Real Stories From Life at a Dealership

People are the experience


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


I don’t get caught off guard very often and that is a good thing. I have seen people try all kinds of maneuvers during a car purchase. Jeff, who was a manager of a local business, reached into his pocket and brought out six 9mm bullets and proceeded to line them up on the table between us. He told me that this was to show me how serious he was about getting a good deal.



Two gangster-looking guys negotiated a deal on an expensive Denali, equipped with a set of 22” wheels. They wore long leather coats, hats over bandanas and dark glasses. When we came to an agreement, they called their associate that was waiting outside in their car. They just said, “Bring it.” A very large man dressed like the others came inside. He had a metal briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He set it on the table and one of the negotiators did the combination. He took out about $50,000 of what looked like about a half million dollars. The big guy walked back out to the car. That one was a cash sale.BusinessMoneyBriefcase2


I sold a car to Jack, who was dressed like pure scooter trash. Jack was close to 70 years old, but looked like his odometer was spun. Jack told me that in his younger days, he was one of the founding members of The Shaggers motorcycle gang. When he told me about how his old lady was forcing him to buy a car. I laughed, but only for a moment. I suddenly felt something sharp in my belly, just above my beltline. I looked down to see that Jack was holding a recently sharpened knife blade. He slowly asked me, “Do you know why it was better to have a short blade with a big handle? I answered “No.” Without ever breaking eye contact he told me “that way it won’t slip out of your hand when it gets bloody.” I sold Jack cars on two separate occasions, each one memorable.victors1


Dr Kamiar was Iranian. He came in to buy a new Cadillac. We had a demonstrator on the floor that was shiny black with all of the trim done in gold. His wife loved it. He was not a very pleasant man, but we came to an agreement. He wrote out a down payment check for $10,000 and signed all of the paperwork. Off they drove in their beautiful Cadillac. A week later Dr. and Mrs. Kamiar were back in the dealership. They had a problem. They had a copy of their contract and their down payment check from their bank. It had gone thru with out any problem, but I was caught by surprise with what followed.


Dr. Kamiar was yelling that we had ripped him off. He was actually saying that we had stolen from him. He was being very boisterous and waved his hands a lot while walking excitedly around the showroom. After asking several times what the problem was he finally showed me his down payment check. He had written in the memo area of the check “for tax and license.”Dr


He proceeded to show me his contract. He pointed out to me that tax and license was about $6,000. He said that he wanted the difference back. I looked the couple over for a moment as if in a poker game not wanting to tip my hand. I had no idea where this was going. I explained to the good doctor that what was written in the memo had no bearing on the check. I showed him were his down payment was disclosed on the contract and the ten places his signature was on the contract.


Then he started in on how he had misunderstood and that we had misled him. I knew that this wasn’t Dr. Kamiar’s first rodeo and he was trying to take me for a ride. I told him that we had not misled him in any way. I also explained that there was not any money due him. He loudly started back about how we had deceived him. I finally just asked, “What do you want from me?” He answered with a very prepared “LoJack, System 5.”


I looked him in the eye for a moment. I realized what I was dealing with, an immoral unethical person that went by the title of doctor. Seizing the moment I put both of my hands in the air like a person under arrest. I shouted out the word “Hostage.” I continued loudly with “I will not be held hostage for a LoJack.” Dr. and Mrs. Kamiar had a completely different expression on their face sitting across from me with my arms up in the air. They looked scared. I stated firmly again, “No Hostage.” “I will not be held hostage for a LoJack.”


The doctor started repeating in a lot lower tone, “no hostage, and no hostage.” I just sat across from them with my arms raised in the air. He and his wife hurriedly stood up and headed for the door. “Never mind” is all that he said as they went hastily out the door to their new Cadillac.



I never sold that doctor another car. I am glad that I never had to deal with him again. I guess the first thing came to my mind was the Iranian hostage crisis. It was a very spur of the moment reaction. I felt lucky it had worked. I didn’t really have a plan B other than just kicking him out.


He was a prominent Doctor who had run for an elected office recently. He had been on the local hospital board. He was clearly a liar, a swindler and a very poor negotiator. I was still just an honest car salesman. Imagine that a guy like him is held in higher esteem than a guy like me simple because of our job titles.


Honesty is the standard here at Sierra Motors. We have our lowest price posted in the window of every vehicle for sale. One low price, plain & simple…always, is how we do business. Our sales peoples are only interested in achieving your complete satisfaction. That is how they get paid. They are not paid on how much that you spend, just on how satisfied you are.


I know that I can’t control the behavior of others, but I can be responsible for my own and that of our employees. That is, as long as you don’t make me put my hands in the air.




