Unanticipated Consequences

It’s been a great ride

By Warren Miller

Once in a while it’s a good idea to pause in your journey through life and realize what might have happened if you turned right instead of left at that fork in the road.

Had I not ridden my bicycle along with a friend for three miles to the Polar Palace ice arena in Hollywood, I might never have felt the very cold air against my face as I wobbled around the rink, constantly making left turns. Did that set me on a path of chasing cold winters and with a camera for the rest of my life? Who knows?

In junior high school I grew almost 10 inches and only put on about 3 pounds in weight. As a result I spent a lot of years playing basketball instead of football.

The boundary between two high schools went right down the middle of the street where I lived. Had I lived on the other side of the street, I would have gone to a different high school and never met Ted Nicholson, who took me to San Onofre for my first ride on a surfboard.

Had I not met the president of the Bell & Howell camera company, Chuck Percy, in my ski school class in Sun Valley, I might never have begun making movies and earning a living doing it.

Had the weather not been really rotten in Sun Valley between Christmas and New Year’s of 1984 I might never have been drawing cartoons for kids in the warming hut and I might never have met my wife.

Had Ward Baker and I not taken our 8mm surfing movies with us those two years we lived in the parking lot in Sun Valley, I might never have gotten in the film business.

Had I not brought my boat to the Pacific Northwest to explore this wonderful part of the world with my wife, I might still be living in Manhattan Beach.

Had I not bought a catamaran from Carter Pyle in 1962, I would never have spent so many great years driving sailboats around the buoys, nor would I have had so many trips from Redondo Beach to Catalina Island.

Had my grandmother never given me a birthday present of a bicycle, the entire Los Angeles basin wouldn’t have opened up to me. I rode that bike as far north along the coast as Point Dume and south to Newport Beach and along the foothills to the San Bernardino’s to the east. And, of course, many times to the ocean to the west.

The bicycle was state-of-the-art Schwinn balloon tired with heavyweight fenders and I added a taillight and speedometer. I soon removed the heavyweight fenders, added a rack on the back that could carry my newspapers for my route six afternoons a week.

I was very lucky to have been born in Southern California in 1924 because that year there were fewer than 1 million people in the entire Los Angeles basin. Today there are approximately 15 million.

Southern California would become the heart of the motion picture industry.

The entire time I ran my film business I really only worked one full day for Hollywood. I was hired to get point-of-view photography from the front seat of a roller coaster. I furnished the camera gear including camera and tripod and was paid $35 for the day and that was a lot of money in 1950. It amounted to almost twice as much as I could earn as a journeyman carpenter framing houses. It was a monumental day for me because I had a camera in my hand and was being paid to use it.

The unanticipated consequences of that day spent riding in a roller coaster launched my 50-year career of running a camera. And it’s been a great ride.

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