I first interviewed Jule Lamm, one of Santa Monica’s most admired and respected residents, five years ago when he was a mere 93. When Randy, Jule’s oldest son recently asked his now 98-year old dad how was he doing, Jule chuckled, “I just keep on doing,” (Spoken like one of the “Greatest Generation” who survived the Great Depression and served valiantly in WWII.)
As a transport pilot in New Guinea and the Philippines, Jule’s planes were frequently riddled with bullets but miraculously he was never hit. However having suffered debilitating cases of Malaria and Hepatitis, Jule jokes “The bullets never got me but the mosquitoes never missed.”
After the war Jule attended UCLA and then the Optometry School and earned his Doctor of Optometry. He opened an office in Santa Monica and Culver City but also benevolently donated time treating economically disadvantaged patients. In addition, for many years he flew his own plane at his personal expense including the crew and supplies, into remote areas of Mexico to treat patients, among them children most of whom had never seen a doctor before.
Jule’s 98th birthday party was held on September 21 at his attractive home attended by his three children, six grandchildren, other relatives and friends, some whose relationships go back 40 years or more. Jule’s poignant birthday wish was that he could continue helping others.
Born in Los Angeles in 1923, Jule’s life is a living memoir of 20th century L.A. and Santa Monica where he spent the past 53 years. It’s also where he and his beloved wife of 57 years, Judy, lived happily. Emotionally Jule confided, “The best day of my life is when Judy married me, the worst was when we lost her.” (Sadly Judy passed in 2013.)
Judy and Jule raised three wonderful and intelligent children, Randy, Brett and Wendy all of whom graduated Santa Monica High School and college. (At Samohi Randy even had a class with Bob Dylan’s daughter, Maria.) In fact, the kids grew up in the same house that Jule lives in today.
In the 1920’s, Jule was raised in an area of Los Angeles now known as Echo Park which overlooked Chavez Ravine. A fascinating side note, because times were economically hard, Jule’s resourceful mother rented out the bottom of the house to the legendary modernist architect Richard Neutra.
The family lived across the street from Mickey Rooney, and Jule even attended one of Mickey’s lavish birthday parties. Jule was ever energetic, curious and inexplicably talented. In junior high shop classes he excelled in skills he would later use even to avert danger in World War II.
At age 12, Jule bought a Model-A car for the grand sum of $7. With remarkable ingenuity he restored the vehicle and converted it from gas to diesel which was much cheaper fuel in those days.
Though close to home, he drove it proudly. Jule was a jack of all trades and a master of a many. As a young boy Jule was fascinated with the new world of aviation. At the nearby Grand Central Air Terminal he eagerly volunteered to clean the planes, including one reportedly owned by the iconic aviatrix, Amelia Earhart.
Jule’s youth, however, came to an alarming end with the outbreak of WWII. Seventeen and deeply patriotic, Jule convinced his parents to let him join the Army Air Corps in the war to save world democracy. (A value he still espouses today.)
Jule and his family came to settle in Santa Monica because he and Randy often rode their bikes from W. L.A. to the Santa Monica Pier. Blessed with an outgoing nature, one day Jule noticed Phil Hill, a famous Santa Monica race car driver was working on old Packard cars in his garage. The two chatted amiably about how idyllic Santa Monica was and voila, the Lamm clan soon made the move.
Among Jule’s vast interests was skiing but in those days there were no ski lifts. A brave skier would be “rope towed” by a car with a tire off. The rope would be wrapped around the wheel and with the engine going the wheel would spin and the skier clutching the rope would make his precarious ascent. But nothing ever deterred Dr. Lamm, not even controversial political action.
In 1968 Jule joined Tom Bradley, Pat Brown and Ed Edelman to get funding for a subway under Wilshire but the auto lobby defeated it. As I’ve alluded, Jule’s life should be a book but I’ve run out of room so please go to www.smdp.com and type “Democracy Means More Than Voting.”
Because they don’t make them like Jule Lamm anymore, I hope next year I can once again write about my friend. Knowing him as I do, I have a feeling he’ll humbly say, “I’m still doing.” God bless Dr. Lamm.