Hale Zukas, "An Unsung Hero": Public Transportation IssuesLandes
What impact did Hale have on you when you first met him and then began working with him?
Hale is one of those unsung heroes, I think, in some respects because of his disability, because it's hard for him to communicate his immense wealth of knowledge. My job was to translate for Hale and to accompany him and speak for him. When you work with Hale you get to know what his thoughts are and you get to know his material. Hale can start a thought, and you can help him finish it after you've been working together long enough. Hale was working on a variety of issues: he was working on architectural barriers, he was working on transportation issues, and he was working on health and welfare issues. So I would
― 91 ―travel to Sacramento with Hale and whether we were lobbying or just meeting with agency officials or developing testimony or whatever, I learned a great deal. Hale knew more than anybody about all of those issues. As a result of working with him, I learned them as well.
Hale was just a genius on transportation. I remember once going to an APTA [American Public Transit Association] conference with him. I believe it was in 1979. And we were going around to the different open houses that were being hosted by different vendors there. And we went to one that was General Electric, I think. Hale got into this technical discussion with somebody who at first probably wasn't going to pay any attention to him. Then they got totally entranced by him because they got into this discussion about what kind of glass there is in the Amtrak train windows and why that particular type, the history of that type of glass and why they chose to use that [laughs]. I was trying to translate, and I didn't have a clue what the next word that was coming would be. Hale just loves vehicles [chuckles]. I can remember one time Hale and I were writing a report that had a deadline, and he dragged me--this was years later--and Joan Leon down to sit on the railroad tracks down by Second Street or something.
Yes, waiting for the steam engine to go by. And there were a couple of other train buffs out there. Joan and I were really pissed at Hale [laughs] because we had this report to get out. Joan and I said, "We're going to leave you here, Hale. You're just going to have to do this by yourself. We're sorry, we're not going to be here." He said, "Okay." And we found some other train fanatic who said he would stay there with Hale and assist if there were a need for any assistance. The steam train was only going to go through once in his lifetime, and he was going to be there for it. He loves studying transportation systems, particularly public transportation.