|By Will Bagley
So Long, Old Friend
Saturday, 2 January 1999, Salt Lake City
By Will Bagley
Today I watched a grieving family bury a dear friend, a wonderful
historian, and a great father. Harold M. Schindler died Monday of heart
failure, and for many of us, his passing has left a big hole in the world.
It took such an unfortunate event to get Hal to a funeral, but it was a
good send off. The service was held in the wardhouse of his Salt Lake City
neighborhood. Given those who attended, this afternoon a well-placed bomb
could have solved many of Utah's problems with history and journalism.
Son-in-law Kirk Silver read the obituary, and Utah Westerners President
Verne Gorzitze saluted an old friend he first met on the way to the 1936
Olympics. David Bigler eulogized Hal's integrity and singular gifts--and
noted what an inspiration he has been to those he so unselfishly mentored.
I count myself among that fortunate number.
Although born to emigrant parents in Chicago and raised in "New Yawk"--his
spelling--it is hard to imagine a truer son of the Great Basin he so
loved. Hal worked at the Salt Lake Tribune for more than half a century,
starting as the worst copyboy sportswriter John Mooney had ever met. From
such inauspicious beginnings, Hal became a journalistic legend, managing
the religion and art beats at the paper for decades, and writing a TV
column for some 27 years--not bad for a man who hated TV. Early in his
career he scripted episodes of "Death Valley Days" and "Gunsmoke."
Schindler left his indelible mark on Western History with Orrin Porter
Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder (Salt Lake City: University of Utah
Press, 1966. Second edition, 1983). In 1994, editor James Shelledy
persuaded a reluctant Schindler--who didn't believe the public could
appreciate straight-up history--to write a series for Utah's statehood
centennial and pioneer sesquicentennial. The results were published as
Harold Schindler, Crossing the Plains: New and fascinating accounts of the
hardships, controversies and courage experienced and chronicled by the
1847 pioneers on the Mormon Trail (S.L.C: The Salt Lake Tribune, 1997);
and In Another Time: Sketches of Utah History (Logan: Utah State
University Press, 1998). Hal for once was wrong: the series was a
Besides being an accomplished writer, Schindler was a meticulous editor
and a walking encyclopedia--a "histomorph," as I like to say, someone who
has a vast knowledge of obscure but sometimes surprisingly useful "dead
history." As a former police reporter, Hal had an appreciation of the
usefulness of facts and would laugh when weighter minds announced that
"truth" and "fact" are mere illusions. As David Bigler observed, Hal had
no doubt about what the meaning of "is" is. His friend Dale Morgan was his
hero, and he was indefatigable in his search to "get at the right of it."
Hal once asked me when I graduated from the University of Utah. "I
didn't," I said. Hal smiled and said, "Neither did I." While formal
training and degrees are fortunate blessings of the academic
establishment, Hal proved that they are not essential to being a good
student of history. Over the past few days I have heard a dozen stories
about how Hal's work inspired a lifelong love of history--a legacy any of
us would cherish. And how many historians have received annual Christmas
cards from Liberace, or got the first call from Robert Redford after he
won his first Oscar?
Hal's daughter Caroline gave a farewell that any father would cherish. She
once asked Hal if he looked forward to meeting Porter Rockwell. Not
really, he replied. "What if he disappoints me?" Caroline brought to life
our memories of a unique character whose passing leaves an unfillable
emptiness in the lives of those who loved him.
Happy Trails, old friend. I hope you knew how much you mean to those you
The Arthur H. Clark Co.