She has addressed the short note to “My Pearls” and her bold scrawl covers the entire page. For the newly widowed Daysie Mae Sutton Hall her children are her life. “Light the fire & be careful it do not pop on the floor. Will be home in due course – all my love to my treasures Mammy.” At the bottom of the page, there is a postscript for her son – she called him “Handsome” just as he often called her “Fairest.”
Few papers survive in Daysie’s handwriting, perhaps because grammar, punctuation and spelling were not her forte. (That may be one reason why she spelled her name phonetically though no one else in her family would use this unusual spelling of “Daisy.”) But Daysie had no trouble at all with the spoken word and had won a gold medal for elocution. An aspiring opera singer, she met Dick in Los Angeles in 1909 while performing at a stage show. Her tall, slender frame lent itself well to the Gibson girl look but when Daysie piled her thick auburn hair on top of her head she often covered it with a large ornate hat. 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 . (See the home page.) 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.
She was born in 1882 and raised in Portland and Los Angeles. 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. Perhaps 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 not take much 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. His primary legacy was clearly his literary output – his wry humor and down-home philosophy would often be compared to that of his contemporary, Will Rogers. But Daysie had always been more reserved and practical than her husband and she knew her limitations. Early in May 1926 she turned to the one person she trusted, Dick’s editor and mentor, Thomas Masson. Two of his long, thoughtful typed letters to her survive (May 28, 1926 and February 15, 1927). 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. The letters also reveal Masson’s spiritual side – for him Dick was still:
“much more alive than ever, for his real, immortal self is here, and released from the material bondage. This is what you must see. There is nothing ghostly about it. It is just a fact. Before [he died], he was unable to express himself, because he was earthbound. He was so intensely earthbound that he couldn’t stand it – here. That frequently happens, especially with intense natures. They cannot drop off the material, there is a point from which they cannot go – here. The material structure thus breaks and frees them to express themselves.”
This seems to be a surprising comment for Masson to make because he was so supportive of the way Dick expressed himself in his writing. And yet, in his letters to Daysie, he implied that Dick’s death was in a sense foreordained. And once his spirit was in God’s hands he became truly free.
As for Jane and Dick Jr. they 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 and was more determined than ever to follow in his footsteps as a writer, and to help her mother by selling her own poems and stories .
By the summer of 1927, ” Dickie” as Jane called him, had benefited greatly from a tutor and was ready for sophomore year. Daysie knew she must find good schools for the children and so the Halls headed for Los Angeles where Rosa Sutton eagerly waited for her family . But Rosa’s large personality and small living quarters motivated Daysie to start house hunting quickly. She focused on finding affordable rental housing 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 .
We will join the Halls in Manhattan Beach in the January posts and returned to Arizona occasionally. For in her heart, Jane never totally left the desert and Salome; when she reached Hollywood she noticed that many of her colleagues remembered her father too. Jane would hold up a mirror to those who were caught up in the pretensions of high society just as her father had done in his stories and columns, She even took on his habit of capitalizing nouns unexpectedly – editors did not seem to object .
Part Two: How Do We Know What We Know?
As a historian and as the granddaughter of Dick and the daughter of Jane Hall , I’m writing these posts with both a personal and professional perspective. Although I never met Rosa Sutton or 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. My mother rarely spoke about her early life, but she left an archive that provides an intriguing window into her private thoughts, her published observations and into the life of an American girl in the first three decades of the 20th century . When she died, Jane had not been well for many years and it was easier, at first, to immerse myself in her father’s papers. I have made several trips to Salome, often with one or both of my daughters. Twice we had the great privilege of being in the “Dick Wick Hall Days” parade. Dick’s most visible legacy today lies in Salome and in the other towns of the McMullen Valley among people who find creative ways to preserve memories of the past.
And there are those throughout Arizona who still appreciate Dick’s philosophy and shrewd marketing skills– his writings put Salome on statewide and national maps. Today Fry’s Electronics store in Tempe (2300 West Baseline Road) is celebrating Arizona’s Golf History with a series of murals. Two large murals are already up near the software and service departments that feature Dick’s Greasewood Golf Course and Dick with his Salome Frog and the famous stick figure image of Salome in a desert setting. Perhaps this is a perfect example of Masson’s claim that, after he died, Dick was much more alive than ever.
There are many articles about Dick Wick Hall in books, pamphlets, newspapers and in magazines such as Arizona Highways. Two well-documented ones 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 Jane, written when she was about seven to nine years old, are among the Hall papers in Tucson (MS 321). An internet search of “Dick Wick Hall” brings up several resources (including images) some of which are more reliable than others.
Dick’s pen, his aneroid barometer* in the shape of a gold pocket watch, a stamp with his signature, a glass office sign with “D.W. Hall” in gold letters against a black background, some stationary, photo albums, his personal papers including many letters and love poems to Daysie that have never been made public stayed with his daughter Jane. She always wanted to write about her father and to publish a collection of his writings. But “real life” in the form of other obligations intervened. Although Jane objected because she hoped to do it herself, we owe a lot to the late Frances D. Nutt who did just that in 1990 with An Arizona Alibi: The Desert Humor of Dick Wick Hall, Sr. — Arizona’s First Famous Humorist. The forward 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.”
*It was identified with the help of Laraine Daly Jones, Museums Collections Manager at the Arizona Historical Society, Southern Division (Tucson) who found the link (above) and explained that “an aneroid barometer measures air pressure without the use of liquid mercury.” For additional information about Hall’s papers at the Arizona Historical Society contact archivist Christine Seliga (Tucson), or AHSref AT azhs.gov or Carol Brooks (Yuma).
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