country school with shoes. It was a dry day, and all those kids were there, barefoot as usual. The shoes were passed around, with socks for boys and knee-high stockings for the girls, the excitement was contagious. Mr. Joe said they were a gift from a generous man in Newport. Mr. Salenfriend was modest about his charitable giving, didn’t want folks to know. But, word got around and when the poorest of farm folk came to town, with money to spend, they shopped at Mr. Salenfriend’s store.

Years later, while waiting to be called to active duty, I worked on a weekly paper in that county. The editor/publisher knew of my family connection to Mr. Salenfriend and asked if I would write a story about Mr. Salenfriend. We had never met, but he knew my parents and agreed to talk with me. He was retired and reclusive; Mrs. Salenfriend and their daughter were with him when I arrived. After introductions, he showed me personal items from his family history, including a box of fresh-water pearls bought from local fishermen who could not market them locally. (The White River was known for being a source of quality mussel shells, used to make buttons. Unimproved streets around town were “covered” with perforated mussel shells from the local button factories. Before selling the shells to button factories, fishermen would pry open the shell to see if there was a fresh-water pearl.) He never planned to sell the pearls, just bought them from poor fishermen. I knew it would make a good story but writing such a story would expose his hidden generosity and make him a target. The story never appeared in the paper

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