My thoughts about Hal Stone

Everyone who knew Hal has lost a friend. And my tears for him were shed when I sat down with my daughter Wednesday evening, and gently told her he was gone…I found it impossible to hold it together when she ran into my arms weeping.

But now, I’d rather tell a few stories, most of which make me laugh. Understand, most of these stories are from my perspective, which is going to be a little different than anyone else’s. Many will be punctuated with photos, or video, or audio…I like to think Hal would appreciate that, especially considering how he put his book together visually, organizing the layout via graphics and then writing the text to match. And I know this, because I was around during that time…I got to see early drafts of chapters, and was the “go-to” guy when it came to doing non-standard things with the computer software he was using. You might recognize the photo on the right as the one from the cover of his book…but look at it carefully, as this was the way that publicity photo looked originally before Hal added the “S” on Jughead’s shirt, the buttons on his cap, and the other design elements he preferred over the original. If he were here now, I’d also probably say he spent hours making the guy in the photo more handsome, to which he would have a mildly obscene rejoinder. (That he inscribed this photo to me is an alteration from the original you couldn’t pay me to remove.) I don’t profess to have his eye for design, and he’d probably have a fistful of suggestions to make this look better, but I’ll do what I can to make him proud.

See, I know most of you know him as “Jughead” on The Adventures of Archie Andrews, or from his postings on the Internet OTR Digest, or some of you may have known him from the time he spent in Lois Culver’s IRC chat room (I post a note about it every week in the Digest), his frequent appearances at OTR Conventions around the country (FOTR in Newark, NJ; REPS in Seattle, WA; the Cincinnati OH OTR and Nostalgia Convention, etc.), and of course the book he wrote and promoted every chance he got. But I mostly knew him by phone and email…heck, he didn’t really “meet” me face-to-face until the book was about finished at the…what…2002 Cincinnati convention, I think? (Actually, we had met before, at the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention in 1994 where I got his autograph in my program book, but he wouldn’t remember that.) I had driven all night to get to Cincy (last time I tried that stunt!), and was exhausted while he was rested and full of energy as I ran into him in the hall. I smiled, he smiled and nodded at yet another fan as he walked past, and I said, “Um, Hal…” and he stopped dead, turned around, and shouted, “Charlie!” and engulfed me in a bear hug. It wasn’t until later that day he started calling me “Curly,” something he never stopped – especially when we were having a political argument.

To back up a little, we had emailed back-and-forth a good bit about the hobby and his place in it…I encouraged him to dive in head-first, knowing that almost every OTR fan would be interested in his stories. He sent me a packet of photographs containing hand-written comments and stories (with a request that I keep them, and even their existence, to myself – something I have done until now), most of which eventually made it into his book, and one montage that is something I treasure:

He mentioned he wanted to write a book about his years as a commercial director for television, a book sadly never to be, and I suppose you’ll have to blame me for that. I worked to gently convince him that there was a ready-made market for his experiences in radio…during that time he told me many of the stories over the telephone that eventually made it into the book, and I have to admit I have often wished I had recordings of those calls. I was an appreciative audience, and let’s face it, the guy could be seriously funny.

He eventually started to think the OTR book would make for a better start, writing the TV book later. He was, seriously, like a kid when working on the book…even when the Macintosh balked at something he wanted to do, he was filled with a fire for the project you just can’t believe. I suggested he find an editor for the book (while I admit to majoring in English in the distant past, I’m not the guy to go to for proofreading, as those who read this blog can attest), and slowly the entire thing came together.

Those of you who have Hal’s book may have seen this paragraph in the Acknowledgments section: “The reader will have to thank, (or blame) Charlie Summers for encouraging and inspiring me to write this ‘epic’. I thank him profusely for his help, and patience, with my computer illiteracy.” But what you can’t see is the inscription he wrote in my copy of the book: “To Charlie AKA Curly!!! This book is all your fault. I hope you’re satisfied. Regards, Hal (Harlan) Stone ‘Jughead’ to you!” (For whatever it’s worth, I wasn’t satisfied…I wanted more stories. Still do, darnit.)

