“Each birthday for fifty years, we haven’t missed one. That’s got to be some kind of record,” Jim Cowen said. “When we gather at El Cholo, they recognize us when we come in. They say, ‘here come the birthday boys’.”
Since 1958, Cowen, Eddy Feldman and Jack Delson have gotten together every year to celebrate each others’ birthday, during recent years at the El Cholo Restaurant in Santa Monica, near Delson’s home. The three met in the late 1940s through their involvement in the Los Angeles Furniture Mart, and have remained close friends ever since.
The three men talk about old times and their love of sports, but mostly it is the camaraderie of getting together with friends they know and love that keeps them returning for their birthdays every year.
Feldman, who is 90 years old, is considered the “young man” of the trio. Delson is 91 and Cowen 95. Feldman has lived at Park La Brea since 1964, and said he has seen many changes in the area over the years. An attorney, Feldman still practices law and advises clients about issues affecting senior citizens. Both Delson and Cowen are retired, but still remain physically active. Cowen, who lives in San Gabriel, enjoys playing bridge and gets in a round of golf at least once a week. Delson is a member of a performing arts group based in Santa Monica that stages plays at various venues, including retirement homes. All three said they look forward to the next birthday gathering — Feldman’s birthday is Feb. 13, Delson’s is May 1 and Cowen’s is August 19 — and wouldn’t miss it for anything.
“We make it a point to always get together on our birthdays. It is just something we started back then and have been doing ever since,” Delson said. “We have had so much in common all these years. We are all sports nuts, and we all share the same interests.”
Cowen added that it is remarkable that they have all remained friends for so long. He added that he wrote a letter to the Guinness Book of World Records last year, but never heard back.
Feldman said it is also remarkable how the three became friends, having each come from different parts of the country. Feldman, who is originally from Chicago, said he came to Los Angeles in the late 1940s after a stint in the Army, where he served as a legal affairs advisor for the troops. Feldman passed the Illinois State Bar in 1941, and decided to practice law in a warmer climate like Southern California. Shortly after he arrived in Los Angeles, Feldman met a labor lawyer who told him about an open position at the furniture mart. He originally was hired as an assistant manager, and later became the mart’s director in 1958. Feldman said it was a boom time for the furniture industry, because large numbers of people moved to Los Angeles during the 1940s through ‘60s, and “everybody needed furniture.”
Cowen, who had a background in journalism and public relations, served during World War II as a public information officer on the staff of Gen. George S. Patton. He said he had been a sportswriter for a newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky prior to being drafted, and then joined the general’s staff when a position opened. While he didn’t work directly with the general, Cowen said Patton would address the staff regularly and he met the general approximately 20 times. He added that serving under Patton was one of the most memorable things he has done in his life. Cowen also said that he fell in love with California while in the Army during training in the Mojave Desert near Indio, and the warm climate inspired him to move to the area. After being discharged from the Army, he came to Los Angeles and eventually became advertising and public relations director for the furniture mart.
Delson, who joined the Army six months before Pearl Harbor, was stationed at an early warning station in Iceland during the war.
“That’s why I live in California,” Delson joked. “When I got out, all I wanted was nothing but summers for the rest of my life.”
Delson had spent some time in advertising sales for the New York Times, and came to Los Angeles after World War II and opened a small publishing company. He began representing an association of independent furniture companies, many of whom did business at the furniture mart. He began publishing the Western Buyer’s Guide, with information about the furniture businesses, which is how he came to know both Feldman and Cowen.
Delson and Cowen retired in the 1980s, but Feldman remained at the furniture mart until 1996. Feldman said he loves to stay busy, which is why he continues to practice law. He added that he thoroughly enjoys living at Park La Brea, in large part because it’s near the Original Farmers Market, which he visits weekly. He said while things have changed over the years, the neighborhood remains one of the most vibrant areas of the city.
“Everything is of such a quality that one can be satisfied in every aspect of life without having to go more than a couple of miles,” Feldman added. “It’s a very sophisticated neighborhood today.”
All three men said there are secrets to living a long life, and agreed that they are fortunate that longevity runs in their families. Feldman said it is important to remain mentally active, while Cowen emphasized the importance of physical activities such as golf. Delson added that he keeps young by entertaining others. One thing the three did agree on is when they will be getting together next — in February for Feldman’s 91st birthday celebration.