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Remember Flash?
 

There are many people whose names bring back fond memories of our years in Torrance.  But possibly no other person more than the bicycle riding, harmonic playing, basketball shooting, bell ringing friend of all of ours during those times - Flash.  We knew him when he was riding a red and silver Schwinn, and according to the articles during his better years.  Many thanks to Kathy Bergen Rossier for finding archived stories from the Daily Breeze files about him which have been copied below.  We may not have all known each other during our four years at Torrance High School, but EVERYONE knew Flash!


 


Flash -- A True Tartar; Torrance High Pays Tribute to Unique Volunteer
May 16, 1984

Most of the students at Torrance High School never knew Flash.

That's a shame, say his old friends, because Flash was the kind of guy who exhibited a lot of love.  As he got older and more difficult, he also taught his friends tolerance.

To preserve the memory of Flash for the young people he adored, Torrance High School has established a collection of his most prized possessions in the school's trophy case.

Included are a yellow, single- speed bicycle, a harmonica, a whistle and a cow bell -- symbols of a man who, according to former Principal Carl Ahee, only wanted "a little involvement, not necessarily recognition.  Just something to make life a little better for somebody else."

"Flash -- A True Tartar," reads the plaque honoring the man who spent countless hours assisting the school's athletic teams.  The plaque was donated by Dr. John Steward, a Torrance physician.

Teen-agers on the way to class quickly pass the trophy case.  Some, however, have stopped to notice the memorial.

"They usually ask what the bike is in there for," said John O'Brien, vice principal.

The bicycle was Flash's only transportation.  He pedaled for miles every day, visiting friends in Torrance and at the beach.  It was while riding his yellow Schwinn on Oct. 25, 1982, that Flash was struck by a car in Torrance and killed at the age of 76. He was wearing the whistle and cow bell the day of the accident.

His real name was Glen Waltemar Sorenson, but few knew it.  He was nicknamed Flash because of his quick ball shagging for the Chicago White Sox, which held spring training in Pasadena during the 1950s.

Nobody knows exactly when Flash first rode his bicycle onto the Torrance High School campus, but he quickly established himself as a dedicated volunteer for Tartar sports.  Among his duties were picking up towels, keeping track of uniforms and shagging balls.

"Flash went in the bus on every trip.  He took in every game," said Will Boerger, a Torrance teacher who coached a string of championship basketball teams in the 1960s.

Most of the basketball fans during those years remember Flash's halftime antics.  He loved to show off his underhand shot from half-court.

"I make those 40-footers like nothing," he used to say.

The harmonica was Flash's second passion.

His dream was to play the instrument for Johnny Carson and the millions of television viewers of "The Tonight Show."  Flash carried the harmonica with him on his bicycle tours of the area and he'd play it for anybody who would listen.

Toward the end, Flash grew increasingly obnoxious and those who knew him say a mean streak became more pronounced.  Once the friend of students, the old man on the bicycle began to draw their ridicule and taunts.

Flash had a simple funeral out of town with only a handful of friends and distant relatives.  According to Boerger, many of Flash's friends were disappointed that no funeral was held in Torrance.

Boerger and two other friends from Torrance were pallbearers.

"If it hadn't been for us three, they wouldn't have got the casket up the hill," he said.
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Torrance High's Memorial to Flash Falls Victim to Theft
Sep 11, 1984

Bicycle theft is far from a rare occurrence in the South Bay, where pedal-powered transportation can eclipse the internal combustion variety on any given beach day.

But this theft, on a muggy Sunday morning in Torrance, was different.  It wasn't just another Strand cruiser that turned up missing.  This yellow Schwinn with the big wire basket is to bicycles what Elvis Presley's custom Cadillac is to automobiles.

This bike belonged to Flash.

It was stolen from a trophy case in the Torrance High School gym, where a memorial was set up four months ago for the unofficial longtime mascot of the Torrance Tartars.  Glen Waltemar Sorenson -- known only as Flash to nearly everybody -- was killed in October 1982 when he was struck by a car
on a Torrance street.

