She addressed the note to “My Pearls” and her bold scrawl covered the entire page. For the newly widowed Daysie Mae Sutton Hall her children were her life. She asked them to light the fire and not let any sparks pop on the floor.The mechanics of writing such as grammar, punctuation and spelling were not her forte. Jane was so much better at expressing herself. But Daysie had no trouble at all with the spoken word; she’d even won a gold medal for elocution. An aspiring opera singer, she met Dick in Los Angeles in 1909 while performing at a stage show. That she was “a woman of remarkable intellect and rare personal charm,” was clear to a Los Angeles Times reporter who spoke with Daysie on May 22, 1910 about her mother Rosa’s unprecedented battle with the United States Navy. And yet in all the articles in books, magazines and newspapers about Dick Wick Hall, his beloved Daysie – the subject of his numerous love poems – is rarely present.
Although she much preferred the climate on California’s coast, Daysie remained in Salome for a year after Dick died. It was her family’s hometown and the only place where they owned property. Daysie and her children could feel Dick’s presence there. it’s not surprising, given her own mother’s apparent ability to hear from departed family members, that Daysie also thought she saw Dick’s ghost. For of all Rosa Sutton’s children, Daysie was the most receptive to paranormal experiences.
But she could take little comfort from her late husband’s modest estate. For years the Halls had lived on a financial roller coaster and Dick’s unexpected death, just as his literary career had taken off, only made Daysie worry more. Dick’s primary legacy was his literary output – his wry humor and down-home philosophy would often be compared to that of his contemporary, Will Rogers. Daysie had always been more reserved and practical than her husband and knew she needed help.
Early in May 1926 she turned to the one person she trusted, Dick’s editor and mentor, Thomas Masson.* Masson urged her to be cautious around manipulative men who might take advantage of her situation. It would now be up to Daysie to carry on Dick’s work and Masson hoped she would not feel responsible for any of the debts Dick had incurred as an overly optimistic entrepreneur.
And the children, Jane and Dick Jr., continued to interest Masson “vastly;” he hoped Daysie would “let them alone largely . . . They will come through big, and above all, don’t let them think they are any sort of geniuses.” They were unusual to be sure. Daysie’s tall plucky 14-year-old son with curly dark brown hair, handicapped by cerebral palsy since birth, was gifted in science and math and an expert at chess despite his awkward gait and slow speech. Eleven-year-old Jane idolized her father. She had decided to be a writer too.
By the summer of 1927 “Dickie” was ready for his sophomore year. Daysie knew she must find good schools for the children. She found a house for rent in Manhattan Beach near the Pacific Ocean and only a short bus ride from Redondo Union High School. It would be from this new location that little Jane Hall’s career began to flourish as she thought often of her daddy and of the impact of his death on her family. In her heart, Jane never left the desert and Salome. Many years later, once she reached Hollywood, she would learn that many of her colleagues at MGM remembered her father too.