Another Streak Snapped

2020 continues to taint its reputation with each new day. Cirque du Soleil has now filed for bankruptcy and has let go of its 3500 employees. This week, as we braced ourselves for another new month and what terror it might introduce, we said goodbye to a comedy legend, Carl Reiner.

Just today, I got word that the Sears store where I held my very first paying job, is heading for the history books.

There I was, the newly-elected senior class president as I headed into the summer before my final year of high school. Somehow, I was invited to be a member of the Sears Teen Fashion Board. Those who know me well are breaking out into hysterics, so I’ll give you a moment to regroup. Yeah, I’ve never been known as a fashion plate, unless you include bad fashion.

What that meant was that yours truly actually modeled clothes at the mall when Sears was rolling out the new fall fashions. They had my picture up in the store, wearing those Sears clothes. They also offered up the chance for me to put in 10-15 hours or so each week as an employee. I was what they called, a “floater”, meaning wherever they needed extra help, that’s where I would be assigned. The challenging part of that role was showing up to work and then finding out where I was headed. I’d put on my shirt and tie, arrive at the store and some days, find myself out in the garden shop loading bags of steer manure into trunks of cars.

But as if all that history and transition wasn’t enough, this is also the week that, for the first time in years, I won’t be standing along Main Street in Bothell on the 4th of July, doing the play-by-play of the annual Freedom Festival Parade. I’m not exactly sure when that tradition began, but I’ve got to think it’s been most of the the last 18 years. I seem to remember starting it when I was still waking people up at KLSY, and that concluded in 2003.

Celebrating our country’s birthday brings up so many memories, as the celebration has evolved for me over the years. Back in the day, I remember the family piling into the car, kids in our PJ’s, and driving down to find a spot on the beach so we could watch the fireworks there. Back in South Dakota visiting relatives one summer, I remember marveling at how my young cousins were allowed to run around and light off firecrackers.

Of course, in Torrance, they only sold the “Safe & Sane” variety of fireworks which, at that time, was pretty mild compared to today’s version. There was Smokey Joe, who’s picture appeared on the bottom of the box. You’d poke the hole in his mouth and insert his “cigar” which amazingly smoked! There were smoke bombs, the occasional pinwheels and fountains. Lots and lots of fountains. Oh, and Picolo Pete’s, which we discovered as we got older, if you clamped down on the first ‘e’ in Pete, it would whistle for a while then explode.

However, what I remember most about the 4th was going to the fireworks stand and having dad say that phrase he would utter every year, “I don’t know why we just don’t light a $20 bill on fire.”

Years later, I called him up on the phone and asked him to say it again, one more time, for old times’ sake. Today, I’d like to share it with you.

 

While raising kids in Bothell, we lived in a fun neighborhood that developed the tradition of making a run to Boom City, circling the lawn chairs and then explosives that could win a war roar into the sky for a couple of hours. From those days, I recall the time my son wanted to light one of the mortars, which he did….but it fell over and started shooting into the crowd. People scrambled, dashing behind whatever they could find and luckily, no one was hurt. But it’s one of those scenes I can see in my mind like it was yesterday.

While our night-time 4th of July celebrations these days are pretty much relegated to the TV and watching the fireworks displays there, at 11am on Independence Day, my place is along Main Street, as the Kiddie Parade kicked things off, followed by the Freedom Festival Grand Parade. It’s pretty much the parade where if you live in Bothell, you’re either in or at the parade. People put out their lawn chairs to reserve their spots along the parade route up to a week before it happens.

Over the years, I’ve had a flurry of co-hosts, but for the past couple of years, Bothell Kenmore Chamber buddy Mike Rue has joined me for the play-by-play and we’ve had a blast. Since we will be silenced this year, I thought I’d dig out last year’s parade so you can get a taste of what the broadcast is like.

                                                                                         Freedom Festival 2019

Yes, the on-going nightmare that is 2020 has snapped my streak, but I’m planning to start a new one next year. Or the year after that. Whenever we can gather together again. These days, we just don’t know.

Enjoy your 4th and all the freedom that comes with it.

Tim Hunter

Saying Goodbye Again

Things come, things go.

While I’ve seen the likes of Newberry’s, Woolworth, Pay ‘n Pak, Frederick & Nelson and so many other businesses fade off into history, I understand that we live in changing times. But every time it happens, there’s still a bit of sadness to it.

Even things that stuck around but have evolved over the years, like going from The Bon Marche` to Macy’s, require an adjustment.

And as we hit mid-June and watch the grads head off into their unknown future and we excitedly leap from Spring to Summer, I’m being required to accept yet one more change in my life.

This is the final week of Steve’s Café in Bothell.

