Back on a sunny day in May 2014...
A group of Riekes Alumni gathered for a Fernside Reunion to reminisce. The Riekes Center was born over 20 years ago out of Garys home, which at the time was located on Fernside Rd in Woodside CA. For more about the early years of the Riekes Center check out our interactive timeline on the history page. At the reunion, Fernside alumni Dave Osborne, shared his first impressions of the center, how he met Gary and the impact his experience has had on him and his family over the years:
Do you remember what year it was and how old you were when you first started at Fernside?
I started at Fernside in 1985 and I was twelve years old, going on thirteen. I was in between eighth grade and freshman year of high school.
Do you remember your first impressions of Gary? When you first met him?
My first impression of Gary was, “who is this guy?”. He could only really stand maybe thirty to forty minutes at a time, if that, and so we’d have one on one meetings in his room while he’s lying down in the hospital bed talking to us. He had a lot of great questions and he was incredibly welcoming. It was a good friendship from the start.
What were your first impressions of Fernside [as a twelve year old?
My first impressions of Fernside was “what in the world is this place?”. You pull up, it’s a nondescript house in the middle of the suburbs and you walk in and there’s equipment everywhere and people walking around. It’s just a little strange at first not knowing what I was getting myself into.
Talk about, if you can, what the rooms and other stuff like?
Every room had a different area of focus and there’s no furniture anywhere. I don’t think there were any chairs; the only chairs were in Gary’s room. And there was a kitchen that got put to use every now and then. But I remember, that summer, I spent a lot of time at the house and played ping pong in the backyard and cooked burgers and ate cheeseburgers. That’s when Gary put me on my “beefy dude diet”. It’s still a joke in the family today. I was a hundred and five pounds, soaking wet, as a freshman in high school and I think I was about five feet two inches. Gary put me on this beefy dude diet that I had to follow. He certainly helped me put on weight.
Did you get a sense that there was sort of something special going on at the Riekes Center, something magical? Did it feel unique to you?
I would definitely say that Fernside felt unique to me and like I said earlier, when I first talked to Gary, I definitely had an immediate connection to him. I embraced his philosophy of mutual respect and to treat each other how you want to be treated.That’s something that has stuck with me my whole life and now, as a dad, I’m trying to pass on those same principles to my kids that I certainly learned from Gary. I learned from my parents, but Gary was really the enforcer. And if you ever sort of crossed out of the boundaries of treating people how you want to be treated then you found out really quickly and he would suspend you and you couldn’t come for a month. And that would be the end of the world. You didn’t really want to not be able to go to Fernside.
One time I said something to somebody and I’ll never forget this. For the most part, I was a pretty good kid and treated everybody with a lot of respect and how I wanted to be treated. But I do remember one time I was commenting on (I was trying to compliment) somebody about how muscular he looked and he had like indentations in his back from the muscles because they were so big and I was like wow! It turned out he was sensitive about that and Gary pulled me aside afterwards and said, “I know you didn’t mean anything but he was sensitive about it” and [Gary] said “you get one warning”. I’ll never forget that because it was so important to be able to workout there and be a part of Fernside.
Fernside, for me, started out as a place to workout and socialize and make friends while working on improving myself but then it became so much more to me. I spent every summer there through high school, for the most part, but maybe not my senior year but certainly sophomore and junior years working there and working for Gary. I remember going on Costco runs, Price Club back then, doing the Price Club runs and buying burgers. I started taking other people through their workouts as well. Another thing I really liked about the work is there was an equalizing factor around Fernside. I was just a kid, thirteen-fourteen years old, but I would take adults through workouts, seniors in high school through workouts. And there was just, back to that whole thing of mutual respect; I never felt younger or inferior to anybody else. That was certainly special. It was definitely a mentor rich environment.
Two words, chest springs.
You know, the resistance, internal resistance, chest springs brings it down or up. I’ve never really seen that anywhere else, in any other gym were these chest springs. I loved the chest springs and I loved the burn and I loved when Gary would come up after. After doing these chest springs he would push on you and you would feel the burn, you would definitely feel the burn from the chest springs. After the chest springs you would go to the mirror and do the flexes. That’s immediate gratification and the reward for working out hard. And we did, we worked out hard and put in a lot of long hours. I will tell you, that that rigor and also the regimen of working out became so ingrained through those high school years that it’s still a huge part of my life. I’m not a huge weight guy anymore but I still, fitness is incredibly important to me, it helps me clear my mind and so that’s remained, which I credit Gary for. It’s remained an important part of my life.
And overall goal setting, what would you say it is?
Absolutely overall goal setting, for sure. Starting with the beefy dude diet and having to gain two pounds every week or every couple of weeks and wanting to try and get to that goal. The feeling of accomplishment when you get there, it was great.