But you would have had to have been at the Friends of Old Time Radio convention on October 25, 2002 to hear him call for a…er…Stone-ing:

While you’re watching this short video clip, a quick note: I haven’t seen this recording in years, and could have sworn Hal put his head in his hand and said, “Oh, hell…blame Charlie…” As you can see, he didn’t; but I have such a powerful memory of this that I’m certain he said it somewhere or another, so if anyone remembers where he gave that line, which I’d like to have engraved on my tombstone, please let me know.

I take no credit for the content of his book, and certainly can take none in its layout, but I am pleased as punch to admit my small role in being a noodge to get Hal to write it in the first place, and helping him work with the software to get it to do what he wanted it to do. While he was writing the book, there were relatively frequent telephone calls back-and-forth, and we’d also do some private chatting in the IRC chat room on Starlink-IRC hosted by Lois Culver. I’m sorry that in the last year or two Hal didn’t have as much time to visit in the chat room as he used to, and I know the folks there missed his visits. But now, of course, I could kick myself that I didn’t spend more time with him on the telephone in the last year or so…we both had other things to do, and as so frequently happens time got away from us until suddenly there’s no time left.

Not every telephone call I had with Hal was private, by the way. Last year, Hal appeared on Walden Hugues’ program on Yesterday USA, and while I was listening I noticed he didn’t give the name of his book. I mean, c’mon…how you gonna sell any books if you don’t tell people what it’s called? Click the play button over there to hear our short conversation. [audio:]

Ok, let me take a break here from any sense of chronology and tell you my favorite Hal Stone story…the one where he is a bad influence on my daughter. A few years ago, Hal and Dorothy were on a cross-country drive, and while in the neighborhood spent a night in York. They came over to the house, and we went out for a leisurely dinner at Red Lobster. It was a weeknight, so we gave our name to the hostess, and headed off to the bar; Hal swept Katie (who’s eight now, so she was…what…five or six?) off her feet and onto a barstool, called the bartender over and ordered her first Shirley Temple, extra cherry. The two of them were inseparable most of the evening…when Hal went out for a quick smoke after dinner, Katie went along. And when Annie went to get her, so she wouldn’t be a bother to Hal, Hal told Annie to go back inside, the two of them were just fine, thank-you-very-much. “Thick as thieves” would not be an exaggeration for the two of ’em whenever they were together.

Flash-forward a few months; we had spent the day doing Christmas shopping as well as shopping for clothing, and we were all pretty tired and hungry. When we passed the Red Lobster, I figured Annie owed me an “Ultimate Fondue” (I love that darned bread-bowl appetizer filled with cheese and seafood), so in we went. It was again a weeknight, so I gave our name to the hostess, and as I turned away, my sweet little daughter, in her loudest little-girl voice, proclaimed, “DADDY, I NEED A DRINK!” and headed straight to the bar, clambered up on a barstool, and sat pretty-as-you-please waiting for the barkeep to take her order.

Every head in the waiting area whipped around to her, and then to the irresponsible father who would allow such a thing to happen…those who know me will not be surprised that I dissolved into uncontrollable laughter. And you can bet when we got home I sent Hal an email describing the event, blaming him for turning my sweet, innocent child into a barfly. I only hope he laughed so hard at the situation he wet himself…it would have served him right!

Hal was a staple at recent OTR conventions. Heck, you couldn’t round a corner without him charging past you. I tried at least once or twice at each convention to step outside with him for a smoke…I mean, he smoked, I sniffed that sweet aroma from afar. (For those who don’t know, I am a smoker who hasn’t had a cigarette since the day my daughter was born.) He quit smoking with relative frequency, but usually the next time I saw him I was able to grab a whiff or two of second-hand from him.

We’ll take a little break here, and throw up some photos from a few conventions Hal attended – just click on the photo for a larger version:

The 2004 Cincy convention; Hal is drawing a clown for Katie to color. (The result is here.)

