Thursday, September 24, 2020

Shanah Tovah (Eleanor)

Last week was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year; a time of reflection and a call to action for the New Year. With the harvest here and winter coming, it’s important for all of us to reflect on what we did in the past year and what we need to do in the New Year. So, I’m dedicating this post to Eleanor Kazdan, and posting a selection of her stories as a way to look back and look forward:

Eleanor Kazdan
My mother was very frugal. Like most families in the 1950’s, my father went to work and my mother stayed home with her four children. Money was a bit tight, and my mother was always looking for ways to make my father’s paycheck stretch a little further. One of her favorite pastimes at our local grocery store was rooting through the bins of canned foods that had lost their labels. We ate a lot of canned peas, corn, peaches, pears and fruit cocktail. One day I arrived home from school to find lunch on the table. Everything looked fine except a plate of ground meat. I took one look at it and blurted out, “That looks just like the food that our neighbors give their dog!” My mother vigorously denied that it wasn’t regular ground beef. Silence descended for a moment before she sheepishly admitted that it was, indeed, dog food!
Eleanor Kazdan
Planning a trip to France to celebrate a milestone birthday in October has gotten me reminiscing about my first trip to Paris.
It was 1969 and my friend Kathy and I had gone on our first trip to Europe for 3 ½ months, backpack and Eurail Pass in hand. We landed in London, spent a week there before heading to Paris. Kathy and I were both Francophiles and made a pact that we would speak only French in Paris. Getting off the train we were walking on air through this exotic station where everyone seemed exotic and romantic, smoking Gitanes and drinking espresso. In those days there was a Kiosk in every train station where you could book a hotel. We easily got one on the Left Bank for $5.00 a night.
The hotel was run by a cute older couple. Our walk-up room was on the 4th floor. Every morning at 7:00 there was a knock at our door and Madame delivered a tray with big bowls of coffee, fresh croissants, and homemade jam. The hotel doors were locked at 11:00 PM. But the cute couple slept by the door so they could let people in after hours. They warned me and Kathy not to let guys up to our room.
One night Kathy and I went to a discotheque where we met 2 French guys. My guy and I really hit it off, and walked around the streets of Paris for hours. When I looked at my watch it was midnight. I felt embarrassed to go back to the hotel so late, so my petit ami and I stayed out all night on our romantically innocent escapade. Kathy and I met up in the morning. She and her petit ami had stayed out all night as well!

Eleanor Kazdan,
My Quarantine
In mid-March, twelve days after returning from Mexico, my husband developed symptoms of COVID-19 and although I immediately distanced from him, slept in a separate room, I developed symptoms three days later and we both tested positive. His illness was incredibly mild—four days even before he got tested his symptoms completely went away, but I was not so lucky and I was, what I know now, mildly ill at home for two weeks. It was incredibly scary because it wasn’t going away and I kept reading about how after a week it can either get better or can get worse, and mine was not getting better. I had a fever, I was in bed and I had the greatest outpouring of support from my friends, my family, people from my past. It was actually exhausting trying to keep up with the texts and the phone calls, but it made a huge difference.
I was basically more or less in bed for two weeks and I had all the symptoms, which I won’t go into: a little trouble breathing, incredible exhaustion (I could barely walk a step for about a week), and I was so grateful when finally, after two weeks of fever it went away. The worst time of the day was in the morning when I took my temperature and every day I had a fever, not really high, but it just wasn’t going away. So finally, after exactly two weeks, my fever went away and I considered myself better. I have been in the house and not even walking around for two weeks and it was a beautiful sunny day, so this is the best day of quarantine so far, a beautiful sunny day. My husband said, “Do you feel up to taking a drive?” So I said, “Yes” and we got in the car and we drove and it was just like a miraculous dream. I really felt, first of all, really grateful that I had survived and we drove to the back of the Art Museum where there’s a beautiful azalea garden which many of you may have been to. Because it was April, the azaleas were in full bloom and we got out of the car. I was very weak but I managed to walk to the azalea garden. There were a lot of people there not social distancing and not wearing masks, and it felt very miraculous to me to have survived COVID-19 and to see the beautiful flowers and the trees. So like a lot of people, for various reasons, I feel very blessed and very grateful.

