Friday, June 10, 2016

TOP STORY >> At 97, still bowling strikes

Leader staff writer

It is not every day you see a 97-year-old man bowling, just on Mondays at Allfam Bowling in Cabot.

Robert Hall of Jacksonville continues to live an active lifestyle. He can be found knocking down pins while taking advantage of the special senior rate from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays when games are $1.49 each instead of the regular rate $3.29 per game before 4 p.m.

Hall began bowling in his 70s. He and his wife Doris, who is 89, often play with Geoff Rushton, 91, also of Jacksonville. The three met 20 years ago while playing at the Sherwood bowling alley until it closed. They play for fun and are not in a league.

“We like the sociability of the group and the exercise,” Hall said.

Hall was born in 1918 in Thessolon, Ontario, Canada, near Michigan. His father was a lumber scaler who bought lumber for furniture factories in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Hall grew up in Mancelona, Mich. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1941 from the University of Central Michigan, majoring in math and science. His first wife had family in Arkansas. During summers he went to summer school at the University of Arkansas, where he earned a master’s in education administration.

He had a 30-year career in education in Michigan. He was a classroom teacher for two years, a high school principal for three years and a school superintendent for 25 years.

Hall taught for one year until the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, when he soon volunteered for the Army during the Second World War.

He was selected to officer candidate school. After graduating as a first lieutenant he was sent to the Pine Bluff Arsenal as a shift officer in munitions production.

Hall was later reassigned to the chemical warfare research lab in Edgewood, N.J.

“I worked on flame throwers and fuels. The object was to increase the oxygen consumption of the fuel of the flame thrower,” Hall said.

He said his unit worked on developing a cart that could be used by two people to sneak into caves. It could hold more fuel than a backpack unit and was more maneuverable than one installed on a tank. The flamethrowers were used in the Asian theater.

“The Japanese would use caves as bunkers. The flamethrowers worked efficiently burning up the oxygen and they would suffocate,” he said.

Hall served four years in the Army staying in the United States for the entire war.

After the war, Hall returned to Michigan as an educator. He took a brief time out from his education career and got into politics. He ran for Congress in 1958 as a Democrat in a district in Michigan.

“I won in the primary, but lost in the general election. It was an interesting experience,” Hall said.

Hall was involved with the state legislature as a superintendent lobbing for adequate funding for the Cement City School District.

“With my frequent contact with the state legislature, the local Democratic Party asked if I would consider running. I thought they were talking about the state legislature, but they explained it was for the federal House,” Hall said.

Hall said he met President Harry Truman and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

“I got a kick out of meeting Truman. He gave me advice on campaigning techniques. He told me to put pamphlets under the windshield wipers of cars,” Hall said.

After losing the election he returned to the Cement City School District, where he said mixing politics and school business did not set well. If there was an issue, people would split along party lines.

He resigned and went to work as a superintendent of the St. Charles School District. Hall retired in 1971 at age 56.

Hall’s connection to Jacksonville started when he visited his daughter, Vicki. She was a personnel director for Redmond Industry in Michigan. The small electric motor manufacturing company moved to Jacksonville and Vicki Hall relocated. The company was later known as Franklin Electric.

In 1983, Robert and Doris Hall bought a trailer in north Pulaski County. They spent six months in Arkansas and six months in Michigan.

They moved permanently to Jacksonville in 2000 when they bought a new house.