Do You Remember Al Bell Assemblies?


In case you didn’t see already see this article, and in case you remember paying a dime to attend Al Bell assemblies when you were in school, check out this March 21, 2010, Des Moines Sunday Register story.

At some point the article will no longer be available online. When that time comes, and also now, you’ll at least be able to see him in this photo from the Rolfe, Iowa, THE RAM 1964 yearbook.

Do you remember which, if any, of your school years (either as a student, teacher or administrator) Al Bell presented at your school, and do you have any particular memories from his visits? Also, in your yearbook(s) do you see any photo(s) of Al? (If you do and want to email them, I’ll post them.

Also, there is a Facebook group called “I Remember Al Bell.”

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13 Responses to “Do You Remember Al Bell Assemblies?”

  1. Peg Says:

    I VERY MUCH remember him! Well, at least I remember him coming every year and always being a bundle of energy with a boat-load of artifacts to show. I seem to remember an octopus. Is that possible?!? I don’t remember the dimes, though that was smart of him. I’ll forward this blog post along to my Iowa friends. 🙂

  2. Peg Says:

    Alas, I don’t have one single yearbook. I have no idea what happened to mine. Major bummer. The Rolfe Public Library has them all, though, I think.

  3. Steve Says:

    I very much remember Al Bell at Union Whitten School! I don’t remember the years though – mid 1960s!
    Those were great!
    Steve Sommerlot

  4. Marti Says:

    It was always so exciting looking forward to his assemblys. It may partially have been because we got out of the regular classroom and in the big 3rd floor auditorium where the big kids got to go. I’m sure it was also because his programs were always so interesting. I suppose today his sort of edutainment is somewhat replaced by TV, e.g. the Discovery Channel.

  5. Nancy Brinkman Says:

    Oh yes, Al Bell! I can only imagine how today’s teens might yawn and chuckle over him, but we always loved getting out of class to hear his funny stories and see his movies and artifacts. I remember the big dog and learning how it could swim in such cold water, etc. Back in the day, can you imagine the equipment he had to haul around? He was a “legend” when I was in elementary school in the 60’s at Gilbert. I can’t remember him coming so much when I was in high school. As the article indicated, he really was a “showman”.

  6. Nancy Brinkman Says:

    And as I see Steve Sommerlot’s name (his brother Roger is our Pocahontas football and track coach and their family good friends) and the mention of Union Whitten, I very much remember Denise Long and our Gilbert basketball team getting soundly trounced by mostly her…plus the rest of the team. You can talk about “cracker box” gyms all you want, but that term was surely first coined in the Union Whitten gym. We had a defector (who shall not be named here), a guard who would throw a baseball pass from out of bounds to the other end of the forward court (a more impressive feat at Gilbert than Union Whitten, I would add), who left Gilbert to attend Union Whitten…basically to play ball with Denise Long. No one at Gilbert was too happy about that, though I’m sure she was, since she went on to be part of their state championship team. Oh well, life goes on. For fun, I checked the IGHSAU site to see that Union Whitten beat Everly 113 to 107 in overtime for the championship in 1968 . In 1969, Denise Long averaged 68.5 points in 29 games and scored a career high of 1,986. She remains the all time scoring leader of six on six. All I knew that it wasn’t much fun to watch our team play Union Whitten. I’m sure she usually scored those 60 some points against us.

    Sorry to hijack the Al Bell comments and turn this into sport nostaglia, Louise. High school memories connect people from the same era, don’t they?

  7. Keith Gillespie Says:

    I remember seeing the first program Al Bell ever presented to schools. It was in Renwick, IA in the 1940’s. He came every year thereafter and every teacher and school kid looked forwarded to hearing about his new adventures on his annual visits. He ended the film for that first program by running off a dock & diving into a lake. Who didn’t like Al Bell?

  8. Deb Zeman Gillespie Says:

    Al Bell — oh yes! How we elementary kids looked forward to his shows each school year. The costumes he wore, the treasures he brought from a far away places, the live animal(s) — they captivated us for the entire program. **
    To comment also on Denise Long, the talented baskeball player. I remember going to the “big barn” aka Veteran’s Auditorium in Des Moines w/ Laurie & Karen Brinkman, Paula Sinek and perhaps another few girls while in high school. We saw some really good teams play and I believe Union Whiten was in one of the games we saw there in the late 60’s. Great fun for us.

  9. Keith Gillespie Says:

    I was an elementary school student in the 1940’s when Al Bell came to our school in Renwick, IA with his very first program. The film he showed that year ended with him running and then diving off the end of a dock into a lake. His shows were always very entertaining and educational too. By the time I became a principal and superintendent, Al Bell was no longer doing school programs.

  10. Debbie Bell Burkle Says:

    My maiden name was Bell, so I always told my classmates that we were related. He opened my eyes to so many countries. Thanks for the memories.

  11. Debbie Bell Burkle Says:

    I was first introduced to Al Bell in Malcom in the early 60’s. I do remember his big white dog and his experiences in Alaska.

  12. Louise Gunderson Shimon Says:

    Debbie: A “thank you” to you, as well, for your sharing your memories re: Al Bell. I wish I could remember even 1% of what he shared about other countries. And, I wish he could be a travel guide for all of us today.

  13. Bill Guy Says:

    I too remember Al when he would come to our school in LuVerne, IA. It was always a great laugh when he would have kids volunteer to try on outfits from different countries….and the film that would follow seemed to last for hours, but would captivate everyone the whole time. When Al no longer visited…a gentleman by the name of Warren Grant would put on similar presentations at our school. It was interesting, but somehow not the same.

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