July 28, 2009 Posted by | bullets, dr., eric prothro, hostage, sierra motors | , , , , | 4 Comments


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


“You missed the heyday of the car salesman kid”. That’s what I was told by a well-worn veteran, who was still wearing a white belt that matched his shoes. When I started selling, we still had a couple of salespeople that been selling in the 1970’s. With what I saw in them, I don’t think I missed it. For the first few months in the car business I worked on the same floor with some old-style holdovers like Linda Kaye. She was a consistent performer. Consistently selling six cars a month.


Linda’s entire sales process involved a beer bar. Talk about one trick pony. It was back in the days when men shopped for a new car alone. Maybe that’s why they don’t shop alone much anymore. We sure never saw any salespeople taking couples to a bar for a few drinks.



Alcohol consumption is strictly voluntary these days. Some people still drink before shopping for a new car. They probably drink before everything they do. Working with people as much as I do, you see a lot of people who spend a large portion of their life somewhat inebriated.


In the film Glengarry, Glen Ross, Al Pacino’s character is working a customer over while sitting in a bar. He gets the guy plastered. Then takes his check and signs him up. That is the same plan Linda had without the finesse. That movie also had the greatest sales meeting of all time, given by Alec Baldwin.


Linda watched the floor for her ideal customer: A single guy, not looking for a station wagon. She quickly went on a demonstration drive. Her test drive route went down Division Street. She knew a dive bar, just far enough off the road, as to not be seen. If the male customer didn’t buy the first round Linda would start a tab. I am not one to speculate about whether Linda was in this for the male companionship, the free alcohol or actually was trying to make a sale. All I know is that she only occasionally sold more than one car in a week.



Linda would commonly call the sales manager and tell the fish story about the one that got away. The three most common calls for help were: she needed to borrow money to pay the tab, she and the customer were too drunk to drive back to the lot or she wasn’t even coming back to work that day at all. She was finally let go for a combination of missed days and low performance.


I sure don’t miss people like Linda. They are the ones who helped create some of the negative stereotypes we still have to deal with. They are also part of the reason for the success that we are having at Sierra Motors. We have removed the old tactics and replaced them with customer friendly procedures and complete disclosure. What you see is what you get. And you get to see it up front.


The biggest buzz word and benchmark for success of a dealership is C.S.I. or customer satisfaction index. It is a score on how satisfied your customers are with the dealership, the personnel and the procedures. For the entire year, we at Sierra Motors are number one in the entire region. Our three-month score is a perfect 100. That means that 100% of the surveys returned are marked completely satisfied. We are not a perfect dealership, but we are committed to our customers.


It has been quite a journey from the old days to where we are now. One of the things that I learned along the way is simply that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. I was wise enough to read the back of the book and know how it all ends up. I also see the current economic situation as an opportunity to capitalize on the inability of others in business to adapt. As always I am your friend in the car business. Call or come by anytime. Experience complete customer satisfaction. Sorry, no beer on the test drive.



July 27, 2009 Posted by | beer, csi, eric prothro, sierra motors, test drive | , , , , | 2 Comments


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


The basic rule of sales: the one who is asking the questions is the one in control of the sale. I find that dialogue is an important part of sales. To get a customer to open up about him or herself is the key to making most sales. So I ask a lot of questions. It’s a lot like Joe Friday used to say: anything that you say can and will be used against you.


Its not that information is used against a customer, when properly applied, its used to sell the right vehicle. Someone might ask for a half-ton truck when they really need a three-quarter ton truck. There might be a model that cost les and does more of what they are looking for. Without asking what is right for somebody, how else would you know? A good salesman should know why somebody wants something, what is its primary use and what he or she likes about it before ever test driving anything.


A good example is a set of simple trade-in questions. What did you like best about it when you bought it? And what would you most like to change? Just the answers from those two questions alone will tell what moved them to buy last time and what they are looking for this time. This is all dependant on one simple factor, getting the customer to talk. I knew nothing of this couple when we went for a drive.

dea badge


The couple that I had on a test drive was nice enough. They weren’t rude or anything, the husband just would not talk. The wife would talk a little, but the husband was clearly the buyer. And no matter what I asked, the only response I got was a grunt. I tried different techniques and a variety of angles. Nothing. All I knew about him was that he was a D.E.A. Agent, formerly from the Midwest. I only learned that because when he got his drivers license out I saw his ID. I could feel that this sale was not very likely to happen. So I took a chance.



