THE FIRST ONE

Dad and Me 02

Sunday is Father’s Day. This will be the first one since my father passed away last August.

It would be easy to spiral down from there, but to what end? Yes, I’m sad that he’s gone. That the traditional Sunday phone call to wish him a happy Father’s Day won’t be happening this year.

But I’m not the first to lose a parent and it makes more sense to me to view Father’s Day as a day of gratitude. Looking back, I hit the Dad Jackpot. I’m so thankful that he was given almost 92 years on this earth. I have a lot of friends who lost their dad decades ago.  I can’t say enough about all the things he did for me while growing up:  the endless hours of crouching down behind a home plate he had crafted out of plywood so that I could practice pitching. Game after game of driveway basketball. The time he took me pheasant hunting, the fishing trips or all the adventures the family enjoyed on our summer camping trips.

There were the United Airline company picnics at the Los Angeles Police Academy. (yes, the same one as in the films) Watching home movies, I’m reminded of the dad who smoked a pipe for a while. Then, when he gave up cigarettes and tobacco, he became addicted to having a toothpick in his mouth.  He was on the board at the church school I attended and I recall one graduating classmate telling me he was afraid to shake dad’s hand—a part of the graduation ritual—because he might get splinters.

John Hunter was easy going.  He didn’t like conflict.  While born in Scotland, he was raised in West Virginia and had that relaxed pace about him in life.  He wasn’t fast, but deliberate. That’s probably what made him such a great mechanic, as several of his former United Airlines co-workers remarked to me at his funeral.  He was the last of his siblings to go.  We were blessed to have him for over nine decades.

This Sunday is that day set aside to honor our fathers.  If you had a dad worth honoring, consider yourself lucky.  That’s not always a guarantee and sadly, there are a lot of people who don’t even want to be reminded about their father.  As a dad, that’s impossible for me to imagine.

Being a father has truly been one of the greatest experiences of my life.  Having to actually be responsible for a couple of human lives and the way they turn out, that’s a big concept.  But having arrived at the point where my little ones are now 31 and almost 34, I’m so proud of what they’ve done with their opportunities and look forward to many great years ahead, watching them live their lives.

And when the time comes that I experience a factory recall, I sure as heck don’t my kids moping around or being sad about me being gone. OK, well, maybe a little.  But life is something to celebrate and, as we were reminded three times this past week in Orlando, to appreciate—every precious moment.

A quick tip for those whose parents are still with us–sit down with a video camera or even your cell phone and a table tripod and ask them to tell you their life story.  I did that several years with both mom and dad and while, for me, it’s too soon to go back there and watch, their presence, their voice, their mannerisms are then captured for generations to come.  Maybe even do that this Sunday.

Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

Tim Hunter

Dad and Me 01

HERE I GO AGAIN

guns

Another mass shooting and once again I head to my blog and try to explain to the “guns at any cost” crowd that the cost is getting way too high.

And actually, I’ve done this at least four times before:

As good a time as any to say thanks  

OK, I’ll take a swing  

I’m Really Tired of This

Giving second thought to the Second Amendment  

The point is, the latest carnage—and our casualty record-holder at this writing—was carried out with a semi-automatic weapon. You do not need one of those to protect your family or to do whatever it is you do to feel better about yourself. Being a personal weapon of mass destruction, it’s no different than a bazooka or a tank. We’re not allowed to own those, but because it’s called a rifle, every N.R.A. card carrying member immediately goes to “they’re trying to take all of our weapons.” No. Just the ones that are designed to kill mass numbers of people in a short time.

Remember, these days, we’re no longer allowed to identify people as crazy or, technically speaking, having a few screws loose. So, until they prove themselves completely off their rockers, they can walk into a gun store and buy a rapid-fire rifle.

I’m officially refusing to accept that this is just going to happen. When given the spotlight Sunday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said, “It was Orlando’s turn.” That’s just viewing this as a game or right of passage or inevitable. Mass murder by deranged, angry person with an assault weapon can and must be prevented. I’m not willing to have my family or friends gunned down so that you can enjoy your misconstrued constitutional right to have an arsenal of every weapon imaginable at your home. If you believe the United States government is going to come to your home and take away all your guns, then you’ve got some serious issues to deal with.

Jim Jefferies does a masterful job of explaining exactly how I feel about guns in this video.  Yes, there are some F-bombs, but they were never more appropriate than in this piece. It is part 1 of 2, but the second part is easy to find on YouTube once you watch this one.

The late night TV hosts all said some thoughtful things in the aftermath, but TBS host Samantha Bee was the most on target.

How many more times does a mass killing of innocent lives have to happen until our country does something about it?

