Antiquing a Great Leisure Actvity for Baby Boomers

Published June 29, 2012           

           When furnishing your home, some might be drawn to Scandinavian design at IKEA Stores.  Personal taste and a love for traditional design furniture might bring others to Ethen Allen. For all those who like the more contemporary look, the Martha Stewart Furniture Collection may simply be their cup of tea.

            However, for Baby Boomers, Scott and Rae Davis, owners ofRhode Island’s largest antique mall, antiques are the way to go when furnishing your home. From college students, to young families, baby boomers, to even the retired, buying antiques can be a perfect solution to decorating your residence. 

            At age 50, Scott Davis, was an antique hobbyist for half of his life before he opened up Rhode Island Antique Mall inPawtucket.  His love for antiques is apparent. When asked, he quickly tells you that “Antiques make a house a home with their warmth, character and charm.”  More important, thePawtucketbusinessman will tell you that antiques will hold their value or appreciate compared to new furnishings that begin losing value immediately upon purchase. 

            Antiquing can provide you with hours of entertainment.  Especially, in winter time and rainy days, antique hunting can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to pass time without experiencing high pressure salesman or encountering large crowds while shopping at malls or large furniture stores,Davissays.   

            Today’s furniture is not built to last for a lifetime, Scott says.  “Antiques were crafted to last generations unlike today’s foreign imported products, carelessly made from particle board and drywall screws.”  Antiques almost always become family heirlooms, he says, “new items rarely do,” he observes.   

“Antiques impart a pride of ownership that is rarely equaled by new items, especially those imported from Asia,Davissays. 

           Davisrattles off a long list of other reasons to this writer, for people to consider antiquing as the way to go to when decorating your house.  “Antiques teach us about history and preserve our heritage.  They are also ‘Green’ and help preserve our natural resources; the ultimate form of recycling, he says.  

           Antiques almost always cost far less than their new counterparts,Davissays.  As an investment, antiques can even be considered assets by financial institutions and can become a significant part of one’s wealth-building strategy.

The ABC’s of Antiquing

            According toDavis, finding the right antiques for your décor may well depend on where and how you shop.  When visiting small independent shops you will usually get personalized service and advice but sacrifice the variety and selection found in a larger establishment.   Group shops or “Antique Malls,” offer a greater selection with lower prices because dealers within the mall must compete with one another.

           For those who go antiquing, the shopping experience is half the fun.Davis recommends that shoppers frequent shops that are enjoyable to be in (lighting, music, air conditioning, etc.).  “Choose shops with a good reputation, that have easy access and parking and reliable hours.  Small and out-of-the-way shops can be frustrating to find and disappointing once you get there,” he says as their hours and inventory can be inconsistent.

           Why not map an antiquing route and spend the day shopping?  Antique shops usually congregate near one another.

           Davis cautions antique shoppers to be wary of flea markets and auctions.  Antiques found at these places often times have hidden problems and the sellers can be less than reputable, he warns.  Also, avoid shops, especially those in “tourist traps” that sell repros because many times the repros are misrepresented as authentic or not clearly marked as reproductions.

Finding that Perfect Antique

            Don’t buy antiques from just anybody, warnsDavis. Always seek advice from reputable dealers you can trust.  Follow your gut and avoid advice from amateurs, he said.

            When shopping, also buy things that you like.  “Don’t be swayed by others to purchase items you won’t want to live with,”Davisadded.  “Most importantly, buy the best you can afford.  One exceptional piece will hold value better than 10 common pieces.”

           Davis believes that mixing and matching is the way to go when furnishing your home.  “Don’t be afraid to mix antique furnishing with new things.  They’ll work great together,” he says, adding that new upholstered furniture is brought to life when complimented with antique tables and cabinets for instance.

           Also, he recommends that the internet and books are keys to educating yourself about the world of antiques.  “Today there are thousands or books and websites on every subject imaginable.  Going on EBay can be a great way to learn about antiques and their values but be careful when buying on-lineDavisnotes; “Deals that seem to be too good to be true usually are.”

          Davis also warns shoppers to beware of reproductions, fakes, undisclosed repairs and “marriages” (mismatched parts).  They are becoming increasingly common.  “Avoid purchasing items like iron doorstops, mechanical banks, Asian artifacts and other commonly reproduced items unless you have a high level of knowledge in the field.”.  Most of these on today’s market are fakes so only buy them from a dealer you can trust.

