Being twins can be cool, especially when both are CHP traffic officers.
Now having retired as sergeants, Gary and Larry Burlingame both graduated from East Union High School with the class of 1972. They went on to get their associate in arts degrees at Delta College before going to the California Highway Patrol Academy in Sacramento – Larry in 1979 and Gary in 1981.
Larry chuckled as they chatted over breakfast at Johnny’s Restaurant this past week saying they would ride together on their commute to Delta, except when Larry wanted to stop and see his girl, Donna, on the way to school. They were later married.
One difference in the twins was obvious when they ordered their breakfast. Larry asked that his eggs be prepared “over easy,” while Gary had his “scrambled.” There’s no end to the chatter between them and it’s all good.
They both laughed when they said they weren’t sure who was actually who. A babysitter years ago had been told to be sure to put them back in their correct bassinettes – but their parents questioned whether that had actually happened.
So Larry could really be Gary or in retrospect, Gary could be Larry.
Fresh out of the academy, Larry’s first assignment was Oakland and Gary went to Hayward. They were eventually assigned to offices and beats closer to home. Gary worked in Tracy and Larry in the Stockton region that included Manteca.
They have a couple of their favorite stories from their tenure in black and whites on the road in San Joaquin County. One involved both stopping the same speeder within 20 minutes and another was a mystified a Caltrans supervisor who took double takes and couldn’t believe his eyes.
Larry had been patrolling on westbound Highway 120 near Airport Way when he clocked a motorist traveling above the speed limit. After a short pursuit he pulled the man over who was on his way to the Bay Area. The man wasn’t too happy with the time the citation was taking. Driving on, he caught the attention of another CHP officer across the river in Tracy. It was brother Gary who made a similar traffic stop – for speeding – on the freeway.
Gary said the motorist’s response was heated and claimed the officer was harassing him by following his vehicle from the first stop and citing him a second time. He demanded to talk to his commander where he could file a complaint. Gary remembers sending him to the Tracy CHP office. The lieutenant looked at both citations and showed the upset motorist that the signatures were different.
“These were two different officers,” Gary recalls the Lt. telling the driver.
His response: “They both looked the same to me!”
Fog near the San Joaquin River Bridge and Interstate 5 had been the cause of major injury and fatal accidents in past years. One series of crashes had a Caltrans supervisor scratching his head in disbelief when the twins ended up walking into the fog and out again dressed differently.
As the twins tell it, Gary was headed for work in Tracy when a pileup of some 20 cars plugged the freeway with a fatal occurring on the bridge. Unable to get across the bridge from Manteca, Gary parked along the shoulder. An officer at the scene asked his help with charting the positions of the many vehicles shrouded by the heavy fog.
Gary said he didn’t have any paper with him and no pen. The officer gave him a pencil and they ripped the top flap off of a box of flares and took a tape measure to record positions. Laughing, the long time CHP officer said he walked off into the fog toward the bridge in front of his public information officer Ken Milligan and the Caltrans supervisor.
Meanwhile brother Larry was already on the scene and taking similar measurements from the other side of the bridge, walking toward the south side where the Caltrans supervisor remained at his post.
Having seen Gary walk into the fog in civilian clothes with a tape measure, he was taken aback to see brother Larry coming out of the fog – thinking it was the same officer. After seeing this in and out of the fog exchange several times, he questioned the CHP public information officer, asking, “What is it with this guy?”
The twins recalled his off-the-cuff reply, “We’ve been having problems with that officer for the last few months. We can’t keep him dressed in the same clothes for more than five minutes.”
Eventually the brothers walked out of the fog bank together.
They said they usually worked opposite shifts out of separate offices, however Larry would often be assigned to maximum enforcement details in Tracy as well as San Andreas and Modesto. Gary worked special assignments in Modesto, Stockton and Dublin even handling a roll over crash on a dirt road that bordered the San Jose CHP region while working out of Tracy.
Larry remembers one time they were working together in the Tracy area – one on Highway 132 and the other on Interstate 580.
“Gary stopped this woman for speed while I was headed to 580 anyway. I pulled in behind him as he was writing her a ticket. The driver is looking at me and back and forth at him. I told her not to worry, we all look alike in uniform,” Larry quipped.
Gary is working several days a week as an emergency medical technician (EMT) with son Brandon at the Mule Creek Prison in the foothills doing drug testing and as emergency care service for workers at the new prison hospital under construction.
Both agreed to similar problems with people thinking they are recognizing them on the street. They said they are skilled with face recognition with people they have met. Often those people saying hi or smiling when they see them out in public think they are talking to the other brother – they often don’t have a clue who is greeting them – brother’s friend or a past arrest.
Before they retired Gary had suffered a triple blockage of arteries to his heart. Larry was immediately contacted and told he needed to be checked out – finding a main artery blockage in his chest as well. Fortunately both survived what could have been a more critical junction in their lives and returned to duty.
Larry has a daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren living in Mt. Shasta. His son-in-law is Brian Hoskins a CHP officer in that region where he is also a training and weapons officer and range master. Nick Hunter is Larry’s son-in-law working as a traffic officer in Hayward. Larry also has a nephew in Dublin working for the CHP.
Larry and his wife Donna have been married for 41 years and Gary and Diane were wed 34 years ago.
Larry had worked from 1972 to 1979 at Save Mart Market in Manteca before joining the patrol. They played football for their first two years in high school followed by soccer and track.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email email@example.com or call 209.249.3539.