Tim Hunter

Putting the Ota in South Dakota

The Brandner Bunch

                       The Brandner Bunch

I was not raised in South Dakota.  I’m a California kid that grew up in a South Bay area city called Torrance (which, by the way, hosts the largest Armed Forces Day Parade in the nation every May).  However, I come from two imports to the Golden Bear state—my dad, born in Scotland and raised in West Virginia; and my mom, who was born in North Dakota and raised on a farm in South Dakota.

I kind of wish we had made it back to West Virginia to visit those relatives at least once while I was growing up. Never did. But we more than made up for it with our trips to South Dakota.  While we visited other destinations while growing up, I have to say the South Dakota ones were among the most memorable.  I’d guess we ventured back there was a family at least a half-dozen times during my stay at the Hunter estate.

It was a combination of driving and flying trips.  I’m told that my first trip back occurred when I was a baby.  Dad was exhausted, but the trio headed out anyway in our green ’57 Chevy Bel Air.  Since this was shortly after the Jurassic Period and in the days before air conditioning, the conventional wisdom was to do the bulk of your driving during the overnight hours, to take advantage of those cooler temperatures.  Of course, what else do people do at night?  Sure enough, on my first trip back, I’m told my dad fell asleep behind the wheel and we ran off the road.  This was also back in the days before such luxuries as seat belts. As the car eventually came to a stop, the passenger door popped open, as my mom held on to me tightly.  It would be decades later before I would hear this story for the first time. Most likely, it had to do with the statute of limitations thing.

Now, flying back then was also an adventure. Because my dad worked for the “friendly skies” of United Airlines, we flew dirt cheap, but on stand-by.  I remember flying United into Omaha and then catching a North Central prop plane that puddle jumped it’s way north to Aberdeen, the airport nearest our relatives.  One year, we tried the Minneapolis route, but it was so popular, there was no stand-by room for a family of five. So, after sleeping in the airport overnight and being bumped off another flight, we rented a car and drove the rest of the way to South Dakota.

Who was there?  Pretty much all of my mom’s side of the family, including the cousins I would see every couple of years.  There were my grandparents, Emma and Emil Brandner, along with my Aunt Irene, Aunt Virginia, Aunt Doris and Aunt Judy, Aunt Yvonne and the assorted uncles. The routine was to get in, use the grandparents’ house as a headquarters, then visit the various family members for a night or two.  In the early years, my grandparents lived on a working farm—as in milking cows, feeding chickens, raising hogs, etc.  For a city kid from California, it was a pretty big eye-opening experience.

We have home movies that document all those trips back and this summer during a rather impromptu reunion, we delivered DVD copies for all to see and relive some of those visits.  While we managed to work in some touristy things, visit a few family member grave sites and shop a little, the stories that were told of a South Dakota long ago were the real treasures we brought back.

One of my mom’s friends from her early years came by and that triggered a memory of Aunt Virginia, who was hired to babysit that same woman when Virginia was just 9.  Apparently, her family came to my grandparents home and “checked out” Virginia for a two week babysitting stint.

Virginia also flashed back on the time when she and my mom needed to go out and round up the cattle. With such things as shoes a luxury, my grandfather improvised and made some ‘shoes’ for them to wear into the field—using cut up inner tubes and some rivets.

My cousin Clay also provided some great stories, including the fact that he drove a car for the very first time when he was just five.  It wasn’t for a long distance, but his dad needed to drive the tractor, so Clay got behind the wheel when most kids were just starting kindergarten.

Our visit this time around was a bit of a whirlwind, but it was so great to get back to the place I hadn’t visited since 2007, and seeing some relatives I hadn’t seen in decades. While some of the young adults were just kids the last time we met, my cousins and I clicked like it had just been a couple of months since we last talked.  Of course, Facebook helps us stay connected better than any letter-writing did back in the day, but it was so cool—seeing Ronda, Clay, Curt, Pamela, Corinne, their spouses and families, we just picked right off where we had left off.

I couldn’t resist and so I put some excerpts of the trip together in my weekly podcast, which you can listen to right here.

Another South Dakota trip in the books. Another reminder that, when it comes to family, I’m a pretty lucky guy. 

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

It happened

Engagement on the Roof

Engagement on the Roof

When you arrive at this stage of your life, you look back on things that feel like they happened yesterday, but were actually decades ago.

Case in point.

It was August of 1984.  We were thinking about buying a new car, so I was asking KOMO Radio’s Larry Nelson for his thoughts on which ones I should seriously consider. We had become pretty good friends, even though my role was being the producer of his Seattle radio show.  That meant getting up at 2:17am every morning, driving in, finding lots of things for him to talk about during his show, lining up interviews, and such.

To be honest, I felt as though I should probably look around for what was next.  I was almost 29, had given up being on the radio in Yakima to become a producer in Seattle, but I felt like my growth potential at KOMO was limited.

