Dick Lamm

Dick Lamm

It was with great sadness that we recently learned of the death of Dick Lamm, former Governor of Colorado. Our Southern Gables neighbor Ken Fischer, a retired Lakewood police officer, tells of an encounter with the Governor during his days on the force, revealing some little-appreciated aspects of the man’s character. Following this story you can find more of Ken’s stories by clicking on his name at the end of the article.

By Ken Fischer

I was privileged to meet the Governor almost fifty years ago and spend some time chatting with him. My memory of the man was quite positive. He was affable, legitimately interested, inquisitive and GENUINE. Other similar contacts with persons regarding themselves as important were often logged as time wasted in narcissistic narratives. The occasion was a flight to San Francisco. My partner and I were dispatched to extradite several fugitives from the city where so many people had sung about leaving their hearts. The governor was attending a meeting at U. C. Berkeley where he held a regents position.

While waiting to board the minimally booked evening flight, I noticed the Governor seated in the common area, doing some paperwork. I mentioned this to my partner, who rejected the fact that this was the governor, flying unattended by security. I thought that was somewhat odd as well, but this was the seventies.

By Office of the Governor of Colorado – Annual report of the Missouri River Basin Commission (1981), Public Domain

Onboard we were seated in the rear row (policy for flying armed). Once aloft, I took the opportunity to introduce myself. I queried the governor regarding the security aspect. He smoothly advised that the state patrol accompanied him to the gate and California troopers provided security in the bay area. He impressively noted that Colorado would not need to spend any additional money in his protection.

I advised that we would render him any assistance he may need. He smiled and asked if I wanted to join him for a beverage. I would, but non-alcoholic by policy.

We chatted for some time during the middle of a smooth flight and I was taken by his legitimate interest in my department, background and opinions. It was clear that we would not have the same attitudes on most subjects but that was secondary to a great conversation. Dick Lamm reminded me of several teachers and professors. He had an easy, direct, understandable and humorous manner. He was quite affable and very up to date on all the issues of the day. I could not resist asking, but not expecting an answer, regarding his dilemma with his Lieutenant Governor. This footnote of Colorado political history had to be among the strangest since the notorious madam Mattie Silks operated tunnels under downtown Denver to afford passage to less than reputable politicians of the era.

Governor Lamm found it necessary to freeze the budget of his second in command due to ill-advised overspending in the Lt. Governor’s office. This drawing of the purse strings continued for a good proportion of the last year in office for both. Dick Lamm had no problem with identifying a problem and swiftly solving it. A straight shooter in my book.

Of course, the Governor wryly smiled and moved on to other areas of interest.

One of the regrets of my life was in not taking him up on his offer to host dinner for my partner and me in Sausalito, where he was staying. I did not want to impose, but in retrospect, it would have been a very interesting experience.

Sidenote: Even though I regretted passing on dinner with the Governor, my partner and I had a good time in the City by the Bay. We had arranged an extra day to visit the wharf and cable cars, neither of which my partner had experienced. When in San Francisco, it is incumbent on a visitor to ride the cable car, and get a crab cup on the wharf as well as an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista Tavern. We did. The cable car ride was entertaining, but so were the diverse people along the route and in our car. My partner did not care for the ride. The Buena Vista was outstanding as always, but my partner was aghast at the cost of pie and coffee. The crab cups were a hit and he ate four of them. But back to the Governor…

Dick Lamm had a notable passion for Colorado and history. He greatly reminded me of one of my college professors who taught civil war history with such a passion that he often became emotional when recreating battles. His classes were always full and had few absences. I made it a point to take this class after graduating as it was so enthralling.

History? Here’s a side story on Dick Lamm, and a good one! The Governor was a classmate of Steven Ambrose, the historian, when both were underclassmen at The University of Wisconsin. Dick Lamm encouraged Steven Ambrose to take a history course which set the hook in the renowned author to forgo the medical field and explore history. In fact, Steven Ambrose invited Dick Lamm to accompany him when he retraced the route that Lewis and Clark followed to the Pacific!Photo from 1/23/21

How about them apples.