There have been few shows in the last twenty-five years that dictated the styles and trends of pop culture like Miami Vice. That show epitomized cool. The great music, like Phil Collins playing as Sonny Crocket drove thru the night in his Ferrari. The pastel color clothes. The beautiful woman. The decadent houses. Don Johnson was the master of wearing stubble on his face as fashion. That show was the eighties.


The test drive had been conducted in almost complete silence when I started my move. “I don’t pretend to know much about what you do for a living” I started. “But I do watch a bit of TV”. “I watch that show Miami Vice a lot and I bet your job is a lot like that”. There was a moment of complete silence, which seemed to last for minutes, before he started pounding on the steering wheel. “That show is complete Bull Sh#t” he actually yelled in response to me. He then proceeded to yell and pound the steering wheel as he informed me what a real DEA Agent did for a living compared to the television version.


I think it was sort of cathartic for him. He told me of starting in the Agency. He said that when they took a guy down with ten pounds of cocaine on Omaha, that they thought that they had crippled the entire drug trade for the mid-west portion of the United States. Then he received a transfer to good old sunny southern California. He informed me that bust here, were measured in tons, not pounds.



When he realized that twenty tons of Cocaine, with a street value in the millions of dollars, was a moderate size bust, he said he started planning to retire. The sheer scale of thing was beyond his imagination. He explained that when that many millions of dollars were involved, anything could happen. Compromises of judgment were possible. And lives were at stake. He didn’t like it.


I almost felt a slight sense of bonding. When he took delivery of his new car, he looked me in the eye and gave me a firm handshake. A simple “Thank you” was all that he said.


I still like to talk to customers here at Sierra Motors. I don’t get people to pound the steering wheel anymore. And I still enjoy a simple thank you at the end of a sale.



July 21, 2009 Posted by | cocaine, drive, eric prothro, miami vice, sierra motors | , , , , | 1 Comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


As General Manager for Sierra Motors, I get a lot of phone calls. It can be customers, vendors, employees, people from GM, advertisers, friends, family or many others. When this caller identified themselves as Sonora Regional Medical Center, they had my full attention.



“We have William here in the emergency room” I was told. “Yes” was my response, but I drew a blank. “Do you know William?” I tried to think of all of the possibilities. She continued, “We need to have a responsible party, before we can treat William”.


We had had thirty guest at our home over the Fourth of July. Before going to work that morning, I accomplished two things; I burnt a CD for every vehicle that was departing. It just fit on an 80-minute disc and contains songs of significance from the weekend. My son Ryan sang a heartfelt and very moving cover of Hurt for his friends. The songs are:


Elton John – Benny and the Jets

Johnny Cash – Hurt

Blink 182 – I Guess This Is Growing Up

Jack Johnson – Better Together

The Who – Reign On Me

Silversun Pickups – Kissing Families

Terry Reid – Faith to Arise

Movie Quotes – Big Lebowski – World of pain

David Bowie – Space Oddity

The Fray – Over My Head

The Honorary Title – Petals

Imogene Heap – Hide and Seek

Mazy Star – Fade Into You

Minus the Bear – I’m Totally Not Down With Rob’s

Oasis – Wonderwall (acoustic version)

Rise Against – Dancing For Rain

Verve Pipe – Freshman

Elton John – Tiny Dancer

Green Day – Time of Your Life


I also made sure everyone had my business card. I have all of my contact information on there. 

My work number – 209.984.5272

My fax number – 209.984.1066

My personal cell number – 209.568.6526

My E-mail –


I am probably the only General Manager in the world that does this. I make myself available to friends, family, employees and customers. I have no reason to hide. I wanted everyone that was leaving our house to be able to contact me, should they want or need to. I just couldn’t think of someone named William.


Everyone that was at our house has my card. The Hospital representative asks, “ Do you know William: He was riding a motorcycle”? And then added, “your son’s friend”. “Willie” I said as I remembered our long time friend. I had never heard him called William in the nine years that we had known him. “I’ll be right there,” I said.


I called my wife and told her what had happened to Willie. I told her that I was on my way. Dana said that she and our son Ryan would head directly down the hill and meet us at the Hospital.


When I saw Willie he was on a gurney in the hallway. He had a cervical collar on. Across his broad shoulders, in the shape of a large Butterfly, was some sweet road rash. The back of both arms, both wrist and the palm of each hand quite a few layers of skin missing. They did an Ultrasound to confirm that there wasn’t any internal bleeding.



A collage of factors came into play. Willie made sure that he grabbed one of the Cd’s from the house. He picked a business card at the same time. He decided that it was too hot to wear all of his protective gear. All of the road rash could have been prevented if he had been wearing all of his body armor. Willie did not carry a cell phone. The bag that he normally carried on the back of his bike was overstuffed with his protective clothing. The overstuffed bag broke loose. On the very busy Highway 108, near the Yosemite turn off, the bag lodged in the rear wheel. The rear wheel locked up and Willie started sliding into oncoming traffic.