Dorothy can’t leave Hal alone for a minute…

Ah, now she has him settled down again.

Er…ok, maybe not….

2004 FOTR Convention; Hal Stone, preparing for a One-on-One panel.

Hal Stone interviews Joyce Van Patten.

Dorothy and Hal Stone

2002 FOTR Convention; Tommy Cook, Hal Stone, and…er…me. I’ll get to this in a minute.

I also promised Craig Wichman, he of the Quicksilver Radio Theater, I’d post some pics of Hal from the 2006 FOTR Convention, so…

Hal Stone, Michael Gwynne, and Jeff David rehearse an episode of Gunsmoke

Hal and Jeff again, with Cliff Carpenter seated, during the rehearsal of Julius Caesar

Hal Stone rehearsing Shakespeare. Ok, you gotta admit, this is a far cry from Jughead…

Craig Wichman, Jeff David, and Hal Stone rehearsing Caesar.
Taken during the production. Larry Conroy as Caesar, Simon Jones as Marc Anthony, and Hal Stone as the Soothsayer. (Director Arthur Anderson can be seen wearing the headphones.)

Craig Wichman as Cassius, and Hal Stone as Cinna – Hal doubled in this production. (The redhead in the foreground is my daughter Katie.)

As anyone who frequents the Digest knows, Hal’s politics were a bit conservative; or at least he liked to think so. We had boatloads of arguments over the years about politics, primarily because I kept proclaiming my ability to argue any side of an issue I understood, so I was easy to bait. He was almost always wildly conservative, but occasionally he would, without realizing it, start expressing a leftist position (primarily on social issues), while still convinced he was an arch-conservative, which put me in the odd position of arguing the conservative position against someone who was convinced he was right-wing. I saw no reason to dissuade him of that delusion, though, and after almost every argument there was a ribald joke, and if we were in the same place, a drink. I’m gonna miss those arguments…

Thing is, when someone dies, we have a tendency to elevate them to sainthood…George Carlin did a bit on that in one of his comedy albums back in the 70’s; “He was an *sshole…but a well-meaninged one!” Hal could get cranky when he was tired, there were people, places, and things he did not appreciate and was not meek about letting you know, and he had a bunch of other characteristics that add humanity to us all. There were some things I chose not to discuss with him, and things I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to raise with me. The bottom line, though, is that Hal was a good man, a great friend, and he made my daughter laugh. All the rest of it is just distraction.

Speaking of my daughter and her Uncle Hal, this photo was taken at the 2006 FOTR Convention; Hal was holding the Katester, and the two of them together were a dangerous combination at the best of times. As you can see, while I was taking snapshots, Katie decided to get silly – of course, I didn’t realize it until we came home and looked at the photos. I have a “real” pic of Hal holding her (everyone who’s seen me at a convention knows I shoot hundreds of photos every day, always bracketing a shot to make sure I get it), but this one cracked me up. Not being able to resist, we sent Hal and Dorothy a Christmas card last year with that photo on the front.

Understand, Hal emailed Katie as much or more than he did me in the last few years. Anytime he found silly animal photos, he sent them to her, usually with a short note. And they were highly anticipated, not only by Katie, but by me; whenever Uncle Hal sent her a set of pictures, she’d come home from school, climb into my lap, and we’d go through them together, giggling at the silliness of a squirrel being raised by a dog, or a cat sleeping curled up with a mouse. The last letter that came in here from Hal before he entered the hospital was addressed to her:

      Hi Katie, the cross eyed cutup.
 Next time we take a picture...wait and see the face I make. HA!

I kept all of his letters to Katie, with the pics, and I’m sure sometime we’ll revisit them and laugh again at them…but we’re both going to miss getting those silly letters from Uncle Hal to Katie, and I’m especially sorry I won’t get to see them make funny faces at each other this April in Cincy. I was planning on videotaping that.

