"It was 1947 and I went with my uncle," recalled Litof, who has lived in Guttenberg's Galaxy Towers for the last 23 years. "We went with five cents in our pocket and took the train to Pelham Bay, and walked the rest of the way to City Island. We pooled our money and rented a rowboat and went fishing on the [Long Island] Sound. We then would smell up the train all the way home with the fish we caught."
Later in life, Litof, who worked for more than 50 years in the garment industry, joined the Hudson River Fisherman's Association. Litof helped to run trips for children, taking them on their first-ever fishing excursions. Just last month, Litof helped organize a trip on a fishing boat for 40 seventh and eighth graders from Guttenberg's Anna L. Klein School.
"We're always running trips for kids all over the area, and we just recently had the one for the Guttenberg kids," Litof said. "It gave me an idea. Why not do it for the seniors?"
After all, Litof, now 74, is a Guttenberg senior citizen. He's also been through the physical ringer a few times over the last few years, having beaten a severe case of Hepatitis C, survived a heart attack, and weathered other ailments.
"I've had Hepatitis C for 16 years, but I'm in remission," Litof said. "I am of the Hebrew faith and we're never supposed to ask our ancestors for anything. When I was first diagnosed, I asked to please make it easy on my family, not for myself. I asked, 'Please don't let me linger.' I was told by friends that my ancestors didn't want me up there with them yet, because [the treatment] worked. Here I am. Doctors tell me that it's a miracle I'm still alive."
Because of his new-found health, Litof said he wanted to be able to do something for the community. This senior fishing trip was the perfect solution.
"Emotionally, it was important for me," Litof said. "It was a chance to give back. God gave me the extra years, and I wanted to help people who are less fortunate than I am. Plus, now that I'm retired, it gives me something to do with my life."
So Litof approached Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and the Town Council and told them of his plan. They graciously embraced Litof's idea and supplied the transportation for the seniors to go to the Staten Island Pier for the day.
"We decided to do it on the pier instead of taking them out on a boat," Litof said. "Some people didn't think it was a good idea to bring the seniors on a boat."
As it turned out, it was almost prophetic, especially after the horrific boating accident on Lake George in upstate New York last week that killed 20 senior citizens.
With their piers So a group of 20 or so senior fishermen and fisherwomen - yes, women went on the trip as well - headed to the majestic Staten Island Pier for a day of fun, sun, fish and general good times.
"I'll tell you what," Litof said. "The women outfished the men. The pier was wonderful. There were places to sit and it goes out into the water some 800 feet. The weather was perfect. I'm always taking kids out fishing and I love kids, but this was a fun day as well."
Alan Steinberg isn't bashful about telling his age.
"I'll be 92 years old in December," said the retired restaurateur, who has called Guttenberg his home for the last 14 years, also residing in the Galaxy.
When Steinberg heard of the trip, he was more than interested.
"I had been deep sea fishing about 12 times in my life and trout fishing a lot of times, so I guess I was a bit of a veteran," Steinberg said. "I lived in Franklin Lakes for a while and I used to take my sons fishing on the lake every so often. But I hadn't been fishing in a few years. So when I heard of the trip, I was immediately interested. I knew I certainly was going to go."
Steinberg didn't know what to expect from the trip, but he found instant success.
"As soon as I dropped my line in the water, I had a fish on the hook," Steinberg said. "It was amazing." Steinberg admitted that he was "an old seaman," considering that he served with the United States Merchant Marines in World War II.
"Seeing the water brought back a lot of memories for me," Steinberg said. "It was a great day." Steinberg liked seeing the women participating and catching fish.
"Some of them were really novices," Steinberg said. "In the beginning, they didn't even know how to hold the rod or the reel. I tried to help them out as much as possible. Others were there to help as well."
Rods and reels The Hudson River Fisherman's Association provided the rods, the reels and a host of experienced fishermen to lend a hand, guys like Glen Bank, Al White and Tony DiModugno, who also coordinate the kids' trips.
Lunch was provided free by Delle Donna and the Town Council.
"But by the end of the day," Steinberg added, "the women were catching plenty of fish, too. It was amazing." It was estimated that the group caught approximately 75 fish, all of which were released back into the waters. Steinberg said that he doesn't feel old.
"I don't feel like I'm going to be 92," Steinberg said. "Sometimes, I don't even believe it. I think I've stayed young because I had three children after I turned 60. [Steinberg has sons who are 23, 26 and 31]. I just feel very lucky to be as healthy and as happy as I am. As a matter of fact, if I feel well enough and they have another trip, I'd like to go. It was a great time."
Needless to say, Litof was extremely proud of organizing the special day.
"I loved it and I loved doing it," Litof said. "It was a good day, because I'm one of them. I'm a senior, too, just on a different plane. For 52 years in the business world, I made things happen, and this reminded me of my professional days. I loved that."
Litof said that he is already planning his next senior fishing trip.
"I'm sure there are seniors who will come back and tell others just how good it was," Litof said. "Who knows what I've created?"