Willie described the clarity that he had in the moment before impact with the pavement. He threw the bike to the other side and made a leap to the relative safety of the dirt shoulder. He didn’t quite make the Superman style flight and landed on the pavement. After a bounce and a couple of rolls, Willie made it to the shoulder. His protective clothing is what lodged in the rear wheel. The only information Willie was carrying was a business card.


Dana and Ryan took Willie back to our house. My wife became Willies nurse and changed his dressings, as needed for the next couple of days. We took a truck over to the tow yard and brought his bike to our house. When Willie was ready, he rented a truck and drove back to Grover Beach. We never felt put out and were glad that we could be there to help one of our friends.


We received a thank you card from Willies Grandmother. She is that person in Willies life that is always there. What it said moved us.


On the cover is a picture of five Angels. It reads: I always suspected… And on the inside: You were an Angel in disguise. You were there for me when I needed you most. Thanks. It also had a scripture.

5 Angels


Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Psalm 103:21 (NIV)

She thanked us for the special kindness that we had shown Willie and signed it: with a grateful heart, Willie’s Grandma.


Having someone consider our behavior as modeling Gods love is quite a complement. I think that thru friends and family is one of the great ways that God shows his limitless love for us.


The card ended with “I’m praying for God to bless you as you’ve been a blessing to Willie and me.


We are blessed.



July 20, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, medical center, road rash, sierra motors, sonora | , , , , | 1 Comment


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


The dealership’s Service Manager, calls the phone in my office. He proceeds to tell me that while he was coming in the west entrance, he saw what looked like, someone sleeping in a used Tahoe on our lot.  At the time I was the General Sales Manager of the Auto Group. I felt like this person needed some personal attention. I walked promptly across three acres of pavement and directly up to the Tahoe.


The engine was running. The air conditioning was on. The power seat was adjusted to full recline. The salesman, Morton’s mouth was wide open. In fact, his mouth was positioned as to facilitate the drainage of drool, down to his chin.


“Morton”. “Morton” I repeated a louder. He jumped a little as he recognized me and then sat up. What should I do with Morton, I pondered? It was quickly, very obvious to me. I told him that he just received the one and only free pass that I had left. He’s lucky I remembered.



In the 1980’s Van Conversions were very popular. The dealership always had five to ten of them on the lot at any time. They usually had four bucket seats, a small television and a video player, mood lighting and very cool shag carpeting. They also came with molded in running boards; a lot of funny windows that came with shades and everything inside was padded.


One typically cold, windy, winter day in the desert, the activities of the night before, started to take their toll on me. I had over consumed Beer and Peanuts, while not getting near enough sleep. I was tired. I didn’t feel like talking to any customers. I knew that there was a good chance that I would hurl.


There on the back of the lot, sitting in the sun, was a van conversion, calling my name. The carpet on the floor was soft and warm. There was enough room on the floor between the bucket seats to fit my 6’ 3” self. I quickly went to sleep.


By the time my eyes focused, there was a family of five standing in front of the sliding door. The look on the kids face was priceless. The salesman, Tim, made a joke about how comfortable the van conversion must be. I gathered myself together and exited as gracefully as possible. (Not Possible) Tim never told any of the managers about that incident, but he also never let me forget about it.


When I returned to my office, Kevin, one of my managers, who is also my friend, asked why I didn’t fire the guy on the spot. I just smiled and said that I saw myself in the same spot once. In the car business, it has been said that aging comes with wisdom. But sometimes, aging comes alone. I think I made the wise choice. I also know that I have experienced forgiveness many times.


All of that experience and wisdom is here with me at Sierra Motors. It’s who I am.



July 14, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, sierra motors, van conversion, wisdom | , , , | 2 Comments

20,000 MILES

Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


Fate didn’t come knocking at my door that morning; instead he was sitting on the curb, across the street from my house at 5:55am. When I looked out the window, I didn’t recognize him. What kind of mountain biker wears a skater helmet anyway? Mitch told me that he had invited some new friends out to ride with us. At first glance, I didn’t have very high expectations.

My friend, Mitch Nakamura rode with me regularly. I rode a Turner 5-Spot and Mitch rode an Intense Pro. These are amazing bikes with five inches of suspension travel and Disc brakes front and rear. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 6am, we would go mountain bike riding. We rode The Ridge most often. It was an amazing area that stretches between Highland High School and Godde Pass. The Ridge had a good variety of trails. It was later destroyed by Eliopulos Development and now stands as a unfinished testament to greed and what people will destroy in the name of money.


