This Week, I’m Stepping Back

Next year, it will mark 50 years since I roamed the hallways of Torrance High School, down in southern California. So much happened during those four years there–I learned so much about me, started grasping how the world worked, fell in love for the first time and met friends that I still stay in touch with all these years later.

Most I haven’t seen in almost half a century. Again, Facebook allows us to connect, see what we now look like, and what all has happened in our lives since those days. There have been the occasional class reunions, but I honestly can’t remember who I saw and who I didn’t.

Today, one of my FB friends from those days, Paul Wolcott, shared the story of his life and the meaning of today’s date. I thought I would share it with you:

Forty years ago this morning I woke up in the hospital, couldn’t move, IV’s everywhere, pain everywhere, some kind of orthopedic apparatus sling around my hips. I remembered what happened. I didn’t realize it was actually worse than I thought it was when it happened. I wanted to know how Gary was doing. He didn’t look so good when we were hit earlier in the morning. 0140 hours in the morning to be exact. Nobody would tell me anything more than he was at another hospital and being cared for and I was doing fine.

June 1982, 1800-0200 night shift motors, Hermosa Beach, California. Me and my partner/best friend, Gary Dean Moss. Working the best assignment in law enforcement, police motorcycle duty, extra pay, take home bike, motor boots, leather jacket. It was all good.

Gary and I had attended the LAPD Motor training school six months prior. A difficult school taught by veteran motor officers. The training was two weeks of intensive drills, skills, cone patterns, 40 MPH decel, combination braking, friction point, stress and dirt. We loved it.

The Saturday night shift started out routine enough, prowling the city for CVC violations, DUI’s, suspicious characters. Writing tickets, taking T/C reports, boundary disputes, backups the usual routine stuff. Weekend summer night in Hermosa Beach, plenty of people rolling into the city to have a good time.

Towards the end of our shift we set up on Ocean Dr at Aviation Blvd to cherry pick speeders and possibly a DUI. Gary and I sat there on our bikes and just talked about our day and what we were doing when we got off shift and what we were doing on our days off. We talked about our girlfriends, Gary had a new one. He felt bad because they had had a fight earlier in the day before work. He was going to make it up to her and apologize for being a jerk. I was seeing Carol Glover, I was going to her house after work. We’d been seeing each other for about seven months, I met her on her birthday, introduced by mutual friends.

As we sat on our bikes, we poked fun at each other, laughed about stupid things, the usual chatter between friends.

We heard the whine of a couple of motorcycles headed towards us from PCH, two rice rockets moving fast, east on Aviation. Instinctively we fired up our bikes and gave chase.

Approximately 60 MPH as we crested the slight rise in the road at Prospect, solid green. Light traffic was moving west, the two speeding bikes were just ahead as we were about to light them up.

A white Ford Fiesta was going west on Aviation, suddenly, without signaling the white car turned left crossing our path just before we reached Harper Ln. the border with Redondo Beach. (He was going to the Jack in the Box)

No amount of braking or evasive moves was going to do us any good. (I only laid down 18’ of locked wheel skid). We were doing 60 MPH. Simultaneously we slammed into the car. Gary hit the space between the front bumper and the right front tire. I hit the passenger door. Momentum kept us in motion. I landed approximately 90’ from the point of impact, Gary a little further slamming headfirst into the south-east curb line of Aviation and Harper. I was in the middle of the street. I was conscious. I felt pain. My arms and legs didn’t work. But I was in pain, a good sign. I could see Gary lying there, not moving. I tried calling out to him, nothing. I tried to check to see if my gun was secured, I couldn’t move my arm. I tried to get to my radio to call for help. I couldn’t move my arm, my hand. What are those sticks poking out of the top of my glove? Completely helpless.

A citizen who was behind us saw the whole thing and stopped to help. He got on the radio on my bike and said this “Officer Down, Aviation and Prospect”. That’s it. Redondo Beach officer Mike Higashi responded, “Was that officer down or what?”.

Gary still wasn’t moving.

Debris and wreckage strewn all around us.

I could hear sirens. The citizen that called for help came to check on me. Told me to lay still. Go check on my partner.

The first officer to get to me was Hermosa Beach police officer Phil Keenan and his trainee. I asked him how he was doing, I told him I was fine, go check on Gary.

More officers were arriving. Redondo Beach officer Paul Burch arrived on scene. (Before joining the force he was an RN in the ER at South Bay hospital). He evaluated Gary and made the decision not to wait for paramedics. He and Phil Keenan bundled Gary up put him in the back of Burch’s black and white and rolled Code 3 to South Bay ER. I could hear the radio, Burch demanded a gurney to meet him at the ER entrance. Gary was in full cardiac arrest.