Eleanor Kazdan
This morning I decided to go through some boxes of old stuff in my basement, which has once again become cluttered. It had apparently been a long time as the boxes were covered with dust. The first box I pulled out was full of old letters, many from the 1970’s. Long, detailed letters, some from friends I barely remembered. Scanning some of them I realized that I had touched many people’s lives. And I also realized that not all friendships last forever, as intense and special as they seem at the time.
Some of my friends had written extensively, so I organized these letters in piles by name Elaine, Coco, Kathy.
Kathy had written me a mountain of letters from home, trips, and her college year aboard in France. I was overwhelmed by her love. And overwhelmed by sadness. Kathy died 30 years ago. She left me so much in her letters. We became friends at summer camp when we were 15. At age 19 we took our first trip to Europe together. We stayed close through moves to other cities.
When we were 32 Kathy found a lump in her breast. Her doctor told her she was too young to have breast cancer. A year later she finally went for tests, and found out it was an aggressive tumor. I was blessed to have Kathy for another 7 years.
Now she lives on in my memory and inside an old dusty box.
Eleanor Kazdan,
I had a chance to reminisce and feel nostalgic on my recent trip to France. It was almost exactly 50 years ago that my friend and I went to Europe for the first time. We were armed with a 3-month Eurail pass that allowed us to hop on and off trains. And we hopped on and off a lot. In those days European trains had compartments that fit 4-6 people. You could end up being best friends with people who shared your space for many hours. And if you were lucky enough to snag a whole compartment on an overnight trip, it was a cozy bedroom for 2.
Things have changed, though. These iconic compartments are long gone. It’s much less romantic now. Just a regular train, everyone facing the same way and not interacting with strangers as much. But the same countryside whizzed by. Fields of lavender, cypress trees, cows who surely mood with a French accent. Paris to Marseilles to Aix-en-Provence to Arles to Avignon. The towns have changed as well. The quaint town of Aix now has an Apple store in the iconic town square. And it’s harder to speak French. More people speak English and want to show you that they can. But France still worked its magic on me.
As they say, “plus ça change, plus ça rest la même."

If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at You can also share our older buds's adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And if you know older buds with stories of New Years' past, then you or they can submit them through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.

And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all. 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 17, 2020

No New Post This Week

 Sorry everybody. I had a lot of things on my plate so I wasn't able to write a Best Day post for this week. I'll be back int he swing of things by next week, so keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of new stories. And Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Labor Day (José, Joyce, and Philip)

Last Monday was Labor Day, which hopefully meant a nice day off whether or not you're currently working from home. In honor of that we have a selection of stories about work and the daily grind:

José Dominiguez


Looking for Work Mexican Style

I cannot speak about how all Mexicans seek for job but I can speak about how I tried to use a traditional way of looking for a job in Mexico. All happened when after I decided not to spend my precious energies doing a boring dissertation for my doctoral degree and I found myself with an income less than the standard. (Meaning that I was broke.) But, I used to be acquainted with Carlos Yates. A lucky one, doctoral companion who had very good relations in my hometown Ciudad Juarez. I supposed we were close and in a way, I thought, he was my friend, and assuming that, I asked him for help to find a job. He acted very cool and professional and explained me how to write a successful resume. My gosh! I was expecting a more Mexican response such as: I will speak with my friends or let my look with some important people I know but giving me a class of how to promote myself was nonsense. It was an easy way of get rid of me. Carlos never lose composure and continue lecturing me, saying “By the way Pepe you have relationship with very powerful persons in the political system. Why don’t you go with them?” 

“Like who?” I asked surprised. 

“Like Lu Carrillo Doran. He is a high politician and millionaire and he is your relative.” 

“Lu Carrillo Doran” I repeated loudly, “No I can’t go to him.” I said. 

“But why?” He insisted. 

 “Because the last time I saw him in my father’s house my father as usual was very honest and very straight. And among other not so nice things, he said to my politician guest ‘Lu Carrillo Doran: You know…all politicians are thieves, they enter to politics only to fill they pockets with money!’” 

Carlos Yates changed his face expression and said: “Well Pepe we shall better continue with your resume.”


Joyce Woods


The Return to Caitlin & Our Story Telling Class At Last

During the summer I began my volunteering in a program for teenagers who were being trained this past spring on planting vegetables, weeding, harvesting and a host of other interesting jobs done on an urban farm here in Philadelphia. Upon beginning this volunteering I began on all Saturdays of the month. I didn’t realize once the training ended I would be working three days a week instead of one. The hours were three days on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays six and a half hours a day; our class day Thursday too. I guess I could have just taken Thursdays off but I felt I would miss something so I stayed on for the duration of the summer. I became addicted to nature and also became fond of our staff which consisted of our lead teacher and farmer, our two chefs, and our eleven students. Everyone is back in their various jobs and school and now I am back with you.