That day’s riders included Mitch, Russ, Rich and myself. The guy in the skater helmet was a former BMX Pro and future BMX Hall of Famer. Who knew? His name is Rich Bartlett and he owns the premier Cycling store around, The Block Shop. Our other new riding friend was Russ, who handled repairs and sales for Rich. Our first ride together was fun, but Mitch and I understood very quickly that Rich was a different level of rider than we were.

From that morning on, we all started riding together. Rich is also a former adventure racer. He would take us out on epic rides. Rich would have a map and use his bicycle odometer to take to places that we never thought of riding to before. He always knew where to find more single track, the best kind of trail. We went from trail riding to covering mountain ranges. Breathtaking climbs, amazing descents and many hours spent in the saddle, pedaling. We had fun riding mountain bikes together for a couple of years.


Somehow, we started talking about road bikes. Rich was explaining to me that I could get much more fit, if I were training on a road bike. I used to ride a road bike in the 1980’s. It was a Peugeot 10 speed. The idea of getting another bicycle always made complete sense to me. At The Block Shop, Rich showed me what was available. The road bike had come a long way in the last twenty years.

When Rich explained to me that he was going to be carrying a new line of bikes called Orbea, I got interested. I read all of the specs and it looked great. The clincher was when he told me, that the Orbea’s were made it Northern Spain. That’s Basque country. I’m Basque. My Grandfather, Andy Seminario came over from the Old Country, Northern Spain. Sounded like the perfect bike.

The Orbea model I ride is the Orca. It is the flagship of the Orbea fleet. It is made completely with Carbon Fiber and has twenty gears. The entire bike weighs only 17 lbs. When I bought it was Bicycling Magazine, Bike of the Year and is the exact bike ridden in the Tour De France by the Euskaltel-Euskadi team.  For a recreational rider, I probably overspent, but I think that I got my money’s worth. Two things I know: the Orbea bicycle rides like a dream and no matter what; you still have to pedal to go anywhere.

My wife actually bought the bike for me as a birthday gift. Sure I picked it out, but she saved her money from her job and paid the $5,000 for it. The only place that I was able to get such a great bicycle for such a low price was from my friends at The Block Shop. It retails elsewhere for close to $10,000. So on a hot July day, Rich took me out for my first road ride, on what he described as “just an easy ride”.  We rode and rode and rode. Fifty miles later I was so hooked.

 rich b

Over the next few weeks, Rich stretched my reality out a bit further. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, before a full day at work, Rich and I would ride 60 miles together. We would meet in front of Quartz Hill High School. We rode out thru the hills and over the pass on Munz Ranch Road. Then out thru Lake Hughes and onto Three Points Road.

There is only one place where I can keep up at full speed with Rich and that is on the five mile down hill, dropping out of the mountains onto Highway 138. Rich showed me amazing drafting techniques. We would draft and pass, draft and pass. While going 30 to 40 miles an hour. On the return trip home, we would sometimes catch a tail wind of up to 30 mph. It was amazing to carry on a conversation, on a bike, while going as fast as the wind. We would just fly for 20 miles, until we had to turn into the wind for the last ten miles.


I felt like I was there when Rich fell back in love with road riding. I asked Rich and he said, “there was no doubt about it”. He was reinventing himself into the rider that he is now. Rich went back into racing and is a Category one road and mountain bike racer. Go to this sight and see some of Rich’s times in the races that he won. He was on his way back to being not only competitive but to championship caliber. Check out his Wolfpack team winning the All City race on the streets of Los Angeles this year. I have to mention his amazing wife April. She has been there with him for the entire ride. She is truly a great wife.

I was also riding 75 miles on Saturday mornings. Long rides thru the mountains and the canyons before going into work. Then Rich invited me to ride on Wednesday evenings. There is a group that does Criterium training on a short course at very high speeds. I logged over 7000 miles the first year. By the time that I was doing Crit training, I was riding an average of 200 miles a week. I also later hit a goal that I set when I first decided to get my ride on. I rode 20,000 miles in three years. I finished that goal while we were living in Idaho

I started riding Centuries during that time. That is 100 miles. My best time for a 100 miles was at the Lighthouse CenturyAllCity300 crash, from San Luis Obispo. I rode with my friend Craig Earl and his son Ben. We finished in 4:58. That’s four hours and fifty-eight minutes. I rode others with them. The Earls are good bike riders and very good men.

