Saturday, August 21, 2010

School Bells Ring and Children Sing, It's Back to Robert Hall Again

In the kitchen of my childhood the musical accompaniment to the morning routine was provided by a shoebox sized plastic radio tuned to a local AM station. We ate breakfast while listening to the morning DJ banter and the ads and jingles of local merchants, then we headed outside for the day. Long lazy summers were spent roaming the neighborhood with our friends. We built dams and caught guppies and frogs in the creek at the bottom of the hill. We explored the storm drains, sometimes crawling through the pipes for blocks to find an opening that we could squeeze out of (Kids don't try this at home, you could die.)  We played kick the can in the circle at the end of the street until dusk when the street lights came on and our mothers finally called us home for the day.

My brother Leigh and I attended summer Catechism (Vacation Bible School for Catholics) with our friends Patty and Cathy Olson, but only on the first day to register and the last day to get the ice cream.   Every morning for two weeks our mother would drop us in front of the church and return four hours later to pick us up. We left as soon as her car turned the corner and came back just before pick up time. She never asked us why we hadn’t colored any pictures of saints or made crucifixes out of popscicle sticks during our time at Catechism. Clever little hoodlums that we were, we could have sung a hymn in Latin or recited memorized paragraphs from the Baltimore Catechism, but she never asked.

Before we had a pool in our backyard, we swam at the Paxton public pool when we could get our parents to drive us there. (It was California, no one walked anywhere and buses were unheard of.) Once a week we went to the library to load up on books. We were free and unsupervised all day. Long, hot summer days spent in shorts and t-shirts. If we wore shoes they were thongs (the plastic footwear not the invasive undergarment).

In late August we started hearing a new jingle on the morning radio.  This link is to a Robert Hall ad in the 50’s or 60’s. You have to listen through the first jingle to get to the back to school song.

School bells ring and children sing

it’s back to Robert Hall again

Mother knows for better clothes

It’s back to Robert Hall again
You’ll save more on clothes for school.

Shop at Robert Hall
…and we knew our summer fun was about over.

Decades after my schooling ended, I’m still disappointed when I see the back to school ads on TV.   I love summer.   Even though I am retired and no longer have to go back to school, that jingle is running around my head and I am not looking forward to short days and cold wind, even though it is still in the 90’s here.   I haven’t floated enough in aqua waters, or eaten enough grilled hamburgers, or had the warm wind caress me as I ride my bike.   If I lived in Hawaii would I miss the crisp fall mornings?   Nope, I’m an endless summer girl and I’m never going back to school.

…although, I do still enjoy a good back to school sale.


  1. Omigod, was Robert Hall (and the JINGLE!!!) nationwide? I didn't know! Wow. Memories.
    One summer . . . oh, for probably two weeks when I was nine . . . I had a wicked crush on a boy whose last name was Hall. I LOVED hearing the jingle because for that little space in time I could sing along and think about my beloved. :-P

  2. Love the story of your version of VBS. :-)

    I still have back to school dreams, feel the pull of the change of the seasons, long to buy new borders - and am so glad I get to be home to enjoy the gifts of fall.

  3. Love your little warning!!!!

    And I think you get so hard-wired about school going back no matter how old you are!

  4. It's a bittersweet feeling for sure, but as I age, I'm a softer seasons kind of gal. Of spring and fall though, I go with fall everytime.

  5. I will ALWAYS remember the radio commercial of this jingle! It still sticks in my mind so many years later! Scholl Bell Rings Children Sing, It's back to Robert Hall Again! When was that radio Commercial late 60's early 70's???

  6. I was born in 1970 and never heard this song, but my father (born in 1941) would always sing this jingle when my mom took us out for back-to-school clothes shopping. It's become part of my internal soundtrack when I see back-to-school ads today, too. Whoever came up with that bit of marketing deserves a gold medal for advertising.

    1. Jack Wilcher was the genius behind most of the Robert Hall jingles. He was originally a part of the "Five Pennies Group" (not sure of the group's name), but I worked at Robert Hall in the advertising department and was privileged to work with Jack Wilcher.

  7. Regrettably, the jingle is no longer on YouTube. However, it still resides -most comfortably- in my head. I'm delighted that there are still others who remember it.


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