Philip Pai


Story About Money

I have a friend who come from Taiwan. She told me she worked hard and saved some money for her children. She expected someday her son have good education and become a senator or president. One day I met her husband. He point to his son and said This young kid will be a command in chief in the country. Both of them love their boy very much. In order to help their son to study in the United States. Even buy a house for their son, but their son didn’t study as well or work. The couple very sorry for their child. When they talk about their son they always cry! Meanwhile I saw a lot of my friend when they come to United States. They were very poor, but their kids work hard and they also study hard. Years later, they have their own business and get Masters or PH degree. Every year they earn money and send to their parents who were in mainland China. The parents they are very proud for they have such a good child. Sometimes I think money can make people happy, proud or make a family cry. It depends how you use it.


We also had one more story from older bud Myra, about how she won a vacation to Hawaii for her family by representing her union in Philadelphia. So keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks.

And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.


Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Schooled (Ann, José, Norman, Frances)

Everything about this year is different, and school is the most different of all. Some schools have gone completely digital, some schools alternate which students can attend in person, some schools spread and shield their desks and diligently clean their surfaces. The newness of schooling during COVID-19 was made especially clear to me during last week's session when Kian shared the story of his first day in first grade. He's going into second grade, so I can't imagine how different his first day back will be. Will he play with any friends in person. How will Phys. Ed. be done over Zoom? Will he miss cupcakes during his classmates' birthdays and Halloween parades? How much of school will change once everyone can go back in person again?

We've all taken our experiences with school for granted, but school has changed a lot over the years. Certain practices have fallen out of favor (like corporal punishment and the dunce cap), certain practices are coming back in unusual ways (like correspondence courses), and certain practices only took hold outside of the United States (like having students clean and sweep the classrooms at the end the day.) Even preschool was once a new and exciting concept to our older buds. In honor of beginning of the new school year, I want to dedicate this post to stories about school and schooling.

Ann Von Dehsen
Sports World

Caught up in the excitement of the US Women’s Soccer Team’s victory, I realized how greatly and positively things have changed for girls and women in sports. When I was in elementary school, long before Title 9 leveled the playing field, we had co-ed gym once a week. It was more like a structured recess than gym – we played a lot of dodgeball and had a lot of relay races. In 6th grade, however, we had separate girl/boy gym classes. Already the lines were drawn as boys had gym 3x a week and the girls had it twice a week. The boys were given t-shirts and gym shorts with the school’s initials on them and we girls were told to wear a shirt with shorts underneath on gym days. We were also given a very new, very young, very male gym teacher, known as Mr. B. I [doubt] if Mr. B’s dream job was teaching a group of 6th and 7th-grade hormonal girls, but it did mean certain advantages for us. For example, we had to “change” into our gym clothes behind the curtain on the stage in the gym. Now, remember “hanging” meant whipping off our shirts to expose our shorts, a move which should take less than 10 seconds. But given the fact that Mr. B was not allowed to step behind the curtain, we stretched the time out until we heard, “Girls, please come out,” then “Let’s go,” and finally, “Girls, NOW!” On days when one just didn’t feel like participating, she would go up to Mr. B and use the universal female excuse of “I have cramps.” After his blush faded, Mr. B would stammer, “Uh OK, uh just go over there and observe.”
Mr. B loved softball and we pretty much played it whenever the weather cooperated. Two of my friends and I often volunteered to play outfield because we enjoyed the peace and quiet, could talk about it, and even look for 4 leaf clovers since it was extremely rare for a ball to get past shortstop. Unless, unless, unless, Muriel stepped up to the plate. Muriel consistently hit over the fence homers (meaning we outfielders still didn’t have to work) and when she pitched, it was inevitably a “no-hitter.” Muriel was a very nice girl who was told “no” time after time when she asked to try out for little league. So finally, Muriel tucked her hair under a baseball cap, borrowed her brother’s clothes and went down to the field for little league tryouts, registering under a false name. No surprise, she hit 3 homers at her 3 at-bats and pitched a perfect inning. When the winning player’s names were announced at the end of tryouts, Muriel’s pseudo mane was of course amongst them. Having a flair for the dramatic, she walked up to home plate, pulled off her cap and shook her long mane of churls as the adults gasped and the kids cheered. In fairness, the adults got in touch with some little league executives but were told the bylaws strictly forbade females in a male sport.
Things improved for us girls in high school as we were exposed to a wider variety of sports. I really liked tennis and archery. There was a tennis team – for boys only – and an archery club for boys only. The only all-girl teams were gymnastics and cheerleading. But over the years, things did change and when my own girls were in high school, they played on the lacrosse team and field hockey team and the tennis team.
Slowly, the women’s tennis championship became more popular than men’s. Upon Women’s basketball team won 11 championships and 13 years own Mo’ne Davis propelled her Philadelphia team to the Little League World Championship.
During the victory parade for this year’s women’s soccer team, co-captain Megan Rapinoe popped the cork on a bottle of champagne trouncing, “I deserve this – we all deserve this!” Yes, they do, but they also deserve to win their next battle – equal pay.