My resting heart rate got down to 50 beats per minute. My weight dropped down to what it was in high school. I maintained a heart rate over 170 beats per minute for over five minutes on a climb once. I have also hit 60 mph on San Fransiquito Road. I have made many friends and seen many amazing things. Riding early in the morning, I have seen the sunrise from out on the road many times. It is beautiful to see while breathing hard, pedaling into the distance, twenty miles away from home.

The lessons of endurance, learned on a bicycle, effect the way I manage Sierra Motors and my life. Personally and professionally, I know how to endure. I know how to set and achieve long-range goals. I know how to suffer for the greater good. I know how to keep breathing and moving, even when the climb seems impossibly long. I know the value of having a friend to draft behind, when it seems impossible to make it home.

Rich is definitely one friend who changed my life. I eat better, sleep better and feel better than I ever have. Riding is not a hobby for me, it is a passion. It calls to me. I don’t live in the same town as Rich any more, but think of him often. Not just every time I ride my bike. Men of Rich’s quality don’t ride by often enough thru a persons life. There he was, sitting on the curb across the street from my house. Silly me, I didn’t even have high expectations.


July 13, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro, rich bartlett, seminario, the block shop, wolfpack | , , , , | 3 Comments


Sierra Motors        “One Low Price, Plain and Simple…ALWAYS !”


 CALL TODAY  @800.571.0275 


My football playing days ended the same way a lot of other athletes did, with an injury. I sustained a major dislocation of the right knee. That means that the ACL and MCL ligaments were torn. I also ruptured my patella and shredded all of the cartilage. I asked the Doctor when I could play again and his answer was that I might be able to walk without a limp if I worked hard. Not only were my playing days over, so was running. He suggested that I take up swimming or cycling. Physically shot at 19 years of age.


I had aspirations of playing Division One football. Instead I started taking swimming classes while in college. After a couple of different ones I decided to take on the big one and become a WSI, Water Safety Instructor. After this class, I would be able to certify lifeguards. I was a pretty good swimmer, in very good physical condition and have always been willing to push myself, both mentally and physically.


The class Instructor was Coach Jordan. It was two hours per class, two days a week. I had no idea that I was going to swim that much. Most classes were spent swimming the entire two hours. I learned over twenty different strokes. I didn’t even know there were twenty different strokes. It was very physically demanding. A missed class meant 50 laps in the pool. I only missed one class the entire year.


Coach Jordan prepared us to save lives. We practiced techniques over and over. We could spend the entire two hours towing someone. A lot of classes, we were not allowed to touch the side or the bottom during the class. I gained a lot of respect for what had to be done and became rather fearless of water. We also had to become certified in CPR.


The most grueling part was that we had to swim a thousand meters in under 20 minutes, to pass the class. In a 50-meter pool, that is 20 laps. I finished in 18 minutes and 24 seconds. Great, so I am of to conquer the swimming world.


Beach lifeguard sounded great. I applied with the Los Angeles County. To test you have to have a timed effort of less than 18 minutes in the 1000 meter. I had never swam that fast in my life. Then at the first Saturday in April, was the qualifier. Everybody that applied was to report to the lifeguard station in Long Beach. A 500 meter run down the beach, followed by a swim around a buoy 500 meters out in the Pacific Ocean. Finishing with 500 more meters of running. The first 100 finishers were allowed to continue testing.


I applied at a country club instead. They hired me. There had not been a rescue at the Club in the twenty years that the pool was open. It was an insurance requirement to have guards. We did the pool maintenance. We baby sat club members kids. We watched the pool and kept it safe by saying things like “no running”. I did get to sit up in the cool wooden lifeguard tower and wear a whistle. It actually paid well and came with some interesting benefits.


I got hired often to personally lifeguard private parties held at the club and to give private swimming lessons. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Those gigs were generally very good paying and some of the tips I received were rather interesting. Two young men got out of control at one such private party. They thought it was funny to throw clothed people into the pool and to damage the facilities. I gently intervened. As they were standing next to the edge of the pool, after throwing a person in, I came up behind them. I grabbed both of them around the neck and jumped in the pool. I exhaled all of my air out as to ensure sinking to the bottom with them. Tough guys aren’t so tough when they can’t breath.



When I let them go, they came up sputtering and angry. I asked them to depart from the premises. The two tough guys threatened me. I suggested that we go back in and visit the bottom of the pool again. They left rather hurriedly.


Later in the summer as I was getting off shift, a couple in the pool caught my attention. It was what Coach Jordan explained to be on the lookout for. Impending disaster.


A very out of shape club member, who after drinking for a while, decided to teach his twenty year younger wife how to swim. His plan was simple. The pool had an eleven-foot deep section under the diving board. He was in the middle, directly in front of his wife, who was on the diving board. He was treading water, while trying to talk her into jumping.


