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He was born the same year the Hollywood sign was built. Now, the Ventura County man turns 100

Len Zerlin (left) wsith his longtime friend, Tony Kourounis.
Len Zerlin (left) with his longtime friend, Tony Kourounis.

The original Yankee Stadium opened, and Calvin Coolidge was President the year he was born.

The year was 1923. Calvin Coolidge was president. The first pitch was thrown out at Yankee Stadium. The Hollywood sign was built.

And on December 10, 1923, Len Zerlin was born in New York. On Sunday, the Thousand Oaks man turns 100.

"Negatives around me...I avoid it," said Zerlin. "One ounce of emotional baggage in time will result in one ton of woe."

Zerlin grew up in Brooklyn. He had just graduated from high school when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II. He enlisted the in the Army Air Force, and flew three dozen combat missions in Europe. Zerlin says he lost most of his friends in the war, which changed the way he looked at life.

"When I got out of the service, I was a different person because I was alive. I never feared the future" said Zerlin.

He moved to the Conejo Valley more than a half century ago, and had a long career in the electronics industry. Zerlin and his wife had two children, which led to five grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren. He lost his wife more than a decade ago.

He’s filled with stories about the happy times of his life. Zerlin remembers what it was like being a kid decades before there was television.

"I remember Mayor La Guardia (Fiorello Henry La Guardia of New York) would read the funnies. We'd be on the floor, listening to the radio, and there he was reading the funnies to us," he said.

He laughs at how everyone has a cell phone now. His family lived upstairs from his grandmother. She had a phone, and when Len's family got a call, she would tap on the radiator pipes to let them know it was for them.

And, he says going to the movies was cheap. It cost a dime, but sometimes they would sneak in through a back door. A Coke was a nickel, and a hamburger 15 cents.

Zerlin said age hasn’t stopped him from being busy, although the 99-year-old isn’t moving quite as fast as he used to. He writes, he paints, and at one point he even took up archery.

 Zerlin has outlived most of his friends, but he has some newer ones.

 Tony Kourounis met Zerlin more than two decades ago. The two hit it off, and have been friends since. They sound like a pair of standup comics as they chat. Kourounis said Zerlin is amazing. He's helped the World war II veteran edit a series of novels he’s written. And, the newest project is Zerlin’s biography.

"He's a special guy," said Kourounis. They get together every Thursday to chat. They've done it for years.
Sunday is the big day for Zerlin, when he officially hits 100. He’s already been loading up on birthday cake, with celebrations this week.

"I don't think of tomorrow...ever...ever. I'm thankful when I get up in the morning." said Zerlin.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.