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By Dave Hughes

Remember Ranger Hal? He was the park ranger who hosted a kiddie show on Channel 9, then WTOP-TV, in the late 50s and 60s. For 13 years, Ranger Hal entertained kids with his characters Oswald Rabbit, Doctor Fox and Eager Beaver.

Harold M. Shaw, 74, died of cancer August 18, 1999 at his home in Herndon. He started out his career as a stage actor and then became a radio and television announcer at Washington's WRC, Channel 4. He began his childrens TV career with the Pick Temple Show, before starting his own Ranger Hal program and then WTOP-TV, Channel 9.

The "Ranger Hal Show" was first shown at 8:45 AM on October 19, 1957. During the Monday through Friday, hour-long program, Shaw introduced cartoons, talked with and to kids and held contests. The show was an instant success and in its first month on the air, the ranger received 36,000 cards and letters from area kids.

Over the years, the show received three Emmys for "most outstanding children's program" and the ranger was busy making public appearances promoting forest conservation and children's safety. He also started a children's summer camp that offered horseback riding, swimming and many outdoors activities.

In 1970, the show ended and Shaw became a sales representative with WTOP radio and television. He retired in 1977 after suffering an aneurysm.


We received the following letter on August 25, 1999:

My name is Kelly R. Shaw, and I am the eldest granddaughter of Harold M. Shaw (Ranger Hal). When I was cruising the web, I stumbled over your web page and I must say that it felt so nice to find such a wonderful dedication to my grandad! Thank you for making a web page for him and bringing back the memories to all his caring fans!!!

I was wondering if you could help me out by posting a message from his family at the bottom of your page!! My father, my Uncle and my Aunt started a foundation dedicated to my grandad- A "Ranger Hal Memorial Fund" for the Children's Hospital Foundation. All money collected will be used in the fight against pediatric cancer and other children's diseases. If you could post the following address on your page, my family would very much appreciate it!! The address is:

The Ranger Hal Memorial Fund
Children's Hospital Foundation
111 Michigan Ave., NW
Washington, D.C 20012

His family believes that this fund will truly honor my grandfather's memory!!

Thank you for your time!
Sincerely,
Kelly Shaw

Here are some pictures of the Ranger back then ... and more recently!


Ranger Hal and Oswald Rabbit


Ranger Hal greeting the kids


The ranger and Ozzie


The ranger and a fan


Ranger Hal (and Oswald) in May 1998 at his Herndon home

Comments

Here are comments I've received from DCRTV website visitors about Ranger Hal:

  • "Thanks so much for the Ranger Hal pictures, that was one of my favorite TV shows. If I remember correctly, Ranger Hal was on every weekday morning. I used to watch him instead of Captain Kangaroo."

  • "Yep, saw your Ranger Hal page. Just the name Oswald Rabbit alone brought back a rush (no relation to Limbaugh :) of memories! Come to think of it, that damned rabbit is the only thing I remember about the show. "

  • "Wonder whatever happened to Pick? Did he change uniforms and become Ranger Hal? Or Captain Tug? Or Gore De Vol? Or -- even more frightening -- a station executive?"

  • "I loved Ranger Hal--I think my older brother was on the show once when he was 10 or 11 years old--and used to watch Count Gor DeVol (aka Bozo, aka Captain 20, aka every voice-over on Channel 20 during the 70s) on Creature Feature."

  • "Do you remember when Ranger Hal used to fly his helicopter over Eastover shopping center and drop candy out of it to the awaiting kids?"

  • "Thanks so much for bringing back memories of my DC childhood. Especially Ranger Hal and all his friends! I fondly remember attending one of Ranger Hal's presentations at the Rock Creek Nature Center. (I believe the date was sometime in 1960, when I was 5 years old. I was one of many youngsters at the center, and Ranger Hal took the time to say hello to all of us.) Ranger Hal, to me, was the Mr. Rogers of my generation. He helped those of us city kids learn and value nature and how to build close friendships. He instilled in us a kindness, and gentleness, which is in very short supply with many of today's children's programs..... Yet Ranger Hal has a 'natural' ability to teach and his program truly lead the way for other children's programming. A show like 'Sesame Street', I believed, was influenced by Ranger Hal because after all didn't Jim Henson know and or watch Ranger Hal when living in the DC area?"

  • "I wasn't looking for this - I was searching for information about Jimmy Lake, the colorful former wrestling announcer from DC during the 40's, 50's and early 60's. Then I stumbled across this page on Ranger Hal. Talk about a dose of nostalgia!"

  • "My favorites when I was around 7 to my teens were WTTG's 'Captain Tug', 'Captain Lee', 'Countdown Carnival with Bill Gormley' (kid's vids before PBS), WTOP's (TV-9) 'Rock Creek's Ranger Hal' (where are these performers today?), WMAL's 'Harden and Weaver' (remember weekdays 7:21am 'Forward March!'), 'Felix Grant with the Album Sound' (what a voice and really sooo cool too!), and finally and fondly, WRC-AM's 'The Joy Boys of Radio' (remember they chased electrons...)"

  • Just found your site and it's great! I was looking for the Ranger Hal stuff because I remember him from the early sixties (and Captain Tugg And Bill Gormley, and...and...)