If You Love It, Haggle…

        If you like something you see… buy it while you can,Davisrecommends.  Haggle on price when appropriate.  Most dealers will accept offers of 5% to possibly 20% under their ticket price on higher priced items (usually depending on what they paid for the piece),” he says or at least they’ll counter-offer.  “Dealers want to sell but replacing the sold items is becoming more difficult so be reasonable”.

      Remember, good antiques sell very fast and will likely not be there the next time you visit.

            For more information, contact Scott Davis, at RI Antiques Mall.  Go to www.riantiquesmall.com or email RIAntiquesMall@cox.net.

            Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who likes browsing in antique stores.  His Commentaries appear in two Rhode Island daily’s The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.

Rediscovering Pawtucket’s Red Pollard

Published June 22, 2012, Pawtucket Times

             In 2003 a dramatic movie about a Depression-era race horse and his oversized jockey became a top box office film hit.  This story of hope and perseverance was woven into a story about a down and out jockey, a heartbroken horse owner, a drifter horse trainer, and the eventual rise of a champion horse.  It is no coincidence that near the former Narragansett Race Track inPawtucket– now a Building 19 retail store – you will discover city streets named “War Admiral” and “Seabiscuit Place, for surprisingly manyPawtucketresidents do not know that the real-life jockey whose story was told in this film lived out his middle years in their community.  “Seabiscuit: An American Legend” was based loosely on the critically-acclaimed, non-fiction book penned by Washington, DC writer Laura Hillenbrand in 2001, whose key figure resided in Pawtucket. 

           America’s iconic jockey, John Pollard, whose moniker “Red” Pollard was known for his flaming red hair and was taller than most jockeys.  At 5’ 7”, Red and his wife Agnes called 249Vine Street located inPawtucket’sDarlingtonneighborhood, their ‘home’.  Their two children, Norah and John would grow up and receive their formal education in the City’s schools.  At the end of their lives, Red and Agnes would be buried a stone’s throw from their modest Vine St. home  in Norte Dame Cemetery on Daggett Avenue.  Pollard died in 1981, and two weeks later Agnes would follow.

            Pollard became a household name to tens of millions of aging baby boomer who either read Hillenbrand’s book, ranked No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list for a total of 42 weeks or watched the 140 minute “Seabiscut” film, which was nominated for an Academy Award

            According to Jockey’s Guild, Inc., the book-loving, jockey, blind in his right eye, whose luck would lead to ridingAmerica’s most beloved thoroughbred racehorse 30 times,  accumulated 18 wins.   Two films and a book would capture his great ride, winning $100,000 in 1940 at the Santa Anita Handicap.  Over his 30 year career, fame and fortune would evade Pollard, who would suffer a lifetime of severe injuries from serious spills to being hospitalized numerous times for a broken hip, ribs, arm, and a leg.  One spill kept him bedridden for months before he could ride again.

            For Pollard, “you just made your own luck and certain things that happen to you”.  Life to him was a crap shoot.

Coming to Pawtucket

            The accident-prone Pollard was severely injured by the weight of a fallen horse in February 1938 at the San Carlos Handicap.  Nine months later, back in the saddle, this unlucky jockey would shatter the bone in his leg during a workout from riding a runaway horse.  This would ultimately keep him from riding in that legendary race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.  However, this severe leg injury would lead him to the love of his life, Agnes Conlon. 

             According to Norah Christianson, the jockey’s daughter who now lives inStratford,Connecticut, marriage would putPawtucketon Pollard’s radar screen.  Recovering from his compound facture in his leg atBoston’sWinthropHospital, by reciting poetry, the jockey would capture the attention of a certain nurse,  fall in love and ultimately marry Agnes Conlon, his registered nurse, in 1936.   The couple would have two children during their 40 year marriage.  

             Christianson, now age 72, noted that it was easy for her mother to drive an hour fromPawtucketto visit her parents and ten siblings who lived inBrookline,Massachusetts.   

