Bow Down To Bob

This next season of University of Washington Football is going to be a special one.

Coming off last year where they were part of the top 4 teams in the nation, that’s a tall order. But what’s going to make this year incredibly special, regardless of the Dawg’s record, is that it will be the final season for the “Voice of the Huskies”, Bob Rondeau.

I am and will always be so grateful for the path life has taken me. One of the more scenic detours was getting a phone call from a low voice over in Seattle, wanting to know if I had an interest in being his producer. KOMO radio news guy Bob Gillespie was over in Yakima visiting his in-laws one day, heard enough of me one day to suggest to KOMO morning guy Larry Nelson that we should talk, and the rest was history.

As Larry used to always tell me, if you want to make God laugh, just tell him the plans you have for your life.

Two weeks away from being married, I accepted a job that started the Monday after the honeymoon.  That meant getting hitched in 10-below weather, going over to Seattle to find a place to live in a 3-hour search, going on the honeymoon, coming back and then moving over through the snow-covered passes in a truck with bald tires.

But it was so worth it.

Among the personalities and friends I got to know during my  4-1/2 year stint at AM-1000 was the KOMO Sports Director, Bob Rondeau.  Bob was the morning sports guy, while a fellow named Gary Johnson was the afternoon sports anchor.  Years before, in the Midwest, their roles had been reversed. Gary was the main guy, and Bob was his second.

To this day, if I bump into Bob Rondeau, it’s mere seconds before a pair of dueling Nixon impressions breaks out.  For a while (until management forced us to stop–they felt it was disrespectful. Yeah, to a guy who resigned in disgrace), I would call up Larry in the morning and chat with him as “Mr. Former”, as if Richard Nixon was a fan of the show.  Man, did we have fun. Our GM fought mildly for us, then brought out the white flag and the cease-and-desist went into effect.

While Bob enjoyed the big-time job of calling all the Husky football and eventually, basketball games, KOMO wanted to expand their reputation as “Your Husky Station.” So, to pad our part, we developed the whole “Tailgate Party” show concept, with Lar having fun, playing the Husky Fight song or Tequila over and over, while I produced bits to play in-between all that.  One of the recurring features we did was something called, “Special Times”, where Larry and Bob would talk about the game, what it all meant, all the while walking as close as they could to the silliness line.

Bob Rondeau was Bob ‘frickin’ Rondeau. He still is. But Bob always treated me as an equal, a friend and just another member of the KOMO family.

I attended the University of Washington from 1973-77 and have absolutely no clue who did the broadcasts back then. The only “Voice of the Huskies” I’ve ever known has been Bob Rondeau. It’s going to very strange to not have him up in that broadcast booth a year from now.  I have a feeling I’m going to be listening to radio broadcasts of the game a little bit more next season.

Go Dawgs!  Oh, and Bob, Mr. Former says ‘hi’.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

Mastering The Art Of Living

                            There was a time I was king

This is my current goal. After 60+ years on this planet, I’ve lived a lot of different ways. The excited, dream-filled teenage years, the crazy days of college, those decades trying to get your career to take off, then maintaining that success while trying to constantly increase my experience and knowledge base. The common theme: very little sleep.

So I enter this decade of my life hoping to spend as many days as possible doing what I love to do. It seems like the smart way to live. However, this mindset was inspired by watching the passing of people I have known and loved over the years.

I’ve had this feeling for a while–making every day count. It’s just SO easy to get caught up in a busy, go-go-go lifestyle. Sure, its lots of fun, good times, etc. but the end result is that it makes time fly by. And when you’ve reached this stage, you really want to milk it for as long as you can.

Probably Alice Porter’s early departure was my wake-up call. Her husband, Shawn, followed her just a few years after that. If you’ve visited these blogs for a while, I’ve introduced you to several of those people who left this planet way too soon.

Recently, another one of my Torrance High School classmates passed away. Yes, it’s going to happen when you come from a class of 600 students. But  when you read that name or hear it from another classmate, its easy to flashback to those days where you really did live day-by-day. Everything, every day was such a big deal.

Facebook, for all of its issues, has made it easier to stay in touch with those people from long ago. Some alum took it upon themselves to keep tabs of those we’ve lost. I just discovered this list online the other day and came across a few names that took me back to some pretty exciting times in my life. I don’t know how they died or any of the details, I just saw that they are no longer with us. But the memories remain.

Wayne Ferm–Wayne was a short, stocky guy with squinty eyes and a big smile as we walked around campus. His nickname was ‘Winky’.

