By Sherman Tarr
Decades after he served his last term as Mayor of "Joyville", Floyd Richards
still has people stop him and reminisce about being citizens of the fictitious
town when they were children watching "The Hap Richards Show." "Joyville" was
not on any map of Connecticut: it existed entirely in Floyd's imagination and on
the set of the original WTIC-TV3 (now WFSB-TV3) from 1957 to 1974.
"We did it for 17 years. I think I was the longest serving mayor in history. I
didn't have much opposition," he said.
Mr. Richards, talking recently from his Florida retirement home next to a golf
course, said his tenure began shortly after the WTIC broadcast operation, then
owned by The Travelers Insurance Companies, was awarded television channel 3 in
1957. Station vice president Leonard Patricelli stopped him in the hall and said
" 'Incidentally, we want you to do a children's show. Think of one, work it up
and when you're ready, we'll take a look at it.' That was it. I didn't even know
what a TV camera looked like. I had never been before a camera in my life. We
learned by doing."
"Hap" not "Happy"
"Pat (Mr. Patricelli) also wanted me to be known as 'Happy'. I said 'How about
Hap?' He said 'I still like Happy, but OK.' That was it: I was on my own."
Mr. Richards reached into his small town New Hampshire upbringing and wrote up a
format for what became "The Hap Richards Show" where he was the Mayor and also
postmaster Henry Cameroon Tibbetts. "He'd just come down from New Hampshire and
took care of the general store" as well as being the postmaster.
Mr. Richards started out by doing a live 90 minute show five mornings a week
because "They had to fill up time" since channel 3 was not a network affiliate
at that time. Later, it was cut back to 15 minutes but still was live until the
mid 60's when video tape allowed Mr. Richards to record all the shows for a
whole week on one morning.
"I wrote it and acted it. Ron Rowley, a member of the camera staff, did the
puppets. (Director) Jack Guckin did also did some puppets."
The show's format was simplicity itself. "I would stand in front of this counter
which had two parts: one was the post office with post office boxes in the back,
and when I was 'Hap' I would be over on the general store side with cans and
bread and the cash register. The puppets were on the other side of the counter"
with Mr. Rowley and Mr. Guckin doing the voices. "I'd write the plots, and I'd
talk to the puppets and they'd talk back to me. The most difficult part was
writing it. Thank God I had some journalism experience from school so I knew how
To become a citizen of Joyville young viewers had to do things for their mommy
and daddy on a continuing basis. Mothers or dads sent in the child's name and a
statement of what the youngster had been doing to help. "When Mommy's sick I
answer the phone and tell them that she isn't here," claimed one small
citizenship applicant. "They'd rinse the dishes for their mother, they'd lean up
their room without being asked," Mr. Richards said. Other would-be citizens
washed windows or took out the garbage. "Some of the chores were trumped up,"
Mr. Richards recalled, as were some of the names of alleged children. "I started
keeping some of those names and I got Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington,
Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman."
"I don't know how many citizens we made, but they still crop up when I'm back
home. There will be a waitress who'll say 'I was a citizen of Joyville!' Often,
she's a grandmother by now."
GHO the Best of 34 Years at WTIC
Mr. Richards spent 34 years at WTIC-AM-FM-TV. "That doesn't happen these days.
Now talent is there for 2 or 3 years and they're gone."
His favorite assignment was covering the annual golf tournament that started out
in Wethersfield as the Insurance City Open, then became the Greater Hartford
Open and had several other names while moving to Cromwell. "That to me was
greater than the Hap Richards Show because I've always been very sports
oriented. I was the first to interview Arnold Palmer on his first U.S. win, at
the ICO. He won in overtime and I interviewed him on the second green at
Wethersfield. I called him 25 years later when we were doing something at WTIC
on the first 25 years (of the GHO) and he gave me a nice interview. Then I asked
'Do you remember I interviewed you...' and he stopped me in the middle and said
'I know, you interviewed me on the second hole of the playoff. I can still see
you walking toward me across the green and the only thing I could think of was I
hope he's wearing golf shoes.' I interviewed Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player: all
the big ones at that time."
For a decade or so Mr. Richards did color and commercials for University of
Connecticut football and basketball games and helped cover the Yale-Harvard
rowing regatta on the Thames River.
For many years, Mr. Richards' busy day started with a 5:30 a.m. newscast on the
Bob Steele Show. He also did some commercials. (If Mr. Steele was off, Mr.
Richards would fill in.) Then he did several newscasts and other announcing
chores until 2:00 p.m. Home for a nap, then back for a radio sports show five
days a week at 11:25 p.m. Then he would go home around midnight only to get up
at 4:15 to start all over again.
"Back in those days an announcer did everything: you weren't a sports announcer
or disc jockey. You did whatever came up during your 8-hour shift."
Sometimes you'd hear him on "Mike Line" a morning call-in show where listeners
could ask questions and give answers. He also did a morning program called the
"Women's Radio Bazaar". "We did some great interviews. I think my best was
Edward Everett Horton, an actor in comedy. He was great."