            Pawtucketwas also an ideal place for Pollard to live because the City was centrally located toNew England’s racing circuit, adds Christianson.  Her father could easily get to the Narragansett Race Track and Lincoln Downs inRhode Island, and Suffolk Downs inMassachusetts, and Scarborough Downs Race Track inMaine. Moreover, in the winter season he could easily travel toFloridaand hit that state’s race track circuit.  Just five minutes from their home, Agnes took a job atPawtucket’sMemorialHospital, working as a registered nursing in the emergency room.

         Those riding injuries would keep Pollard from serving in the military during World War II, says Christianson, noting that  he worked as a foreman and would oversee the building of Liberty Ships at the Walsh-Kaiser shipyard inProvidence.  With the War’s end, he continued to ride horses until the age of 46, when in 1955 he was just physically unable to do so.    For a time, her father “worked at Narragansett , mentored young jockeys, and then worked as a mail sorter at the track.  After that, he worked as a valet for other jockeys until he finally retired for good. The track was always my dad’s “community” until it closed in 1978.” \

Sipping Whisky, Reading Great Poetry

            Pollard, whose education ended at 4th grade, had a love for poetry and the classics, recalls Christianson.   Always on the move between race tracks, he could easily carry his favorite pocket volumes of Shakespeare, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Service’s   “Songs of the Sourdough” and Omar Khayyam’s “Rubaiyat”.  Being a poetry lover, frequent stays at the hospital would “allow my father to read a lot and memorize,” she noted.

            She also remembers her father sipping a little bit of whiskey as he would recite poetry for the family after dinner. “We just absorbed the experience, not realizing we were learning.” 

             Pollard traveled the race track circuit for months at a time, states Christianson.  When in town, her father would take her and her brother, John to Pinault’s Drug Store onNewport Avenue, enjoy a movie at the Darlton Theater, or visit Kip’s Restaurant.  “I remember Pinault’s had a soda fountain that ”made the best home-made honey dew melon ice cream.”  Many a day Pollard would stop at the Texaco Gas Station, located atArmistice Blvd.andYork Avenue, to sit and talk for hours with his friends.   

             “Dad was a loner, a desperado, an extreme free spirit, a man obsessed with racing,” recalls Christianson.  Before he retired,  Pollards’ typical day started at 4:30 a.m. by heading to the track to exercise horses, later returning home with a few of his jockey friends in their work clothes, ready to eat a hearty breakfast cooked by Agnes and to “tell jokes and talk shop.” His physically active and obsessive lifestyle in racing allowed him to enjoy “puttering around his basement workshop, mow the lawn or even put up the storm windows.”

           When Christianson was 17 years old she had an inkling of her father’s fame. Mr. Winters, her Tolman High math teacher, once asked her “is your father the jockey, Red Pollard ?”  Looking back she would realize that “her father did not make a fuss about his fame.  “He realized that when you stop being on the top,  you are going to be forgotten –  so winning that race was far more important than fame and recognition.”   

           Being involved in local organized groups such as church, the Boy Scouts and business clubs were alien to him, Christianson adds.  “As my brother once said to me when we were talking about our parents,” ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ they were not.”

 Protecting the Jockey Community

             But Pawtucket’s jockey was tapped to be on the first Board of Directors of the newly established national organization, Jockey’s Guild in 1940 -an enormously important guild for riders – this group being a nationwide organized union.  Jockeys who were hurt had no financial recourse, nor did the families of jockeys who were killed, for they did not get any benefits before the Jockeys’ Guild was created. 

           “In the early days of the Guild, [the Nicholasville, Kentucky-based] Guild was able to introduce safety measures such as better racing environments, monitor legislation concerning racing, and providing insurance for jockeys as well as decent wages.  “The great achievements of the Jockeys’ Guild would be what you might call ‘my father’s community service’, adds Christianson.  .

          Red Pollard rode into American history, overcoming a physical disability of partial blindness, accepting intense physical pain caused by severe riding injuries that fractured his bones, while humbly accepting his role in racing history, as the man who rode Seabiscuit.

             Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  This article was published in two Rhode Island daily’s The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.

Volunteerism Leads to New Career Directions

           Published June 15, 2012, Pawtucket Times

           A growing number of aging baby boomers who volunteer on nonprofit boards may find their true calling when they retire.  Volunteering in your later years may lead to new, more exciting careers where passion, energy and love of mission bring about opportunities to serve your community. 

