Old Regulars at Downtown YMCA
What happened to some of them?
By Marilyn L. Pinsky
For most of my working life, lunch times were spent at the Downtown YMCA and I would see the same dedicated exercisers year after year. I’ve been wondering what happened to their routines now that they are in their 80s.
I managed to track down four of them. Here are their stories.
“Physical activity, particularly sports, has always been appealing to me,” said Sidney Devorsetz, “It is healthy and relieves stress as well.”
“Indeed, having practiced law as a litigator for 60 years generated more than a fair share of stress and anxiety for me. Team sports were an enjoyable release largely because they combined exercise with competition and socializing, and included softball, basketball and handball in my 20s and 30s. However, it became more challenging for the organizers to round up the requisite number of players to be at a field or court at the appointed time. Therefore, it was time to move on to more individual endeavors such as jogging and frequenting a gym for a workout, although I still played tennis.”
“As far as injuries go, I sustained an elbow injury playing lacrosse in college which required surgery, but fortunately has not been disabling. I dealt with chronic back pain for years, but played through it. After giving up platform tennis a few years ago, I am free of pain, although I miss it and would like to play pickleball now.”
“The enjoyment, as well as the physical and mental benefits associated with exercise, are the reasons I am convinced that if one stays in shape, he or she will sleep sounder, be less likely to fall or otherwise become disabled, such as suffering back pain from lifting as well as perhaps being more mentally alert. It affords more options available to us for whatever time we have left, such as independent travel, hiking, touring, etc.”
“Currently, my daily routines include close to an hour walk (though if it is subzero and a bone-chilling, windy day, I pass) and my indoor exercise includes one of three rotating full body workouts prescribed or scripted by a trainer with emphasis on leg, core and upper body strength and balance.”
Marvin Goldenberg, a patent attorney, played baseball, football and golf when growing up in the New York City area. He was 10 when he started playing golf and played on both his high school and college teams. At 17 he won the Queens County Interscholastic Golf Championship.
“After moving to Syracuse, my principal exercise was playing four wall handball at the Y and the JCC. I’d go after work, play for two hours and then go home for dinner. I still continued golf in a GE-work league weekdays and on weekends with friends.”
“When we moved from the city to Manlius it was less convenient to get to the gym, so I started running. When I was a kid in high school I could not even run once around the track, but after playing handball for seven years I thought I’d give running a try again. It was winter. I put on my army boots, hit the road and found I could easily run a mile. Then I ran for exercise for 20 years until my knees started bothering me. My father had been a world class race-walker, so I decided to do that. I competed against walkers in my age group and at age 80 set two national records, in the 5K and 3K indoor race-walk. My last race was two years ago.”
“In my 50’s I was having back spasms, so bad that at times I couldn’t get out of bed. A doctor told me I should stop running. As I left his office, I said to myself, ‘to hell with that advice.’ After a combination of rest and easy movement I recovered sufficiently to go back to my regular routine.”
“I am sufficiently disciplined to do what I consider is good for me. As I’ve aged, I’ve combined the exercises into walking for aerobic benefits and weights to retain upper and lower body strength. My routine now is short and intensive, but done regularly whether I feel like it or not. That has helped me stay fit and avoid injuries.”
“For me, the principle benefit of exercise is to live a better life, not necessarily a longer life, although that probably also results.”
“Not being all that well coordinated when I was young, I rarely played any sports. But in 1978 when starting work at the Onondaga County Department of Health, I saw an advertisement for an early bird exercise class at the YMCA. Walter Price was the wonderful leader of what the Y called a ‘group of young professionals,’ but I called it an adult scout troop. We got ribbons to put on our refrigerators for various milestones to keep us incentivized. We evolved from indoor exercising to walking and then into running. And Walt, like the scout leader, would keep us going — organizing pancake breakfasts, impromptu pool swims, a New Year’s champagne run at the Rose Garden. It was really a chance to be a kid again.”
“I’d be at the Y by 6:30, run, shower, have breakfast with the group and then be at work by 8:30. I discovered that running wasn’t necessarily competitive given that you’re competing against your own time and other runners weren’t dependent on you to maintain a certain pace.”
Walt’s incentivizing must have worked as Bev did three Mountain Goat competitions.
“Through the years these early morning exercisers have become my best friends and support group. They even were the contacts for my post-retirement jobs. About eight of us get together socially with spouses and some of us have traveled as a group to Prague and London. We have been through births, deaths, divorces and the problems of kids’ growing up years. When my husband Mel passed away, being able to go to the Y three times a week to run and have breakfast with them was the best support for me.”
“With hip and knee problems, a bunch of us have become walkers; we call ourselves ‘the walking wounded.’ We’ve had injuries but did PT and gradually went back to the group. We keep asking each other, ‘Do you think this is doing us any good?’ And we say ‘yes’ and keep going.”
“A downtown Y contact told me about the Active Older Adult Outdoor Walking Club at the East area Y. That has kept me active during COVID-19 and the senior men and women walkers are most welcoming. For me, the exercise and the social component are inseparable.”
An all-around athlete, Jack Estabrook, owner of Estabrook Printing, played football, baseball and tennis in high school, then boxed at Colgate, boxed in Golden Gloves and worked out with the wrestling team. He was also the Colgate Red Raider (mascot) for three years.
“After college, I sparred with professionals at the Main Street Gym where boxers like Basilio and Backus worked out. Then I started playing handball, mostly singles at the Y and the Public Safety Building. I also played softball competitively around Central New York for 20 years and for one year, played semi-pro football for the Frankfort Falcons.”
“At the same time, I played a lot of golf. When my sons were in grade school, I coached Pop Warner for three years with Jerry Rapp.”
“But handball was always my main ongoing exercise, a great sport where ‘eye-hand’ coordination is key. I played until two years ago, even winning a doubles tournament, but there comes a point in your life when it’s just not practical anymore. Handball players move away, get hurt and competition is tough.”
How do you get yourself up to exercise when you don’t feel like it?
“You just do it. It’s like Colombo, who when he put on his raincoat, was a detective. You put on your sneakers and handball gloves and you’re ready to go!”
“In a handball tournament I had my front teeth knocked out. I picked them up, gave them to the referee, and kept playing. I broke a finger another time, taped it to the adjacent finger and finished the game. I’ve had both shoulders replaced. I’ve broken my nose five times. Once I was serving in a game and my right bicep snapped; first and only time I couldn’t finish what I started.”
“I am still active, just a little slower, but I still ‘get it done’. I hunt deer with my three sons, which gives me plenty of fresh air and exercise. I find my own firewood, cut and split it, and I keep busy around the house as ‘chief maintenance manager.’”
As Jack says, “I may be a different breed, if I want to do something, I do it. I had a quadruple bypass, played two weeks before the operation and then started playing again.”
“Currently I stay active selling printing and selling promotional stuff’, plus I see people who don’t necessarily want to see me: working for CNY Investigation Bureau and lawyers.”