More units arrived. Officer’s I had gone to the police academy with, familiar faces. Comforting faces. Stressed faces.

I’m still waiting for paramedics. I learned later there had been a mix up in dispatch and the paramedics didn’t get the call right away. One officer yelled into the radio “GET THE GOD DAMNED PARAMEDICS HERE NOW!”

There were four people trapped in the car. My bike intruded 3 feet into the passenger door. My body crushed the roof line in. Thank goodness for my vest.

The paramedics arrived more familiar faces. The ambulance arrived. More familiar faces.

Redondo Beach officer Mike Kaye arrived at the scene, we went through the academy together, I asked him to go to Carol’s house in Manhattan Beach and let her know I was going to be later than expected.

They took me to Little Company of Mary hospital in Torrance. The pain was getting worse, but I was still conscious and aware of what was happening. Chaos in the ER. Nurses, doctors, staff, police officers, vitals. More pain, everywhere. No pain meds till after X-Ray’s. They cut off my boots, my leather jacket, my breeches, shirt. Cold. Shock.

X-Ray’s, more pain. Mike brought Carol to the ER. I told her it was no big deal I’d be out in the morning. The nurses gave her the task of putting ice on my pelvis. I didn’t know why. Learned later, internal bleeding.

Finally, the gift of morphine. Pain was gone. Can I leave now?

Six hours of surgery.

Both arms broken, both wrists fractured and dislocated, compound fractures in my left hand (the sticks), fractured pelvis, broken back, both knees fractured and as a bonus, fractured right patella that was removed during surgery.

More morphine please.

Gary is in intensive care at South Bay hospital they told me, being cared for.

On June 24th, officer’s Jim Chizmar and Spike Kelly came to the hospital.

Gary died this morning…………

Gary’s memorial service drew hundreds of police officers from all over the state. Police helicopters flew past my hospital window in the missing man formation. Body Glove donated their boat to spread Gary’s ashes at sea off of Torrance beach.

A lot of time was spent in physical therapy or “pain and torture”. More surgeries. I regained use of my limbs, my left hand was functional. I got to learn how to walk again. I could finally go home after three months, two at LCM and a month at Daniel Freeman hospital for PT and OT and more surgeries.

The number of visitors to the hospital slowed, but Carol came every day

I spent three months in the hospital. The nursing staff was incredible and caring. They had to do everything. They fed me, changed my bedding, bathed me, gave me my meds, everything.

Carol and I got married on Gary’s birthday, March 19th.

Hermosa Beach Police officer Chuck Griffitts, Gary’s academy classmate, son was born at LCM, he named him Gary. He became a police officer.

I was forced to take a disability retirement in June 1983 when my 4850 time ran out. More surgeries, more PT.

The deuce that hit us had a .13% BAC. He was found guilty by a jury of one count of misdemeanor DUI and given probation.

In July 1985 I returned to full duty. I went back on motorcycle duty in 1995 and took a service retirement in 2008

We learned much later, the two motorcycle riders we were chasing had committed a robbery in another city.

Carol and I divorced but have stayed friends. I will, for the rest of my life be grateful to her for getting me through the most difficult, significant, life changing event I’ve ever experienced. Nothing before or since has been this bad.

I think about my best friend Gary Dean Moss every day.

I’m sure if every one of us were to take the time to write down a compilation of our life’s most traumatic moments since we left the safety of high school, the friends we’ve distantly stayed in touch with would be amazed at what we’ve been through. Some are willing to share, others prefer their privacy. But by this stage of life, all of us from the class of ’73 have a unique story to tell. I’m thankful Paul was willing to share, because I had no idea of all those challenges he had been through. Wow.

It’s why, this week, I’m deferring to my fellow Torrance High Tartar, class of ’73. Thank you, Paul.

Tim Hunter

Time IS Marching By…

I don’t know how I ended up in this particular place at this point, but time is racing along.

Oh, there have been weeks that seem like they last forever. But lately, it seems as though I blink and we’re heading into another month.

As we stand now, November arrives a week from Friday. Really?  Thank God Thanksgiving is so late; but, then again, that means there are fewer days between the end of November and Christmas. OK, quick reality check–Christmas is just 9 weeks from today.

I’d like to circle around to the thought that was inspired from all this: Make it count.

