Harold Firestone (1907 – 1960) – Legacy

Harold Edward Firestone was born October 27, 1907. He was adopted by Frank and Minerva Firestone. Frank worked as a pattern maker for the New York Central Railroad and Minerva was a housewife. Harold grew up in Elkhart, Indiana.

Firestone - Studio Portrait

Firestone – Studio Portrait

Mr. Frank Firestone took his seventeen-year old son to the grand opening of the Lerner Theater on November 24, 1924. While waiting in line for admittance, the manager of the theater, who knew the Firestones, walked out to the lobby and asked if Harold could go to the pit and sit in for the drummer, who had not shown up. He did go and perform with the pit orchestra, so that the vaudeville show could be presented. That evening began his professional career.

Harold went to school in Elkhart and was graduated from Elkhart High School. Following high school, he attended and was graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Engineering. (His passion was flying, but his poor eye-sight kept him from getting his degree in aeronautical engineering).

After college, he returned to Elkhart and began giving private music lessons and playing with area music groups. He played in the pit orchestra at the Lerner Theater (now the Elco) for vaudeville productions. That experience of working with the touring vaudeville entertainers added more knowledge of music and performing to his background and he incorporated that knowledge into his private teaching. During that same time, he also played in the orchestra at the Bucklen Opera Theater and found time to play with Bob Stewart’s dance orchestra, as well. In addition to his teaching and performing, Harold managed to work in the sales division of Leedy & Ludwig when the factory was in Elkhart, Indiana.

He was drafted in 1942 and served four years in Germany in the 84th division of the field artillery. His primary job was to survey and put out the stakes to be used as aiming points for the artillery.

During the Battle of the Bulge, he was hit with shrapnel. His life was spared because he had placed a record in the chest area of his uniform prior to when the fighting began. The record had been sent to him by a student (Betty Helfrick) who wanted him to hear a performance of her playing at an event which he, of course, could not attend. He later apologized for not having the record when he returned home. It had been shattered while saving his life!
Harold never married. However, he was quite fond of a young lady he had met in New York before his boat sailed for Germany. They corresponded throughout the war and dated for a while after WW II ended, but Harold’s parents discouraged his romantic interests in this young lady. After that, he immersed himself in his music.

Harold Firestone was an accomplished pianist and percussionist. After WW II, he devoted his life to teaching others to be exceptional musicians. He was extremely innovative and used his engineering background and his love of photography to enhance the private lessons.

Firestone working on his record cutting machine

Firestone working on his record cutting machine

He preserved each student’s progress in moving pictures and on tape, which he later transferred to 33 1/3 rpm records.

Therefore, students not only had written lesson sheets, but had film and records to document their evolvement in percussion.

Many of his students went on to impact many others with their musical abilities and talents.

 

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