Anyway, when I asked Larry for car recommendations, he shrugged it off.  “Oh, I wouldn’t get a new car right now.”  I came back, “Oh, yeah, it’s time.  We really need a new one. We’ve had the one in the shop quite a bit and we’re thinking about a minivan.”  He insisted it just wasn’t a good time.

So, I went back to the office to keep working on things for the show, but kept thinking about his words. “I wouldn’t…” “You shouldn’t…”  After a few minutes, I walked back to the studio and asked him what was up.  He informed me that management had decided to eliminate me and two others because of budget moves.  Yep, I was about to be laid off.

As Fridays go, this was probably the darkest one I had ever experienced. I began thinking about what to do next when the phone rang.  It was the neutralizer for the day–my wife letting me know that we were pregnant with our second child.  I thought it best not to bring up the job thing until Monday so that we could bask in the good news for at least a couple of days.

That child, eventually born on March 27th, 1985, was Tyson James Hunter.  Tyson, because we saw a story in the paper about Pete Rose naming his kid after Ty Cobb. Pete went with Tyrus, we liked the sound of Tyson–and James in honor of my mother’s late brother.  The quick story on James was that as a kid, I remember going through a photo album and seeing all kinds of pictures of me doing things I didn’t remember doing.  It turns out that they were actually pictures of a young James growing up.  We shared an uncanny resemblance.

I’ve been a bit on the over-sentimental side lately after seeing some home movies I had digitized.  It was the first time in years that I watched video of my two kids in their single-digit years and it made me realize how quickly time had flown by.  Add to that, last Saturday morning, parental units gathered at the Eastlake Bar & Grill, where we met up with Tyson and his new fiancé, Lacey, to celebrate their updated Facebook status.

I can easily walk through my mind and see so many of those Tyson moments again–Cub Scouts, coaching him in sports, holding hands as we walked along a street, seeing him laugh and goof around, hanging with his friends, buying that jacked-up truck in his teen years, going off to Boston University, graduating and becoming quite the businessman.  He’s now wrapping up his second year at the UW’s Foster School of Business, which leaves him a year away from graduation and then, becoming a loving husband to a really great person.  It’s about all a parent can hope for.

That time period I just flashed through covered 31 years.  It all began on a day when I found out I was going to lose my job, but it was a launching point for many good things to come.  I went on to my own successful radio & writing career AND I got to help raise a son.  The latter, among one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

Congrats Ty & Lacey!

Tim Hunter

 

The Curse of The Home Movies

Yep, that's one of ours!

                           Yep, that’s one of ours!

Frankly, I love home movies. But over the years, as the technology has evolved, they have become even more powerful.

As humans, we experience things–we remember things. As time rolls along, our brain filters out the lesser events and we remember those incidents with a different point of view: good times are now great and the bad things that happened were just a blip on the radar.

Growing up mid-last century (wow, that sounds old) the technology in my day was something called an 8-millimeter camera. It was approximately the size of the box your last cell phone came in, you had to wind it up, listen to it click like a purring cat and hope that, whoever was behind the camera, remembered to keep his thumb out of the way. Oh, and when shooting movies inside, the camera needed the help of a “light bar”, which amounted to four 100-watt bulbs strung across a bar that rested above the camera. The brightness helped with the filming process, but for the performers it was like staring into the sun. My sister Debbie is convinced that the light bar was the reason all three of us kids needed glasses.

Oh, yes, and then when you had finished using the roll of film, you had to take it to a processing place and wait a week or two for it to come back.  Then, you’d set up the screen, strap the film into a projector, turn off the lights and enjoy your home movies.

In the 1980s, the era of the VHS camera arrived, just in time for me to capture my kids growing up.  Fortunately, the radio station where I worked invested in the gear and I would borrow the camera to videotape everything and anything. I was thrilled by the technology and quickly became that guy who inspired people to say, “Oh, here he comes with that camera again.”

I’m so glad I did.  Sort of.

Here’s the deal–watching those silent movies of my family back when I was a kid is fun. It helps stir memories and remind me of people and times I could have forgotten about.  The quality is OK and there was no sound.

However, after recently digitizing some old VHS home movies and watching them–the combination of the much better quality plus the addition of sound turned me into a blubbering idiot.  Yes, I was happy to see them, but there they were again–that 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son I remember spending so much time with.

I’m not going to bore you with the hours of video I shot.  I’ll definitely go through all of it and set aside some highlights.  Here’s a clip I grabbed during one simple afternoon in the backyard with my daughter, Christina, and my son, Tyson.

It’s those ordinary moments that are right in front of you every day that, years from now, you’ll cherish.  Seeing this clip reminded me of one of the greatest times in my life.  It brought back the memory, but at the same time–hearing those voices, seeing those wide-eyed smiles and the backyard they spent so much time in–it forced me to admit those days are now gone forever.

However, they will always live on in my mind & in those home movies and, for that, I’m eternally grateful. And, in my mind, I’m able to hug them again.

Tim Hunter