Harry Hall was born in 1913 and he’s lived in San Pedro ever since. Once a professional violinist and teacher, he keeps in practice with a weekly gig at a local bar, The Whale & Ale. Friends, family and fans flocked to the English pub last Friday to celebrate Harry’s 101st birthday.
Hall performed for guests at his party and impressed newcomers with his still nimble fingers. He began playing violin as a 9-year-old, when a door-to-door salesman offered his family a deal.
“A gentleman came by and said that he was selling lessons. They would loan you the violin, it was a dollar a week - this was in 1925 - and if I took lessons for a year, the violin and the bow would be mine,” said Hall.
Hall completed the year-long violin course and has been playing and performing regularly in the 92 years since. He went on to study at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and then played professionally, once conducting a violin concert at the Hollywood Bowl. He retired decades ago, but continues to perform for small audiences in San Pedro.
“I’m not trying to build a reputation. I’m not trying to make money on it, because I don’t make money,” said Hall. “I just do it for the fun of it.”
The centenarian received congressional recognition on his last birthday and was named one of San Pedro’s “living treasures.” He’s the type of local fixture that you run into everywhere — playing music at retirement homes as a volunteer or serving as a community marshal in San Pedro's annual holiday parade.
“He’s a community asset,” said owner of The Whale & Ale Andrew Silber. “A local treasure, in a way.”
Silber says that Harry has been playing violin alongside pianist Rob Klopfenstein at the pub every Friday for some 19 years now, and he’s developed a group of devoted fans.
“He has people flocking to see him every Friday, especially ladies, who seem to have a very soft spot for Harry,” said Silber. “He’s a very nice human too, apart from being an excellent violinist.”
A regular at The Whale & Ale, Crystal Roche, has come to see Hall play most Fridays since she moved to San Pedro last year.
“It’s an amazing thing to see someone who has lived through so many important parts of history and is still so vivacious and exciting,” said Roche. “I’m inspired by the guy.”