Hap' Richards, Mayor of Joyville: "These are pre-schoolers and you have to please them."
"When Mommie's sick I answer the phone and tell them that she isn't
here," wrote one small applicant for citizenship in Joyville. From another, "I
throw out the garbage," and a third pre-schooler by way of testimony justifying his
application for the coveted citizenship dictated a letter: "I washed the windows
Letters like these are received by Floyd (Hap) Richards six days a week at WTIC-TV
Channel 3. Hap is the Mayor of Joyville and has been since the first week of WTIC-TV when
Mr. Leonard Patricelli called him in and asked him to "devise" a children's
program, "That was it. Period."
Hap devised a program. First called "Adventure Theater," it was
three-quarters of an hours in length and ran Monday through Friday in the afternoon. The
show had, among other things, old time cowboy movies and thrillers. "I was then, and
always have been, the writing staff for the show."
Today it's "The Hap Richards' Show" and all
the little citizens and future citizens of Joyville gather before the TV five mornings a
week to watch. There's the Mayor, who is also the postmaster. That's his uncle, the first
citizen of Joyville, who goes by the name of Henry Cameroon Tibbetts, "Don't ask me
where he got his name. All these things just evolved. He's just an upcountry character
from New Hampshire. Many names are drawn from my home town." Then there is
"Cliff Hanger" the mail carrier. Hap does two characters, the Mayor and the
Postmaster: "You have to be constantly alert not to just have fun among adults. These
are preschoolers and you have to please them. You can't use signs."
Children are very perceptive and Hap said, "I can't wear my watch when I do
Henry Tibbetts, a child would pick it up. I have to turn my ring around or I get letters
saying, `I know you're both characters. I saw the ring.'"
How do you become a citizen of Joyville? You do things for Mommie and Daddy, not
just one but on a continuing basis. Then Mother or Dad will send the name in along with
the statement of what the youngster has been doing to help. "I go through the sofa
and pick up all the change for Mommy," was the word from one youngster whose Dad naps
on the sofa. Once the names of the hopeful candidates are in the Mayor asks those who are
already citizens to vote. The vote is always in the affirmative and the new citizen is
sent a certificate.
All five 9:00 a.m. shows are tapes on Thursday morning. Each show is 15 minutes in
length. Hap writes a show a day: Taping day is the easy day." There are seven puppets
now and two are women. "I have to be careful (since women's lib) what I write for the
women. I hear from the mothers."
A feature of the show is the Birthday Cake and the names of the citizens of
Joyville who are celebrating are read off as names are run through the frosting on the
"You can tell the era of the parents by the names of their children," Hap
said, and for a long time he kept a record of names of children that were the same as the
names of famous people. One was "Clark Bow." Lately a few of the astronauts
names are showing up. The names of practically all of the Presidents. Some names of the
small children are difficult to pronounce but the Mayor makes a point of trying not to let
his constituents down.
Floyd Richards, the radio
There is the radio side of Floyd Richards' day and
it goes this way: In at 5:30 a.m., you'll hear him giving a newscast on the Bob Steele
Show. Then again at 12:05 and 1:00 though not necessarily n a regular basis. He is there
until 2:00 p.m. Back again to head the sports show five days a week at 11:25. Then home at
midnight to get up at 4:15 to start all over again.
Sometimes you'll hear him on "Mike Line" started by Bill Hennessey (now
with Channel 30) but the format is basically the same. People call in to WTIC AM from all
over to ask questions and give answers. Floyd Richards, Norm Peters, Ed Anderson, Bruce
Kern, Arnold Dean, all M.C. it. "You can go through the whole staff/ The man who goes
on at five in the morning is likely to be on the first part."
For a long time Floyd did color and commercials for UCONN football and basketball
games. In some way, broadcast or telecast, Floyd has covered the G.H.O. since it started.
He has interviewed Arnold Palmer and all the rest. "I love to play golf, love all
outdoor sports." He was the station champion (golf) two years ago. This is an annual
elimination tournament and one prize is a chance to play in the Pro-Am. A boating fan, he
has been a national officer in the U.S. Power Squadron. His own Mark II sail boat, a
17-foot sloop (named "Dendondee" after his three daughters, Denise, Donna and
Diana, nicknamed Dee Dee) was a joy until somebody came along and bought it at a price he
couldn't afford to turn down.
Interviewing interesting people, personalities from the world of sports to show
business is a pleasure to Floyd: "Edward Everett Horton was the best interviewee. A
most wonderful person."
Floyd has met a good many people whom he admires, but one in particular the
trombone playing Wethersfield personality idolized: "It was my father, my mother and
God, Tommy Dorsey was fourth." This goes way back to his youth, to Farmington, New
Hampshire, where Floyd was born on March 5th,, 1920. As a kid he played the trombone.
Later at the University of Notre Dame he played in the Marching Band and his last two year
in college was a member of the Dance Orchestra.
