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Program bridges generation gap

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By Alexandra Hehlen

About a dozen students met in the Los Alamos High School Speech Theater with a group of senior citizens for Cookies and Conversation recently.
The monthly event takes place during students’ lunch hour and promotes conversation between the elderly and the young, accompanied by an assortment of cookies and free lunch.
The atmosphere is ideal for talking about any subject. At the Jan. 14 meeting, topics ranged from New Year’s resolutions to community service and college degrees.
For part of the get-together, two senior citizens, Don Casperson and Morrie Pongratz, took a trip back in time and shared some of their teenage experiences.
Despite the age difference, both Casperson and Pongratz talked about subjects that today’s teens can relate to: music and high school.
Casperson said he participated in many clubs and was part of the yearbook staff.
He also recalled his love for music. “I was musically inclined. I played the trumpet and I was in band.” His favorite group was the Beatles.
Pongratz noted that in his teenage years, Elvis Presley was popular. “The Beatles had not hit until I was in college, so it was Elvis Presley. Rock ‘n roll was just getting started,” he said.
Pongratz was on the football team and said he had a successful season his junior year of high school. “Our team actually won the state championships of Nebraska.”
He recalled the fun he had during the winter months in Nebraska, as well. “… The low spots in the pastures would get water in them and freeze. And you could get off on level ground, where it wasn’t frozen and drive, get onto the ice, hit the brakes … and you could practice driving on ice and pulling out of spins,” he said.
He remembered when one of his friends attempted to do this, “… There was a tree stump frozen in the ice and it just ripped … his tires, which was a little tough to explain to his parents.”
One of Casperson’s favorite memories, on the other hand, was sailing with his brother close to Boston, where Casperson lived when he was a child.
He described his brother’s desire for a sailboat. “He convinced my folks and … we couldn’t afford a big one … so my mother said, ‘Well if you can find a sailboat that is reasonably in good shape for less than $500, we’ll buy it.’”
Casperson’s brother did find a boat. “It was part of a 1938 hurricane, a very famous hurricane in the New England area and it used to be … 27 feet long,” he said.
During the hurricane, however, the boat lost its transom, part of the back of the ship.
“(My brother) just cut (off the damaged transom) and put a new transom on there. So, it looked fine when it was in the water but (when) you took it out of the water sitting on its keel … it looked like it was missing part of it,” Casperson said.
And while some things have stayed the same, others have changed.
Casperson noted the difference between his childhood years and the lives of teenagers today. “We didn’t have all these fancy electronics and Internet …. (this) is a completely changed culture.”
Despite the cultural differences of each group’s teenage years, Cookies and Conversation makes it possible to reconcile the elderly with the young.
Bernadette Lauritzen, who organizes the event, said its main purpose “is to offer some kind of inter-generational opportunity. I think there’s a lot of kids who don’t have their grandparents here and a lot of grandparents don’t have their grandkids here, so how are they ever supposed to cross paths?”
Lauritzen said she prepares “light-hearted” questions that the senior citizens and the high schoolers can discuss, so that conversation is always flowing.
“We try to do (Cookies and Conversation) the first Monday of every month. Unless it’s a holiday and then we usually get bumped to the second Monday. And it’s for anybody. That’s probably the most important thing I’d like people to know,” Lauritzen said.
For more information about Cookies and Conversation, contact Lauritzen at 661-4846 or send text messages to 695-9139.