It’s just another day at work–make it count.

Got one more parent/teacher conference–make it count.

Yeah, this is a pulpit I’ve preached from before, but I’m called to remind everyone reading this collection of ramblings: if you do anything over the next couple of years, make them count.

I was just a nerdy kid who left a Lutheran elementary school and found himself in a public school with very few friends. That seems like yesterday.

I ended up a pretty popular high school student, who played on the basketball team, dated the girl of his dreams and was Senior Class President, ASB vice-president and Senior Prom King. As Walter Brennan used to say, “No brag. Just fact.”

Off into the real world I went and I can easily come up with a handful of moments where I wished I had “made them count.” But instead, I let them pass, figuring there were lots more opportunities like that in the future. That isn’t always the case.

I remember Al, the overnight security guard at KOMO radio & TV, who I befriended during my radio days there. He just wanted friends. At one point, Al had to be hospitalized and so I thought, I’ll get down and visit him eventually. He never returned.

There was a girl I was dating my senior year of college that I pretty much disbanded. I thought it was just too darn early to settle down and it probably was, but she was a quality human being and I was a young guy trying to get it all out of his system. I owe her more than an apology, but I’ve offered that and she said it wasn’t necessary.

So, people move on. Maybe I’m the one hanging on to things I should let go. I’m seriously convinced that everything that happens in our life has a purpose, maybe even a lesson attached. Geeze, I’ve learned a ton of lessons during my years on this rock and I’m grateful for all of them. I’m also big on “everything happens for a reason” in that, where I’m at today is an accumulation of everything I’ve experienced before.

And here we are. I’m here, married to an amazing women who cares about the things in her life more than I could ever dream. Oh, I love my wife, my kids, my mom and sisters, and all the relatives I stay in touch with. I really do appreciate you. But the curse of being a perfectionist is that you review what you did–good or bad–and continually reevaluate if it was the right thing to do.

And because of that “everything happens for a reason–good or bad” philosophy, I’ll have to assume my choice was correct.  In putting a high value on time, it seems like its wasteful reliving things that have already happened. They had their time, as that precious commodity disappears so quickly.

So do whatever it takes to slow it all down. Don’t be in a hurry for it to all be over. Let it breathe, enjoy the ride and while I’m at it, thanks to everyone who has been a part of my incredible journey.

And as your ride continues….make it count.

Tim Hunter

       I still remember posing for that picture

Lost Memory Recovered

payphone

When you think about it, we all experienced thousands–perhaps, millions–of events while we were growing up.  Going from first recollection to fleeing the nest, so much happened.  The older you get, the more the little details slip away and you simply hold on to those big events.

So I was pleasantly surprised by a memory of a little thing brought back this week by my sister Terri. She was the middle one, closest in age to me, so our high school years over-lapped. Terri was chatting with my mom on the phone the other day and she flashed back to the system by which we were picked up from high school, in the days before we could drive.

Apparently, each of us were given a dime. Back then, that was the price of a phone call from a phone booth. Whenever we had an after-school activity like band, a sport, drill team, whatever, we would let mom know approximately what time we might call.  Then, we’d place the dime in the pay phone, rotary dial the number, let it ring three times and then hang up.  That way, mom knew it was time to pick us up and we got our dime back.

A way to beat the system and save a dime.  I would have never remembered that by myself. Just thought I’d share this memory of a little thing from long ago and a much different time.

Tim Hunter                                                                  dime

 

 

 

If Pipes Could Talk

Lousy artist's conception of what The Talking Pipe looked like.

Lousy artist’s conception of what The Talking Pipe looked like.

Last week, I bared my soul about a sensitive topic.  It’s an issue on which people have very strong stands and it’s entirely possible, I may have offended at least a couple of folks along the way.

If you didn’t have the chance to read it and be offended, you’ll find it immediately below this one.

These blogs are a bit of a time capsule.  The world is an ever-evolving place, and I consider these ramblings to be a scrapbook of thoughts that I hope live on the Internet long enough for future generations to learn from them.

As I approach my 60th birthday, I feel very fortunate to have already experienced so many things that anyone under 40 find hard to comprehend.  There was a time when TV was only black & white, telephones were tied to walls and had rotary dials and party lines.  The number of TV stations was in single digits. Stores were closed on Sundays.  Yeah, it was that kind of world.

Coming off such a serious topic last week, I really wanted to keep it as light as possible this week.  So, I sat back, let the mind wander a bit and then, I managed to extract this little gem from the depths of my memory bank—the Talking Pipe.

