By Lynne Harpst Koen
My dear sweet Dad,
Walter William Harpst, Jr., was born on October 8, 1916 in Columbus, Ohio. Walter (Wally) discovered his talent for music when he was still a boy. Wally’s remarkable talent would take him all over the globe and he was a career musician for over 65 years. Wally played the guitar, ukulele, and stand-up bass (then known as big bass violin). He also sang like a bird. While playing with one of the “Big Bands” in New York City in the early 1940s, Wally got a new “calling”, and into the Army he went. Wally and his Army Band entertained different branches of the Service during WWII including the Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Wally’s Band was “Special Services” intended to boost the soldiers’ morale. Wally served mostly in the Pacific (Okinawa) and had more than his fair share of close calls over seas. Wally had many “war stories” but one of the oddest ones was when the war was allegedly over. One day, Wally and the troops heard a loud, thundering noise. Suddenly, as they all watched, over 600 Japanese soldiers came pouring out of caves surrounding the base camp. They surrendered peacefully.
After the Army, Wally returned to playing music on the West Coast, mostly in the L.A. and Palm Springs areas. He met and preformed for many big stars of that era including Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Lorn Green, Jerry Lewis, Desi and Lucy, and many more. Wally also toured for MCA and did a stint as a master of ceremonies for a radio show for a short while as well. While performing a gig at the Hotel Del Coronado in 1955, Wally met a Hollywood model named Frances Goodrich. Frances (Fran) was summering at the Del. The two fell in love and were married. I was born on November 15, 1957.