Ida Orenstein of U City is 101 Years Young
Ida Orenstein shares stories and memories of a century of life.
Spunky, young thinking, sharp-minded, positive thinking, progressive, quick-witted and current—these are words not typically used to describe someone who is more than 100 years old. But they are the perfect words to describe Ida Orenstein, who recently celebrated her 101st birthday at the Brentmoor Retirement Community in University City where she has resided since 2005.
Born Ida Polinsky on December 23, 1910, she is petite, charming, and has many interesting stories to share with the world she has been a part of for more than a century.
During a recent sitdown with Patch, she talked about current events and also reflected on her life. She shared a few of her memories of World War I and World War II.
“I remember the end of the first world war. I remember walking up and down. We lived on Evans Avenue at that time. We walked with a flag and everybody was all excited. Then the next day or so, we found out it wasn’t so (the peace treaty), but eventually we did have a treaty,” Orenstein said.
“The second one (WWII), I remember, I was out with some soldiers who were in the Army when the Japanese came to Hawaii, and it was announced on the radio for all of the guys to come back to Scott Field,” she said.
With a keen memory and a sparkle in her eyes, Orenstein recounted her first date with the man who fairly soon after became her husband. She had received an invitation to a wedding she was supposed to attend with her mother, an invitation that she was not very excited about. That same day, the phone rang. It was Max Orenstein asking for a date. They had known of each other, but had never been formally introduced.
“There had been a telephone strike, and my mother used to like to talk on the telephone. I always used to kid her and say, 'I’m very lucky I can get a date, because you are always on the telephone,'” said Ida with a giggle.
She accepted Max’s invitation for a date that night. That was January 1952. Ida and Max were engaged by April and married in June of 1952.
Ida was 42 years old and Max was 40 when they said their “I do’s.” Neither had been married before.
“I guess we just waited for each other and just didn’t know it. It just was natural. He was very polite, very nice, very thoughtful, and you couldn’t help but like him, you know what I mean? Well, I couldn’t,” Orenstein said with a smile. “He was really nice and worth waiting for.”
At a time when women were expected to get married and start a family, Orenstein didn’t succumb to the pressure of the times. She said she never felt the pressure to get married. Instead, she waited for the right person to come along. One could say that she was progressive and liberated way before her time and way before the women's movement was popular.
“I just took things as they were. I would say I was quite popular. I used to have plenty of dates, but they just didn’t gel. I never went out with them with the idea of marrying that person or going after them," Orenstein said. After a brief pause she said, “I almost eloped one time, but I just didn’t, thank God,” she said with more giggles.
She realized that she wouldn’t miss him if they broke up and that was the end of that. “Everything worked out for the best. I have had a wonderful life,” she said.
Ida and Max were marred for 52 years when Max died at the age of 94.
“That was a long time for people in their 40s. I was glad I waited,” Ida said.
Before getting married, Ida worked at Metropolitan Life as a clerk and assistant cashier. It was the only place she has ever worked. She worked there until she was married. She talked of wearing dress clothes complete with a hat and gloves to work. She said she prefers the relaxed modern dress of today, because back then it was too “buttoned up and stiff.”
“I used to kid him (Max) and say, 'Today is a holiday. If I were working, I would be off. But, I’m not off, I’m working at home,'” Orenstein said as she laughed.
Although they never had any children of their own, there were plenty of children in Ida’s life to love.
“I got married at 42. That was a very old age to have a baby in those days. We had nieces and nephews. So, there was always a small child if you wanted to have one in your life,” she said.
The Ornsteins spent a lot of time traveling and doing charitable work, something they both enjoyed. Together, they traveled throughout the United States and beyond. Some of their travels included, Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Canada. Ida has a map with pins stuck in every place they visited. There must be close to 100.