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Scott Warmuth – Part 1

Episode 015

Childhood in Seaattle

Scott Warmuth, lawyer and the co-host of the podcast, shares his life story in this 3-part series. In part one, he tells of how his childhood influenced him to be who he is today, from growing up in the Seattle area, going to Catholic Schools, and having to help when the family hits hard times. Scott gives the journey from a boy who believed a cardboard airplane could fly to the youth who became a city councilman.

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Scott Warmuth – Part 1 Quotes

  • “I never felt like I was a child or a youth; I always felt like an adult. I never had the childhood experience, really. Well, I did up until 4th grade. That’s when we moved, and that’s when things changed.”
  • “Funny enough, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized how bad the weather was in Seattle. I think back now, and I wonder how I could spend all that time outside because it was so miserable.”
  • “Every time I see a number, I have to determine if it’s divisible by 3.”
  • “What can I do to make myself better, more successful?”
  • “The first time I voted, my name was on the ballot.”
  • One of 5 kids growing up in a Catholic family in Seattle.
  • Scott was always highly regarded by his peers and teachers.
  • Became a city councilman shortly after graduating from high school.
  • The first time he voted, his name was on the ballot twice.

Let’s start with where you were born.

I was born in Oregon City, Oregon, but I grew up in Seattle. Seattle is definitely what has formed me.

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

I have one older brother and three younger sisters.

Do you remember a lot about growing up?

Yes, growing up in Seattle, my family and the things I experienced then is very important to me. I have very strong memories of growing up in a family of five kids. I have very good memories of my childhood.

The furthest back I remember in my childhood was when President Kennedy was elected. I would’ve been five years old at the time, and I can faintly remember a few things before that, but my clearest memory is President Kennedy being elected.

It was very important to our family. We were a Catholic family, and he was the first Catholic President.

Also, my father was very active in his campaign. It meant a lot to a family like ours, a Catholic/Democratic family.

What other activities did you do as a kid?

We lived in a suburb of Seattle called Bothell, and I played a lot in our backyard and spent time riding bicycles and building airplanes that I actually thought would fly.

We would hammer a few boards together, call it an airplane, and think it could fly.

My grandpa, who was visiting one time, assured us that we would be able to fly.

Were your grandparents around a lot in your life?

My paternal grandfather was the one convincing us we could fly homemade airplanes. My whole family lived in the Portland, Oregon, area while we lived in Seattle. We were the only family that didn’t live in that area. So we were kind of distant.

I would see my father’s parents maybe a couple of times a year. We would go down to Portland, or they would come up to Seattle.

My mother grew up on a farm outside of Portland, and we would go down and visit her parents at the farm they lived on.

My maternal grandparents moved to Florida when I was about 11. We visited them maybe two or three times after they moved.

Did you spend a lot of time outdoors?

Yes, I don’t like to be out on the water or hunt or fish, though.

I like sports, so I enjoyed playing basketball or baseball but never really got into football.

Funny enough, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized how bad the weather was in Seattle. I think back now and wonder how I could spend all that time outside because it was so miserable.

The theme in Seattle is that it rains a lot, it’s gray, and it’s kind of miserable, and the way people describe it is, well, you don’t have to shovel it off the sidewalk.

But now, having lived in New York, I would rather shovel it off the sidewalk than live in Seattle’s wet, mossy environment.

But I loved Seattle, and I love it today, even though it’s so different than it was when I grew up.

If you could say a city is your hero, I would say Seattle is my hero.

But I always wanted to go to New York.

Why did you want to go to New York?

My father would travel as part of his work, and he would send postcards from New York. I would just see these pictures of New York, the helicopters, and the buildings, and it just seemed like a fantasy city to me.

When I was in high school, I would read the New York Times and try to pretend I was in New York. It was just my fantasy city.

What’s it like being the second oldest of five kids?

Even though my brother was 11 months older, I was taller than him. But he would always beat me up; still, we were very close.

