“A Genius Passed Away”

Encouraged by her father’s success with his now syndicated Salome Sun, and his stories in the The Saturday Evening Post, “little Jane” kept on scribbling. During the fall and winter of 1925–1926, more of her poems were published, and her biography of a little colt told from his point of view came out in the Los Angeles Times on December 3, 1925. Jane had high standards for herself and those around her. In a new red leather diary for 1926, she gave herself marching orders for the year:” 1. Don’t be so saucy to Daddy; 2. Be more conciderate. [sic]; 3. Don’t primp so much. 4. Help mother more.”

Within a few months, Jane’s efforts attracted notice outside Salome. On a fortuitous Friday in late March,* the Yuma Morning Sun proclaimed in a small headline on its front page: “ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD SALOME GIRL IS WRITER OF FAIRYTALE WITH MOST IMPRESSIVE MORAL; SHOWS GENIUS.” “Up in Salome—made famous by Dick Wick Hall–,” the editorial comment began, “where the desert is just a little bit more desert than anywhere else in Arizona, there seems to be something in the air that produces a peculiar type of genius.” Jane’s composition followed. “How My Wish Was Granted” is a first-person tale of a melancholy little girl who has gone swimming in a small cove. Suddenly, the voice of a mermaid barely three inches high, interrupts her thoughts. The mermaid grants her one wish, and a mere twelve seconds to decide what it will be. The girl does not ask for anything extravagant but for a wreath of coral just like the one the mermaid has in her “dark lustrous hair.” The mermaid is so pleased at this modest request that she adds the gift of perfect happiness to the wreath. The little girl admits, ” . . .the heavy sense of depression that I had for the last few days left me, suddenly, and I felt perfectly happy.”

But the mood in the Hall household had changed by the beginning of April. Dick Wick Hall had gone to Los Angeles for some tooth extractions and run up against severe complications. On April 13, he typed a note to his wife from the Hotel Hayward. He was desperately homesick; his eyes brimmed with tears when he found a rose that Daysie had left in his bag and a sweet note from Jane in his typewriter. The next day, Dick’s doctors discovered that he had acute kidney disease. Jane, her mother, her thirteen-year-old brother, Dickie, as well as her uncle, Ernie,** were at his bedside at the small Angeles Hospital when Dick Wick Hall died on Wednesday, April 28, at about one in the afternoon.

There was no question about where Dick would be buried. On Sunday, May 2, eight leather-skinned pallbearers carried his casket to a modest garden near the office in Salome where Dick and his daughter had worked so diligently for much of her childhood. And there he would lie for generations to come next to a tall Saguaro. In the coming months, friends erected a small obelisk out of quartz and other local stone for a man whose quirky characters, sage advice and wry humor had given them a reason to smile. The town of Salome still celebrates “Dick Wick Hall Days” every autumn. And Jane Hall – whose journey had just begun – paid homage to the most important man in her life in the way she knew best.

To Daddy

When the blossom graced the cactus
And the fields were sweet with hay,
When the birds were singing in the trees,
A genius passed away.

In the joyous month of April
Just two days from merry May,
A man who made the whole world laugh,
My father, passed away.

Of all the mortals in this world,
Our Lord has picked the best,
For on the 28th of April
My Daddy went to Rest.

*March 26, 1926 to be exact.

**Ernest Hall, Dick’s younger brother, was Arizona’s third Secretary of State and occasional acting governor between 1921 and 1923.