SUPERIOR — For the first time this year, a couple will lead the parade during Superior's Victorian Festival as grand marshals. Lew and Pamela Hunter are the honorees for the parade, which begins 10:30 a.m. on May 24 and will emphasize this year's festival theme, “All Aboard.”
The theme is appropriate to the Hunters, festival committee member Bev Beavers said, as they are “all aboard” for whatever promotes Superior being all it can be.
The Hunters, who have family roots in the area, have become partners in community activism since making the decision to move their primary residence from California to Superior.
Lew retired in 1988 as chairman of the UCLA Department of Film and Television, and he and Pamela moved back to the house his parents had occupied in Superior prior to their deaths.
In 2001, they opened the Superior Screenwriting Colony in the historic Day House on Commercial Avenue. Twice each year, they invite people who want to become screenwriters, or better screenwriters, to a 14-day workshop. Lew gives the students the gist of what he taught in screenwriting classes at UCLA, and Pamela plays hostess. The students are involved in the life of the community while they are in town.
The Hunters are frequently gone from Superior, as Lew continues to teach part time at UCLA and leads workshops wherever in the world he is invited. Many of their recent absences have been for Lew to accept awards, like having the Best Screenwriting Award at the San Francisco Film Festival named for him.
The documentary film “Once in a Lew Moon,” soon to be released, chronicles the life of “this amazing man who has his fingerprint all over pop culture for the past five decades.”
When they are in Superior, they are heavily involved in the activities of South Central Area Rallying to Eliminate Drugs (SCARED), a group they were instrumental in organizing in October 2003.
The Hunters say they were dismayed upon moving back to Superior to find it had changed much more than they expected.
“I had fond memories of growing up in Guide Rock and Superior,” Lew said. “While I didn't think I was moving back to Mayberry, I didn't expect the proliferation of drugs and alcohol which we found.”
He said they discovered that drugs, including alcohol, were more of a problem in rural America than in the big cities like Los Angeles, Omaha, Chicago and New York.
For instance, he said, Nebraska is No. 1 in the country for youth binge drinking. He supports Mike Johanns' description of teenage drinking in Nebraska as “a rural holocaust.”
Pamela and Lew decided it was up to them to let everybody know about the problem.
They organized an area town hall meeting in the Nelson school gymnasium and imported a number of speakers, including then-U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, RNeb., to make the whole area aware of what drugs were doing to rural Nebraska. The schedule included time for groups from various communities to meet and discuss how to combat the problem. The Hunters became leaders of the people from Superior who showed interest.
That group evolved into SCARED, of which Lew is co-chairman. SCARED is involved in anti-drug educational activities. The group recently sponsored a talk at a Superior school assembly by Beatrice resident Patty Spady, who spoke of the death of her daughter, Sam, of alcohol poisoning and warned the students of the dangers young drinkers face. SCARED also sponsors alternative parties for youth, with help from juvenile grant funds from the Nebraska Department of Criminal Justice.
The Hunters were propelled even more into the drug problem about a year later when they got the job of raising their granddaughter, Pamela said. That granddaughter recently graduated from Boys Town with honors.
Lew's mother, Esther Hunter, had been state president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union when he was young. While he used to be embarrassed by her enthusiasm, he said, he guessed he must have inherited some of the zeal.
He now understands and subscribes to her rule: “Don't do anything illegal.” That certainly includes underage drinking and smoking, and use of illegal drugs, he said.
The Hunters are against making marijuana legal, “because it has been proven to do irreparable damage to chromosomes.”
They also are strongly convinced that the legal age for smoking cigarettes should be raised to 21.
Nicotine is the portal drug that leads people to methamphetamines, Lew said. “Not all cigarette smokers turn to meth, but all meth users started with cigarettes.”
In spite of these problems, the Hunters are not sad that they returned to Superior. “It's still a lot better than living in Los Angeles,” they said, pointing out that here they can leave their keys in the cars and their houses unlocked.
In addition, they said, the community is filled with people they love — people who care about each other, and will go the extra mile to help each other out.
“We want to keep positive things positive in Superior,” Lew said. “We want to keep the people we love safe.
“We see the beautiful children, 4, 5 and 6, and want to do what we can to pave the road they go down.”
While they know they can't save the world, they are doing what they can in their corner, and urging parents, grandparents and other adults to help.
“A lot of people are doing a lot, but it's not enough,” Pamela said.
On May 24, the community will recognize the Hunters' contributions to the community as they ride at the head of the parade celebrating Superior's heritage.