KINGSTON — It had been years since Florence Tomko did any crocheting, but when a nurse at Tiffany Court at Kingston suggested the 87-year-old resident might enjoy some needlework, Tomko picked up a crochet hook and started making little hats.
“I can make one a day,” Tomko said, sitting by a table filled with 70 caps — some small enough for a baby, some for an older child.
Tomko has a soft spot for children in need, and wants to send this first batch of hats to the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, where they can provide soft, colorful comfort to young patients.
“They should get there before the holiday (to be holiday gifts),” activities aide Jennifer Deats said, “but if they don’t, it will just be a donation.”
“I think she’s terrific,” Deats said of Tomko. “She’s really on top of things.”
Tomko grew up in Nanticoke and attended Nanticoke High School before enrolling in the Bradford Academy to learn about hair styling.
“We sure learned a lot of things,” she said, talking about preparing hair dyes and charging customers $1 for a perm that involved wrapping locks of a woman’s hair around rods that were attached to long wires dangling from a hood.
The “permanent wave machine” used electricity to heat the hair, and “we would time it for about three minutes,” said Tomko, who recalls she was paid $20 for a 40-hour week.
“There were no tips either,” she said. “How could you expect a tip from a lady that came in carrying a dollar?”
Tomko only had that job for about two years, but she later worked as a sewing machine operator and as a waitress at weddings. She smiles as she remembers how her husband, Ed, and she liked to dance the polka together; the smile fades as she recalls losing him when he was 55.
“He had black lung,” she said referring to an affliction common to coal miners.
Tomko has two daughters, Sandra and Debra; four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, and she has some Christmas presents ready for the little ones: pajamas.
No, of course she didn’t crochet the sleepwear, she said, laughing at the suggestion.
“I bought them.”