- They seemed an unlikely pair as they climbed the wide steps to Redondo Union High School at the beginning of September 1928. Dick Wick Hall, Jr., a thin, lanky 16-year-old with dark brown curly hair towered over his sturdy younger sister. “Little Jane” was both eager and apprehensive as they passed through the Ionic columns that guarded the main entrance to the auditorium like silent sentinels. The Beaux-Arts building overlooked the Pacific Ocean; its “stately beauty” reinforced the values that Principal Aileen Hammond and her faculty hoped to instill in their students. Jane had poured over the 1928 yearbook when her brother brought it home in June. This Pilot’s dedication honored alumnus Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, and Miss Hammond applauded his “severe discipline, modesty, courtesy, and unselfishness,” the same qualities Jane encouraged her young readers to cultivate in the stories and essays she’d published so far.
Just a year earlier, on their mother Daysie’s birthday, May 20, Lindbergh had left Long Island for Paris on the single-engine “Spirit of St. Louis.” (The Halls may have seen the Fox Movietone News newsreel of his plane as it took off on the solo transatlantic flight—it was the first news film with sound.) Daysie’s brother, their uncle Don Sutton, had been an aviator for the army and, when Jane let her imagination roam, she too longed for the opportunity to soar through the clouds in a small plane. One day she would.
For now she was one of 429 ninth grade “scrubs” (first semester freshmen) in a navy blue wool pleated skirt topped by a white cotton midi with blue collar and cuffs and black sailor tie – a uniform designed to keep the girls from noticing each other’s taste in fashion or lack of it. She signed up for at least four of the “solid” subjects required each year, choosing Spanish as her Foreign Language (later she wished she had taken French.) Then, as now, the school excelled in journalism and, by the end of October 1928, Jane had already become a Literary Assistant on the weekly student paper High Tide.
In the coming months and well into 1929, Jane not only did well in school and kept up her cooking column, she submitted other work that came out in local and Los Angeles papers. It did not take long for the editor of The Redondo Daily Breeze to notice her talent. Passersby soon saw a sign nailed to the front door of the Halls’ home at 1148 Manhattan Avenue that identified Jane as ”Manager” of the Manhattan Beach Office of The Breeze. She covered society news, City Hall, Service Club Meetings and other events of interest in the town while demonstrating unusual literary versatility and breadth.
Once her homework was done, she wrote poems, stories, editorials, a historical article about opium smuggling in Manhattan Beach, and human interest tales. James Globbins was a gentle, talkative elderly alcoholic she visited in Redondo Hermosa Hospital. He confided to her in Spanish how much he wanted to go to church but he could not leave the hospital for alcoholism had destroyed his health. But her splashiest article for The Breeze was a front page feature on Friday, June 14 about the Redondo Union High School graduation.
“Writer’s Career Shines Bright in Future of Young Beach Girl” Jim McGinnis told readers of The Breeze on September 10, 1929. After noting Dick Wick Hall’s success in The Saturday Evening Post, McGinnis published a poem that had brought Jane a silver medal in from the prestigious St. Nicholas League; according to her scrapbook, it also came out in The Manhattan News Progress and Hermosa Review.
“Midnight Seen Through an Open Window.”
And darkened windows.
Roads littered with the shrouds
Of yesterday’s merriment.
Far off, the sound of a brush –
Ceaseless, monotonous as time.
He comes in sight at last –
And old, bent man.
Sweeping up the remains
Of someone’s pleasure.
Banana peels – and empty wrappers.
Wind whips through his tattered coat.
His hands are gnarled, his thin face
Creased with care.
For him, life has been
an empty wrapper . . . .
Fate is cruel.
Jane’s “fourteen-year-old eyes evidently see a part of the burning beauty and piercing truth of the world that is denied to most of its rather blind inhabitants,” Mr. McGinnis observed. “She is quite certain that someday she will be an author. She will.”
Many thanks to Therese Martinez and the Archive staff at Redondo Union High School for their help in locating information about Jane Hall and her brother Dick Wick Hall, Jr.
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