There’s a movie coming out next week that I really want to see. It’s Unbroken. I haven’t read the book yet. I have it on my Kindle and part of me doesn’t want to read it for a very good reason. I knew and loved Louis and I don’t want my memories messed up with reading a book.
I don’t have many heroes from growing up but Louis Zamperini is a big one. He’s wasn’t only a hero is was a friend and mentor and someone who was loved just because he was Louis. He was our Junior Hi Summer Sunday School teacher, he was one of our church chaperones for our weekly trips to Santa Monica Beach. He was an amazing person.
We used to sit for hours on the beach listening to him talk about his experiences. He spoke about the Olympics and meeting Hitler. He wasn’t impressed. He told us about wanting a souvenir with his buddies and deciding a flag was a good one and about not meaning to cause an international incident. He told us about his friend, Jesse Owens.
He told us about the horrors of being shot down in the Pacific and about what the Japanese did to him when he was a POW and about the one guard that was the worst. The one that found out he had been an Olympic runner so the guard broke his legs and made him run down the road. He told us about learning to forgive after learning to hate.
He wasn’t very tall and wasn’t physically imposing but once you spent any time with him you couldn’t forget his loving smile or gentle voice. He had the most amazing white chest hair I’ve ever seen and he told us it had turned white overnight when he was in the POW camp being tortured. He used to give us huge long lectures on skin cancer and sunscreen back in the 60’s before anyone else was talking about it. He’d yell when he saw the bottles of baby oil we were using to tan and tell us we should just go jump in a frying pan. He would really yell at me because I burned so easy but when you’re 13 you’re immortal and indestructible and think adults are crazy. He used to talk to us about dreaming and what we wanted to do and get a bit peeved at me because I never really let myself dream.
When we got older he started to be in charge of the Seniors programs at church. They had daily lunches for the elderly in the neighborhood with programs and activities around our church in Hollywood. My mom was the Music secretary for the church and during summers I was occasionally her indentured servant and would get to carry a message down to Louis and chat for a bit if he wasn’t busy. He even came to my dad’s funeral at church.
This is Louis on one of the church ski trips and he’s skateboarding in the chuch garden outside the Sunday School building