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Founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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At the pension in Berlin, where mother (Bertha Drew) and her friend were staying, was a 13-year-old boy from Poland. He was a “wunder kind” taking piano lessons from one of the master teachers in Berlin. His parents were back in Poland. He was all by himself. Mother took an interest in him. He would play for mother and her friend in the evenings. She would take him for walks in the Tiergarten, and put him to bed at night. When she returned to America, they kept in touch. She would take me into Boston to see him after his concerts, when he first became famous enough to play in America. He visited her in Newton the last year before she died. I lent him her diaries when he was writing his autobiography. She is in the first volume. My children have met him, and we all have autographed copies. His name: Arthur Rubinstein.

It took father, a Methodist minister, four years to convince Mother to change from the New England form of Unitarianism to Methodism. They were married in 1904, when father became pastor of Centenary Methodist Church on South Park Avenue in Chicago. I appeared in the Lying-in Hospital on January 17, 1906, the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, precisely two hundred years after his birth in 1706. A coincidence without any significance! I am no Franklin, just a Hartzell, one of 300,000,000 Americans, but proud of it nevertheless.

Karl, his father and other relatives, 1909
Karl, in front row with his father on his right, with
his mother and other relatives on steps of Chicago
Centenary Methodist Church, 1909.
His father
was minister of the church.

The first hand I was dealt — Living with mother and father.
My memories of my childhood are vague with a few exceptions. When I was three, mother took me to a building where I was put in a barber’s chair and a man blew something in my face that looked like a foghorn. When I woke up, I was on top of a bed fully dressed. I was informed that I was without my tonsils, whatever they were. Not bad! Father was with me a few nights on the bed, and I could have a nice drink called Vichy Water. A year later mother caught me under the piano with the sugar bowl. Apparently I had a sweet tooth. I was not punished, and soon stood at my mother’s side announcing reflectively that I had just reached the ripe old age of four.

Today, when I tell people my age, they often react with a “Wow, you must have seen a lot of changes in your life.” I agree and give some examples of personal experience, or of what was then occurring in the outside world. I had a variety of experiences with wheels. I remember a ride in Chicago with friends of father’s in the back seat of a ‘Winton Six’ phaeton. In Pasadena, I sat in the only seat beside the man who came up the driveway from Orange Grove Avenue every time he came to deliver milk from his large five-gallon cans. That was quite a privilege. At about seven, my parents gave me an ‘Irish Mail’ that you steer with your feet and power with your arms and shoulders while sitting down. By that time I was too large to be ridden on the handle bars of a friend’s bicycle. Later, while at Harvard graduate school, I learned to drive my cousin’s model “T” Ford. The brake did not work so I used the reverse peddle. One day I lent it to my roommate Philip Moseley, explaining about the problem with the brake. He headed for Harvard Square. When the policeman told him to stop, he forgot initially about the brake and kept on going. The cop forgave him for not stopping after he explained the problem with the brake.

I was five when we went one summer to Raton, New Mexico, for father’s health. One day, Uncle Joe took me for a ride on a one-seat carriage. The ride was interrupted when the horse stopped and refused to go on. My uncle got off the carriage, walked over to the side of the road, picked up a big flat rock, walked with it ahead of the horse and dropped it on something at the side of the road. He came back muttering that it was a rattlesnake. We finished the ride, no more rattlesnakes. At Raton it was fun killing flies on the windows with my hands. When we got back to Chicago, I went to the hospital in a bed next to father’s. Apparently, I had typhoid fever. Father still had his bovine tuberculosis. He and I laughed about who would get out of the hospital first.

Life in Pasadena
To be continued …

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