I suppose I really should address Jughead somewhere along the line. Hal seemed a little conflicted toward the character; he loved the guy, and the opportunities it gave him not only throughout his life but even contemporarily with us at the conventions. At the same time, he seemed to grow weary of doing that voice (whenever anyone said they were surprised he could still do that voice, I always told them with a straight face that the Jughead voice was his real one, and that deeper one was the put-on) and performing Juggy…he was more than that voice, and preferred performing other roles in the radio recreations. It must have been tough on Hal, Bob Hastings, and Rosemary Rice – they were a “surviving cast,” and so were asked to perform Archie Andrews scripts with painful frequency. Hum…I guess with Hal’s passing, this stops being an issue for Bob and Rosemary. (*sigh*)

But Hal was Jughead P. Jones, and as such I guess I almost have to face that head-on with a few clips.

In 1948, The Adventures of Archie Andrews did a program where Mr. Andrews decides to save some money by wallpapering the living room. Of course, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. This is a short clip from that 1948 broadcast.
This clip is from the 1994 Friends of Old Time Radio Convention; the actors you’ll see are Joan Shay as Mrs. Andrews, Hal Stone as Jughead, Bob Hastings as Archie, and John Rayburn as Mr. Andrews. The short scene when Jughead shows up recreates the scene in the audio clip on the left, and then a small snippet after the performance where Hal and Bob one-up each other, something those of us fortunate enough to see them together over the years looked forward to witnessing.

Time for me to get back to that one photo up there, with Tommy Cook, Hal Stone, and me on stage. At the 2002 FOTR Convention, Gary Yoggy apparently became desperate enough in casting a recreation directed by Tommy Cook that he asked me if I’d like to participate. Understand, I haven’t done any acting for anyone other than my daughter since my late twenties or early thirties (that’s a part of my life most of my current friends don’t know anything about), and anyone who’s heard it knows my voice is not my most attractive feature, but I knew Arthur Anderson was participating, and if I did this show I’d always be able to say I performed with a member of The Mercury Theater, so I cheerfully said yes.

When we gathered for rehearsal, I realized Hal was my “superior officer,” and we were acting together. We did the first run-through where I made a really amateur mistake (no, I’m not telling you what it was, since this is my blog and I don’t have to embarrass myself here), and shortly after my short scene Tommy stopped the rehearsal for a moment. Hal looked at me with a really odd look on his face, and said softly and with a pronounced sense of surprise bordering on amazement, “Charlie…you’re not…that…bad…”

So, I performed this small role (“There are no small roles, only small actors…” and I ain’t a small actor!) apparently well enough that I received no notes from the director, and a, “holy crap, you don’t suck!” from Hal. A serious win-win, so far as I’m concerned. Please excuse my ego in sharing this short scene from Paul Reversky with Bobb Lynes, Tommy Cook, Hal Stone, and your obedient servant:

Hal turned seventy-five last year. I knew it, I mean, I can read a calendar as well as the next guy, but it didn’t feel right. Hal had the drive of a man half his age, and frankly could run rings around me, a man a quarter-century his junior. You just couldn’t think of Hal as a man in his mid-seventies…you couldn’t think of him as being any age, really; he was so forceful he just…was. “Old” or “young” didn’t seem to have any meaning when you were with him.

Ok, ok, one more photograph, this one thanks to Jim Widner, taken outside at the Cincinnati convention. See, Katie isn’t the only one who cuts-up around Hal.

Alright, I’m done with the multimedia extravaganza; it isn’t that I don’t have lots more sound, video, and photos of my friend, it’s that I want to spend a moment waxing philosophically…something Hal would have absolutely detested. Let’s face it; the reason so many of us are having so much trouble coming to grips with Hal’s death is that it’s almost inconceivable that someone with such a powerful life-force could be taken away from us…it’s unbelievable that someone so vibrant…so alive…could be gone. We grieve that there will be no more performances…no more stories…no more more drinks. But we can rejoice that, by giving each of us some of that amazing and dynamic personality, he can’t really be gone…not completely. A part of him will live on in everyone who knew him – and when you get right down to it, that’s not a bad way to go out.

