Saturday, August 20, 2016

I hate Robert Hall

When I was a kid this was one of the worst times of the year. “Back to School” ads started appearing on the radio. The biggest offender: Robert Hall Clothiers. You have to be of a certain age to really remember (over… uh 30) but Robert Hall ran these truly tacky 40’s style jingles well into the ‘60s and maybe even the ‘70s.

You’d be at the pool enjoying the day, blissfully believing that summer would never end. The radio would be blasting the latest rock tune and all of a sudden, there it was – that first miserable Robert Hall commercial.

That’s it. Summer was as good as over. It was only a matter of time before you were gearing up with new school supplies (we never shopped at Robert Hall) and trudging off to another endless year of doom.

The Robert Hall jingle might as well have been the Volga Boatman.

Listen to these commercials and see if they still bring back that feeling of dread even though you are long past about to enter the seventh grade. I bet they do. They did for me. And I don’t care if it means I get a lunch box. I hate "Back to School!"  And Robert Hall. 

38 comments:

Daniel said...

I grew up in the '70s and '80s so I have a visceral reaction against Jerry Lewis for much the same reason: His telethon meant that school started the next day.

emily said...

But Les Paul could sure pick a guitar!

MikeK.Pa. said...

I was just talking to someone at work yesterday about the sick feeling I got in my stomach around this time of year, even in high school. I feared getting bad teachers I would be stuck with for 9 months. Fortunately, I had great teachers through elementary school and only a handful - out of dozens - in junior and senior high. What's worse for today's kids is that Back to School signs go up right after July 4th, when you haven't even broken a good summer sweat yet.

Mitchell Hundred said...

So it's like this ad for people of my generation (I'm 28, for the record).

DonBoy said...

A different recording of the second jingle here is literally one of my earliest memories. I was born in 1958, and by the way, from the NYC area, so it wasn't just LA.

BA said...

An obnoxious part of my childhood too, though I thought it was a Chicago company. Does Halloween advertising start now, or is that after Labor Day?

Anonymous said...

Yes you do have to be over "30" to remember Robert Hall. Way over 30. LOL. Bought all our clothes there also in the 60's. Janice B.

Boomska316 said...

To me the worst part about back to school shopping was always the clothes.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

I hate Back to school for the kids. Now we have to wake them up early ((such a pleasure. Ugh)). Make sure they are dressed, fed, lunch prepared, after school sports/activities ready, homework signed, and then parent teacher conferences etc

James said...

I'll see your Robert Hall, and raise you Zachary All

Michael said...

For me it was Jerry Lewis, because the telethon airing on Labor Day weekend meant school was about to start.

Except that I liked school. Jerry ... er, a little less.

Jay said...

And then there's Christmas. In grad school in Boston, I had a roommate who had grown up in Brooklyn, son of atheist communists (one Jewish). He had gone to Brooklyn public schools (Erasmus), and even for college stayed in NYC (Columbia). One December, when the Boston radio stations were playing “Joy to the World” or whatever, he said that for most of his life the only song he knew that was associated with Christmas was “We’re doing our Christmas shopping / At Robert Hall this year.” New York was way ahead of the curve in the War on Christmas.

(Ah nostalgia. I found myself singing along with these. I also remember having to ask my father what "low overhead" meant and picturing a clothing store with 5-foot ceilings -- like those I saw decades later in "Being John Malkovich.")

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Wow, did those jingles dredge up memories of the Valley in the 50's! The flashback included the aroma of Lysol, the school janitor's best friend, at Bret Harte School...where the late summertime included special screenings from that cartoon factory down Hollywood Way, Disney Studios. Great fun! Thanks!

"...low overhead, low overhead." Now, I'll spend the rest of today trying to get THAT our of my head...

Don Jennett said...

I'm 54, so came in at the tail end of Robert Hall. For me, it was Campbell's Soup commercials, which KHJ airchecks from both 1966 and 1975 show were a staple for at least a decade. "Back to School time, mom," lots of phrases like "hearty."

Mark Murphy said...

Ken:

I don't remember the back-to-school jingle, but I do remember hearing the other one when I was a kid in your old stomping ground of Syracuse. (I'm 61.) I remember hearing "low overhead -- low overhead" over and over with no idea what it meant. Matter of fact, I remember hearing the whole jingle over and over.

And this might be why, whenever I hear the opening bars of Les Paul and Mary Ford's "How High the Moon," I've always felt a little creeped out.

Gary said...

I grew up in Buffalo, NY and we had several Robert Hall stores. The old jingles weren't ringing any bells for me, until it got to the "When the values go up, up, up" one. Then WOW! Talk about a buried memory -- suddenly I was singing right along.

Ted said...

It's funny to see all those stores that look like they're out in the middle of nowhere - and the parking lots are empty. That's really Los Angeles in the 50s - "Acres of Free Parking!"

SharoneRosen said...

I don't remember that first jingle, but as soon as I saw the words "Robert Hall" on your post, the second jingle cued up in my brain and started to play. In Culver City, there was a Robert Hall immediately next door to Temple Akiba... strategic planning for the bar mitzvah market, dontcha think?

Rodger45 said...

I didn't remember those ads but we had a store near my home in Orange NJ - & of course now I will be humming the fershlugginer ads today!

thirteen said...

