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Short Takes

Grandest of Grandmothers

May 22, 1988|DICK RORABACK

"Nancy Reagan's astrologer said this was going to be a perfect day," cracked announcer Charlie Tuna, and so it was. Assembled on the emerald lawn of the Huntington Hotel was a plenum of little old ladies from Pasadena, sweet as sugar cane and twice as sharp.

The occasion was the first blush of a nationwide search for "Granny of the Year," a competition that will culminate in November when regional finalists vie for grand prize of a 10-day tour of China. First to submit her entry form was Dottie Thompson, 68, who last year was voted homecoming queen by fellow students at Cerritos College. Second was Jacquie Cunningham, 54, who races (and sometimes gets tossed from) speedboats.

Hulda Crook, 92, who last year scaled Mt. Fujiyama, couldn't quite make it--"She's pooped," somebody explained--but in the crowd were at least 10 great-grandmothers and one genuine great-great-grandmother. "It sounds like fun, but I don't think I'll enter," said the great-great, Lucille Calvin of Pasadena, only 71. "I'm all booked up."

By consensus, best-dressed was great-grandmother Rosa Johnson of Altadena, resplendent in the mode of Delta Dawn's mom. "I'm Italian by birth, and it's considered unlucky to give your exact age," said Johnson. "Just say, 'Over 60.' "

Entertainment, appropriately enough, was supplied by "The Talk of the Town," a high-kicking dance troupe of Pasadena matrons, all five older than 70, all clad in red miniskirts and mesh stockings and shaking white pompons for all they were worth.

"Thank you, ladies," said Tuna. "You've got better pompons than women half your age."

His Heart's Taken a Lickin' but Kept on Tickin'

Arne Larsson, the Swede who set the pace, was in town the other day, brimming with gusto and savoring the birthday.

Not his birthday, exactly. The cake held only 30 candles and Arne admits to 73. Rather, the celebration at the Westin Bonaventure commemorated the 30th anniversary of the world's first implantation of a cardiac pacemaker, the battery-driven device that helps a balky heart bop along at a lively pace.

It was in Stockholm in 1958 that Larsson, victim of a severe case of hepatitis resulting in a seemingly endless series of heart attacks, consented to the first implant. ("The first human implant," corrects Larsson's striking wife, Else Marie. "They already tried it on the dogs that lived in the hospital's back yard. But Arne's condition was so bad they said he couldn't survive another attack; he was doomed . . . .")

"Else Marie was fantastic," Larsson recalls. "She'd read in a U.S. magazine that they were working on pacemakers and took the article to (Dr.) Ake Senning. 'You must make the impossible possible,' she said. 'You must make my husband's heart work again.' And he did."

The first pacemaker, a bulky forerunner of the current and sophisticated Seimens/Pacesetter models, lasted only six weeks, "but that was enough; it took away the attacks." Since then, Larsson's body has harbored no fewer than 23 devices; each better than the last; some of which Larsson himself, an engineer, helped develop.

"Today," Larsson says, "they do the implant with local anesthetic, in 1 1/2 hours, not much more than going to the dentist. It's no longer either a medical or an engineering sensation, as it once was. I tell you though: to the patient it's a sensation. It's a miracle!"

Golf Collector Sees a Link to History in Every Club

Go ahead, give him the shaft. That's what he's there for. Fred Hardison will heft it, maybe give it a little swing, return it and tell you how much it's worth.

When you can't find Hardison on the tennis court, try Pebble Beach, or St. Cloud outside Paris or even St. Andrews, where he's a member of the Royal and Ancient. Hardison, a retired insurance broker from Laguna Beach, loves to play golf. Even more, he loves its traditions, its history, especially the old tools of the trade.

As a member of the board of both the state and international Golf Collectors Societies, Hardison, a thoroughly comfortable man, appears at a half-dozen clinics a year around the Southland, appraising old golf clubs and spinning links lore from the days when men were of iron and shafts were of wood.

This, of course, was when clubs were named, not numbered. "In order of slant, there were the driving iron, midiron, mid-mashie, mashie iron, spade, mashie niblick and niblick," Hardison recalls, the appellations rolling off his tongue like a sweet stroke down the middle. "Among woods, there was the driver, then the brassie, spoon, baffy. . . . The cleek--about a 5- or 6-wood--was misnamed here. In Scotland, all irons were cleeks; the word comes from that hook that holds the pot over the stove."

What makes a hickory-shafted club valuable? "Rarity, of course; craftsmanship; sometimes the novelty. The old Hagen wedge, for example, a monster with a cup face that was outlawed. Or the cran cleek, with a piece of wood screwed into the back to soften the impact . . . . Some are quite valuable, but I always say, 'Look, you've got something unique. Why not clean it up, hang it on the wall?' Even the run-of-the-mill clubs, they're beautiful."

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