I quickly stripped back down to my swimsuit and watched this train wreck.


Wife was afraid to jump and husband was getting tired quickly. “Jump”. “Come on just jump” he kept saying. She finally did. It was perfect. She lands feet first, on his chest. That knocked all of the wind out of him. I thought that this was going to be the first rescue at the club. The wife ended up only about a foot from the edge of the pool. She was facing the other way and didn’t know it was so close. Panic quickly set in.


The husband came up from the depths after being submerged by his wife. I think he drank a lot of pool water. He went to the side and hung on, trying to get his breath back.


The wife started to flail her arms. Just as she started to let out a scream, she hit the side and grabbed on. Disaster averted. The other lifeguard and I just looked at each other and smiled. I was putting my shirt back on when I heard the husband tell his wife, “It’s just like riding a horse”. “You have to get right back on.”


“No, this attempt at drowning is over” I told them in no uncertain terms. They knew I was right and the wife was happy that I intervened.


My next lifeguard job was at the new indoor city pool. I gave a lot of group swimming lessons. Kids of all ages are fun to teach how to swim and more importantly, it saves lives. The senior class that I did for ages 70 and older was a disaster. One woman was on her fifth attempt to learn to swim and she monopolized the entire class time. Mostly by complaining, about everything.



I also had an amazing time coaching Special Olympics. I was asked to do some “one on one” training with an Autistic boy named Robin. I didn’t have any idea what to expect. It took a while to get Robin in the pool. He didn’t like physical contact with me. I worked hard to get him to hold his breath and put his head under water. He would never make eye contact with me. I felt as though I was not making progress with him. I was feeling disappointed with my results until Robin’s Father came up to me after the class.


Robins Father was in tears. I was the first one to get Robin all of the way into the water. It was a milestone to Robins Dad. He hugged me with a big Dad hug. He got to see his boy, being a boy. It was huge to him. I had no idea that I was doing that well.


Two years and two different lifeguard jobs and I had never rescued anyone. I think that was a good thing.


A couple of years after giving up the career as a lifeguard, I was working at a car dealership. My beautiful wife and I took our son Russ to stay at a resort at the beach for the weekend. Dana was up in our room. I was reading the latest Tom Clancy novel poolside, while Russell was swimming. Three kids lined up at the far end of the pool to race across.


As Coach Jordan impressed on me, look at what is happening.


It was two girls and one boy. They were all about twelve or thirteen. The girls were next to each other and the boy was on the right. It was a beautiful resort with a very big swimming pool. Just off to the right was the gazebo with a very fashionable wedding that had just gotten underway. The resort hotel was more than twenty stories high.  The three kids were almost half way across the pool and the boy had not yet taken a single breath.

del rey pool


I put my book down. The boy started to veer across in front of the two girls. He than stopped swimming for a moment. Somebody else was watching from above, because I heard a person yell from about ten floors up “Help that guy”. The boy started swimming again, but till had not taken a single breath. I stood up and took off my shoes. The boy had swam almost the entire length of the pool without taking a breath and had almost made it to the end. About five feet from the end he suddenly turned around and started swimming back to the other side.


I new that this was impossible. As he reached the middle of the deepest part of the pool it happened in a way that I did not expect. He just stopped swimming and blew out all of his air and immediately sank to the bottom. Russell watched me as I went into action. I heard that person ten floors up yell loudly “help that guy”.


It was very calm in the water. The boy was motionless on the bottom of the pool. Russell told me that there was a lot of screaming and yelling while I was underwater. I did as Coach Jordan had trained me. I placed my hand under his chin and brought him to the top with one strong lunge from the bottom. I quickly had him at the side of the pool. A few others helped me take him out of the water. I stretched his arms out and pushed once on his chest. A mouth full of pool water came out. He drew his next breath on his own.


During the commotion the wedding had stopped. The Bride was yelling, “give him mouth to mouth, give him mouth to mouth.” Some guy was hyperventilating, because he jumped in the pool and got caught up in all of the excitement. I backed everyone off of the kid to give him room to breath. He was okay, just very embarrassed. Soaking wet, I went back to the room. Dana ask’ “what happened to you?”


I made sure that I went and visited Coach Jordan. Let him know that his training had saved a life.


It was a few years later, at Bob and Deann’s house. This time I have Ryan and Erica with me. It is a simple pool party, with about ten to fifteen kids. There is a couple sitting on the grass facing away from the pool. Their daughter Rachel is next to them. I am standing on the patio having a beer with friends about twenty feet from the pool. In only took a moment of inattentiveness for three-year-old Rachel to walk over to the pool. The little girl just stepped right into the deep end. Deann screams “Rachel is in the pool”.


