Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Traveline's Arline Kneen still on the road after 95 years

If I were a really nosy guy, I would have asked Arline Kneen at her big party about 10 days ago if she ever filed to collect Social Security. But of course, it’s none of my business.

But if she believes, as I do, that one should never act in haste, and if everyone in the country followed our lead, the nation’s deficit would be resolved immediately.

There would be no more dilemma addressing the country’s budgetary woes. They would be gone. Vanished. Poof. Gone with the wind!

Many people start cashing in on Social Security when they are 65. But I never filed for benefits until I was 72. If everyone waited until the age of 72, or even 67 or 70, the easing of the strain on the federal budget would be incredible.

I am not talking here about people who are disabled. They don’t have the choice of waiting. But if everyone who is able-bodied would put off collecting benefits for a few years, say, seven, we would be out of debt. And they would collect a lot more money every month.

The age 65 was once considered magic. If you were 65, you were really old. No longer. That is now young. But Social Security has not kept up with change. Or, at least, the people in Congress who should have the guts to raise the age of retirement have no backbone to do it.

So here we are, in deep financial trouble, with an easy solution in sight and no one willing to take the necessary steps.

But enough of that. I am here today to tell you about Arline Kneen. She started Traveline travel agency in Downtown Willoughby 50 years ago. Now operated by Arline and her son, Rob, it has expanded greatly over the years. They celebrated 50 years in business a little over a week ago by putting up a huge tent behind their magnificent hotel, Lawnfield, in Mentor and inviting a few hundred friends in to help them celebrate.

Oh, didn’t I tell you? They have a fine hotel near the corner of Routes 20 and 615 in Mentor. Part of it is a restaurant, Skye, which we like very much. The lady of the house and I make it a point to have dinner there at least once a week.

There is a large dining room, a comfortable lounge and bar, poolside dining outside, and a large veranda wrapped around the outside of the hotel that is elegant for alfresco dining in nice weather.

If you have misplaced your dictionary, alfresco means outdoors. If you already knew that, I am so proud of you.

But why, you wonder, did I bring up the subject of Arline’s age? It is because she told me at her tent celebration that on Oct. 1 (about a week ago) she would turn 95. And she still goes to work every day. And she drives everywhere in a very nifty car.

She should be an inspiration to everyone — to live to be 95 years old, and not to apply for Social Security unless they really need to. Believe me, if you wait, the monthly check really builds up.

Arline’s business card is a gas. On the front it says, “World’s Oldest Travel Agent.” Below that it says, “Chances are ... I’ve been there.”

Matter of fact, so have Rob and his wife and daughter. That’s why they are so hard to get hold of. They are always somewhere.

As we walked around the huge party tent, picking up travel booklets for everywhere you can imagine, a lady asked me: “Is there anyplace you have always wanted to visit?”

I responded: “I have always wanted to go to Florence.”

She gave me a travel book all about Italy. As we walked away, I told the lady of he house, “I was talking about Florence Kentucky.”

I know about it because it is exactly halfway between Willoughby and Nashville, and although we have been through it many times, we have never stopped for so much as a cup of coffee in Florence. But I digress.

The best trip I ever took I booked through Arline at Traveline. It was around 1976, and it was a seven-day jazz cruise in the Mediterranean, with a final stop in Bermuda, where everyone wore Bermuda shorts. Imagine that!

On the ship was the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by his son, Mercer Ellington, the Stan Getz Trio, pianist Billy Taylor, who conducted a seminar on jazz, and more other luminaries than I am able to remember.

I even asked Billy at the seminar how you could take the chords of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and turn them into a bebop standard, “Hot House.”

I didn’t understand his answer, but that’s OK. I know “Hot House” when I hear it.

Many happy returns, Arline. See you at Skye Restaurant, or in Hobart, Tasmania, or somewhere.


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