Local News Matters weekly newsletter
Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.
Local News Matters Arts & Entertainment newsletter
End your week with a bit of culture to unwind and refresh. Sign up for our surprising and inspiring options in our weekly newsletter, delivered on Thursdays with news about Bay Area arts and entertainment.
Even Chuck Walker’s lunch was pulling for him.
“You see that?” Walker said, going up, to Mike Hartshorn, who was on the way down. Then they switched … and again, as they had millions of times over five days.
“You got this!” Walker read, pointing to the donated burrito from a shop near Todos Santos Park. The words of support were right there on the foil, a message from whoever made lunch.
“The love and support — it’s hard to describe,” Walker said Tuesday, from his end of the teeter-totter on the park’s stage, where he had been for five days. Four more and he would eclipse the 50-year-old world record for longest continuous teeter-totter session, set in Sacramento by … him.
Walker was an 18-year-old just out of high school, flipping burgers in Sacramento. Someone mentioned two guys in Southern California just spent 168 hours on a teeter-totter.
“I said, ‘We could do that.’ I ended up building a tetter-totter and, with Stan Johnson, spent nine days, 216 hours, on it. It was a different time back then, but it seemed like a fun thing to do — goofy.
“It was brutal, but we did it. Record still stands”
Then he watched his reality play out later that year on an episode of “The Brady Bunch,” during which Bobby and Cindy decide to shock the world by … right: trying to set the world teeter-totter longevity record.
The episode aired around the time Walker enlisted in the Air Force, where he didn’t publicize his connection.
“I was 18 and I didn’t want to be associated with ‘The Brady Bunch,’ so I didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t cool,” he said.
Walker went on to maintain Minuteman missile silos in South Dakota, an important job needing an important background check. The Air Force discovered it had a world record holder in its ranks and a military publication did its own story.
The Concord connection
Walker moved to Concord about a decade later, starting a family and an upholstery business. The teeter-totter story became family lore.
“I’d known Chuck for 12 years and heard the stories, then I saw the articles one day and I was working with him some, doing upholstery,” said Mike Hartshorn, Walker’s roommate in Walnut Creek and the man manning the other side of the homemade teeter-totter.
When Walker mentioned breaking the record 50 years later, Hartshorn suggested he recruit his son, or grandson. Neither bit.
“Evidently they’re both smarter than me,” Hartshorn said. “Eventually he asked me if I would do it. And I said yeah — that was three years ago. He got real serious at the end of May.
“When I said I would do it, I didn’t really think we would. But then I said I would do it so, you keep your word.”
Walker closed his shop for the record, but Hartshorn continued working, with his phone and nearby laptop. They arranged for a portable toilet to be near the stage, for their rare break, one at a time. The movement never stopped — not even for sleep, which they took turns doing for a few hours at a time.
“Concord is full of amazing people, from all walks of life,” Walker said. “They come up and they’re so supportive — young kids on skateboards, old retired people,” he said. “We had a group come by and they didn’t speak English, and they were just laughing the whole time at just the idea.”
“Concord is full of amazing people, from all walks of life. They come up and they’re so supportive — young kids on skateboards, old retired people.”Chuck Walker
Walker didn’t do it for cause, nor was he raising money. There was no tip jar on the stage. He simply wanted to recreate the feeling of transcending so many things dividing people during a tumultuous time. “The whole idea is to make the world smile,” he said.
Walker has been doing interviews from all over the world and hearing from people he hasn’t seen in decades. All because of a simple playground attraction he says some kids have never heard of.
“It’s a really cool feeling,” Walker said. “There’s something you don’t have to be serious about — you don’t have to choose a side. And everybody, if you speak English, don’t speak English, tall, old, short, everybody is so amazing. That says it all — you got this.”
More information about the record attempt is available on the event’s website.