Robert Hall was the least of it for me. There was the Jerry Lewis Telethon (have they *ever* found a cure for Jerry Lewis?), the Miss America Pageant, and TV Premiere Week. For us Catholics there was also the Feast of the Assumption, a Holy Day of Obligation, which fell on 15 August. If anybody ever makes a list of Top Six Favorite Holy Days of Obligation, that one is guaranteed to be at the bottom.

Donald Benson said...

Back to school stuff has been out for a while. On Friday saw big Halloween displays in multiple retailers.

Joe Blow said...

For me it is walking into Wall-Mart and seeing all the school supplies on a special isle up front. I actually feel nauseated, but not because I dreaded school myself when I was a child---I dreaded sending my children back each year. I felt as if I was sending them into a world of unfairness and unkindness, and I had no control over it.

Pat Reeder said...

Growing up in Texas in a slightly later era, I don't have the negative connotations that you do. But I am a record collector and jingle industry veteran, so I LOVE these spots! You've got Les Paul and Mary Ford, doing their space-age thing with multi-tracked guitars (oddly enough, you thought it was kitschy and outdated when you were a kid, but when it was recorded, it was beyond cutting edge recording technology). And because of the donut format, lots of instrumental space for the local announcers to talk over (that they blessedly don't in this original mix). Thanks for posting this, although I'm sure my reaction to hearing it is the polar opposite of yours. I think if you don't have negative childhood memories and still don't like this, it disproves your claim that you are not a robot.

Cap'n Bob said...

I remember the commercials and didn't mind them at all. They were bouncy and clever. Robert Hall clothes, however, are another matter. I always associated them with the kind of suits Clark Kent wore. BTW, when the great blackout of New York hit in 1965 (I think) I was sitting in a car across the street from a huge Robert Hall store in White Plains, NY. The entire store front was glass and seeing their florescent lamps go off one at a time, but quickly, will always be my sharpest memory of the disaster.

Charles H. Bryan said...

There was a Robert Hall in Midland, Michigan. My folks bought me a suit there when I was high school in the 70s, thus the gray in striped ensemble included lapels the width of one of the store's parking spaces. Also, a scoop front vest with three of four buttons at the bottom. Coke spoon not included.

RIP horrible suit. Let the arms of some random landfill offer you their eternal embrace.

Charles H. Bryan said...

"pinstriped"

Gwyllm said...

I couldn't help but recall Eddie from Zachary All Clothing on the Miracle Mile. Talk about ubiquitous commercials?Aa YouTube commenter refers to him as "the Cal Worthington of suits."

The sizes came in "Cadet, Extra Short, Regular, Long, Extra Long and Portlies." Eddie Nalbandian and his inescapable Zachary All ads were the Men's Warehouse of the 60's and 70's. He did those ads until 1995!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMs2k5L1jWI

Barry Traylor said...

Arrrgggh!!! You just brought some very unpleasant memories. But also some good laughs, so I forgive you.

Andy Rose said...

I didn't get all the mass media back-to-school reminders because I lived in a part of the country where school started in early August. I could never understand as a kid why I'd always see back-to-school stories on the evening news around Labor Day. "We've already been in school for a month!"

Roger Owen Green said...

2nd version of Robert Hall ad, with different lyrics. "High quality. economy."

LinGin said...

I'm a Boomer but it wasn't so much the Robert Hall commercials (although now that friggin' "when the values go up up up" jingle is going to be an ear worm today) but NBC that gave me that feeliing of dread. I miss the big deals the networks made of the new season, the way you do Ken, but NBC would use a countdown. "10 days till NBC week, 9 days till NBC week, etc." Never failed to take some of the anticipation and joy out of the new season.

OTOH, though I've never had kids, the Staples "It's the most wonderful time of the year" always makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

old charlie Callas joke.
Guy walks into a bar with a coat with a long sleeve and no left arm visible.
Bartender says gee that's too bad, let me buy you a drink. Where did you get that?
Guy says "Anzio 1943"

Second guy walks in with a coat with a long sleeve and no right arm visible.
Bartender says gee that's too bad, let me buy you a drink. Where did you get that?
Guy says "Korea 1952"

Third guy walks in with a coat with two long sleeves and neither arm visible.
Bartender says gee that's really too bad, let me buy you a drink. Where did you get that?
Guy says "Robert Hall $$19.99"

Jeff Maxwell said...

Robert Hall commercials and hot weather made me nauseous and moody about going back to school. First few days of school were spent sweating on my notebook paper. Who is Robert Hall and why did he do that to us?

thirteen said...

I used to date an accountant named Janet who worked for Robert Hall in Manhattan. I think she eventually went bankrupt, too.

Roger R. said...

After hearing the first jingle, I thought they were going to bust out a Christmas special.

Shari said...

I always thought Robert Hall was a local New Jersey store - had no idea that it was a national thing. My least favorite back to school commercial is the "most wonderful time of the year" one. And it's disgusting that there are already Halloween decorations in the stores before labor day.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I know what you mean. I am 52 and these ads make a pit in my gut!

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I really hated the later seasons of The Jeffersons when they moved to Sunday nights because the theme song reminded me that I hadn't done my homework yet.