Dexter Wolfgang–Dexter was years ahead of his time and my first acquaintance with a gay anyone. Everyone knew who he was and I understand he went on to be quite the hairstylist.

Mike Justice–I had him in a couple of my classes. Nice guy. Probably saw him at a reunion or two, I don’t remember for sure. I do know that he went on to become quite the photographer and died during a helicopter shoot over the Los Angeles Harbor earlier this year.

Merry Laskaris–Was one of those high school cuties you just didn’t forget. All that beauty and she could twirl a baton with the best of them.

Danny Gans–I played Little League with him and our paths didn’t cross much in high school, but he became quite the Las Vegas headliner.

Jon Lemler–Jon became quite the naturopath and healthy-living advocate. He met my wife Victoria at one of my reunions and we are both convinced it was with Jon’s help that Victoria conquered her kidney disease. Ironically, Jon was attending a conference in Las Vegas when he dropped dead from a massive heart attack.

The pictures in my head of each of these former classmates are as they appear in my old dusty yearbook. It’s how I remember them.

I really did have some great high school years.  Some people look back and think those were the happiest days of their lives. For me, I’d include them, but I’ve always believed that if high school was the best time of your life, the rest of your life is nothing but a letdown. For me, it was just the start.

These days, my work schedule means launching into a new collection of conquests every Monday.  Some routine, some new. But I’m amazed how anxious I still get every seven days, even though I know I’ll accomplish everything (and I do) but there’s this nagging feeling like I shouldn’t be able to do this. That there’s a rule I’m not observing. I should be in a 9-5 job, going to work and wishing I was somewhere else.

Well, I’m lucky enough to be at that “somewhere else” and feel blessed for having this opportunity. It’s becoming more and more obvious that I need to go back to my high school thinking, where every day was so incredibly important and special.

Because they are.

Tim Hunter

 

 

The Old United Airlines

We base our opinions on what we see and experience. I’d have to say that, after this past week, United Airlines is a done deal. The Titanic of Airlines was struggling to stay afloat despite their descending quality of service and withering reputation.  That’s the United Airlines we all know today.

But there was a time….

I grew up as a United Airlines kid. My dad proudly worked at the airline in it’s Hey Day, which for you younger whipper-snappers, meant when it was “the sh*t!”  There was a time when airlines were like banks. There were zillions of them. And while there were big ones that covered the world like Pan Am and Trans-World Airlines, United was the top dog in the U.S., the #1 domestic airline during the 1960s.  My dad was a mechanic who kept the service trucks on the ground working so they could service the aircraft.  He had come out to California after World War II from West Virginia and landed a job as a fueler for, I believe, was a whopping $1.47 at the time.  Over the years, he climbed the ladder and was quite the mechanic for “the friendly skies” back when they were still friendly.

It’s sad that United has ended up in this situation. The United Airlines I grew up was first class.  In the 1960s, whenever our family would use employee passes to fly on United, we had to dress up. If we rode in first class, the guys had to wear ties.  As kids, we were given plastic wings that signified we were honorary pilots.  I can remember United Airlines employee summer picnics at the Los Angeles Police Academy (yep, same place as in the movies, just not as funny), and Christmas parties where Santa Claus actually showed up and handed out a present to each of the kids in attendance.

When United Airlines took possession of the first 747, they invited employees to come out to LAX and go on board before the general public got to see it for themselves.  I remember waiting in line on the tarmac with other families, climbing those stairs and going into a brand-new, shiny Boeing 747, complete with a spiral staircase up to the first class lounge.

In college, I commuted home every other weekend on United. Back then, round-trip airfare for me (stand-by, yes, but flights weren’t that crowded back then) was a whopping $6. If I wanted to fly first class, it would have been $12. It cost less for me to fly to Los Angeles than it did for some of my dorm friends to drive home to Portland or Spokane.  The planes were clean, the employees friendly.  I even worked a couple of summers in the United Airlines flight kitchen in Los Angeles. The next time we get together, ask me about it. I’ve got stories.

That now seems like it was a century ago, even though it was only 40-some years.

United stock has plummeted and this dragging-a-customer-off-the-plane incident is far from over. Since the passenger was of Chinese descent, in China, they were watching that video at a rate of 20-million views an hour. If I was a betting man, I don’t think I would put any money on the airline surviving. But we shall see.  It’s not like up until now I hadn’t heard many a complaint about United–delayed flights, lost baggage, etc.  There was just a part of me that hoped it could right the ship instead of orchestrating a mutiny with its passengers.