He would always protect me. If we were out together and I would make some smart remark to somebody, he would always stand up for me.

What was your role as a sibling?

I would say my brother was a troublemaker, but that was because he would get in trouble because of the things I did.

I was a good kid, and because of this, people wouldn’t think I would do bad things. However, I would do bad things and blame it on him.

I was mostly an A student in school, and because so many people saw me as a good kid, it opened me up to different experiences. For instance, I went to Catholic school, and in 4th grade, the nun took a particular liking to me.

My first name is David, and she had a brother named David. Instead of calling me Scott, she would always call me David.

I wasn’t necessarily a teacher’s pet, but she treated me better than anyone else.

Sometimes, I would receive this very special treatment from teachers or people older than me.

I think it’s because they thought I was a good kid. I behaved and obeyed. I was smart, and I think they just wanted to treat me well.

In 7th and 8th grade, I had a lay teacher, someone who wasn’t a nun. She was the mother of a student in another parish school.

She treated me very special, and I think she recognized that I had some talent to be something more than just an average student.

The way it showed, and this sounds strange, she would always punish me.

She expected more from you, so she would punish you more?

I would say yeah. She expected more, and if I didn’t deliver, she would punish me more.

What does that look like in a catholic school?

It was not uncommon to be hit by a hand to the face. The two people she liked the most in that class were my friend and me. We decided in our 7th year to have a contest to see who got hit the most.

I don’t know how it’s affected me, but who knows?

She had a big ring too.

I don’t think it was healthy. I don’t remember feeling much pain; I think it was more embarrassing.

What would you get in trouble for at school?

One of the things I would do is take a magazine and change some of the words to make it something funny. Or create speech balloons to make the ads say something funny.

At one point, the teacher took the magazine, read what I wrote, and started laughing. She announced to the class, “I’m sure you’re aware of the humor that exists in the classroom.” referring to me, and then began reading what I had written.

One time in high school, I went 40 straight days without going to history class, but the history teacher didn’t care. On the 41st day, when I went, no one said anything.

We even had one teacher who told my friend and me that we could do whatever we wanted. We didn’t have to go to class, we could talk in class, and she wasn’t going to discipline us.

I’m still blown away that you thought you were her favorite because she punished you the most.

I know I was her favorite. She would tell my parents, and when I graduated 8th grade, she gave me a list of all the girls and the phone numbers from her parish who were going into the high school I was attending.

Knowing that I was going into a high school where I didn’t know anyone, she wanted me to have friends I could reach out to.

Did she check with any of them first? Did you ever reach out to any of them?

Oh yeah. She asked each one of them and made sure it was okay that she did this. I never reached out to any of them.

What is one of your fondest memories in seattle before going to high school?

I remember when the Supersonics started. I was in 6th grade. They were the first pro team in Seattle, which was a big thrill.

I was a big sports fan and would follow sports, so it was really exciting to have a pro sports team in Seattle. I had a little scorebook and would keep score while listening to the radio.

Just points, or would you do other stats?

No, I’d do rebounds and whatever I could get from the announcers.

Obviously, it’s not like today when you can follow every stat.

One of the things I know about you is that you enjoy statistics. I can throw some pretty challenging math questions your way, and you do them pretty quickly in your head.

I love numbers. I’m even really bizarre in some ways. Every time I see a number, I have to determine if it’s divisible by 3.

This is something I’m kind of haunted by; I cannot stop dividing by 3.

A few of your employees have said that you’d go into a meeting about a case that was a couple of years old, and you would rattle off some obscure note about the file. Do you have an incredible memory recollection?

Yeah, for certain types of things.

When did you recognize that?

I don’t know. I only noticed the thing about the numbers ten years ago.

I’ve always liked number games. It’s just your life, so maybe you don’t realize it’s different.

I feel like I’m always running a movie of my life in my mind. I always say that everything that’s happened in my life I relived every day.

