ROMEOS, why are you ROMEOS.
The answer is not tragic, it is affectionate.
And if you ask Bob Aronson, the ROMEOS – Really Old Men Enjoying Odd Sports – exists as a sort of male alternative to the Red Hat Society.
“Women have the Red Hat Society as an excuse to get together,” Aronson said. “The guys needed a peer group.”
ROMEOS are a group of 10 elderly men who faithfully meet every Wednesday in Rossmoor Park to chew grease and play horseshoes. And next week, the predominantly 70- and 80-year-old group will celebrate their unofficial 12th anniversary and make Vietnam veteran Steve Pennington, a Long Beach resident who has played horseshoes with the group a few times, an official ROMEO. .
“Steve is a good friend of ROMEOS,” said Aronson.
This isn’t the first time Aronson’s friends have been working out their future Red Hat muscles. A forerunner of the ROMEOS group was the Hard Hat Brotherhood. The highlight of the group’s existence was an entry into the annual Pasadena Doo Dah Parade.
The parade is a parody of the Rose Parade and participants have fun doing silly marches. The group, which invited the Red Hats to join them, marched in formation and carried, according to Aronson, “a big sign with something on testosterone.”
The Hard Hat Brotherhood disbanded soon after.
The Romeos say they are looking for friendship, human contact.
“We need camaraderie,” said Aronson, “for our mental and physical well-being as we age.”
The origin story of ROMEOS, Aronson said, begins with boredom at a concert.
Marv Glickman, 89, and Bob Wallis, 92 and founder of ROMEOS, met shortly after the former had just moved from Chicago to Long Beach with his wife, Lory, who has since died.
They and Aronson went to a concert in the park one day. But Aronson and Glickman got bored.
“We were all at a concert in the park and Marv and I got bored,” Aronson said. “So we started to throw a baseball.”
Then, Aronson said, he asked Glickman to play horseshoes.
Glickman agreed – although he never played the game.
“We have become good friends,” Aronson said. “We enjoyed each other’s company. Gradually over 8 years the group slowly grew as more men joined and more friendships developed – something we might not have done without horseshoes. It brought us together socially – something wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We would go to dinner with our wives and travel together.
Playing horseshoes at first was almost an excuse, Glickman said, but each week the band members developed more skills.
“Over the years we have all become better players and have become competitive,” he said. “There are no awards or prizes – just bragging rights. The horseshoe is no different from any other sport. It’s not at the Olympics. But it should be.
One day, Aronson said, a regular player named Ron Banner bought and distributed embroidered hats for the whole group. The hats had a name: ROMEOS.
This, Aronson said, “seemed to solidify the ongoing acceptance.”
Members agree that all players, past and present, had no knowledge of the game, whether they were limited or had some knowledge of the game, but that there was no ‘experts. Almost all were invited to play and stayed regardless of their skill level. There are no consistent practices or teams.
Those that show up, in fact, are randomly placed into teams.
“Most players go to lunch after games, where the winners and scores are mostly forgotten,” Aronson said. “The conversation then turns to other non-gaming topics such as sports, politics, social activities and travel etc.”
So, for these ROMEOS, horseshoes are more than lucky. They bring lifelong friendships.