Tim Hunter

 

 

In One Sears & Out The Other

My old gang from Division 9

For someone of my advanced years, it’s truly unthinkable.

Just a week ago, the parent company of Sears said it was doubtful they would survive. The vultures are circling, a younger generation says, “So what?”

Admittedly, Sears is not anything close to what it used to be. Then again, none of the stores are these days.  Macy’s, Penney’s and yes, Sears are all closing stores nationwide. To help the younger folks understand, think of where you’ll be 30 years from now and how you’d feel when you hear Amazon is going away.

There was a time (and it was in my lifetime) that Sears was all that and more. OK, it was Sears & Roebuck, the American retailer that every Christmas put out a catalog of all the things that Santa might bring to the good little girls & boys.   I remember ripping out pages and cutting out pictures to include in my letter to Santa, so he could get it right.  When other kids got gifts from Santa from Schwinn or Lionel, my Sting Ray bike and model train set had the Sears name on it.

Sears was the anchor store at the Del Amo Mall in Torrance, California, just three blocks away from my home.  It was in 1966 that I rode my bike over to the Sears parking lot to see a couple of guys running for office. They gave their speeches from the back of a flatbed truck. One was a guy named Valentine running for congress. The other, a former actor running for governor named Ronald Reagan.

Sears is where I got my first job in high school. Those who know me will find this hard to believe, but I was on the Sears Teen Fashion Board, which meant I modeled clothes in a couple of fashion shows at the mall, and I was able to work part-time at the store.  As a ‘floater’, I could find myself in the Garden Center or Men’s and Boy’s departments. But my favorite hangout was Division 9: Hardware. I got pretty good at selling circular saws and Craftsmen tools, because after all, they had a lifetime guarantee.  I remember a guy bringing in a ratchet he had bought in the 1940s. It was broken, and of course we replaced it because it was a Craftsmen.

I also remember that I was there when they first introduced “computerized” cash registers. I got so good at inputting numbers that I would often be done and would wait two minutes for the register to catch up and print out the receipt.

I have no recent stories about Sears because, heck, who goes there anymore?  On the rare occasion I find myself in one of their stores, I see bored employees standing around, talking with each other. It just looks like a dying store.

I mean, think about it: what does Sears have that you couldn’t get for less at Amazon?

And so, we continue to evolve as a society and, sometimes, at a cost of losing some things we’ve had around for a long time.

Remember how records became cassettes and 8-tracks that evolved into CD’s which became digital music files that we downloaded?  This past year, for the first time ever, the #1 way that people bought music was through streaming services. 51% of the music sold was purchased through those streaming services you’ve come to enjoy.

All this to say, the next time you’re near a Sears store, wander around and take a good last look. They’re soon to join the ranks of Montgomery Wards, The Bon Marche, White Front, Pay ‘n Pak, Pay ‘n Save and so many others.

The future does not bode well, but I fondly remember that time when Sears was “where America shops.”

Tim Hunter

 

 

Happy March 32nd

I just saw a post on Twitter where someone was dreading tomorrow, Saturday, April 1st….or, as it’s otherwise known, April Fool’s Day.

I’m a yuckster, so I’ve always enjoyed the day. From the harmless childhood pranks, to the more elaborate twists as you get older.  Nothing harmful. Being a morning person puts you in great shape to be the first one to catch people off guard and break it to them first.

I’ve blogged on this great holiday in 2010, 2014 and again just last year.

Might as well keep the streak going.

This year, 2017, won’t be as fun because it’s not a work day. I quit going to an office on a daily basis three years ago, but for the rest of the 9-to-5 world it will mean pranksters deprived for two years in a row as April Fool’s Day falls on the weekend.

I have gone a new direction anyway. Last year, I began a tradition of creating a video piece on National Gullible Day. The origins of this invented holiday will change every year, as will the cast and stars of this brief video therapy session.

This year, special thanks to all those who took part: Mike West, Scott Burns, Mike Rue, Margo Rogers, Kristi Gilbert, Brian MacMillan, Alana Baxter, Rune Kjenstad, Caroline Sleipnes Kjenstad, Mark Merchant, Chris Settle and my very special guest, Pat Cashman.

Of course, you can watch both this year’s video and the 2016 edition at NationalGullibleDay.org

And just so you know, that’s also the world’s first Scratch ‘n Sniff website.

You can’t blame a guy for trying.

Happy NGD to all!

Tim Hunter