  • I've received a couple of calls from viewers who were laughing about my Ranger Hal story that Mike Buchanan told on Channel 9 Wednesday night (with the news of Hal's death). They were laughing because the exact same thing happened with their parents. I am sure something similar occurred with some of your mailbag readers. I grew up in Baltimore (I was a big Pete the Pirate fan), but we also received the DC stations. I was a regular viewer of Ranger Hal and Captain Tug ( I have a vague recollection of owning a Captain Tug record?). My mother's family lives in Washington and we would visit DC once or twice a month. We always traveled Route 29. As we'd pass from Howard County into Montgomery County I would look for the ranger tower on the left hand side of the road. I always said to my parents that's where Ranger Hal lives. My parents and my older brother would laugh at me (I am still scarred by the experience). I do admit though, I had a tough time understanding how they got all those people and cameras into that little shack. When I began working at Channel 9 in 1985 there were still a lot people around who had worked on Ranger Hal. In fact our executive producer in the news department got his start at WTOP-TV working some of the puppets. This is a fact I regularly reminded him of whenever we'd argue about a news decision. I asked a lot of people in Broadcast House where the open and close of the show with Hal climbing the tower was filmed. No one seemed to know. I finally met Hal Shaw at a regional Emmy awards. He was dressed in his Ranger Hal uniform for the event. Here was my chance to resolve this question I've had for 30 years. His answer: "the ranger tower on Route 29 in Burtonsville". You can be sure this is someting I shared with my family. One of those who called me after Wednesday night's obituary is a Maryland State Delegate who went through the same thing whenever his parents drove him to Baltimore. Another is a Howard County woman who couldn't stop laughing because she finally realized she was right after all of these years. She also says she ended up marrying a police officer because Ranger Hal gave her a love for men in uniform. - Dave Statter, Channel 9 reporter

  • Thanks for the memories! One of my co-workers brought up the subject of Ranger Hal's death at the end of our meeting yesterday and we all had a good time reminiscing about local DC shows in the 60's and 70's. Ranger Hal, Pic Temple, Cap'n Tug and Howdy Doody with Buffalo Bob to name a few. That was the first time we lingered so long after a meeting.

  • so sorry to hear that ranger hal died. geez; you know you're getting old when the people YOU grew up watching and listening to pass away. it was a badge of honor to be on the ranger hal show. it was on my kiddie resume' ...right next to stints on romper room and bozo. it seems so long ago but also seems like yesterday.

  • I am grateful that there are memories of Ranger Hal preserved forever on vinyl. Hal, along with Jackson Weaver (as Smokety the Bear) appeared on "Smokey Bear with Ranger Hal" on Golden Records, LP 203, circa 1961. Although no photo of him appeared on the cover, the brief description of the cast on the back of the album stated "Ranger Hal Shaw is a Washington D.C. television star. His program 'Ranger Hal' appeals to children of pre-school and elementary-school age. His program promotes fire prevention, and Hal is an honorary Forest Ranger." Additional voices for the recording were provided by Rosemary Shaw.

  • When I was a kid living in Anacostia back in the late 1950's-mid 1960's, watching "Ranger Hal" was a daily habit. My grandmother (who took care of me during the day -dual income families aren't anything new!) always had me watch "Ranger Hal" in spite of the terrible signal -Remember that WTOP-TV was on a puny 170'agl stick until the early 70's. The "Ranger" always had these Encyclopaedia Britannica and "Jam Handy" films that he'd run several times a week. I rember thinking of Ranger Hal when I saw one of those films a couple of years back on MST3K..... One other thing that Ranger Hal did in the community that I'll mention since nobody else has: Ranger Hal helped raise money for Childrens Hospital! While channel 5 had their "Carnivals for Muscular Distrophy", Ranger Hal promoted "Fun Fairs" for Childrens Hospital. They were both in the same vein, and no doubt helped make kids aware of those who needed special help..... With the growing demise of locally owned and operated TV stations, I suppose our kids will never see the likes of Pick Temple, Bozo (Pick either Willard Scott or Dick Dyzel), "Miss Connie" (of "Romper Room"), or Ranger Hal, that we grew up with here in the D.C. area. Fortunately, there are a few places that are lucky enough to have a locally owned and operated commercial TV station which still cares enough about the community it serves to still have a locally originated childrens show. As the father of a young child, I'm lucky that my farm is in such an area. Although my farm is in the Augusta (GA) ADI, it gets a Grade 'A' signal off WIS-TV in Columbia (As does brobably 99% of the state! 316KW visual ERP up 1,550' ASL is tough to beat!)... And, WIS-TV, channel 10 still has "Knozit Land"! Joe Pinner is "Mr. Knozit", and South Carolinans who were in the studio audience as youngsters now bring their kids to that imposing brick building at the corner of Bull & Assembly Streets to be in the audience for tapings of "Knozit Land". (Like Hal Shaw doing station ID's and such for WTOP-TV, Joe Pinner has had other duties at channel 10: Weather, booth voice, amongst others!)..... When I was a kid, I'd run in the woods on my grandparents farm down in South Carolina. Perhaps it was in part due to Ranger Hal, I suppose I had more respect for the wilderness than other D.C. kids. Today, that farm is mine. In the 10 years since my father's death, my wife, my daughter, and I have planted over 7,000 trees with our own hands. The next batch of trees I'm going to dedicate to the life and legacy of a man who brought fields and forests to so many kids who would otherwise see mostly concrete and asphalt: Ranger Hal. I'm about to go down to my farm in a few days and look the place over. And, while I'm down amongst the trees, I'll say a prayer. For those hosts of local childrens shows on commercial TV, the station managements who know that putting community service ahead of "the bottom line" will improve the bottom line, and... for Ranger Hal.

  • When I was around 5 years old I think I remember going on a class field trip to see Ranger Hal at a nature center. I loved his show. I'm enclosing a picture of Ranger Hal, Oswald Rabbit, and Doctor Fox that I think was handed to all the kids on this trip. Somehow my family saved it all these years. You are welcome to use it on your web site if you like. Thanks for the memories. - Frances (December 7, 1999)

    I hope to post more info and pics of Ranger Hal here soon! If you've got some stories I'll include them here. Send them to me, Dave Hughes, at dcrtv@hotmail.com.