Dick Weyand calls it the longest running show in show business.
It’s not the “Lion King” stage production or the musical “Cats.”
It’s the lunchtime extravaganza he has put on virtually every day since the early 1990s at Parkmead Elementary School in western Walnut Creek.
Weyand is not the principal or even a teacher at the school. He’s the custodian… and he’s one of the most popular adults on the campus, where the schoolchildren affectionately call him “Mr. Dick.”
“Taking this job was the best thing I ever did,” said Weyand. “I like the atmosphere of being around the kids.”
Besides the lunch shows, Weyand also oversees a program where a student gets to be “Mr. Dick” for a day. Parents pay $125 for the privilege with the money going to school programs.
Weyand picks up the child at their home, buys them a doughnut on the way to school and gives them a duplicate set of his janitor keys. They then hang around with him for most of the school day.
He does this about 50 times a year.
He also gives guitar lessons after school for musically inclined students. He even has a c-d out with some students from previous years singing back-up.
“The kids are great,” said Weyand. “They don’t care what job you have. They’re just interested in who you are.”
It was a long road to get to where Weyand is today.
He grew up in the Bay Area, graduating from Miramonte High School in 1968. He studied music and other subjects at the University of Colorado, U. C. Berkeley and Diablo Valley College.
While drifting through college, Weyand played in a number of bands, including The Dots. He did that for 25 years until about 1990 when he hit the age of 40 and realized he was literally getting too old to keep doing the late nights and the road trips.
“I felt the lifestyle wasn’t good for me,” Weyand recalled. “Plus, I came down with this terminal illness called paying the bills.”
There was an opening at the time for a gardener for the Walnut Creek School District. Weyand was at first reluctant to take the job because his father was a neurosurgeon and his uncle was a general in the U.S. Army.
“I finally decided we’d have enough success in the family,” joked Weyand. “I felt we needed to get back to our working roots.”
Weyand did the landscaping job for a year and eventually got hired as a custodian at Parkmead. He’s been doing the job with relish ever since.
“I’m really glad God had a plan for me because I didn’t,” Weyand said with a smile.
Things have worked out pretty well at Parkmead.
Weyand met his wife, Renee, at the school. She’s still a teacher there. They were married in 1999 at a church in Clayton with the reception at Parkmead. More than 800 people attended, including teachers, parents and students.
“It was a magical day,” said Weyand.
Weyand still records music at a studio he has fixed up in his garage called “Little Winterland.” It contains part of the floor from the famous Winterland club in San Francisco.
But most of all he gets to work around the kids.
Weyand and his wife weren’t able to have children, but he says they have the 521 kids at Parkmead.
His shows have also expanded with Parkmead Principal Chris Reddam getting in on the act on a regular basis.
The duo hands out awards to students such as those who have reached their goals in the campus walking club. They make announcements. They sing songs. And at the end Weyand supervises as the children toss the remains of their lunch into the appropriate recycling and trash cans.
Reddam says Weyand is not your typical school custodian.
“He’s so much more than that,” said Reddam. “His roots run deep here.”