I think that of everything that happened to me in my life, I see every little detail I remember it every day. I watch this movie of my life every day.

That seems torturous.

Yeah, that’s probably why I can’t sleep at night.

So now you’re growing up in seattle, and you’re going into high school.

There are important dividing points in my childhood. Moving from one house to another was a big thing, and that was when I was in 4th grade, about nine years old.

It was a major change in my life. I went from my home, where I had grown up, to another house that wasn’t my home. I could never give up my home.

And you never recovered from that move?

Probably not

Was it a new school and new friends?

It was only a 5-mile move, but it was a new school. I went from a neighborhood with sidewalks. I went from this security to a nicer home, but there were no sidewalks.

It was wooded. It was a whole different feeling. And then going to another school and a different church. It was a move-up, but it was kind of traumatic.

What are some things that made you choose your path and profession?

I grew up Catholic, and my father was an executive for TV Guide magazine. At that time, it was the biggest magazine in the country.

He was always a hero to me. What he did is what I wanted to do. That was very influential.

Well, in 9th grade, he left TV Guide Magazine to start a company that eventually failed.

We went from he would go to work in a downtown building in Seattle, which was really cool for me. It was just a thrill.

It was a complete change in our life.

Then he started a company, and he was ahead of his time. Cable TV was just starting, so he took this idea where he created a cable guide where you would turn to a specific channel, and it would have the guide on it.

He was just a little too early. The company lasted about 2-3 years, but they couldn’t make it financially.

What was the impact on your family?

We went from a comfortable middle class to living on food stamps. And this was also when we were in high school, which alone is a difficult time.

I always worked, so when I was 11, I had a paper route. Even through high school, I would caddy at a country club. I would sell things door to door.

You were doing this for yourself? Or for your family?

If I wanted money, I had to work. I went to a private high school, and I remember my mom saying we had to move you to a public school. But I didn’t want to. So, I worked to stay in high school.

Did you feel an obligation to help your family? Was it asked of you?

After high school, when I was still living at home, my father’s business was going through a lengthy lawsuit, so I had to help out running my father’s new business.

I felt the obligation to do something.

What did you get from the experiences of working at your dad’s restaurant and playing basketball?

I never felt like I was a child or a youth. I always felt I was an adult. And right out of high school, I became a city councilman.

I thought I was an adult, at least from the fourth grade on. I felt my childhood ended in third grade. That’s when things changed.

I was always looked at differently by other students or other people my age. They always thought I was a bit higher and not a part of them.

I was always known to be successful, and that was a burden.

Because of this, I don’t think I developed. Today, I think of myself as 13 years old, or maybe as old as 21. I think that’s where I am in my emotional life.

So, you think it’s important for everyone to experience all that childhood and adolescence offer?

Yeah, I think you have to go through the proper phases, but on the other hand, I look at my life and consider myself very lucky.

I’ve had an incredible, rich life that I don’t think very many people get to experience. I’m really grateful for that.

Can you go into more about being an elected official at a very young age?

This is my father’s influence that I felt inside of me. He never pressured me into it. He was always involved in politics, so I wanted to be involved in that as well.

I would work on campaigns when I was growing up. Going door to door because that is what my father was doing, and I would go with him.

At 17, I had just graduated from high school and was working as a reporter at a local newspaper, and I was always thinking, “What can I do to make myself better, more successful?”

It wasn’t like a kid; I was always planning and always trying to do more.

And then, one day, I was at lunch, and it just came to me that I should be a city councilman. So I went and registered and won.

The first time I voted, my name was on the ballot, and I voted for myself twice. Because I ran for the precinct committeeman and a councilman, and I won both.

Because I wanted to be like my father.

Because of your drive, it’s clear to see why you’re so successful.

I wanted to go to college after high school and be like everyone else. But I said to myself, “I’ll never have to go to college. I’ll make it on my own.”

Stay tuned as we learn more about Scott Warmuth and the interesting life he has lived.

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Scott Warmuth – Part 1

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