Friday, October 26, 2007

Remembering 1965 and Mike Lynch

Some new music from David Crowder; Surely We Can Change

I was flipping through stations on the radio while driving to work a couple weeks ago. I paused on WCCO and listened as they filled some time chatting while leading up to the weather. Mike Lynch, the weather guy, was talking about his old neighborhood where he grew up in Richfield and about one of his neighbors there -- a beautiful girl several years older with the last name of Falen. The neighborhood he was talking about was my neighborhood, too, for one year in 1965. We lived next-door to Falens', and Mike lived on the other side of them and yes, the neighbor girl he was referring to was very pretty and I suppose in high school at the time.

We rented a home there as my dad's job had our family moving back and forth between Minneapolis and Detroit several times in the span of as many years. We never seemed to stay anywhere very long and when we'd move back it would always be to a different neighborhood and school district. It was never fun being the new kid in class but after a couple weeks it really didn't matter I suppose.

I always thought the house on Lakeshore Drive in Richfield was haunted. I'm not sure if I ever shared that with the rest of my family; I most likely didn't for fear they wouldn't believe me but I can vividly recall laying in bed at night and just before I'd fall asleep I'd hear the sound of creaking metal. I heard the sound many nights. I used to think it was the garage door opening but it wasn't. It was very unnerving and I would try to assure myself that I was imagining it but I really was hearing something.

I learned a few lessons in our home across from Woodlake Nature Center but the one that I had to relearn and relive over and over again was that because I was older, I should know better. My younger brother Keith and I were doing what brothers do and at some point in our screwing around he picked up a D size battery and threw it at me. It flew over my right shoulder and crashed through the window behind me. Keith, being only 5 and me being 8 made this a no-brainer for my folks. I should have known better. But how was I to know he'd throw a battery at me and how could I have stopped it? It didn't matter. I was older and I should know better. It would be the first of many times I'd hear that admonishment.

I remember once riding my bike down Lakeshore Dr on the wrong side of the street. It was a gradual descent where you could build up speed, especially on the tank which was my bike. I was looking across the street at whoever was with me and I wasn't paying attention to what was coming my way. I looked up just in time to see a car, head-on, and probably 100 feet in front of me. I was able to move to the side to avoid it but the experience rattled me. I think the car was actually stopped and the driver really couldn't do much else but pray that I'd look up in time.

There were four of us guys who used to hang out together: Mike Lynch; Steve Casperson, and Don Falen. Don's older brother Bob played in a band, the Delcounts, and they'd practice out of his garage. The band stayed together for years and achieved local success with some of their music getting air-play. Between the wildlife refuge across the street, the alley behind our homes and all of the shops along Lyndale Ave and 66th street we had plenty to keep us busy.

Don's dad was a pilot, and I think he flew for Northwest Orient (as it was known at the time). One of us four had the idea to build an airplane of our own. I'm not talking about a model airplane but rather, one that we could sit in and fly around the neighborhood. We spent probably the better part of two days cobbling together our plane with whatever wood and spare parts we could dig out of our garages. Don's driveway would serve as our hangar. How I wish somebody had taken a photo of our work but none exists that I'm aware of.

With the project completed, we rolled our plane across Lakeshore Dr and positioned it atop a hill overlooking the nature center (the hill has since been overgrown with brush and trees). Don was our pilot and he climbed in while the rest of us looked on in excited anticipation that our two days of effort were about to pay off in a very big way. I never once doubted our engineering abilities. Don was about to soar off out over the marsh and I suppose I imagined him circling back overhead while rocking his wings at us. His pretty sister was there to help us send him off. Don began his takeoff roll down the hill and to be honest, what happened next is all a blank to me. I'm not sure our plane even made it to the bottom of the hill. Our dreams of flying met with unforgiving failure as Don climbed out of the cockpit. And that was that. Within the hour we were no doubt off to other adventures, just maybe not so grandiose. Mike emailed me that Don is, in fact, a real pilot today flying for Southwest Airlines.

Our family moved again a few months later and although I came back a couple times to visit the guys, we eventually lost touch. I believe Steve became a police officer and Mike went on to become a local celebrity on WCCO radio (830) as their lead meteorologist. He's very good at what he does and has a great radio voice and personality. He's also very involved in astronomy, teaching several classes a month at various places around the area. Check out his website, and also this video (produced several years after this initial blog entry).

I emailed Mike this past week to say hello and to take a trip down memory lane with him. I showed him this photo of us from 1965 (Mike is the one on the right) and I reminded him of the airplane story. He wrote back, thankful for the memories and to say that "You're one of the only people who remembers the airplane fiasco." He also sent along the photo of himself published in the Minneapolis Star in 1971.

The old neighborhood is gone now, replaced by high rise apartments. All that remains from our time there are some trees. I rode by on my bike a couple months ago and got off and sat under one of the trees, reminiscing about my time growing up there. I tried to imagine where our home was situated and if the tree I was sitting under was the same, much smaller tree I remembered from 42 years earlier. It was only one year that we spent there but I came away with some very good memories which have faded little over the years.

There was a time a few years ago when Rachel was interested in astronomy. I bought her a telescope and she was so excited to see what she could see with it but it was so poor that we ended up returning it to the store. I'll have to make a point of going to one of Mike's astronomy classes and maybe Rachel and Tammy will come along and we can see what it's like to look through a real telescope. Plus it would be nice to say hello to Mike again after all those years.

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