José Dominiguez
Grades in My Life

Society needs grades to attach privileges or losses and I believe that they have a purpose but do I need them? Well it depends on the stage of my life.
At the elementary school I was like a scared mouse and saw my teachers as powerful and merciless authorities. That little paper they gave us with our evaluation was almost always a certification of our ignorance and irresponsibility. At the end when I finished I did not know how I was promoted. At the secondary level I noticed that I had learned some study skills so I had a good domain of my language and was not afraid of mortify myself with long hours of study. My grades came easily and I was recovering from the bruises of my self-esteem. High school was the same as at the secondary level and my good grades helped me to socialize and to be curious about reading and people but they never represented me
At bachelor degree each course was an adventure and learned to suck books and have a presence in the oral exams. It was almost impossible to fake in those oral exams but I managed to do it at that stage I was a professional to obtain decent grades. Obviously my knowledge did not match my grades but I did not mind.
At the master degree I loved to study most of my courses and I was under pressure to obtain a good average score so for the first time in my life grades represented some true knowledge in me. I don’t have time to talk about more of my studies that I did but at this stage of my life, I can say that grades are not important. I believe that tests and evaluation have to be an opportunity of learning and enjoyment.

Norman Cain 
My College Years at Bluefield State 

When I arrived on the campus of Bluefield State College, a small Historical Black College and University, located in the city of Bluefield, West Virginia during the semester break in January 1961, I was highly disappointed for several reasons. First, I expected a larger campus, certainly nowhere as large as Temple, Penn or Drexel; but nevertheless, a campus more vast, a campus with more buildings. Secondly, I expected to see students dressed in the ivy league mode (loafers, recreational bucks, newsboys hats, khakis, rain coats, button down shirts) opposed to fashionable party wear. Truth be told, I was equating my initial impression of the campus with what I had seen of the large Philadelphia campuses. 

As I stated earlier, I arrived on campus during the semester break. There were no females present. There were around 30 males, some of whom where Korean era veterans. As the only true freshman on campus, I was subjected to light silly hazing, a custom on campuses during the period, which I found to be entertaining, until the students who had spent semester break off-campus returned. For me, freshmen hazing was over.  I let the upper-classmen know that fact. They reluctantly left me alone. There was no way that I was going to be embarrassed in front of those lovely coeds whose presence had me forget about what I thought the short comings of the campus were. My college life had begun. Four years of study, dances, love affairs, pranks, highs, lows, camaraderie, dormitory life, civil rights demonstrations. 

During my first semester, I did well in my history class, I struggled with remedial English, a class taught by a young professor who took me under her wing. Once, after reading my essay that I had written, she informed the class that while I needed to gain a mastery of grammar, I, nonetheless, had an idea about the nuances of creative writing. I was surprised when I received my first college transcript. While I thought I was going to be placed on academic probation, I received a grade point average of 2.17. I was elated. I felt that, perhaps, I could manage to navigate my way through college. During the second semester of my freshman year, I again, did well in history and received an “A” in sociology, English Literature, and Public Speaking, a class in which, I was amongst a few who were selevted to participate in a workshop designed for those that showed an aptitude for oration. 

In order to increase my grade point average, I enrolled in a summer accelerated constitution class at Cheyney State College in Cheyney Pennsylvania (which had turned me down for admission) and received an “A”. By the time I was a second semester sophomore, my grade point average was 2.38. That average allowed me to become eligible to pledge for the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. I became president of the pledge club and secretary and Dean of pledges for the fraternity. I was always the master of ceremonies when the fraternity held academic functions. During my senior year I became vice president of the inter-fraternal counsel. 

