Verbal battles often get nasty
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Jun 11, 2014 | 1468 views | 0 0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
There are seldom winners in a community fight. Verbal battles often get nasty when the finger-pointing begins. Justifiably or not, it escalates from there.

And one is underway out at the Hammon Senior Center.

Tempers have flared. The participants have become reactionary as charges of one incident after another are thrown into the fire.

On one side is a small but vocal group of seniors who claim to have had run-ins with Councilmember Sheree Lustgarten. She’s the point of their anger.

On the other is Lustgarten herself and her small following of supporters.

That leaves a middle group thought to be the majority of seniors who just want to be … well, seniors in the twilight of their lives. They simply want to come to the center and enjoy the company of others. Nothing more.

Some in the latter group are undoubtedly unaware of the controversy. Others may be aware, but for their own reasons are reluctant to become involved. They just want the nastiness to go away.

It seemingly started early last year when the center was about to lose its noon meal program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Leaders at Hammon appealed to the City Council, which in turn allotted city funding to keep those meals coming.

Lustgarten, who was at that time newly elected to the council, became involved with the center. She has chosen to solicit food from area businesses, even assisting with the preparation of lunches now served on Thursdays. An outside service prepares meals the other four days of the week.

Then personalities came into play. Some voiced objection to her involvement. She allegedly stood her ground and on occasion raised her voice to those asking her to “back off.” She allegedly threatened one senior with legal action.

Her dissenters even posted signs around the center reading “No Hassle Zone” which were taken down after a short time. Hours the seniors could use the dining hall area were briefly limited because of the squabbling, and then reinstated.

To get Lustgarten’s side of the story for this column has been difficult. Many phone messages and e-mails have been left, and all but one were unreturned. In that call she left a return number, but it was not in service.

One senior who is active at HSC is attempting to recover a small desk she purchased last fall for $20 at the center’s yard sale. It disappeared and Lustgarten reportedly said she took it to make repairs. The desk has not been returned and anger continues to mount.

The Senior Center Board, chaired by Mary Bennett, is supportive of Lustgarten, pointing out she has done a suburb job of soliciting free food and then preparing it for the Thursday lunch program. Those efforts should be applauded. But she’s found herself in the middle of controversy, and that is hurting the overall purpose of the facility – to accommodate all seniors.

By the way, the five-member board is short two members. Anyone want to join the fray? Hmmm …

It’s generally been the policy to use this column for the entertainment of our readers. But pointing out problem areas in our community – in this instance the dramatics in a city-owned building – is felt to be justified.

Let’s hope a remedy can be found – soon.


Dear Friends: Here in California, we’re in trouble. NO WATER!

With California being the world’s top fruit and vegetable producer, it makes you in trouble too. Let me paint the picture.

Lack of water will greatly damage our fruit crops. The trees will suffer greatly, and so will their production. Therefore the fruit flies won’t propagate. That means the frogs who dine on the flies will diminish in quantity, thus hurting the restaurants that specialize in frog legs.

Now those same restaurants need to survive, so they turn to more beef offerings. But with a shortage of alfalfa, we have a shortage of beef – and thus higher prices on the plate.

Therefore more of the population will attempt to go vegan, but with land going fallow for lack of water, vegetables aren’t being planted, leaving only fruit. Ah, we’ve been there before (see above).

We’re hurting. So send us your corn, your pork and your soybeans, but don’t count on much from us in return. Just learn to get by on corn, pork and soybeans.


Several readers have asked, “Who is the newest member of our 90-Plus Club?”

Well, none other than former Patterson resident and businesswoman Bea English, now a Modesto resident, who just turned 90 and joined the club. She is member number 79. Now let’s all sing …

Never in my wildest dream – and lately I’ve been having many – did I realize our head count would climb to nearly 80. So keep up the tips – and the longevity.


Speaking of age, several other readers (none of those referred to above) have questioned why this scribe looks so old in a couple of photos recently published on these pages.

I attribute the aging to PI photographer and reporter Elias Funez. But I will give Elias his kudos. At least he caught me awake at public gatherings.

I refer those who bring up the subject to the photo used weekly atop this column. It never gets any older, and as previously mentioned, that’s the agreement I have with the newspaper.


At this year’s Apricot Fiesta, museum visitors were not asked to sign the registration book. That greatly sped up entry to Patterson’s very first downtown building. Instead of signing in, counting visitors was done by another method.

But about two dozen did sign in. Among them were a visitor from Anchorage, Alaska, and another from Catalina.

Thought you’d wanta know.


Watch out for this card arriving in the mail.

One longtime resident has received numerous cards announcing her “unclaimed reward” – a $100 credit at either Wal-Mart or Target. A claim number is given, as well as a toll-free phone number to call for the reward.

She hasn’t bit, and passes this caution on to others. Advice to others: Don’t.


A local couple reports receiving an ‘emergency call’ that sounded real but had all the markings of a scam.

Their grandson had been injured in a Southern California traffic accident, the caller said. Then someone reporting to be an attorney got on the line to substantiate the story.

Because their grandson has only recently visited Patterson, the story had a ring of truth to it. He had left and was headed south. The request was for $4,000 to be sent through a transfer exchange at CVS.

They withdrew cash from their bank account, but were told by the CVS manager that the circumstances were a scam that was making the rounds.

So to others, we pass along the caution.


Just the other day around our household, HM (Housemate) was unexpectedly smiling.

Whatever she was reading listed the abbreviation for Her Majesty – HM, used in place of Queen.

I may never live it down.


Let’s just forget about horse racing for a year.


You are really having a bad day when you realize you were born naked, wet and hungry, and then things got worse.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at
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