Posted by in Dr Ken Leistner on September 1, 2017 Comments off

The easily identified positives about TITAN SUPPORT SYSTEMS’ location in Corpus Christi, Texas is access to an international port, a dependable shipping and delivery system with the presence of the nation’s largest carriers in the city, and a headquarters relatively centralized within the remainder of the nation. There is also the positive psychological benefit of having many long time friends and acquaintances providing loyal employment dedication to the company as TITAN functions in full, within the founder and owner’s hometown. I have noted in past columns/blogs that Pete began the business in his garage, with his mother set behind a sewing machine, producing the very first squat suits, and later, bench press shirts. A few months ago I sent a box to Pete and right hand man Isiah, a box that could have passed for a time capsule. One of the early collegiate strength and conditioning coaches who had also been a competitive powerlifter, was kind enough to reach out, contact me, and send a box of TITAN lifting suits from the 1983 – 1985 period of time and a few of the company’s original bench press shirts. I in turn sent these to Pete and Isiah for both their enjoyment and historical appreciation. The company and those representing TITAN have a definite presence on the local and regional lifting scenes and of course, the products reach an international audience and are used world-wide.

The disadvantage of being located in Corpus Christi, Texas is the definite presence and annual threats of catastrophic hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane Harvey as the world knows, has caused millions of dollars worth of property damage, the deaths of many, and the dismantling of entire families and their very existence. Our home area suffered the wrath of Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy. Although the official date of reaching landfall on Long Island is noted as October 29, 2012, significant effects were being felt on October 28th. Today, five years later in August of 2017, our village still has partially constructed homes, damaged and abandoned businesses, and lives that will never recover from the devastation of the storm. In May of 1973 I was briefly at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi and spent a day walking the streets less than fifteen miles “down the road” in Gulfport. Hurricane Camille, an August 1969 event that is noted to this day as “the second most powerful hurricane to reach landfall in the United States,” had literally flattened and burned most of the Mississippi coast with entire towns and cities being wiped off of the map. Those horrible events almost a full three years afterwards, literally defined Gulfport and that portion of the state. I was so surprised and shocked by the damage that appeared to have occurred but weeks previously, that it was almost as if I was again looking at photos of Berlin or various Japanese cities at the conclusion of World War II. Main streets were devoid of businesses, entire buildings were skeletonized, and it seemed as if everyone I met talked of nothing else other than “The Hurricane,” and “ the effects of the hurricane” on their personal relationships, employment, living situation, family members, and every other aspect of their lives. Hurricane Camille defined them as well as affected them. I am certain that the effects of Hurricane Harvey in the Corpus Christi/Houston area and surrounding region will be very much the same just as Katrina was in Louisiana and Mississippi and Sandy was in our region.

Not our beachside community of Point Lookout, overwhelmed by expected flooding but instead, a photo of downtown Manhattan, definitely not a beach community, completely flooded by Hurricane Donna in September of 1960

I had only been lifting weights on a regular basis for a bit more than a year at the time that the Long Island and New York City Metropolitan region was struck by Hurricane Donna in September of 1960. I was old enough to realize the absolute danger of this event, especially when it was reported that the sustained winds of this gigantic storm were remaining in the 115 – 160 miles per hour range longer than any other hurricane in reported history. We lived in a small beach front community surrounded by water on three sides, eleven streets running east to west intersected by three roads perpendicular to those, all with little protection from the Atlantic Ocean and some homes literally yards from the water at an elevation ranging from “actually a bit below sea level” to seven feet. Walking one block from our home to the beach underscored everyone’s concerns about high tides and flooding. I of course helped my father board the windows and place sandbags around the foundation of my uncle’s house that we resided in, building what was literally a high wall of sand-filled burlap bags directly in front of the garage.

Even at the beginning of my lifting activities, I trained in the garage and frequently rolled my weights outside onto the lawn. Our street had but six houses on it with an empty lot next to us that was used as a local de facto garbage dump and junkyard, thus there was little chance of disturbing any of the neighbors with my huffing and puffing, banging of weights, or occasional expletives. Of course, being completely dedicated to becoming muscularly larger and stronger, even at the age of twelve when I began my lifetime and ongoing quest, I trained too frequently for best results and often, whenever the opportunity presented itself. With a day off from school or anything else because of the presentation of what is still one of the most horrific hurricanes in history, what would be more enjoyable and just “better” than lifting weights? After our house was as protected as we could make it, my father assisted others with their hurricane preparations but as “a kid,” it was felt that I had done my duty in buttoning up our home and I was left to my own devices. Of course my father believed I would remain indoors to take care of any damage or anything else that needed to be done in the face of the hurricane but instead, I opted to lift. Not wishing to disturb anything in and around the house that was so carefully constructed to protect the residence against the weather’s onslaught, I carried my bar and assorted flywheels and junkyard lifting items out to the lawn where in the face of the heavy rains that began at approximately the same time I started my workout, and the 130 mile per hour winds, I trained.

It would not be a surprise to know that the neighbors who witnessed what I thought was a very reasonable approach to getting through the hurricane, thought I had in fact succumbed to mental illness. When my father came home, feeling it was no longer safe for any living thing to be out of doors, he stared at me and most significantly, stared at the rather large grin on my face, and said no more than, “You are out of your fucking mind” before he went inside the house to change clothing and seek out a warm, safe place to sit and ride out the hurricane. Of course, I completed my workout under the circumstances, brought my weights indoors, dried each one off with towels, changed into dry clothing, and suffered the deflating looks of my father who said nothing further about what he believed to be the onset of an unnamed emotional disorder. Unfortunately, tragically as it is in all natural or weather related disasters, 364 individuals lost their lives during Hurricane Donna and just as unfortunately, the death and destruction from Hurricane Harvey will extract an enormous physical and emotional burden. However, I look back on my “kid based behavior” not only as a portend of what became my future relative to my training activities but of the necessity to carry on, move forward, and be as resilient and productive as possible in the face of adversity.