State Historical Museum remembers Al Bell

DES MOINES, IOWA – This Friday will be a last day to remember Al Bell in Iowa. Bell, a former WHO broadcaster turned world traveler, educator, filmmaker and artist known for traveling to schools in Iowa to showcase films he made.

Bell wanted to be his own boss, to travel and to be an artist. So he started his own company to travel abroad and then present films of exotic travels in the world and in the country he would do. He then presented them to 400 to 500 schools a year, then made another trip in the summer.

“He was a character who just wanted to have fun and travel,” said his daughter, Becky Bell-Greenstreet. “He wanted to entertain the kids, and my mom being a teacher also said let’s teach them along the way, and they went all over the world.”

As the children grew up, they often came on trips and appeared in the movies.

“The deal with my mom, because she hated leaving us the kids at home on the farm, she said we could go overseas this year, but next year we have to stay in the States- United where we can drive,” Bell-Greenstreet said. “So we went to Alaska, we went to Newfoundland.”

Bell would work tirelessly during the school year to present programs. At first, he went from school to school, just trying to sell the administrators on his idea to present it to the students.

“Over the years when these little towns got together, to combine or whatever, but he was actually doing four programs a day and going from one little town to another, you know, in 15 minutes.”

At 9:30 a.m. Friday, Bell-Greenstreet will be at the Iowa Historical Museum with some exhibits and answering questions. From noon to 3 p.m., they will screen Al Bell Films.

“I call them Al Bell Movie Day at the museum and we used to do it every two years until we had the pandemic issue,” Bell-Greenstreet said. “I decided because of my age and experience that I’ve done enough, it really is something wonderful, it was a once in a lifetime experience to meet these hundreds of people.”


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Patrick F. Williams