In addition to having become a visible fraternity leader, I also became a civil rights organizer and president and founder of the poetry society. In my senior year, I received an “A” in Advanced English Grammar. I accomplished this feat without purchasing the text. Evidently, I had come a long way from being chronically shy, learning disabled, and low self-esteemed individual. 

I can truly say that my sophomore year in college was the year that convinced me that I could overcome all obstacles if I persevered, believed in myself and worked hard. I realized that I was not stupid. I began to verbalize. I began to assume campus leadership positions. Attending a HBCU, which in the early sixties were institutions where the students’ administrators and faculty were close knit – like an extended family, was a plus. Some instructors realized that I was not equipped for college study, but because they saw that I was trying heard, they helped me. They would have me do chores for them: rake leaves, shovel snow, paint, clean house, run errands, etc. After completing shores, they would give me a meal, private tutoring for several hours and pay. 

On the two occasions when I was unable to pay for boarding, the administration did not send me a bill. When a local graduate sorority chapter, one whose members were overwhelmingly, alumnus of Bluefield State College, found out that I was financially strapped, they gave me a stipend. When I did not have $25.00 to purchase my teaching certificate, a group of female students made sure that I had the money I needed. My four year tenure at Bluefield State College taught me an important lesson: if one desired something badly enough, perseverance would deliver it. I spent four wonderful years there. My last night on the campus a Bluefield State College was a spontaneous time of ritualizing for a few of the students that had completed the summer session. I remember how on that pleasantly warm mid-August evening we gathered in front of the girls dormitory and commenced to sing all of our colleges fight songs, the school’s hymn, as well as an array of the sorority and fraternity songs.  

I felt like a physical sensation in the form of stupendous school spirit had engulfed me. Exhausted, we spent several hours conversing. I spoke and heard about the past incidents that happened on the campus. I wanted to stay in the group forever. I do not know how long we were engaged in this ritual or when I retired to the men’s dormitory for the last time. I could not sleep. I thought about what had transpired in my life during the last four years that I matriculated at the college and what the future held for me.  

I recalled how I had entered the college as an unprepared freshman but had blossomed into a campus leader – a big fish in a small pond if you will. I thought of how my becoming the founder and president of the poetry society, secretary and designated master of ceremonies of my fraternity, vice president of the inter fraternal council, speech writer for the eventual schools student body president and civil rights designated chaplain and leader could not have been accomplished without the support of the administration, faculty, and student body. I was especially grateful for those faculty members who saw that I was trying and unselfishly extended themselves towards me. I thought about what the future had in store for me. Would I be drafted? Would I be able to get into grad school? Should I go to the Deep South and become a full time civil rights activist? Should I seek employment? The morning after the last night on campus, I moved into the future and never forgot my time as a mountaineer. In August 1964, I completed the requirements for Bachelors in Education. I majored in Social Studies and minored in English. While I entered Bluefield State as a student who was unprepared for the rigors of collegiate work: I nonetheless completed my course requirements a semester a head of time.


Frances Bryce
A Southern Glance

The small town in South Carolina, Laurens, had a population at that time of approximately 10,000 people. Segregation was the rule. I to this date did not and still found it difficult to understand. Hard to imagine white and colored water faucets, fountains all the water from a common source. Black and colored bus stations. Everything that could be separated into white and colored, including restrooms at public places.
I attended school in the colored section of town. My high school was located outside the city. Each day I had to pass by a white high school, near where I lived to get to school.
My second year in high school, the building burned down. We attended school in a church until the school was rebuilt, this meant the new school was more modern than the white school with moveable seats, unlike the ones that was permanently anchored to the floor. The seats from the white high school were then forced to the new colored high school and the new seats were sent to the white high school. Other unbelievable occurrences happened like new uniforms for our high school was not bought and our old ones were from the high school (it didn’t matter that funds were siphoned off to the white high school and the colors were not the school colors of our school.
Living in the south had a lot of things that were positive, hospitality among the positive things. Neighbors were a very important part of my early life, which meant that we had to respect them as well as our parents.
At the end of legal segregation, one high school that everyone attends.

If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at We've had high schoolers and college students volunteer with us before for their days of service, so please email us if you'd like to know more. You can also share our older buds's adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And if you know older buds with stories, then you or they can submit them through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.

And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri