A look into the Values across Generations

A+Man

David Ostrow, 76, recalls joining the Air Force after graduating from high school: "I was young and patriotic." Photo credit: Logan Bik

Gillian Moran-Perez

Age may separate a generation, but values never will.

What an Air Force Veteran’s Life Came Down To

David Ostrow was born Jan. 29, 1944 during World War II. About 18 years later, Ostrow graduated from high school and did a year at Bronx Community College, but quickly gave up as he couldn’t balance school and working full time at the post office. Later that year, he joined the U.S. Air Force. It was September of 1972 when he went down to a recruiting office in New York City. Two weeks later, he was sworn in Manhattan and on that same day, flew down to Texas where he did his training at Lackland Air Force Base.

“I was young and patriotic,” he said. He had to get used to living in the desert, where the nights and early mornings were chilly but during lunch time, he explained, you could crack an egg on a rock and it would fry.

Ostrow wanted to go to college but he said the Air Force kept him busy. He worked as a radio operator and found it boring. If he had gone to college, he would’ve studied languages and history. But he stuck to the Air Force anyways. “I just wanted to see something different,” he said.

From 1974 to 1995, Ostrow was stationed in Israel where he met his wife and had his four children, three girls and one boy. He left Israel when he was 60 and continued working until he was 67. For a while, he was a policeman for the New York City Transit Authority. After that, he moved to Los Angeles and worked as a security guard for two companies, earning only minimum wage for a few years. Now retired, he receives a minimal pension of barely over $1,000 a month that covers him and his wife.

He doesn’t want his kids to continue working the way he did. For him, the most important thing is to have a good marriage and teach his kids good values.

Ostrow says that in the Hebrew tradition, women are more intelligent to help them from difficult situations and to help guide men in marriage. Men don’t grow up until they’re married, he said. “You could be 35 and be single and still not grown. Because men like to do a lot of stupid things,” Ostrow laughed.

He said his parents told him he could be whatever he wanted, but to do something he would enjoy. Ostrow carried this with him and it’s something he has passed on to his kids.

“My dad once told me something that I’ll never forget,” Ostrow recounted. “He said: Every person in the world can teach you something. Even the garbage man. Everybody has something that they can give you that has value, by explaining things to you, and the ones who learn from that are the smarter people.”

One of his daughters works as a private photographer, another as a chef/caterer and the third is currently studying to become a teacher. The third daughter once worked as a medical assistant but then she was laid off because she didn’t have enough experience.

This is a problem millennials face, but Ostrow says that this has always been a problem with every generation. “It’s a known truth,” he said. That’s why he teaches his children to work in a profession they enjoy.

“Because if you’re working at something you don’t like, it makes your life miserable … People that are smart, they work at something that is their hobby and they make a career out of it,” Ostrow explained.

A Dietician’s Lesson on Life

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Marji Flowers, 74, a former registered dietician, now spends her time at the front desk of the ONEgeneration Senior Enrichment Center thrift store in Reseda. Photo credit: Logan Bik

When Marji Flowers, 74, started at Hunter College in New York City, her parents wanted her to be a teacher. But after taking a few classes in nutrition, she decided she wanted to be a registered dietician.

“My parents were disappointed that I didn’t want to be a teacher,” she said when she first told them. Neither had gone to college and everybody thought a teacher was the greatest thing in the world, she said. They didn’t know about the other classes and careers out there.

Regardless, they supported her financially, only allowing her to work during summer as a camp counselor so she could focus on school. There really was no pressure for her to work during school, as her tuition only cost $60 a semester, she said.

Flowers graduated from Hunter College in January of 1966, then got her master’s degree at the University of La Verne in public health administration in 1983. Flowers worked at an internship with the U.S. Public Health Services at the Commissioner’s Office in Staten Island. She didn’t want to stay in New York after she finished her internship, so she decided to move to Los Angeles where she found a job as a registered dietician. Her family followed her out there soon after.

“It was difficult at the time (working as a dietician) because we had to keep up with all the new things that came out with food and vitamins and minerals,” said Flowers. “But the biggest part that I enjoy is teaching people.”

Some of her patients had diabetes or heart disease, so it was her job to teach them how to moderate their diet. She had a patient who was a truck driver and struggled with his health. A few months later after their lesson, he came into the hospital to show everyone how well he looked and he searched for her and told her, “You made it so easy for me to do what I needed to do just by a few things.”

Flowers calls herself a chocoholic and says she could never cut out chocolate, so she would never advise someone to cut out something completely, only making small changes.

Now, she works at the front desk and the thrift shop at the ONEgeneration Senior Enrichment Center in Reseda. She says the best thing about her job is meeting different people and comparing lives. She met another lady who also went to Hunter College and brought her a sweater with the name of the college. The two ladies can often be spotted sporting their university gear at the center.

She advises young people to “Go for it. If you can manage it, work your way through until you can achieve what you want. If you can make up your own mind and do the things that you want to do, you’re much more successful in how you’re keeping a job.”

But of all the things Flowers values, it’s treating people kindly and to accept people for who they are.

The College Grad Who Needs a Job

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Stephanie Cheng, a CSUN graduate, on Jan. 23. Cheng is now searching for a job related to her English degree, but has been struggling to find one since December 2019. Photo credit: Logan Bik

Stephanie Cheng came into CSUN undecided because she wanted to give herself options, but eventually settled in the English Honors program, graduating in December 2019.

Her love for literature inspired her to go into book publishing as a career, after interning at Red Hen Press, but she says the field is decreasing because of the digital era.

“I have my own e-reader and I read a lot of e-books but I still like the physical books because it’s fun to write in them,” said Cheng.

Her parents have always been supportive of her, and never pushed her into one field or another; they told her do whatever she wants to do. They support her and three other siblings, but they were told to find a job to learn to support themselves.

Cheng has had all the support she needs from her friends and family and she’s put in the work to get her degree — all the things she values.

Now she’s looking for any kind of job, and it’s been brutal.

“It’s really hard to find jobs where you meet all the qualifications, because they expect so much that it’s kind of unreasonable to say you need all this experience plus school, but you need a job to be able to work and you can’t work unless you have a job,” she said. “It’s just a complicated, cruel cycle.”

Her parents don’t really understand how difficult the job search is now because when they were her age it was easier. Her mom was telling her of a friend who walked into a store in a mall and asked if they were hiring, had the interview, and was asked to work right then and there. Graduates now just send applications online and wait for a reply, if they are lucky to receive any.

Cheng says she won’t have to worry about disappointing her parents, which gives her room to find a job that she enjoys doing. She put a lot of pressure on herself to do well in school and even finish early. One day she dreams of moving to New York to work for a book publisher. Her mother doesn’t want her to leave, but her concern right now is to save up enough money for her dream to happen.

“Right now, I just want anything that pays me any sort of money,” Cheng said.