OLD TIMERS REUNITE FOR YEARLY BARBECUE.
LANCASTER -- It was old home week when Antelope Valley Old Timers gathered for another reunion and barbecue, or ``picnic,'' as it once was called.
Nostalgia flowed like mellow wine in the J.P. Eliopulos Pavilion at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds as many friends, who hadn't seen each other for a year or more, happily greeted each other again.
About 800 people attended, starting about 11 a.m. and lining up to get name tags and tickets for the deep pit barbecue beef that had been seasoned, wrapped and put down in the Lancaster Elks Lodge pit the night before.
The 1,000 pounds of shredded beef was served with 80 gallons of the traditional beans, 50 pounds of potato salad and 35 gallons of salsa. Rolls, butter and coffee, milk or bottled water and ice cream for dessert rounded out the menu.
Frances Lane, with her cameraman, wandered the pavilion and interviewed the participants for her annual pictorial history of the occasion. Lane also awarded certificates to the special guests who had come the farthest, the nonagenarians, octogenarians and those who were born in the Antelope Valley.
Among those who came from out of town were Marie Zaraviga Meline and her two daughters, Cheryl Meline Moses (Miss Antelope Valley 1961) and Susan Meline Hamilton.
Meline and Hamilton came from Glendora.
Meline and her daughters arrived the night before so that they could also attend Meline's class of 1936 Antelope Valley Joint Union High School reunion.
Classmates from 1936 all sat at one table where they could reminisce, aided by a file folder of old newspaper clippings and other memorabilia brought by Irene Swenson, longtime Valley resident and also a member of the class.
``Mom and I try to come every year,'' said Hamilton. ``Cheryl comes as often as she can. Mom really enjoys seeing all her old friends and I get to see a lot of mine, too. It's a lot of fun and we don't like to miss it.''
Frankie Richards, retired public information officer for Antelope Valley Hospital, who for many years wrote special articles about the Old Timers event, was just enjoying the crowd.
``I kind of miss doing my stories about this,'' she said. ``But I don't see too well anymore.''
Don and Irene Ross were among the honored 90-year-olds. They were both born the same day, only hours apart, in the same town. Don Ross served many years on the Antelope Valley College Boad of Trustees and did not run for re-election after he reached his mid-80s.
``It wouldn't have been fair to the board or the community,'' he said. ``What is the likelihood that I could have served out another whole term?''
The oldest person identified in attendance was Teresa Towner, who owned up to being 95. Neal Wolf, at 94, wasn't far behind her for the title.
A partial rundown of others in their 90s includes: Dorothy Bolt, 93, Reba Nash, 93, Josephine Kollar, 93. Poet and historian Grace Pickus, who admits being to 90, attended with her son, John.
Quartz Hill 4-H'ers, in full uniform, served meals to the infirm at their tables so that they didn't have to stand in line.
The criterion for Old Timer membership is 25 years of residence in the Antelope Valley. Some of those who qualified brought their progeny, and those who didn't brought pictures.
``A lot of work goes into making this a memorable event,'' said Old Timer Association President Craig Stevenson. ``It takes a lot of time and effort from a lot of people. So right now we'll begin planning for next year and, as always, we'll work to make it the best one ever.''
Menus for the week at the senior life nutrition sites in Lancaster and Palmdale have been announced. All meals include bread, margarine and coffee, tea or milk, for the suggested donation of $2.
Monday: Beef stroganoff, peas and carrots, lettuce/tomato salad, pears in juice.
Tuesday: Mandarin chicken salad, marinated beets, pea salad, ice cream.
Wednesday: Salisbury steak, brown rice, Normandy vegetables, tossed salad, banana.
Thursday: Riblet sandwich, macaroni salad, corn niblets, carrot/raisin salad, peaches in juice.
Friday: Beef enchilada casserole, Spanish rice, green beans, coleslaw, cheesecake.
Thirty-nine Antelope Valley natives from infancy to age 95 line up at the Old Timers reunion Oct. 8 at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds. Certificates were awarded to participants who traveled to the fairgrounds from as far as Glendora.
Bettie Rencoret/Special to the Daily News