Success! Concord friends break teeter-totter world record — and made people smile


It was impossible not to smile when watching longtime friends Chuck Walker, 68, and Mike Hartshorn, 57, perched on opposite ends of what is typically a child’s playground staple, as they attempted to break the world record for consecutive time spent on a teeter-totter.

The two men climbed aboard their homemade wood contraption on July 1 at Todos Santos Plaza in downtown Concord and didn’t climb off — for good that is — until 12:10 p.m. Saturday, when they broke the previous record by 10 minutes. Until then, they’d only gotten off the plank for bathroom breaks. The journey wasn’t easy, but they always intended to stick it out through the end.

“I’m getting delirious,” Walker said on Thursday. “But we motivate each other. We’re both boneheaded enough that we’re going to finish it.”

Walker knew what he signed up for when he committed to the effort, having first set the world record in 1971 at age 18 with 216 consecutive hours spent on the teeter-totter in Sacramento. The record made the local papers and a Brady Bunch episode later that year featured a similar feat. The story had become family lore. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the original attempt, and Walker wanted his kids and grandkids to have a laugh and see “see whether papa was telling stories or whether it was true.”

The Golden State lifting its pandemic restrictions in mid-June has also gave the effort a heightened sense of importance: bringing the community together to laugh after a difficult year.

“Everyone walks up with a smile on their faces,” Walker said. “Back then, it was incredible. This time, it’s times a thousand.”

Finding a teeter-totter partner was not easy — both his son and grandson turned down the gig and he couldn’t reach his first partner — but Walker couldn’t have asked for a more dedicated partner than Hartshorn, his longtime friend and housemate.

“I don’t know if it was tequila or something else, but I said I would do it, and I’ve kept my word,” Hartshorn said. “Sometimes I joke that I took a summer job with the Make a Wish Foundation for senior citizens, Chuck came in, and I drew the short straw.”

The pair are not going through Guinness or other record-verifying agencies, though they’ve recorded the whole endeavor if need be. Noon on Saturday marked 216 hours on the teeter-totter — and they spent 10 more minutes going up and down nearly 4 feet, reversing heights.

“I don’t feel like I need to prove anything,” Walker said. “I know I did it, Mike knows we did it, and the people that are here every day, they know we did it.”

The response from onlookers in the plaza has been incredible, Walker said. When people came by to talk or marvel, Walker told them to come back on Saturday for when they break the record.

Edward Ngiam, 48, and his elderly dog, Mutiara, 14, admired the effort from under the shade of a tree in the park.

“I love things like this, the small town vibe,” he said, having recently moved from San Francisco to Concord. “You don’t find this in the city.”

Walker’s family is having a good time as well. His daughter, Kayla, said that as long as she can remember Walker has talked about his teeter-totter record. Now, her two sons can join in on the fun.

“The younger one sees his teeter-totter t-shirt and points at it and says, ‘Papa,’” she said. “My oldest son, nearly 11, wants to go see him every day. ‘Can we go visit Papa, can we go see Papa.’ They’re having a lot of fun with it.”

But teeter-tottering isn’t all fun and games, despite the high-backed, tiger-striped lawn chairs the pair sat in — it’s a serious physical and logistical challenge.

They only dismounted for bathroom breaks at a Honey Bucket porta potty stationed next to the stage. They’ve gotten leg cramps in places you can’t imagine. They fought the heat with umbrellas clamped to their chairs and cold water, and ate what people brought them.

Night, Walker said, was “like being on top of Mt. Rainier,” cold, windy and brutal, especially when the wind blew water from the sprinklers their way. They slept in shifts so as to not stop.

Hartshorn also didn’t take time off work. A bluetooth earpiece kept him connected to clients of the travel agency he works for, and his chair had a power strip strapped to the side connected to his phone, mouse and computer on a side table.

On Thursday, the men said they were looking forward to the car ride out. Walker said the experience of riding in a level, straight line after so much up and down motion is unmatched.

“It’s the closest thing you can possibly imagine to a magic carpet. It’s like you’re riding on a cushion of air,” Walker said. Hartshorn adds that he hopes the magic carpet ride will include some sort of alcoholic beverage.

The experience has brought them closer. A softer side of Walker, who can come off as a “tough guy,” has emerged, according to Hartshorn.

“Everything you do affects the guy on the other side of the teeter-totter,” Hartshorn said. “And I know that he’s thinking about me, putting me before him, every day, every moment of the day until the end.”