In 1975, the Chicago video collective Videopolis produced a documentary called "It's a Living." The tape was loosely based on Studs Terkel's book, "Working," which was a collection of interviews with ordinary people talking about their jobs. This hour-long program was shown on Channel 11 (WTTW) in Chicago. After the success of this tape, the videomakers were commissioned to make six half-hour shows that had the same type of mission. "Paper Roses" featured residents of the Chicago Housing Authority's Clark-Irving Apartments, which provided low-rent housing for senior citizens. This tape features an interview with Gus and Gertrude Radon, who talk about aging and retirement.
00:00Copy video clip URL This tape begins with a blue screen.
00:22Copy video clip URL Cut to a shot of resident Gus Radon who talks about his various health problems. Gus had lost his legs from the kneecaps downward. He talks about the adjustments he has made since losing his legs and states that he is still “young at heart.”
01:07Copy video clip URL When asked about his immediate thoughts on having to retire due to his injury, Gus states that he really didn’t have any time to think because of the amount of pain he was in after his leg amputation. He goes on to say, “Little by little, you sort of make adjustments. You have to. Some people won’t adjust themselves, but I made it my business. I said, ‘Well, if I’m going to live, I’m going to do something with it.'” His wife Gertrude then comments on his courage in dealing with his amputation.
01:56Copy video clip URL Gus shares his feelings on retirement. “Don’t retire! I don’t care if you’re eighty or so. If you have to retire then get a hobby of some kind. Get something to occupy your mind. It keeps you young at heart. If you sit like this, you know, do nothing, you just vegetate.” He goes on to talk about how he stays busy cutting people’s hair. Gus used to own a salon before his accident.
03:40Copy video clip URL Gus talks about living at the Clark-Irving Apartments. His rent payment is based off of his social security. He goes on to talk about his active youth. Gertrude talks about how she met her husband. Gus goes on to talk about his love for Brut cologne. He eventually talks about his feeling of being a little cut off from the outside world due to living at the complex. His handicap prevents him from going out as much as he would like.
06:44Copy video clip URL Gus makes a few more comments about his views on retirement. “My brother is eighty and I said, ‘Don’t ever retire.’ That’s the worst thing you can do… You just cease to exist because you’re not active in things that you used to do and some people just–they’re satisfied to sit here all day long in a chair. Well, that would drive me insane.” He then goes on to talk about teaching English to Gertrude.
08:09Copy video clip URL Gus states that there is no such thing as growing old gracefully. He states that people generally don’t have a enough time for older people and that they are forgotten very easily. When asked if he feels old, Gus states that he doesn’t feel old. “You’re as old as you feel, and from here up (pointing at his upper body) I feel like I was thirty. But from my knees down, meh.”
10:22Copy video clip URL When asked if money is a problem, Gus talks about his two main problems being money and health. He goes on to talk about the importance of an elderly person having a hobby. Gus also talks about his voting habits and how the government could help benefit the elderly. He states that he would like to see lower taxes for people his age. The couple go on to talk about their frugality and how it affects their daily lives.
14:37Copy video clip URL When asked about the future, Gus states, “At my age, you just live from day to day. You make the most out of every day.” Gertrude states, “You live from day to day, and tomorrow never comes.” She also talks about the need for faith and trust in God.
15:41Copy video clip URL The two give their advice about getting older. Gus emphasizes the need for people to save money, and Gertrude similarly emphasizes the need to be frugal. Gus goes on to talk about the need for a hobby when you’re older. The two also go on to talk about their major concerns, one being lack of income. Gertrude says that money helps, but that it does not buy happiness. The two emphasize the need for young people to save money, plan ahead, and go through life without fear. Gus eventually shows the videomakers his ability to walk with wooden legs.
22:13Copy video clip URL Gus says that he wouldn’t be living at the complex if he had enough money to live on his own. He also talks disliking the strict regiments at the Clark-Irving apartments. Even though he views the structured schedules in a negative way, Gus states that many of the residents benefit from the strict schedules because they need that kind of consistency. The two then go on to talk about a time when they hosted a party in their apartment. They also talk about how they came to move into the complex. This lasts for several minutes.
27:21Copy video clip URL Gus comments on the strict supervision from the CHA employees. “The only thing I have against CHA–they supervise these people like they’re inmates of an institution–that I don’t approve of.” Gold asks the couple what it’s like living next to a cemetery. Gus says he doesn’t think about very much while Gertrude says that she had a hard time stomaching it when she first moved in. They then go on to talk about their burial plans. This lasts for several minutes.
32:25Copy video clip URL Gus expresses his disdain at the thought of sitting in a wheelchair. He and Gertrude then talk about their belief in euthanasia. The tape ends shortly afterward.
32:23Copy video clip URL Tape ends.