Herb Crane calls himself a creature of habit. Doing the same thing every day is how he likes to live. So, it’s no surprise that the Mittleman Jewish Community Center’s January Member of the Month has been working out for 35 years. His recent switch from another athletic club is one change Herb recommends.
Of course, at 94 years old, Herb has seen wafts and waves. Only his sense of humor and positive outlook have remained the same. We sat down for coffee and a long talk one morning between his exercise routine and lunch date with a friend.
“I grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey – Sodom and Gomorrah,” says Herb, who was born in 1919. “This was during the Depression and Prohibition. Liquor, gambling and prostitution were illegal, and Atlantic City offered all of it. They officially called us The World’s Playground, but our non-official slogan was ‘Give ’em what they want.’ ”
Herb grew up working in his father’s hardware store. “My father was from Lithuania, my mother from Bessarabia,” he says. “I graduated high school in 1937, got married and volunteered as a combat infantry man in WW II. I grew up very Jewish and I still am. They say ‘However I choose to practice or not, Judaism is where I belong both by heritage and by choice.’ That describes me.”
Herb joined a hardware distribution business after returning from the armed forces. In 1951 he came to Portland to develop hardware departments in Fred Meyer stores.
“They called Portland the little old lady on the Willamette,” Herb says. “It was old-fashioned, the most liberal conservative town I ever knew and the most conservative liberal town. I loved the openness of the people. At that time, if you were waiting for a bus, anyone would stop and pick you up. Portland had parks as big as Atlantic City. That was something my family loved. Portland was and is a town designed for comfortable living.”
Herb went on to start his own sales-representative business employing as many as six people. “I sold anything you can find in a Lowe’s: plumbing, hardware, paint, electrical appliances,” he says. He and his late wife had three children and joined Congregation Neveh Shalom, where he is still a member. At age 94, he has outlived his children but enjoys grandchildren, great- grandchildren and even one 5-year-old great-great-grandchild. “The secret to my longevity are the genes I inherited from my mother, Herb says. “She lived until she was 971⁄2.”
For the past 39 years, Herb has lived in a condominium over- looking the water in Sellwood. His much-younger wife works in the office at Fred Meyer. “I get up every day at 8 am,” he says. “I have orange juice only, drive to the MJCC and work out for a half hour or so. There are nine or 10 machines I use. John, the trainer, picked them out when I first came. I like to sit in the steam room afterwards.”
Herb has other interests. Shakespeare is his favorite author. “He describes life as a tale told by an idiot,” Herb says. “It was a description then and certainly is now. We live in Sellwood and there are good restaurants. I try to go to lunch with old friends every day, however at this age, I’ve outlived three generations of them. When you live long enough, you experience all of life’s ups and downs. I’ve had a number of tragedies, but put it all together and it’s been a good go.”