Ranger Hal was played by Henry Baranek, who used the stage name "Henry Baran" for most of his professional career.
He was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In high school he played varsity sports and organized shows. He joined the Army Air Corps (later Air Force) right out of high school and was sent to Germany right after World War 2, where he was an announcer on the Armed Forces radio network. Returning to the US, he spent time in New York City, then started his radio and television career in Richmond, VA. In Richmond he married the former Sandy Knight from Hampton, VA, and started a family.
He moved to Jacksonville in 1958 and became Ranger Hal at WJXT, Channel 4. WJXT had started as Jacksonville's first TV station in 1949. The Ranger Hal show was a hit from the start. A 1961 WJXT marketing booklet provides details about the audience and mail.
Henry truly enjoyed being Ranger Hal. He treated his young audience members like they were young adults, instead of children. Whether on live TV or in front of hundreds of fans, he was able to entertain the audience and look like he was enjoying himself, too.
In addition to Ranger Hal, he was an announcer on WJXT, he hosted other special-interest programs at the station, he starred in commercials, and had other entrtainment-related roles.
When Ranger Hal was canceled, he continued to do some work in the entertainment field, but primarily earned his living in more conventional jobs, first as safety manager for a local industrial plant, then as a successful salesman.
Henry and Sandy continued to live in Jacksonville and had five children.
Henry died in 1979 of a tumor on his heart. His family was proud that Jacksonville Mayor Jake Godbold attended the funeral.
Above: Henry Baranek with his wife and first two children, April 1959.
Below: Henry Baranek with his wife and all five children in the summer of 1975.