August 20, 2014

Elyria
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HARVEY GITTLER: 85 skidoo

Time to go, Harvey says

Today`s an important day in my life; it`s my 85th birthday. One thing I`m not going to do today is celebrate. A wild celebration may be a little too much for my heart. But I am about to make an important announcement.

My column on Dec. 31 is going to be my last. After more than nine years of pounding out a column each week – plus many extra ones – I`m hanging up my keyboard – at least for writing opinion columns.

I`m going to miss the weekly challenge of writing a column; I`m going to miss the weekly visit with the staff; I`m going to miss your letters and calls. There`s still a little printer`s ink in my blood. But I will survive, or at least I hope I will survive.

Why am I stepping down? There are a lot of reasons why I`m giving up a job I`ve thoroughly enjoyed; a job that enabled me to talk about many subjects; and a job in which I have amused, enlightened and infuriated many friends.

Age does take a toll. Everything takes longer these days, even the drive from Oberlin to Elyria. So giving up the column will give me more time for the other activities, which also are taking longer.

Some readers have told me that I am at my best. What better time to take a bow and leave the stage than when you`re at your best? Besides, I want to leave before I reach my “use by” date.

I am amazed when I reflect on the advances I`ve seen in 85 years. When I was 4 years old, we moved into a newly built house that still had gas jets in case the electricity failed. We didn`t have a refrigerator, we had an icebox. Our first radio was a Stromberg Carlson. I used to walk through swampy open fields to North Beach Airport in New York to see airplanes with pontoons land on water.

That airport is now LaGuardia.

My first flight across the country during World War II took more than 12 hours. The curtains on the plane were closed when we flew over Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was being developed. I was overjoyed when the Salk vaccine was developed, and I no longer had to worry about my children developing polio. At that time, I worked for a company that built typewriters; we also started building computers – which used vacuum tubes. I`m alive today only because of medical advancements in the past 10 years. I could spend hours telling of the changes I`ve seen in my 85 years – from my mother washing diapers by hand to a diaper service to disposable diapers.

The rate at which new products are coming to market has accelerated. Fifteen years ago, a young computer engineer told me that the future was not in computers but in the telephone. How right he was!

Today, there are cell phones that can perform functions that a computer cannot. My son was recently traveling on a train in China and sent me an e-mail with a picture through his Blackberry.

These advances are beyond my comprehension. So I want to spend what little time I have left mastering my computer, my personal digital assistant (PDA), and my new camcorder camera that takes movies and pictures and downloads directly to my TV or computer. Maybe I`ll get one of those newfangled cell phones that do everything but reproduce.

I`m equally overwhelmed with the social changes that have taken place in my lifetime, but I`ll comment on them in a later column. For now, I want to move into the scientific 21st century before I have to leave it.

Many thanks to you for your support and criticism these past nine years. I will miss my weekly meetings with you.

By the way, you may not be completely rid of me.  Andy Young, the editor, has graciously agreed to consider a column from me on a now-and-then basis.

Gittler`s columns still will appear on Mondays until Dec. 31. Reach him at hgittler@chroniclet.com.