He left behind little known past and even less known family.  But the 76-year-old Flash, who had assisted Torrance High teams since the early 1960s, was not forgotten.  The memorial was established in May, displaying all of his prized possessions -- a harmonica, a whistle, a cow bell and,
of course, the single-speed bicycle that was his only transportation.

With it was a plaque: "Flash -- A True Tartar."

At 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when men playing a pickup basketball game noticed that someone had broken the lock on the trophy case and stolen Flash's bicycle, the plaque also was discovered missing.  Apparently the thief or thieves saw some hidden value in the wooden plaque and the harmonica, whistle and cow bell attached to it.

"I can't imagine why.  I just can't imagine why," said Dr. John Steward, Torrance surgeon who donated the plaque.  "There are sick people around all over, but it's always a shame when the vandals hurt the school.  I feel very badly about that."

Steward said he had donated the plaque after seeing Flash pedal around the area for more than 20 years.

"He was a nice man, he was an unfortunate man, he was known and liked by a lot of people in Torrance for many years and was somewhat of an institution," said Steward.

Flash meant many things to many people.  To some, he was just an old man who always turned up on his bike no matter where you were in the South Bay. To others, he was the harmonica player who dreamed of playing on "The Tonight Show" or the funny little ball-shagger who scurried around the floor at halftime of basketball games, shooting -- and sinking -- old-style underhand shots from 40 feet out.

To more recent Torrance High students, he might be remembered as a mean old man with a nasty temper -- a role that became more prevalent toward the end of his life.

But to current "Tartars" with a sense of history, Flash was another dusty memory in a trophy case.  A tradition.  And now, even that's gone.

"It's really frustrating," said Torrance High Principal Harold Klonecky. "When things have a sentimental value to the school . . . to have someone do this is just a disservice to the rest of the kids.

"Because this belongs to all of them and their parents and grandparents, I just think it's a shame that someone would do that for a selfish motive."

There is hope that the bike will be retrieved.  Klonecky said the school has "a very good lead" on who may have stolen it and is planning an appeal to the students for information.  Steward said he hopes the "old-timers who knew him will spot the bike."  And Torrance police also are investigating the case.

But the nature of the crime is still disturbing.  As one of the men who discovered the theft put it, "It's pretty cheesy to steal a dead man's bicycle."
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Peking Bicycle Story Brings Back a Flash From The Past
Mar 26, 1986

It's funny how little things can trigger silly memories.  I read this insignificant story out of Peking the other day about an 85-year- old man who had bicycled more than 8,600 miles through China since 1982. It reminded me of a story Flash told me more than 10 years ago.

If you've lived in the South Bay long, you probably remember Flash, who was 76 when he died in 1982 after his bike was struck by a car.

He was born Glen Waltermar Sorensen in Minnesota 80 years ago, but became Flash while helping out when the Chicago White Sox trained in Pasadena in the early 1950s. I never heard him called Glen.

He became the self-described mascot for athletic teams at Torrance High and a regular at bars in the area, where he'd play his harmonica and customers would buy him a beer.  He could be cantankerous, particularly in the later years, but mostly he wanted to be your friend.  He once won on the Gong Show, playing his harmonica.  His ambition was to play on the Tonight Show.

But, if you remember Flash, almost certainly the memories are of him riding that old, one-speed bike throughout Torrance and the beach cities, a maroon Torrance High baseball cap on his head.  Often he'd use just one hand for the bike, leaving the other to guide the harmonica.  He had never driven a car.

When I interviewed him for a story in 1974, Flash revealed that he had ridden that rusted, bandaged, then 17-year-old bike -- and four predecessors during 34 years he had kept track -- more than 6 million miles.  Each day, he said, he faithfully recorded the mileage from the bike's odometer.

I tried to explain to him that to ride that far in 34 years would have required almost 500 miles every single day.  In that case, Flash said, producing a log book, that's what he'd done.

As it turned out, if the odometer began at 3,460 miles and Flash rode eight miles that day, he'd add 3,468 to his previous total.  I didn't point out the basic error and I avoided the subject in the story I wrote.  He was already having problems with some kids making fun of him.

But I've always thought of it when I've thought of Flash.  And I don't think he'd mind, anymore, if you had a chuckle at his expense.

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