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On the Road Again with Hal’s Angels: Hal Burchinal added some character to the Cape

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 18, 2020

No one enjoyed the road more than Harley “Hal” Burchinal, and no one had a better time as passengers than his.

All but set to retire in 1972 coming from Cleveland to Cape Coral, Burchinal couldn’t shake the driving itch and became the conductor of choice for countless local residents and organizations.

Burchinal created Hal’s Angels, a small bus-tour company, shortly after his arrival to the Cape. He had purchased land from Gulf American in the ’60s and came down to work for the company. Eventually, he moved on to Lime Tree Homes where he remained until they closed.

A 20-year bus driver for Greyhound after serving four years in the military during the Korean War, Burchinal joined Glades Motor Lines in Fort Myers part-time. While with the company (for about a year) he stepped off of their bus and onto his own, establishing the first bus service in Cape Coral. The destination sign on his bus read, “On the Road Again.”

“When all of his passengers would get on the bus and Hal’s driving off, you could hear the people sing, ‘On the road again,'” said Mary Ann Logue, who was a secretary for Burchinal and also lived with him for 20 years until his passing in 2018.

“He entertained — from the time those people got on the bus until the people got off. Hal was a sit-down comic. He told stories and would do impressions and sing.”

There was never a dull moment on a Hal’s Angels charter, and for someone who never advertised his services, he was quite in-demand.

“When season was here, the man was booked,” Logue said. “Every day he was gone. Snowbirds wanted to go places, wanted to do things, and Hal was their outlet.”

Burchinal took anyone and everyone from Cape Coral to various destinations throughout the state and beyond. He logged endless miles over his 50 years behind the wheel and transported the likes of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Kansas City Royals in the early ’80s when they trained in Fort Myers.

Burchinal saw the need for a personalized bus charter service in the infant city and filled it as many times as he’d fill the gas tank of his 47-seat Greyhound Bus.

From Cape Coral, he took residents to Key West (153 times), St. Augustine, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and even out of state.

He drove for local groups such as the Sons of Italy, the Elks Club, American Legion, VFW, German American Club and even chartered local Pop Warner football teams when they had playoff games a distance away.

Burchinal would make so many trips to the Calder Race Track in Miami Gardens that they would name the fifth race of the day after him, and would take photos with the winning jockey, trainer and owner post-race. At one point, Burchinal had two buses, but went back down to one as he wanted his service personalized with him behind the wheel.

“He had the bus and all of his passengers involved,” Logue said, recalling that he would sing for his guests and have them try to name the song — his own version of Name That Tune. “Everybody knew him. This man came in and was involved with everything.”

The name Hal’s Angels came from a passenger on his bus during a trip back from St. Augustine. While on the road, the passenger saw a line of motorcycles rip through the road and created the name as a play on the infamous motorcycle club, Hells Angels.

Logue, aside from having a deep personal relationship with Burchinal, she assisted him with his busy schedule and kept finances and logs. She said he was truly engrained in the community and did not hesitate to lend a hand when possible.

“If you want to talk about pioneers, he was a true pioneer,” Logue said. “He was here all of the time and working and helping all of the organizations.”

In 2017, Burchinal had a stroke and it was discovered he also had dementia. He passed away in 2018 and his brain was donated to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Brain Endowment Bank for dementia research.

 

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj

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