The Marching Band always went to the Army-Notre Dame game and to
Floyd the first one in Yankee Stadium was an experience: "For an 18-year-old
Yankee hick who'd been to Boston only twice." Keeping the right time in the
right place is
|important when you are a member of a marching
band. "I was first on the right front line. If I didn't stop at the right place on
the right yard line it could blow everything. We formed a shamrock and played `Ave Maria'
and in the forming of the shamrock I almost slipped and fell in front of 40,000
During his last two years in college Hap was a member of the dance band, a group
that played the Senior Ball. As it happened the father of a member of his class was with
the Roosevelt Hotel in New York and the boy asked his dad for a band to come play at Notre
Dame. The father said he would send Vaughn Monroe but that he and his couldn't get there
until late in the evening; Vaughn cooperated and sent the orchestration. Our band filled
in. When they go there one by one, Munroe's men took over from us. So part of the time we
were part of the Vaughn Monroe band. Then I joined my date."
WLAW to WTIC
Call-letters from a hat
Hap, a journalism major, graduated from Notre
Dame in 1942. During his college years he worked part-time at radio station WSBT in South
Bend. Then he worked for a year in Lawrence, Massachusetts at radio station WLAW:
"Another announcer and myself at WLAW were ambitious and wanted to move on. We made a
list of all 50-watt [probably typo, 50,000-watt] station call-letters and put them in a
hat. He picked three for me and I three for him. Of the three he drew WTIC for me. I
picked WHAS in Louisville for him."
The call-letters were lucky. Two weeks after Hap go his job at WTIC his friend was
hired by WHAS. What's more he married the station owner's daughter.
Of the auditions sent to WTIC in the form of transcriptions on discs the first two
Hap sent were broken in shipment. "The third I put on a steel disc. That made
it." A formal audition is given at the station when an applicant is asked to come and
today the auditions are not as lengthy as they were in the days of WW II." All sorts
of names, places, commercials, introductions to musical programs, geographical names,
"I said South-ing-ton (not at all as it is pronounced here). The thing that has
always intrigued me, coming from a small town, is that Hartford people always said `ruuf'
and we always said `roof'."
That was in the days of all radio and it was some step up from LAW to TIC. Here
there was a fine studio orchestra. "The first big program I ever did fed the network.
N.B.C., on Saturday morning. I was the announcer and the conductor of the one-half hour
program was Dr. Moshe Paranov."
The staff at WTIC was bigger, too, though it couldn't have been more than a six-man
staff. Of the present group only Bob Steele was there. Bob Tyrol (of Wethersfield) now Vie
President and General Manager was on leave from the station serving with the armed forces.
Bruce Kern of West Hartford was an announcer and Ed Anderson of Newington was in the
service. Today there are 17 or 18 on the staff.
"There was no TV and no FM then. Even so we were busy."
Eugene O'Neill Jr. was a part-time announcer during the war. He was teaching Greek
at Yale. "He had a great cloak like E.D.R.'s (it came from Arabia) and a deep
beautiful voice. He has a great respect for his father." A big man the younger
O'Neill wanted a taste of everything and had worked in coal mines, "I think he was
the most famous of our announcers, at least in those days."
Floyd did a program with Jan Miner at noontime for Sage-Allen. Every Saturday the
dance band from the Polish Home on Governor Street was widely listened to. All the staff
did this one. Then there was the great jazz buff George Malcolm-Smith and floyd did the
announcing for Great Records of Jazz.
From time to time WTIC had as late night guests famous musicians because the State
Theater has big bands on stage. One night on the show the guest was Tommy Dorsey. After
the show Floyd and Tommy, "came downstairs to go our own ways. We lived on Willard
off Asylum and I was going to get the bus. Dorsey had a white Lincoln convertible. He
offered me a ride; and he didn't have to ask twice. So Tommy Dorsey drove me home at one
o'clock in the morning and no one would believe me. There was no one around to see me. My
wife was in bed. I don't think she believes me to this day."
For five years Floyd and Bob Tyrol did the Cinderella Weekend Show. A quiz show for
women, the program beamed from Ryan's Restaurant, once on Pearl Street, "We'd have a
winner every day. Four came back on Friday and the winner and her husband went to New York
for a weekend, the wife with a whole new outfit from Kathryn Nagel, a woman's shop on
Trumbull Street. I was more or less the comedy part of the program team. Bob Tyrol was the
good-looking straight man."
Floyd was lucky in more than his job when he went to WTIC. Katherine, now Mrs.
Richards, a native of New Haven was a receptionist at TIC. Everyone knows her as Petey.
The Richards have lived in Wethersfield, the town of their choice for 21 years.
There three daughters grew up here; Denise 27, now married to Tom York and living in
Wilmington, Massachusetts show is a nurse and teaching nursing at Peter Bent Brigham in
Boston. Donna, 24, went to Catholic University of Washington D.C. and is working on a
masters in political science at Trinity. Diana, 21, a graduate of Seton Hall University in
South Orange, New Jersey is an elementary school teacher and teaches remedial reading in
Bayonne, New Jersey. Hap taught speech at University of Hartford night school for 25
Petey had a Girl Scout troop, troop 397, from the time the girls were in the third
grade. When the girls were in high school Tom Beardsley of Wethersfield and Hap became
assistants, "It became a Mariner Troop and we (the two men) were card-carrying
members of the Girl Scouts of America. With a five-year pin."
Twice the president of the Notre Dame Alumni and in this area, he once won the Man
of the Year award. The presentation was made by Father Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame
and a former head of the Civil Rights Commission.
Of the career he loves Floyd said, "You are low man on the totem pole as you
start out." He credits his family with having been understanding and sympathetic. A
career-sharing family, "It got to the point the girls were called `Hap' when they
were in high school and college."