At the moment of crisis do you look or act? The Dad looked. In fact when he turned to look he spun so hard that his back popped and he was immobilized. I am just wired to act. Upon hearing Deann yell Rachel’s name, I was on the move. I don’t know how I got to her so fast, but I slid on the cement and had my hand on her instantly. She was making eye contact with me the entire time. I didn’t even get in the pool and pulled her out from under water into my arms. Rachel clung to me. I held her for a moment and then handed her over to her parents.


I like the fact that all three of my kids have witnessed me rescuing someone. As General Manager of Sierra Motors, I still think of the lessons learned from Coach Jordan. I don’t jump in and take people to the bottom of the pool anymore, but I still act in times of crisis. Still today, I can picture exactly what that young man looked like at the bottom of the pool and I can still see Rachel’s eyes looking at me. I watch the dealership, still on the lookout.



July 12, 2009 Posted by | coach jordan, eric prothro, lifeguard, sierra motors, swimming | , , , , | 5 Comments

The Miracle

Our close family friend, Carolyn, sent this and I had to share

In honor of Erica….


Amazement is not to be found
In the beauty of an autumn leaf
Nor in the measured space of time
Before it will disappear altogether


Amazement is not to be found
In the energy of high tide
Nor in the quiet crescendo
Which occurs so close behind


Amazement is not to be found
In the vibrant colors of dawn
Nor in the silent twilight
Which races to consume it

Amazement is not to be found
In the first cries of birth
Nor in the short years spent
But in the celebrated miracle called life

Carolyn Earl 2004

July 11, 2009 Posted by | amazement, beauty, Eric, Erica, miracle | , , , , | Leave a comment

Erica…and Friends

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Erica…and Friends



We are celebrating my Daughter Erica’s birthday at midnight tonight. Erica was born 12 minutes after midnight July 7th, 1988. A few friends are with us. They include:


Evan, Dennis, Kyle, Kyla, Christina, Tiffany, Amanda, Kelsey, Chantal, Bobbi, Paul, Paul, Jake, Jesse, Denay, Deanne, Trent, Shawnee, Russ, Ryan, Dana, Beverly, Jim, Willie, Devon, Mary, Darrin, Dawn and Adam.


As we celebrated Erica’s life this weekend every time one of her friends would have a silent moment of reflection about our collective loss it was followed by a salute with one word “ERICA”, followed by everyone as one saying in support “ERICA”.


One of the most meaningful experiences we had, was when we all told about the first time that each of us encountered Erica. For some reason, everybody remembers when they first met Erica.


It is at times like these, that I know the friends that I have had and continue to have in my life, are truly amazing. There are times when the importance of friends, can come very clearly into focus. Our life forever changed in 2007. These don’t compare in importance, my Daughter, my career and where we live, it all changed in one year.


Building on a foundation of Rock, instead of sand, is how we survived. One of the ways, God has shown His Love for us has been thru our friends, like the ones at our house today. There is not a way possible to express what this means to me. I like to write about people that have affected my life, by direct effect or in the subtlest ways. Friends should make a difference. My friends simply are the difference.


One thing I have learned is the importance of just showing up being willing to say something or just to listen to my friends. Many people have done that for me, many times over the years. I can’t name you all, but I thought to give an example of someone who stands out to me, Denny Parker.


Back in the day, Denny was one of the toughest, meanest guys you could meet on a football field. He and I were on opposite sides of the local High School rivalry. We became acquaintances our junior year and by the end of school we were friends. We hung together from time to time. Denny and I later had kids in sports, and coached together. I have always considered him a friend. It wasn’t like we did holidays and vacationed together. More like mutual respect of a couple of aging warriors that made it through the fight.


At Erica’s funeral service, I was a mess. Denny Parker came up to me, embraced me, kissed me on the cheek and with tears in his eyes said, “I love you”.




The next time you don’t know what to say or how to respond, take a lesson from a real man like Denny or from the thirty friends at our house; show up, be supportive, show love and be real. That is a friend. You might not want to consider having 30 or more friends over, but consider this; how can a man feel blessed, if not thru friends? I am simply amazed at all of the friends that I have.


I can say this without reservation, “I love you”.






July 8, 2009 Posted by | erica prothro, friends, i love you | , , , | 2 Comments


your garden

Dear Erica, “The flowers, the gorgeous, mystic multi-colored flowers are not the flowers of life, but people, yes people are the true flowers of life: and it has been a most precious pleasure to have temporarily strolled in your garden.” Lord Buckley


July 7, 2009 Posted by | eric prothro | , | 4 Comments