Opinion: Wishing a good friend a great “happy birthday”

A friend of mine has a birthday coming up June 8, and I’m hoping it’s a doozy. He’s going to be 88, after all, and a fellow who gets that kind of mileage deserves a special day, don’t you think?

You may know him. His name is Hal Fryar, but if you grew up in Central Indiana in the 1960s you might better recognize him by his stage name: Harlow Hickenlooper, host of the Three Stooges show on Channel 6 back when it was WFBM,  the local NBC affiliate and a great place for Kid TV on a Saturday morning.

Oh, those were the days. You’d wake up with the sun and run to the kitchen – well, okay, first you’d run to the bathroom, THEN to the kitchen – to get your cereal bowl, which you would then fill with about four cups of sugar-encrusted particle-board chips. You’d throw a half-gallon of milk on top of it and then carry the mess, sloshing milk all the way, out to your customary place in front of the TV for a morning of fun with Larry, Moe and Curly (or Shemp), not to mention the songs, skits and general misadventures of your host Harlow and his sidekick, your ol’ buckaroo buddy Curley Myers.

Notice the use of the word “your.” That’s important. Harlow and Curley belonged to us – not in the sense that we possessed them, but in the sense that they were part of our lives, that they knew us and we knew them, or so we felt. They were as important to kidhood as bicycles and baseball cards.

(And it wasn’t limited to Channel 6. Channel 4 had its own impressive lineup of kiddie shows – “Janie,” “Cowboy Bob’s Corral” and “Popeye and Peggy” come to mind – and weekday afternoons saw the multi-talented Bill Jackson and his puppet pals over on Channel 13.)

Wow. We are talking the most ancient of histories here. You had a whopping four TV channels to choose from and – get this, youngsters – you had to get up and walk across the room to change the selector from one to another. And it was all in black and white, because back then – in Mike world, anyway – the only people who had color television sets were your grandparents and rich people.

Well, anyway, back to Harlow, or Hal. I spent a day with Hal and his lovely wife, Henrietta, during a trip to Florida a few weeks back and I can report he’s doing great. He drove us everywhere showing off his adopted Florida hometown, and put up quite a tug of war when the dinner check landed on the table (I won, though.)

It’s only fitting we should make a big deal out of his birthday because of the big deal he made out of our birthdays. You Baby Boomers® from Central Indiana know what I mean – Harlow’s special birthday song is burned into our memories. You can hear it again, by the way, by firing up Mr. Computer, going to www.harlowhickenlooper.com and clicking on the “Happy Birthday” tab.

So get your cards ready and send them by June 8 to:

Harlow Hickenlooper
c/o Hal Fryar
3739 39th Avenue W
Bradenton, Florida 34205

As Harlow would say: Thanks, boys and girls.