Where Is Dick Wick Hall Now?

Once again, the town of Salome, Arizona, and the surrounding community will celebrate Dick Wick Hall Day.  Years ago, I was fortunate to participate in these festivities with each of my daughters. My grandfather’s most visible legacy still lies in Salome (where he’s pictured here), and in the other towns of the McMullen Valley among people who find creative ways to preserve the past.

Although I never met Dick Wick and Daysie Hall, I have come to know them through what they wrote and what was written about them, as well as by visiting the places where they lived. Hall’s philosophy, his shrewd marketing skills, and his writings put Salome on statewide and national maps. Fry’s Electronics store in Tempe celebrates Arizona’s Golf History with two murals near the software and service departments that feature Dick’s Greasewood Golf Course and Dick, his Salome Frog and the famous stick figure image of Salome in a desert setting.

Dick also survives online and in books, pamphlets, newspapers, and in magazines such as Arizona Highways. Two well-documented articles appeared in the Journal of Arizona History (Winter, 1970 and Spring, 1984). Hall’s business papers can be found at various locations such as the Arizona Historical Society (Tucson and Yuma Branches), and the Arizona State Library (Archives and Public Records) in Phoenix. Several letters from his daughter Jane, written when she was about seven to nine years old, are among the Hall papers in Tucson (MS 321). These moving letters show how much she missed her father, for she was his protégé.

But here’s something only those of you reading this post will know: At the end of November 1936, Jane sent a letter to Robert E. Callahan, the author who hoped to publish a biography of her father. He had kept in touch with her about his progress but was not happy to learn that she and her brother wanted to write something about Dick Wick Hall too. Life’s challenges got in the way; Jane never did write about her father.  Mr. Callahan could have sold his story about Dick to Warner Bros. had fate not intervened: “Will Rogers would have been the lead in the movie had he not passed away [in a plane crash on August 15, 1935].”

Not only had humorist and film star Will Rogers been “deeply interested in the story” of Dick Wick Hall, Callahan wrote, “but one of the studios here took the script and went completely through it and many of our plans were working right at the time of Mr. Rogers’ untimely death so you can see in these ten years I did not lose interest in the life of Dick Wick Hall or the work I did in connection with doing something worthwhile.” Given Jane’s future as a screenwriter at MGM — where, she reported, “so many people remember my father,” — how happy she and her brother Dickie would have been to see this movie made.

Dick Wick Hall was often compared to Will Rogers. We owe a lot to the late Frances D. Nutt who, after years of hard work, published An Arizona Alibi: The Desert Humor of Dick Wick Hall, Sr. — Arizona’s First Famous Humorist in 1990. The Foreword by Barry Goldwater (1909-1998) reveals that he was a big Dick Wick Hall fan. Like the Halls, Senator Goldwater’s family made the trip from Arizona to California every summer when he was a child “to get away from the heat of Phoenix and the desert.” He remembered stopping in Salome. “There will never be another Dick Wick Hall unless another community finds a need for one, ” he wrote, “and then they are going to have to invent him.”

And, in honor of Arizona’s Centennial in 2012,  we published The Laughing Desert  a replica of the 1925-1926 syndicated Salome Sun with a Foreword by the beloved Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble. It’s available on Amazon.