The what?

I grew up in Torrance, California, now famous for being the home of Louis Zamperini.  During my high school years (at the same school Louis attended, just a couple of years later) Friday nights after the football game meant driving up to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, looking out over the city lights and enjoying some romantic moments with your favorite girl.

One of the secret little hideouts for teenagers was a dead-end street, which became famous among necking circles for being the home of The Talking Pipe.  It was a large steel pipe (thus, part of the name) that protruded out of the ground, about four feet tall.  If you walked up to it and put your ear near the opening, you would hear voices.  Nothing you could make out, but they were definitely muffled voices.  Every time we performed this ritual, the pipe “talked”, just as the legend claimed.

Of course, since then, with only the slightest of mental effort, we figured out that this pipe sticking out of the ground high on a hill acted as an antenna.  Because of its location to a nearby news station’s broadcasting tower, the broadcast signal was picked up and sounded as though it came from deep inside the pipe.

Mystery solved. However, The Talking Pipe is one of those high school experiences I remember fondly. 

Almost as fondly as what happened in the car afterwards.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

Anybody Seen My Old Friend Jon

I only hung out with Jon Lemler for three or four years.

Actually, I’ve known Jon a total of 40+ years. But the time we spent together at Torrance High School amounted to no more than a max of three years. Back in those days, you went to elementary school, then high school. Grades 1-8 and then off to grades 9-12. I had heard the terms “middle school” and “junior high”, but they didn’t apply to my world.

With that big of a jolt, 9th grade for me was mostly spent getting used to this whole new existence. After all, I had only been in public schools two years, after attending a Lutheran school my first six grades. Being a new kid means getting picked on, laughed at and even the occasional threat of being beaten up. Ironically, it was my sense of humor that saved me several times and eventually, the bullies came to like me. I discovered that comedy was a great way to win people over.

With something like 5 elementary schools all contributing to Torrance High School, there were a lot of new faces and personalities. Somewhere along the way I met this white kid wearing an Afro-style haircut named Jon Lemler. If I remember it right, I became good friends with a couple of guys who attended the same elementary school as Jon, so  eventually we all started hanging out together.

I don’t think Jon was a jock or played music. He may have been in choir or the chess club, I just don’t know. All I remember is him being a little quirky, sorta funny and that he had mastered a talent of which I was highly envious—he could play music with his hands.

Now that we’re over 40 years removed from those high school days, actual memories are pretty limited. But one that almost everyone who knew Jon will likely remember is that evening at “Senior Talent Night.” Being a class president, I thought it would be fun to have a talent show and so, Jon took the stage and tore the house down with his version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” on his hands.

That skill came up every five or ten years when we managed to gather again for a class reunion. I have to say that Jon and I probably became better friends after high school than during.

Eventually, Jon took those magic hands and wandered into Chiropractic care and naturopathic medicine. Every reunion, while the rest of us continued our outward expansion, Jon continued looking pretty good. Down right healthy.

So, when another classmate started an email this week with the words, “I have some sad news to pass along”, Jon’s name was the last one I expected to see.   It seems he was attending a convention in Las Vegas earlier this month, when he suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack, at age 60.

I know Jon meant a lot to so many people—his family, his patients, his classmates. But he also played a big part in the life of my wife, Victoria, who felt compelled to write down her thoughts earlier today:

To The Friends & Family of Dr. Jonathan Lemler:

I met Dr. Lemler at a Torrance High School reunion as he was a classmate of my husband, Tim Hunter.  I believe this was the summer of 2008.  We began talking about our lives and the subject of me having been diagnosed with a kidney disease came up in our conversation. On one hand he was not very optimistic for me, but the more he thought about it, and he thought about it after the reunion as well, he emailed my husband and suggested a treatment for my liver, mushroom in origin, that would help my liver so it could support my kidneys. Up until this time my stats were not moving much in the positive direction. Once I started this treatment the numbers began to improve.  With a combination of this treatment, my naturopath and nephrologist, my kidneys slowly edged toward remission.  By 2011, my numbers were normal again. I will never forgot how much he cared, how hard he worked to help save my life because in fact, that is what he did.

He will be missed and I am extremely grateful to have known him.

Victoria Hunter

Seattle, WA

What more can I say other than I wish to God I could have had one more chance to say thanks for all you did, for Victoria and myself. God’s peace.

And for those who didn’t see it earlier on Facebook, here’s a clip of Jon from our 20-year reunion.

Too soon, man. Too soon.

Tim Hunter