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If You’re Doubtful About Jesse’s Ugly Loquats, Try His Crazy Cactus

Jesse Katzberg can charm your shoes off, but he’d rather you buy the loquats he grows in his backyard. He’d also like you to believe he smuggled the fruit tree in from Israel even though it’s native to China and Japan.

“The uglier they (loquats) are, the sweeter they are,” he kept saying, the spiel he uses to sell the fruit he grows in his half-acre backyard orchard in Orange. Additionally, he markets kumquats, figs and persimmons. If you don’t like that, he also hawks cactus plants.

“Crazy cactus for sale,” he cries out, flashing a smile. “Cut off a piece of crazy cactus, give it to a friend and he’ll go crazy too.”

Standing under a shade umbrella, Katzberg expects to sell everything he brings to the Thursday farmers’ market at the Orange County Fairgrounds, except the cactus.

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“Last year I took in maybe $500,” said the former Rockwell engineer who retired and then sold insurance and retired again. “That makes me twice retired,” he boasted. “You know I’m one of about four guys who retired from Rockwell who didn’t drop dead right away. Most guys can’t take retirement.”

It’s clear, Katzberg, 74, is having a good time, considering he had open heart surgery four years ago. “How old do you think I am?” he asked, always with a smile. When a visitor said 74, Katzberg frowned. “You’re the first one who ever guessed right.”

When persimmons are in season, Katzberg shares his secret on how to keep birds away. “I pitch a tent and shoo them away,” he says, smiling, because he really doesn’t. “But everyone believes me.”

His smile faded quickly when a shopper scooped up a loquat, popped it into his mouth and walked off. “Look at that,” Katzberg complained. “A loquat thief.” A trayful of the unappetizing looking but delicious loquats sells for $1, and Katzberg puts up with those shopping hazards, saying, “This is entertainment for me.”

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He lowered his voice, looked around and told his visitor, “Next year I’m going to introduce a new fruit called a pitango. It’s going to be a cross between a tangelo and a cherry and the fruit inside will be shaped like a Chinese lantern.”

Added Katzberg, “That’s the truth.”

You have to wonder.

It might help attendance if Hugh Hefner, 60, showed up and brought along a Playboy Bunny. You see, Steinmetz High School in Chicago, the school Hefner attended, is holding a reunion tonight for the classes of 1935-36-37 and any other graduate at Lord Henry’s Restaurant in Los Alamitos and no one is quite sure how many will show up, says Hank Gargano of Santa Ana, a 1935 graduate of the school.

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The class of 1935 only had 156 graduates. “Hefner is proud he went to our school,” said Gargano knowingly, but he thinks it’s unlikely Hefner will be there.

Or his bunnies.

Ever since 1948, John Finger of Anaheim has walked in the annual March of Dimes Walk-a-Thon to raise money, first to stamp out polio, then birth defects.

Well Finger is now 70 (“I don’t look a day over 69") and feels “this will be my last mile,” forced on him by a stroke suffered in 1984 that pretty much confines him to a wheelchair.

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Fingers will walk in the April 26 event in Huntington Beach with a four-legged cane and is looking for people to sponsor him by the yard, in case he doesn’t make the full mile. “You might say I’m holding a ‘yard’ sale,” he said.

In past walks he has persuaded show business and political personalities to sponsor him in the 1,800 miles he figures he has logged over the years, raising $14,100.

“I’d like to quit by making it a full $15,000,” he said.

Harold (Hal) W. Logsdon Jr., 61, of Mission Viejo, already retired, decided he would take a temporary job as a janitor at the Los Angeles Times office in Costa Mesa while waiting for his wife, Leone, to retire.

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“I liked working around people and janitorial work gave me exercise and no stress,” said Logsdon, who noted he hired and fired many janitors in his time.

For the past 30 years Logsdon was a school principal, the last 15 years at Cypress Elementary School in Cypress.

Along that line, “I think it’s about time,” said DeeForrest Fee, who officially retired Wednesday from the City of Anaheim as a park supervisor. “I have no regret, no kicks,” he noted, “but it seems everything just moves faster these days.” Fee, 71, worked 50 years for the city.

Acknowledgments--Douglas Kemp, 13, of Garden Grove, a muscular dystrophy victim confined to an iron lung, was named honorary captain of “Cop Bowl VIII,” the annual fund-raising football game set for April 11 at Orange Coast College and presented by the Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Garden Grove, Buena Park and Fullerton police departments.

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