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Author, wit, raconteur and THS Founder Ben M. Hall (1921-1970) died forty years ago today on December 16, 1970, having been murdered in his theatre artifact filled duplex apartment on Christopher Street in New York City. The crime remains unsolved. Ben’s collection is the basis for the THS Archive and Museum, which he envisioned.

He was a writer and editor for Time/Life and in 1961 wrote The Best Remaining Seats, the first and still the best telling of the story of the movie palace.

Many knew Ben from his having written liner notes for early hi-fi recordings of theatre organs starting in the late 1950’s and they contacted him. Then those who had the book started writing to Ben so he had a circle of friends and fans. One of these was Brother Andrew Corsini Fowler, our late founding editor, who urged Ben to found a group devoted to theatres, not just their organs. By this time Hall was very active in the American Theatre Organ Society, acting as MC at its conventions and on its Board. In 1969 Ben relented and sent a letter to about 100 people announcing THS.   Most responded by joining.   THS was on its way.

There is a wonderful reminisence of Ben by our late editor Steve Levin (who died 2 years ago this past Monday) on our web site. Read it to meet the man

We can only speculate where we might be today had Ben remained to shepherd THS through those early years. He is missed by many. I only met him at
ATOS events twice some 45 years ago but I still warmly remember his Southern charm, grace, and wit. RIP, Ben Hall.

— Richard Sklenar

Ben Hall at home in 1969 seated at
“Little Mother” his Wurlitzer pipe organ.
The “Big Mother” was the Wurlitzer in the
“paramount Paramount” (Ben’s phrase)
on Times Square, New York. The Ben Hall
Memorial Organ is now in the Lafayette
Theatre, Suffern NY, owned by the New
York Theatre Organ Society (Herb
Frank photo)

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  1. Dave

    I can’t belive that it has been 40 years since his unsolved murder. I am older/OLD now, but he died when I was only 16, and even THEN, I had a love, like Ben of classic theaters. Ben had a few years advantage over me, since he was able to experience many more grand palaces before they were demolished before I got to NYC in 1976. I envy that. God bless you Ben!

  2. Thanks for posting this. The “Little Mother” was the first TPO I ever heard, at the Carnegie Hall Cinema, played by Lee Erwin. I heard much about Mr. Hall from Lee and from many other organists I’ve met.

  3. Walt

    I met Ben in 1969 at the Chicago Stadium when I played my first ever appearance for ATOS. We corresponded several times and he invited me to play a cameo appearance the following year at the Beacon Theatre in NYC. Of course, he was murdered just months later. The last time I got a correspondence from him was after he died! Apparently, he’d prepared a bunch of envelopes for his Christmas card mailing. Inside the envelope was an ad for Lee Erwin’s new LP on “Little Mother.” They had decided to send out these envelopes to his friends. Of course, I bought the LP – and Lee Erwin later became a respected friend, mentor and supporter to me.

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