They will serve their last meal this coming Sunday, enjoy a Monday off (as that has been the only day Steve takes off for many years) and then on Tuesday, they’ll host an Open House and farewell gathering to anyone who wants to stop by and say goodbye, from 1-6pm.

For 22 years, Steve has gotten up at 4am most days to head in and serve his specialty–good old-fashioned, American diner food. He’s worked hard, along with his wife Marlene, who waited on tables. In later years, a server named Lori joined the team. What I loved so much when I stopped in for lunch was climbing in a booth and looking at those old black & white photos from Bothell’s days gone by.

Look towards the back of the restaurant and you’ll catch a glimpse of Steve, preparing whatever order Marlene or Lori brought back his way.

The word on the street is that his location will soon become a trendy whiskey bar.

For now, the smiles are still there, but it’s as if time is telling Steve to maybe take life a little easier. Last year for a while, the restaurant had a sign on the door letting customers know they had to close early on Wednesdays so Steve could get some medical treatments. He’s made a full recovery but maybe that adventure inspired him to fine-tune his life a little. He admitted when I was in last week that the 4am wakeups have gotten old. But while the café may disappear, Steve says he’d go stir crazy at home and wouldn’t mind getting a part-time job somewhere, doing something. Perhaps with the school district?

The countdown is on and Steve’s Café right there on Main Street in Bothell has less than a week to go. Stop by and wish Steve well, if you can. They serve breakfast all day, but may I recommend my usual–the Ruben Sandwich with his homemade potato chips.

Once again, it’s time to say goodbye. This time, it’s Steve’s turn.

Tim Hunter

What It Was Like

December 4th, 2018    4:15pm

So, last Saturday night was the big finale. As sad as it could have been, I appreciated knowing that this was going to be my final night as the town crier at the Santa Claus Arrival at Bothell’s Country Village Shopping Center.

It wasn’t my choice for this holiday tradition to end, or that of Leann Tesoriari, who operates this quaint village of shops in north Bothell.  She was one of the family members who voted to continue this urban oasis, but was out-voted by family members who wanted to cash-in while the selling was good. 

Hangin’ with Leann

And that’s totally understandable. Yet, with the sale of the property and all those stores disappearing over the next six months to make way for one of those mixed-use “urban villages”, it was just another reminder of another thing going away. One more of those places that we’ll remember fondly and that will inspires stories as we tell future generations about what used to be on that property.

I was trying not to get overly macabre about the event. My plan was to go in, live in the now and experience every second of what I was about to do for the last time. And that’s exactly what I did.

For all but one of the previous 18 years of my life, the first Saturday of December meant that I would find myself checking into the Country Village offices around 5:45, put on my Dickens-era top hat, a shawl, a scarf, grab the scroll of announcements and, of course, my town crier bell. Then, from 6-6:50pm, I would walk all over the shopping center, ringing my bell and announcing things like, “Hear ye, hear ye!  Santa Claus is coming! Sports & weather next.” Or, “Hear ye, hear ye! Santa Claus is coming to town, just like the song said.”  I had fun with it.

Doing this as many years as I have, I knew the routine, what to do, where to be, what to bring. After the first decade or so, I decided to go on line and buy a real solid bell. A big brass job, that really clanged. In-between Christmas’s, it rested on the top of a shelf right next to my desk.

As we prepared to dash out the door, I went to that spot to grab the bell and it was gone. Not there. Maybe I put it on another shelf?  My wife theorized I had loaned it to someone. I didn’t remember doing that.

We had a bell crisis.

We reached out to the friends hosting the pre- and post-arrival party and Annette said that she had a bell I could borrow. That was great, but what happened to my bell?

We arrived at the Dwyer house, where Annette informed us that she couldn’t find her bell, but a store at the Country Village where she worked would loan us a bell. The Santa Arrival would be saved.

I went to the Shopping Center early to pick up the bell and the owner said I could have any bell I wanted. My eyes went straight to a rather ornate bell with a $90 price tag on it. If it slipped out of my hand during the evening and got bent, I would no doubt be buying this bell. I would be the most careful town crier in the history of crying.

With the $90 bell

Off to the offices I went, to pick up my outfit. I lifted the cape, pulled out the hat and underneath it all was my bell. I had accidentally left it with them for the past year and it wasn’t until tonight that I even knew it was here. I returned the ornate bell, and then begun clanging like I had never clanged before. I went into stores, always asking first if it was OK for me to cry in their store.  One woman replied, “Absolutely! I’ve been here every year you’ve done this for the past 18 years.”

