Von Hartz Owens, who is the widow, sister...


August 19, 1991

*TC OLGA von Hartz Owens, who is the widow, sister, mother, grandmother and great aunt of people now or formerly in the news business, turns 100 next Monday. A full century, spent almost entirely in Baltimore. There will be words, and numbers, all over the place. And, if all goes well, sharps and flats. The news from Roland Park Place is that Mrs. Owens has had her violin out a couple of times lately, as if getting ready for one more performance.

When Hamilton Owens was editor-in-chief of these newspapers, he and his wife Olga lived in Ruxton. Often the Sunday Night Club held forth in their living room -- a music group that included her on violin, him on oboe. Much more refined than the concerts of those all-male beer-swillers downtown, Mencken and his cronies, in the Saturday Night Club.

The price of 100 years is two hearing aids and failing eyesight. Well, not reading them, Olga Owens doesn't have to say what she thinks of today's editorials. She can and does listen to books on tape, hours and hours of books. She can and does communicate with her high-attainment-level family (an octave of great-grandchildren).

Everyone who attains age 100 supposedly receives a letter of congratulations bearing the president's signature. It had better be a good letter. The not-all-that-old Peabody Conservatory graduate and editor's wife can still tell a false note from a true. And Olga Owens, moving ahead into her next century, will still be voting.

* * *

THE RECESSION is triggering a re-examination of traditional American values. That's the only conclusion we can draw from news that Yazoo City, Miss., celebrated the Kudzoo Festival this past weekend.

Kudzu is that pesky Japanese weed which was introduced in thUnited States in 1876 to help control soil erosion. In no time at all, it took over back yards with a greedy vengeance, killing trees and covering telephone poles and power lines.

In Japan, 85 percent of the kudzu harvest is used as a starch inoodles, desserts and lemonade. In the South it is just a weed. Whatever happened to that vaunted American ingenuity?

...* * *

TALK ABOUT your bureaucratic runarounds. The De Haven family was recently informed by a federal appeals judge that the $450,000 the government owes the family for supplies used in the Revolutionary War has reached its statutory limit for repayment.

The loan, due over 210 years ago, was brushed aside by the currency-less government in the turmoil of our country's early years. Now, instead of coming clean on the loan, the government has slapped a time limit on the problem. It still isn't going to pay. History is repeating itself.

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