HAWN: Finding ways to keep busy at home

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Now that temperatures are triple digits, I see fewer people walking past the front of my house, none by the time I wobble out in my bathrobe to pick up the paper.

Like Mary Beth Myers and me, virtually everyone is house-bound, watching TV soaps, deleting e-mails, talking on the phone for hours, napping.

Lyle Thompson, a longtime Sun City West resident and former managing editor of the Wester, a community weekly that relocated a decade or so ago, chose “scrapbooking.”

Lyle, who celebrated his 91st birthday May 9, is the most active nonagenarian I’ve ever met. Former president and current member of numerous clubs, world traveler with his 89-year-old companion Barbara Schuldt, Lyle might be spotted on the Briarwood dance floor one evening, an executive golf course the next day.

When I answered my front door around cocktail hour the other evening, there was Lyle unmasked.

“I brought you something,” he said as he entered and handed me four 8-by-11-inch stapled sheets. My jaw literally dropped when I glanced at the title — “A look at the steamy underside of senior life in Sin City West, AZ Circa 2001.” “I was going stir crazy, so I thought I’d put this together,” Lyle said. Front-page clippings cut from the Wester newspaper, shrunk to fit six pages front and back, were dated from June 7, 2001 to July 19, 2001.

It’s unlikely Sun City West newcomers know what occurred here 19 years ago, but older residents are likely never to forget. It was May 24, 2001 when Recreation Centers of Sun City West Governing Board President Dee Hjermstad shocked everyone present at the monthly meeting by announcing sexual activity had been detected in the community. After two years of keeping it smoldering in secrecy, General Manager R.G. Andersen-Wyckoff stated, “The problem has come knocking on the door…and we decided enough is enough. We needed to bring it to the board.”

Reports of seniors having sex in clandestine sites included sightings at the R.H. Johnson and Palm Ridge swimming pools and spas, the Palm Ridge parking lot, the doggie park and on a Meeker Mountain bench. Loosely linked to a popular weekly TV series, the Wester’s June 7 issue covered half of Page 1. The 48-point, six-column headline above my byline — “Reaction to Sex and the City: Naughty, naughty…but ha-ha!” — included a thumbnail photo of Ms. Hjermstad.

It didn’t take long before the Wester coverage spread across the country. Talk show hosts lapped it up. “I didn’t think it would go nationwide,” Ms. Hjermstad said. “I didn’t expect it to reach the proportions it has.” A week later, I reported media coverage had spread to England.

Lyle’s “scrapbook” includes photos, staff-authored columns, sidebar articles, a cartoon of a couple smooching on a park bench on a moon-lit night and letters from readers, pro and con. Just when it seemed the “Sex and the City” series had finally fizzled out, I was interviewed by a reporter in mid-July for an article in the Chicago Tribune.

“Sex brought me here,” Judith Graham told me. “There’s a story to be told.” The reporter also spoke to Ms. Hjermstad, who had had enough. “She wanted to get back on the same old subject,” she said. “The subject is closed. I have no comment.”

An excellent editor, Lyle wrote most of the catchy headlines, but I’ll take credit for the series label — “Sex and the City.” By now, Lyle and Barbara may be in Wisconsin. “We’re (winter visitors),” he reminded me. “We’ve got plane reservations for next week. I guess we’ll be quarantined there, too. But I’ll keep busy. I’ve got five or six thick scrapbooks there to work on.”

Jack Hawn

Sun City West

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