Rest in peace, Dick Lamm. You served well and were a credit to your state and country.

Ken Fischer holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Iowa and was involved in organizing Iowa’s first Law Enforcement Training Academy. He was on the SWAT Team in the Lakewood Police Department, and retired as a Senior Sergeant. A longtime resident of Southern Gables, he is an experienced woodsman and now runs a firewood business. 


The Day I Stood in for Ernest Hemingway

The Day I Stood in for Ernest Hemingway

An occasional series about local history and old-time Lakewood characters by our neighbor Ken Fischer. This time, Ken tells one on himself instead of some other old-timer. To see more of his stories, click on his name at the end of the article.

About twenty years ago I was privileged to serve as a substitute teacher at my son’s high school. My assignment was an honors English class for two hours in the morning when the instructor needed the day off.

The ten o’clock hour arrived and I surveyed the young scholars to be normal teens full of juice and not totally invested in a two-hour study hall, which was the norm for a substitute assignment. They had been given some work to do for the session but I was a little hesitant; this was an honors English class. I was not equipped to add value to an advanced English class. I noted a percolating sound volume growing uncontrolled in the room. In a voice loud enough to be well heard, I mentioned to the front row of students that I had limited experience as a substitute and I was ill-prepared to discuss Chaucer. The response was eye-rolls. They didn’t want to be babysat by a rank beginner, any more than I wanted to just let the class slide by without them doing their assigned work. The background noise of inattention grew louder.

Hemingway in the cabin of his boat Pilar, off the coast of Cuba, c. 1950. Public domain photo, JFK Presidential Library

I needed to get their attention. Raising my voice even more I started out, “Well, it’s true that I haven’t done much substituting…”

A few students as far back as the second row looked toward me.

“… but once I substituted for Ernest Hemingway.”



Attention gained. A deal was fashioned. Should they behave and do what was required for the two-hour span, I would tell the story. I love to tell stories. They would do their work, and give me ten minutes at the end of our time.

Precisely at eleven fifty, books slammed shut and the students eagerly reminded me of the bargain. I was on, to dispel the obvious doubts of the majority of the class.

The story begins… my beloved sister was married in the fall of 1960. She was a nurse at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. She and her good husband Dr. John (no, not that one) were expecting their first child in approximately June of 1961.

As the fates allowed, My sister was assigned as the primary care nurse for a patient on site to deal with heart trouble. He was signed into the hospital under an assumed name, but his actual name was: Ernest Hemingway. My beloved sister, my pal since birth, got to know him quite well and delighted in his stories and experiences. He was a man who lived, squeezed the juice out of life and related it to the masses in a singular style. She really liked the duty and he liked her. Everyone did.

Not an individual to miss a good opportunity, Dr. John floated a request that “Papa” Hemingway stand up for their first child as godfather. Hemingway gladly agreed. What a family picture that would be!

As the fates allowed, the bass-voiced author would resolve his ”heart” problem in June of 1961. My nephew Robert Spalding was born in July shortly after the author took his own life. Hemingway left his walking stick to Rita, which is among her most prized possessions. I was the designated “substitute” for him at the Baptism and stood tall after his name was crossed out of the record and mine added.

Oh. Sister Rita… Both she and my mother received inscribed copies of three of Hemingway’s foremost works. My mother lent them out and they unsurprisingly disappeared. My sister’s copies were never to leave the house, but her five sons — equally mischievous as the class in front of me — often “substituted” a pirated copy of one of the works with inscriptions describing a night of debauchery with their mother. “Oh, you boys!!!”

Rita was quite surprised by Hemingway‘s death. “He was so alive and full of vitality.” He spoke of adventures past and anticipated those to come. Who knows what demons lurk deep in a man‘s soul.

Ken Fischer holds a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Iowa and was involved in organizing Iowa’s first Law Enforcement Training Academy. He was on the SWAT Team in the Lakewood Police Department, and retired as a Senior Sergeant. A longtime resident of Southern Gables, he is an experienced woodsman and now runs a firewood business.