- Terelle Jerricks
Harry Hall Reflects on Living in San Pedro for a Century
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
On June 7, Harry Hall is going to become San Pedro’s newest centenarian.
Born three months after San Pedro’s Angels Gate Lighthouse became operational in 1913, Harry, like the lighthouse, is a beacon that symbolizes calm waters and safe harbor.
A generally unassuming figure, spry and bright in his advanced age, no one would have guessed that he was the oldest person in the room when he was honored at the San Pedro’s Legends dinner this past March, celebrating the 150th anniversary of San Pedro’s founding. It took the emcee’s mentioning of his birth date to elicit the ooh’s and aah’s appropriate for the occasion.
A violinist, Harry can be found at The Whale & Ale Friday night schmoozing with friends, admirers and fans as he plays a few sets with the pub’s pianist.
Harry remembers the San Pedro of his youth are as clear as if it were yesterday. That’s not so unusual unless you’re nearly 100 years old.
Downtown San Pedro’s Sixth and Seventh streets stick out in his mind.
“Those streets are still important,” Harry said. “All the businesses went west to Western. There was A-1 Photoshop on 13th and Pacific. There was the Piggly Wiggly store on 6th and Grand, and then there’s the Dunlap Department store,” Harry rattled off in a display of mental acuity.
Harry is a second generation Swede immigrant whose family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota after a famine in the late 1860s, the result of three successive years of massive crop failures. Harry’s parents moved to San Pedro in 1905. Harry was the youngest of eight children.
Harry’s first and most enduring love affair was with music. A violin salesmen approached Harry at the age of nine with the offer of a free violin if Harry’s parents, who were music lovers anyway, agreed to pay for violin lessons for a year. Harry took lessons for an entire year and was hooked.
Years later, Harry would get to play and lead 100 member orchestras at the Hollywood Bowl. But Harry’s talents wasn’t just limited to playing music. He could write too.
In the 1930s he wrote a song, “I’ll be with you until I find someone new.”
Harry also recorded a song called, “Breeze in, Breeze out,” in the 1940s that was intended to be a uplifting war time song that also warned against abusing drugs and other vices.
In 1942, Harry joined the Navy after he was drafted in World War II. While there, he was assigned to the newly formed U.S. Navy Construction Battalion that accomplished a myriad of construction projects ranging from military bases to paving thousands of miles of roadways and airstrips.
But Harry never remained far from his music. During the war, he had been transferred to the admiral’s orchestra and was put in charge of organizing concerts and parties to boost and maintain troop morale.
When the war ended, he became a teacher. He was so good that he was put in charge of teaching and training other music teachers.
Harry, like the Lionel Richie hit, is easy like Sunday morning. His niece Teddy Lou Hale described her uncle as being easy-going and loving of the people around him.
Family, friends and ostensibly former students say Harry was always a popular guy. The same qualities that lead the student body of San Pedro High School to elect him student body president, were the same qualities that lead an admiral to link on to Harry in the war and lead the admirals orchestra.
Harry is not one to rush or sweat the small stuff. One piece of advice he had:
“Don’t be so anxious to get married.”
It takes time to find the right one. Harry was 37 before he married his first wife. But he has lived long enough to find a great love twice in his lifetime.
He doesn’t have any children of his own. Affectionately called Uncle Harry, he has a multitude of nieces, nephews and grand nieces and nephews and an even greater horde of people to which he has taught music during his long life.
When asked what his secret was to longevity, he replied, “Be nice, try not to set the old hate button and pray every once in awhile.”
But that sounded just a little too easy.