The rain held off. The night was mild for a November evening. The dancing elves and The Grinch entertained the crowd as Santa and his lighted Gingerbread sleigh made his way to the crowd. He waved his magic candy cane and the Christmas Tree lights came on.

The Christmas season, for me, was now officially underway. For one last, jolly evening, we put on a magical show for hundreds of young, awe-struck eyes, followed by a gathering at Center Court area to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. The line was long, but no one seemed to care. Santa Claus had come to town and I had announced it, just as I always have.

As I look back at the previous Santa Arrivals at Country Village, they all had names. There was the year that “Someone parked illegally and we had to have the car towed so Santa could arrive.” There was the year of steady rain and a soggy Santa. The frigid cold year. The year that, back when Santa actually flew in on his sleigh dangled by a wire, that he came so early, we weren’t ready for him. There was the year he got stuck.

For our finale, this will be remember as the year the event was literally saved by the bell.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

I’m Asking For A Buck

I’ve been involved in a fund-raiser or two over the years, but I’ve tried my best not to bug people that I know. I mean, seriously, how many friends do you have that would like you to pledge some money towards a very good cause so they can walk, climb, bike, yoga, whatever? I’ve done the “Beat the Bridge”, the Bleeding Disorder Foundation of Washington walk, countless auctions and of course, those “Make a Wish Marathons” when I stayed on the radio for 28 straight hours. I think we did three of them.

But, fair warning, if you keep reading this, I’m going to ask you for a buck. One dollar.  It’s to help a situation that is no doubt going on all over the U.S. right now, but the folks at the Northshore Schools Foundation are actually doing something about it.

With a week to go in May, I thought I’d call special attention to the N.S.F.’s annual “Milk Money Campaign.”  I remember when I first heard about this, I thought, “Well, yeah, kids need milk. Calcium for their bones, etc.”  But M.I.L.K. is actually an acronym for Making an Impact on Learning & Kids.  To play on the theme, milk bottles (generously donated by a northwest dairy) have been labeled and placed all over the Northshore School District–meaning Bothell, Kenmore and Woodinville. In businesses, in churches, where ever someone might toss in their pocket change to help the cause.

What exactly is the cause?  Homeless students.  We’re talking kids that, through no fault of their own, cringe when some of the fun things about being a kid come up, because they just don’t have the money.  They could be living in a shelter, a relative or friend’s home, because these important years have been far from smooth.

The folks at the Northshore Schools Foundation reached out to me this year and asked if I would produce a video that helps tell their story. So, if you’re up for it and have three minutes, I’d like to invite you to watch it.

If you skipped down to here because you’re too busy, I get it. I’m right there with you.  Let me introduce you to this fact–there are 200 homeless kids attending school right now in the Northshore School District. That’s where my kids went and where I’m still quite connected.  It’s not a poor community by any means, so it’s hard for me to imagine that homelessness even exists up there.

I figure I know enough people that if I put out the plea and you could spare a dollar, we could really make a big difference in this campaign that wraps up at the end of the month.  All the money raised is distributed to principals in the district that have asked teachers to let them know when they discover a kid in need.  Maybe its money for a field trip or a book from the book fair, or fees to take a college entrance exam or even some kind of a nice dress so they could attend the prom.

This is a soft ask.  I won’t know who kicks in and who doesn’t. If you’re thinking, “Well, those kids are up there. I’d rather help someone in our area.” Do it! Make it happen.  We are all so incredibly blessed and lucky for all that we have that this seems like a pretty small way to make a big difference in some young lives.

If you’d like to donate $1 to the M.I.L.K. campaign, just click here.

Yeah, just one dollar.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Tim Hunter

P.S. Oh, for Pete’s sake!  So, apparently the online donation software can only accept a minimum of $10 donations. So, if you see a jar this week, drop a buck in.  Just wanted to pass along some kudos and congratulate all the worker bees behind this cool program.

Fred Hering

Fred Hering

If you lived in the Seattle suburb of Bothell any time in the past 30 years, you knew Fred Hering.  If not the man himself, the real estate guy who had his office right there on 522.  Coming into Bothell, you’d see that sign, “Bothell–For a day or a lifetime” and then you’d pass the reader board out in front of Fred’s company, Hering & Associates.

I found out this morning that Fred passed away this week. The announcement was made yesterday at the Northshore Kiwanis breakfast, which he rarely missed.

Fred had his hands in many pies–he was President of the Northshore Schools Foundation and a member for 14 years, the Northshore Kiwanis (40 years), Northshore Schools Foundation (14 years), PTA, Boy Scouts, Northshore Senior Center, America Cancer Society, GOP District 1, and the Greater Bothell Downtown Association.  The retired Navy veteran was also father to three boys: Kevin, Tim & Dave.

