It’s A Living: Paper Roses

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. The tape is not a traditional documentary with formal interviews, rather, it is a simple collection of real people talking about themselves. The subjects seem very comfortable talking to the camera and speak honestly about aging and retirement.

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00:00Copy video clip URL Color bars.

00:23Copy video clip URL Title “Paper Roses”

00:30Copy video clip URL Opening clip of woman and man playing a piano and violin duet.

02:00Copy video clip URL Music continues to play as images of elderly women walking around town, along with a daily schedule of the Clark-Irving Senior Apartments.

03:00Copy video clip URL Entry into the apartment complex and conversation with woman at the front desk. They ask to meet with Mrs. Chase.

03:36Copy video clip URL Walking tour of the building complex with Mrs. Chase, who describes the life of the elderly, noting how much she loves her work with them. She stops and has a conversation with a local resident.

04:45Copy video clip URL Cut to shot of Bingo hall, with close up shots of residents playing Bingo.

06:45Copy video clip URL Interview with a man speaking about the benefits of retirement, including social security. He and his wife speak about his health conditions and the burden of multiple illnesses. He speaks also of his return to work after a hospital stay, but he was able to work only six more months. She speaks about why she chose not to receive social security because she did not want to admit that she was old enough to receive it. He speaks proudly about his 58 years of working. They speak about the tendency for other residents to always complain about their aches and pains. The woman says that, “sure it’s a senior citizens’ building, but to me it’s another apartment building.”

12:50Copy video clip URL Cafeteria scene, where staff are taking votes on what menu residents prefer for the week. There are several shots of residents eating lunch.

14:12Copy video clip URL Interview with a woman about losing her job as a sales person. She deliberately omits the name of the store because she feels like it was a good place to work. She speaks about her desire to continue working and then tells the story about her family and how she got into the work force. She speaks about feeling broken hearted after losing her job, and how she doesn’t do anything now that she is not working. She says, “You feel neglected. You feel like the world has no place for you any more.”

17:15Copy video clip URL Choir of female residents singing “Paper Roses.”

18:33Copy video clip URL Interview with man who smokes and tells about how the elderly are forgotten easily and are disposable like anything else in life that gets old. He advises, “Don’t retire. I don’t care if you’re eighty. 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 and do nothing, you just vegetate.” He talks about losing his job after 50 years, which he describes as “the worst thing I had to go through.” He speaks about the benefits of living in a Chicago Housing Authority building, since it’s too expensive to afford rent on social security. He also speaks about the downside of being in an “institution.”

22:20Copy video clip URL Interview with the man and woman who played violin and piano in the opening scene. He speaks about several setbacks they had, but also how happy they are and how music keeps them young. He tells about a song he wrote and dedicated to the senior citizens about a beautiful day, and then sings it, while his wife accompanies on piano.

27:02Copy video clip URL Closing credits.



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