Some audio and video used in this post are with the kind permission of Jay Hickerson, Walden Hughes, and Fred Berney.
Also special thanks to Ken Stockinger; without his help the 2006 FOTR Con pics would not exist.

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10 Responses to My thoughts about Hal Stone

  1. joe martelle says:

    thanks, Charlie, for the memories and your personal reflections about ‘Hal.’
    It was also great to see the photo montage and video clips, you put together.
    Thanks also, for sharing a ‘slice of your life’ with us. Nice job, my friend.

  2. Al Girard says:

    Charlie, that was a wonderful way to say goodbye to a friend.

    I never did meet Hal, but I did exchange a couple of emails with him after I ordered his book, and,
    of course, I participated in some of the threads on the OTR Internet Digest with him.

    When the book arrived, he had written a nice personal paragraph, and there was a card inserted in the book thanking me for buying it, and he had signed that card as well, so I send him a note saying that since I now had TWO Hal Stone autographs, perhaps I should put the card up for auction on ebay to see what kind of price it would fetch. His reply: “Heck, maybe I’ll bid on it myself!”

  3. Steve Lewis says:

    An absolutely beautiful tribute Charlie! The pictures and audio and video you captured assures that his spirit will live on and continue to put a smile on our face. Hal would have liked that.

  4. Scott says:

    Charlie,what a great tribute to Hal. Thanks so much for sharing your memories and also the audio, and video clips.

  5. Penne says:

    Thanks, Charlie. Even tho’ I’ve never met Hal in person, I feel like I’ve lost one of my
    best friends. I always enjoyed his OTR letters so much. I regret that
    I never got to go to any of the conventions to meet him & Dorothy (and all
    the rest of the OTR “gang”. Sometimes, we let finances (or lack thereof)
    get in our way, then regret it later. Thanks for offering the comments
    and the clips. I really laughed thru’ my tears.

  6. ed kienzler says:

    great pictures charlie of a very good OTR actor who again will be missed ed kienzler Springfield, illinois

  7. IreneTH says:

    Charlie, what a wonderful remembrance. You really drew a wonderful portrait of Hal. Your mention of Hal’s relationship to Katie was so special, as was the cross-eyed picture and the Shirley Temple story. I know how proud you are of her. She seems a chip off the old block.

    I love the way you included audio and video. [I’m jealous of all you can do with your computer] I used to think I was the only one who argued politics with Hal. I see from the messages that there were a number of us. But like everyone else I really liked Hal. His personality jumped off the page when he contributed messages to the Digest. Vital is the right word for Hal. You’re right on when you say his vitality, strong life force, energy, and incredible sense of play and humor, made his death even more shocking and sad. Glad you encouraged his wonderful book.

  8. Pingback: Nostalgic Rumblings » 2008 FOTR Convention Wrap-up

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  10. pilose says:

    I worked for Hal in 1957-1958 when he was Production Manager at WNEM-TV Bay City – Saginaw – Flint, Michigan. Best memory was when he was helping me, the teenage rookie, move some very heavy boxes of old TV transmission equipment off of the roof of his small office which was in the corner of a 2-story free-standing building adjacent to the studio. In the process of me moving the boxes to the edge of the office over to Hal who was standing halfway up a tall ladder, he slipped and caught a ladder rung in the crotch. He retreated into his office in misery while I continued moving the boxes above his head. While carrying a box I stepped between the 2×4 joists and fell through his office ceiling but my elbows caught on the beams and after crashing the ceiling down onto his head I wound up dangling there with my hands trapped under the heavy box. I can still see him, head down on his desk and covered with debris, slowly raising his head, turning upward to see my legs hovering just above him and me looking down through the hole. One long, slow look at me from Hal and he again buried his head into his arms on the desk, leaving me to figure how to get loose – and to wonder whether I still had a job. PS. I did and eventually got promoted to Stage Manager and camera operator. We never spoke of the ceiling incident except that I had to do the cleanup of his office.

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