Somewhere back in the days when I was Mr. Bothell, playing on the radio and writing a newspaper column for the Bothell Reporter (then known as The Citizen), Fred and I hooked up.  We didn’t see each other very often, but every seven years or so, he would graciously invite me to join the Northshore Kiwanis for breakfast and to be their guest speaker.

The last invitation and the final time I saw Fred was almost two years ago. I had decided to leave my job at a Seattle area advertising agency and set a departure date–October 1st, 2014. If you need me for anything, catch me by September 30th, because that would be the last time you’d see me working there.

During that farewell month, Fred gave me a call and invited me to come and speak to the Kiwanis gang again. “So, what date you looking at, Fred?”  He replied, “October 1st.” I quickly responded, “Funny, I have absolutely no plans for that day or the days after it! You’re my first commitment!”

While searching my email inbox for old previous exchanges with Fred, I realized he’s one of the people on my Wacky Week email list. Most likely, Fred was probably one of the original subscribers. I have to say, the guy was a fan and liked my style of comedy. I doubt he listened to me much on the radio, but he read my newspaper column religiously. Looking through my book, “Nosin’ Around Northshore: The First Five Years”, I found a great example of how Fred & I shared the same humor gene:

Last week, I told you about some of the more unusual signs spotted around town.

The gang at Hering & Associates Real Estate along Bothell Way decided to get into the spirit of obscure signage. Maybe you noticed it over the weekend. I know I did. On both sides of their reader board, just two words:  “Tim Hunter”.

I thought it was catchy and I sincerely appreciated the honor. But in no way am I going to allow their special attention to affect the high standards I have set for this column. Nice try, Hering & Associates, the home of thoroughly-trained real estate professionals who would love to help you find your next home.

It’s sad when you say goodbye to those characters that make up the fabric of your life. Four years or so from now, the phone won’t ring.  Fred won’t be at the other end, picking up where we last left off.  However, I prefer to look at things from the other side. I realize that I was so fortunate to have met Fred and honored he’d even remember my name. Fred Hering did a lot to make the community he called home a better place and his efforts and smile will be missed. We definitely need more Fred’s in this world.

Tim Hunter

The Home That Got Away

Shooting the Penguin Windows commercial at the house

Shooting the Penguin Windows commercial at the house

On February 4th, I’m putting a little piece of me up for sale.

It’s the home I bought back in 2006, when I was starting life anew.  I found this little rambler in Bothell, backed up against a greenbelt, with a huge deck and fenced yard.  I was watching house prices skyrocket out of control and figured if I didn’t hurry up and buy right then, I’d never be able to afford to buy a home in the Puget Sound area.

That was the thinking.  I had $60K as the result of a divorce that I was going to invest somewhere and this seemed like the perfect little place. 3 bedrooms, large master bedroom.  I even allowed the company I worked for at the time to use it to install Penguin triple-pane windows and film it for a TV commercial.

I remember a great summer backyard open house out on the deck and what fun it was.  A deer once wandered through the neighborhood.  Being in the back of the development, only people who lived there would drive by.  There were the neighbors, Dana & Tammy, Norm & Susie and several others whose names I’ve forgotten.

Then, less than a year after buying it, I met a woman too amazing to let get away.  My little rambler was too far from downtown to make it ‘our’ home, so we ended up buying a different home and I planned to sell off the Bothell residence.

But you may have notice the key phrase, 2006, above.  I bought at the absolute peak of the housing market and the crash that followed prevented me from selling.  So, for the next 8 years, I rented it out.  I had never planned to be a landlord, but I found myself in that position–having to fix garage doors, replace a water heater, re-roof, etc.  Combine that along with the fact that rent was hundreds under the payment and it was basically a financial stone around my neck.

However, I got lucky, with two dream tenants who treated the home as if it was their own.  When the most recent tenant decided to move south to be closer to family and with the market recovering, it just seemed like the right time to make my move.

Ten years from now it would be the perfect place to be.  We’re just not at that stage yet.

What I’d like to share with you–with all the preparations that have gone into getting it ready to sell, it’s a really awesome house.  More awesome than it ever was when I lived there.  That made me realize what a shame it is to live in your home and never enjoy its potential.  I’ve become even more resolved, once this adventure is over, to get our Seattle home to where we imagine it could be.  To get it ready to sell, and then… just live there.

If you know someone looking for a home, you might pass this link along to them. It gives a snapshot of what the house is all about, but I’ve got to tell you: it now looks even better.  Just send a note to tim@wackyweek.com and I’ll hook you up with my real estate guy.

I look forward to being an ex-landlord, but at the same time, I’m going to miss that little place.

Tim Hunter