By Rich Gotshall
A childhood friend to thousands of central Indiana residents died recently.
Hal Fryar passed away June 25 in Bradenton, Florida. The former Indianapolis and Franklin resident was 90 years old.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps Harlow Hickenlooper does. That’s the name Fryar performed under on TV in the 1960s. In the early ‘90s, he appeared as “Grandpa Harlow” on local public TV.
To nearly anyone who grew up in central Indiana, Harlow was a Saturday morning television staple. From 1960 to 1972, he hosted a children’s show on WFBM-Channel 6 in Indianapolis.
The show featured old Three Stooges short films, and Harlow, clad in a striped jacket and beat-up straw boater hat, usually ended up getting a pie in the face during locally staged skits.
The Harlow character was a gentle man-child. He never took himself too seriously, which is obvious given that he was usually the one getting the pie in the face, not the one giving it.
What he did take seriously was his potential influence on children. He included educational components in his shows and often had police officers and firefighters as guests, who in turn talked about safety.
He also took pains to explain that the Three Stooges’ stunts were just for show and not something one should try on another child.
He even showed that the bricks were made from harmless foam and the hammers were made of soft rubber.
Another staple of the show was his original version of a birthday song, which ended with a long, long, long “happy birthday to aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall of you!”
In retirement, Fryar continued to do personal appearances as Harlow, talking about his career and showing video clips. During a program at the Franklin library, he sang his birthday song for my brother-in-law, who also had grown up watching Harlow on TV.
It’s a memory that will last a lifetime for all of us.
Fryar’s career as an entertainer began as a teenager, when he served as an announcer, emcee and writer in Indianapolis during the mid-1940s.
He graduated from Indiana University in 1950 with a degree in speech. His broadcasting career began in Ohio on TV and radio.
He appeared on other children’s shows throughout his 43 years in local television, including a stint as “Grandpa Harlow” on WFYI from 1990 to 1995 in which he hosted episodes of Barney.
He appeared in the Three Stooges movie “The Outlaws Is Coming” and was inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2008.
Fryar is survived by his wife of 37 years, Henrietta; a daughter, a son, two stepdaughters and his own studio’s worth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I grew up watching a black-and-white Harlow on a TV in our Indianapolis den. I am proud to say I came to know the full-color Hal Fryar during the time he lived in Franklin.
He was always generous, witty and dedicated to entertaining, often volunteering his talent to community events. He always expressed personal interest in others and was forever introducing people to create new connections and friendships.
Harlow fans can relive some of their memories on Fryar’s website, harlowhickenlooper.com.
I didn’t see Fryar after he moved to Florida, although we communicated a few times. I tried to persuade him to come north for a Three Stooges film festival at the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, but travel had become extremely difficult for him by then.
So good-bye to Harlow, friend of my youth, and to Hal Fryar, a friend in adulthood. You’ll be missed by many.
Rich Gotshall is a retired journalist and Franklin resident. Send comments to [email protected]