           Fifty two-year old Kathy Anzeveno, who specialized in early childhood development, taught for over 27 years in North Providence and The Gordon School inEast Providence.   Despite raising Joe, her 21 year old son, with her husband, Frank, theSouth Kingstownresident worked for the past nine years as a volunteer for the Matty Fund.  She now serves as the full-time Executive Director of the Wakefield,Rhode Islandnonprofit group, whose mission is to provide family resources, promote patient safety and improve the quality of life for children and families living with epilepsy.

           Nationally, epilepsy affects over three million people. Children United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) estimates that over 300,000 children with this disorder are under age 15, with up to 50,000 deaths occurring annually from prolonged seizures as well as seizure related accidents.

           According to Anzeveno, she made a decision to retire in her early fifties, and to make a difference in another area she was passionate about, one involving lifelong friends, Debra and Richard Siravo.  The Siravos lost their 5 year old son, Matthew, because of complications of epilepsy.  In recent years the organization had grown prompting the founders to need an Executive Director to oversee the implementation of the nonprofit group’s strategic plan, fundraise and implementation of its programs and services.  Over the years, the Siravos saw commitment and capability when Anzeveno came around to stuff envelopes, organize fundraisers and other activities.  The job offer was made…it was quickly accepted, too. 

          Anzeveno explained that the Siravos needed to do something positive in Matty’s memory that would allow families to connect personally with other families.  “The couple felt compelled to fulfill a need for families dealing with epilepsy.  For parents, there is nothing that compares to the suffering/guilt/uncertainty when a child is diagnosed with anything, let alone a potentially disabling disorder,” she said, stressing that some stigma is still attached to people with epilepsy, so parents are often times reluctant to share or acknowledge publically their child’s health issue.

         With years of volunteer work under her belt and expertise as an educator in child development, Anzeveno knew that there was an extreme need for the Matty Fund’s programs and services.  As a volunteer, she was especially touched by the families who, besides dealing their child experiencing regular and often severe seizures, had to tackle the added issues of developmental delays, physical impairments, as well as medication/treatment side effects.

The Matty Fund

         According to Anzeveno, from the tragedy of her personal, longtime friends, was born a foundation that truly helps families affected by epilepsy— started in the Siravo family basement, she remembers getting bruised from bumping into the foosball table while working on auction items for one of its first major fundraisers.  “We had donated items and sticky notes scattered everywhere,” she says.

        Five years ago, the fledgling nonprofit relocated from its basement headquarters to an office space in Wakefield, opening as a community resource center.  Anzeveno notes that just one month ago, The Matty Fund moved again, just down the hall to a larger space to accommodate its growing needs to serve as a hub for support groups, meetings and program activities.  Currently, there are 150 families in the nonprofit group’s data base, mostly Rhode Islanders. 

Assisting Young Children with Epilepsy

      Anzeveno and her volunteers will outreach to families with children with epilepsy, providing educational and emotional support.   Monthly group meetings will be held throughout theOceanState, in Lincoln, Warwick andWakefield.   Lecture series in acute care facilities will provide information to both families and health care professionals, too.

      The Matty Fund also holds a series of events including the Snow Angel Ball Dinner Dance and Auction, Matty’s 5k Run and Walk for Epilepsy, and the Matty’s Memorial Golf for Epilepsy, to fund the operations of the organization.   Funding also supports epilepsy research atBrownUniversity, providing scholarships for college bound students with epilepsy, as well as fundingCampMatty, a therapeutic riding summer day camp for youngsters with epilepsy.  Friendships are forged between families and their epileptic children at the pumpkin festival, egg hunts and at the Matty Hatty dance-athon held in schools around the state that promotes epilepsy awareness.  

            For many aging baby boomers, their job has just become a means to an end. In their later years they are working hard to economically keep afloat, to pay off a mortgage, to rising household costs, and to buy groceries.  Aging baby boomers know they will live a longer period of their lives in retirement then previous generations.  Like Anzeveno, many will seek out ways to become more fulfilled with their lives, by becoming a volunteer.  A new career path might even come about because they volunteered at a nonprofit, helping others and making their community a better place to live. 

          For more information about the Matty Fund call 401/789-7330 or go to www.MattyFund.org.

         Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, healthcare, and medical issues.  His Commentaries are published in two Rhode Island Daily’s The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.