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Some Short Anecdotes and a Few Tall Tales

February 12, 1988|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

Off-the-rack clothes for very tall men cost 30% to 50% more than those for regular sizes, according to Stephen Hodsdon, assistant manager of Eagleson's Big and Tall shop in Santa Ana. This is because there are fewer manufacturers, it takes more material to make the garments and retailers must make a bigger markup "because we can't turn the merchandise over as quickly."

Hodsdon also points out that "70% of our customers are women. The big guys are embarrassed or they don't want to come in, so they send their women to get it. And they come back. There are a lot of exchanges."

Hodsdon's most memorable big-and-tall-shop encounter is the time a customer's "credit card expired and this 5-2 cashier told this 7-6 giant his credit was no good."

Take a tip from Orange County's tallest family, the Waikles of Mission Viejo. It may be advisable for very tall people to adjust to their surroundings rather than to try to remake the world in their own image.

Karen Waikle recalled that husband Gary's office doorway was made higher to accommodate his 6-foot, 9-inch frame. That was great, except that once he became accustomed to the new entryway, he found himself forgetting to duck when he walked into other offices. Ouch.

Here's one for the believe-it-or-not file: Gary Waikle drives a Volkswagen Beetle.

Says 7-foot-1 son Jim: "I can't fit in that thing."

Says 6-foot-9 dad Gary: "If he's late for school, he'll get in it."

Karen Waikle recalls that her husband tried to "get into the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force, police department. He practiced slouching. You just can't fool them."

According to local military recruiters, the height limits for the various services are 6-foot-8 for the Army and Air Force, 6-foot-7 for the Marines and 6-foot-6 for the Navy.

How do recruiters keep out the too-tall slouchers?

"You have to make them stand straight," Naval Petty Officer Darren Gringer says. "And they have to be naked when you measure them so they can't cover up a slouch."

There is at least one study on record that says it may be less important how tall one becomes than when one becomes tall.

According to Dr. David Mosier, a UC Irvine pediatrics professor who is an expert in growth disorders, the study found that those who reached their maximum heights at very young ages were "more successful and popular in their high-school years." However, "the late-maturing types were more successful later in life with marriage and jobs."

The old saw that you can predict a boy's height by measuring him at age 2 and multiplying that by 3 is a pretty unreliable rule of thumb, according to Mosier. However, a qualified physician can forecast ultimate height with reasonable certainty by determining the stage of bone maturation in the wrists or hands, he says.

Irvine City Councilman David Baker believes that at 6-foot-8 1/2, he may be Orange County's tallest politician. But he has set his sights even higher. Baker wants to become the biggest member of Congress--and he just may if he wins the 40th Congressional District race this year.

Before she joined the Tall Club of Orange County, 6-foot-1-inch Vicki Kondzela of Corona del Mar felt the frustration of searching for the right kind of men--single, available and tall.

"You would go someplace and you tower heads above everybody," she says. "There would be one tall male head over here and maybe another one over there. You kind of wind your way over and invariably there's this little short thing under his arm.

"When you're younger, you just want to kill!"

Among the things that really irritate tall folks is deceptive advertising.

"One of our favorite terms in the whole world that just makes us crazy is one-size-fits-all panty hose," Kondzela says, laughing. "Say that to tall women and we just get hysterical."

A few notable mottoes of U.S. chapters of Tall Clubs International:

"I may be the first to be rained on, but I'm the last one to drown."

"No, I don't play basketball. Do you play miniature golf?"

"God made me taller because he thought of me longer."

Regardless of your height, you may as well enjoy it while you've got it.

"As soon as you reach your peak height, around 19 or 20, you start to shrink. It's all downhill from there," says Mosier.

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