Finding the Good – On The Road With Steve Hartman

by Oletta Branstiter

Virtual Road Trip

Sometimes in the evening, as I switch my TV on to tune into the local CBS news broadcast, I will be fortunate enough to catch the very end of the latest Steve Hartman – On the Road episodes.

I admit: sometimes I hesitate, knowing it will leave me with a catch in my throat and a tear in my eye. But I never regret it.

Steve Hartman took the wheel for On the Road when Charles Kuralt passed away from complications of Lupus in 1997. The show celebrated its 50th anniversary in late 2017.

“I went into this part of journalism because I didn’t like competing for the lead story,” Hartman explained. “I liked the people that you saw more at the end of the newscast. I just got along with them better. I was always nervous around celebrities and politicians, but I could go interview the guy who’s the one-armed wood carver and I would get along great.” – from On the Road Turns 50

Making It Personal

Besides hundreds of other interesting personalities, Hartman took the time to memorialize a touching scene with his own widowed father. His dad, George Hartman, living in the house he built with his own hands for his family in Toledo, Ohio, needed help. Steve, as a dutiful son, made an extended visit to help him downsize and sell the home for a move to a retirement facility in Atlanta, Georgia. This would allow Steve’s brother, Mike, to keep a close eye on their aging father.

Of course, Steve, like always, found the humor and the wisdom in the experience. He found the good in a sad ending to a chapter in his family’s life.

That’s what every episode of On the Road is about. Steve Hartman and his crew have the joy of meeting fascinating people, listen to their unusual stories and find the good in them.

Whet Your Whistle

One of his latest stories featured 54-year old Chris Ullman, a partner in a Washington, D.C. investment firm. Over the decades, Ullman has earned his way to becoming a renowned whistle-blower. Literally. He calls himself The Happy Whistler. 

Chris makes music by whistling. And, in his politically-charged city of intrigue and animosity, he has found his calling. Mr. Ullman says he even whistled “Dixie” at the request of House Majority Leader Dick Armey in 1995, signaling the government shutdown. He prefers apolitical whistling now.

These days, Capitol Hill workers are regularly treated to his harmonious pucker. He dedicates much of his free time to whistling a glorious rendition of the Happy Birthday song for anyone who requests it. He’ll even do it over the phone if he can’t meet with the celebrant in person.

As the audience smiles, Whistling Chris lays some wisdom on us:

I’m going to honor you, because of you, and that is the bottom line, is that we have forgotten to love each other and we have forgotten to respect each other. That is the problem.” (ibid)

So, when you’re out there, on your own road, find your own “whistle”. Find the good in everyone.



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