My intention for writing book one, as a short story of my life from age nineteen to this day of ripeness, is to help in understanding why and how I entered, maintained, and continue to elevate my station in the world of commercial and theatrical voiceover.
Some maintain: being in a certain place at a certain time is all the reason a person might need in order to determine their life’s pursuits; agreeing or disagreeing is really a supposition to an unproductive theory. My intent is to present some thoughts about what carried me from one point to another, while chasing down answers concerning the who, what, why, when, where, and how of what turns out to be one of the more subjective art forms relative to modern times. Or ancient history as well.
Not to worry, it isn’t my intention to parade my entire life’s story in writing. My starting point is as a nineteen-year-old who volunteered and proceeded to find himself as an infantry soldier in Korea.
Harvey Kalmenson, 1953
The year was 1953, July 24th to be exact. I found myself in the infantry, some thirty-five miles north of the Thirty-Eighth Parallel. For three days and nights, I would experience a change that would stay with me and I would be enhanced with each breath of air that God found fit to grant me.
It was three days before the fighting stopped when I arrived. What I was experiencing for the first time in my young life was my mortality. Without dwelling with descriptives pertaining to personal danger, on three separate occasions I found myself in the wrong place at the right time. Obviously, I didn’t buy it or someone else would be writing this thing.
On July 27th, 1953, at 9:00 pm, the shooting ceased. It’s now closing on seventy years since that day when subjective quiet again entered my life. No more than a week ever goes by without me thinking, one way or another, about my Korean experience. My sixteen months in Korea will always remain permanently etched in my mind’s eye.
Korea, the country, and its people affected what I was to become. It provided me with a better understanding of what the other guy is all about. It was a time when empathy was really introduced and became my continual tangent to build on. My extreme sensitivity began its cultivation with the first in-person sights of human pain and suffering. All that I had grown up taking for granted now became thoughts of how fortunate I was.
Seeing children wandering aimlessly in search of something better with their eyes hollow and daunting, straining to merely stay alive. Adding to my mortality recognition was the massive sobering effects of these children in despair. It was during this time period that I recognized the compassion being shared by my fellow troopers. I am convinced that nowhere in the world, will you ever be able to find more caring individuals than those who are members of the United States armed services.
Each company area had an unofficially adopted family. From day one in Korea, we shared whatever we had with the street urchins. Especially when it came to the children, many of our officers turned a blind eye to what transpired (it was against the rules and regulations to share our food with Korean civilians).
After six months of living in North Korea, I was thrilled when our outfit was transferred to Seoul. From way up in the mountains to the confines of an overcrowded city. My life was about to change again.
Seoul City Stadium, 24th Engineers
(not Harvey Kalmenson)
After a brief stint with an engineering company, I was able to qualify for our group’s baseball team. For the uninformed: sports in the service is a big and important thing. Since in those days we were mostly a draftee (civilian) army, the teams were equal to what you might find in a professional league. We figured out that our baseball team would have been the equivalent of athletes in a Class B minor league. Today, most of that was replaced by college baseball.
I immediately began experiencing the finer things that the army had to offer. We were housed in dormitory-style quarters at the University of Seoul. In those days there weren’t very many students. The school’s curriculum was just in the process of being reestablished. Because of the war, the university lowered its requirements. It boiled down to a student body of very rich Korean kids. Very rich Koreans and one American soldier— that would be me. (Yes, you read right.)
While it only lasted for four short months, I enjoyed every minute of it. Sleeping in an actual building, instead of a ten-man squad tent doesn’t take a lot of getting accustomed to. There was another big plus, athletes were treated to a special diet. The army took great care of us. We slept in each morning, worked out twice a day, and played a league game twice a week.
Though the baseball season ended all too quickly, what followed was even more good fortune. As a reward for playing on a winning team, I was put in charge of a massive engineer supply point. And though my rank was only that of corporal, the job came with the automatic provision that the man in charge (that would be me) was assumed to hold one rank higher than anyone who entered the supply point in order to conduct business. The army’s theory was in actuality a sound maneuver. The reason for it insured against anyone holding a higher rank than I did, ordering me to give them whatever supplies they asked for.
Along with the some fifteen American soldiers assigned to my supply point, a contingent of forty Korean men were there daily to provide help with a number of back-breaking jobs.
(Some would wonder what any of this could possibly have to do with voice over. Stay tuned.)
While Korean laborers aren’t exactly a made-in-heaven theatrical starting point, they did provide a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. These forty men were just that: men. For whatever reason, I was instantly able to identify with them. It did create some degree of animosity with a few of my colleagues, but it didn’t last long. Some of the guys thought the Koreans were being assigned to us as slaves. As quickly as they learned that while the Korean laborers dressed in these horrible quilted style outfits, it had nothing to do with their intelligence or life’s experience.
…And another thing.
Though my given name is Harvey, I am usually referred to as da harv. That moniker was coined by a couple of my wife Cathy’s relatives during one of our many trips to Chicago. They, her relatives, reasoned that since they already had “da Bears”, “da Bulls”, and “da Cubs”, it was most appropriate for them to have “da harv”.
Appropriate or not… the name stuck. Today, even our clients refer to me as “da harv”. Not excluded are my wife, my children, and my colleagues at work. In a way it’s nice. Often I too refer to “da harv” as if he is a separate entity. Somehow, I’m more comfortable being able to put blame on da harv as opposed to Harvey. So with that in mind, if you have a problem with my book… blame it on da harv. The idea for writing this book was suggested to me on more than a few occasions by a variety of actors who counseled: “da harv should write a book”.
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