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James Oscar Hall



After I graduated from the eighth grade in Anthony, I went back to Ajo to stay with my parents. I went there for my freshman and sophomore years. When I was a junior, my grandmother wanted me to come back to Vinton and stay with her. So I did that year and went to high school my junior year at Anthony High School. When I got out of school that year, I went back to Ajo for my senior year. In my freshman and sophomore years in school, I did very well. I think I made 10 credits those two years. You only needed sixteen credits to graduate. My down fall was when I got to Anthony. Then I was driving a car to school and my grandmother would give me $5.00 a week spending money. That $50.00 a week was a lot more money than most people were making on their jobs. Back in those days the wages werenít very good. I flunked a couple of courses in Anthony. When I went back to Ajo in my senior year, I was already spoiled. I was lazy and didnít want to work so I flunked a couple of more courses. I lacked two credits of having sixteen credits to graduate so I didnít graduate with my class. The next year I started back again but it was too late for me. All my classmates were gone. I just didnít like school anymore. Another thing, I got a job. They started paving all the streets in Ajo and I got a job working on that. I worked on that job so I never did get my diploma.

During school vacation of my sophomore year, I got a job in the mill working with my dad. My dad got me the job when I was only fifteen years old. I was making $4.12 a day. That was a lot of money for a kid. My mother saved my money for me again. I had to pay her $1.00 a day for board and room. She saved my money but I donít remember how much. My dad and mother took the money and built three apartments in the the back yard of our house. They rented the three places out to different people. One of the persons who lived there was Marsha Allenís father. (Marsha is married to Darrell Allen, Lurlineís sister, Thelmaís, oldest boy.

Ajo Plaza 1925
Ajo was a very hot town in the summer time. The heat would get 110-115 degrees. Itís even hotter than Phoenix. Of course, in those days there were no coolers and we just had to suffer through the heat. I consider myself a B.C. Arizonan even though I wasnít born in Arizona. Iíve lived most of my life in Arizona. Now, when I say B.C. Arizonan I mean before coolers. In those days there was no such thing known as a cooler to keep your house cool. The only way we could enjoy ourselves in the summer time was to go down to the park. The down town had quite a large park and every evening after the sun had gone down, everyone would leave their homes and congregate in the park. Everyone would bring a blanket. We didnít have radios where you could play them out in the park. In those days radios had to be connected up with electricity and there were no batteries. Anyway, we had a Victrola out there and sometimes on the weekend on especially Saturday nits a little orchestra would play. Weíd get out there and dance around a cement platform in the center of the park. A lot of people would bring their picnic down or the kids would just play. We had several people who were good with calisthenics. We just had a good time doing those things. On the weekends we had a place called the Chocolate Shoppe which was a local soda fountain in the center of town. They had dances there, also. We would go to those dances and have a real nice time. Half a dozen times during the year different organizations would have dances that were held up in the school auditorium. Boy that was the thing to do Ė to go to those dances. I was dancing when I was 15 years old, may even 13 or 14. I donít remember but we all had big times there. In the evenings when everyone left their homes and went down to the park to cool off, the park would be so crowded. It would be almost impossible to walk through the park without stepping on someone. In Ajo there was always a little breeze coming from the Mexico from the south and of course the Gulf of Mexico was only 60 or seventy miles as the bird flies. It always seemed like a little breeze. We enjoyed that very much.

While I was still in grammar school, I remember an incident that happened in Ajo. A doctor and the head butcher at the company store and two or three other fellows had been in Mexican town drinking and having Mexican food. They started teasing the butcher about something. He got mad, got up and left them. He told them he was going home to get his gun and kill every one of them. He went home and got his gun. The rest of the fellows got into their car. They came to town and the old butcher met them on the corner across from the bank. He pulled his gun out and shot one fellow through the chest two or three times. Than the doctor, a Dr. Combs, started running down the street. The old butcher leveled down on him with a pistol, pulled the trigger and the gun jammed. That was the only thing that saved the doctorís life. I was just around the corner when the shots were fired. I went running around the corner and saw the guy whom the butcher shot, fall. Then another fellow, Jack Grayís brother, Bob, came up at that time. When the gun jammed on the butcher, Bob Gray came and took the gun away from him. They sent for the deputy sheriff. The deputy came along and took the butcher to jail. Afterward the butcher was sent to the penitentiary. He got a life sentence. He was already an old man and died in the penitentiary. He had become the butcher for the penitentiary.


After I quit going to school in Ajo, the big depression came and there was no work for anyone. They were laying people off. But, before they shut the mine down in Ajo, there were a couple of years I hung around and lived with my dad and mother. When there was no work or money and we couldnít do anything, a group of us boys ran around together all the time. There was Dave Doran, Jack Gray, Leslie Whaley, Ira Stewart and Faye Kent. Faye was about the only girl in our group because she and Ira Stewart were going together. We had all gone to school together through the years. There was no recreation for us except to go to the swimming hole so we all learned to play bridge. We spent hours and hours down at the park or the Federal Hall playing bride. We got to be real good bridge players.

One time during that 2 year period, another kid by the name of Ralph Rule and I decided to go to California and be movie stars. We hitched hiked to Los Angeles. We got a room with an old lady who Ralph was acquainted with. I donít remember how long we were there but during the few days we were there, there wasnít much to eat. When the lady got up each morning and went to town to do her grocery shopping, Ralph and I would slip into her kitchen and get on piece of bologna and two slices of bread apiece. That was all we had to eat for quite a few days. Thanksgiving Day came and Ralph and I went down town to try to get a job in one of the department stores when he ran into some old friends of his. They invited us to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. We went. This was during a time in my life there was some food I could not stand. It was wieners and sauerkraut. I never did learn to like them and even now I donít like them too much. When we went to their house for Thanksgiving dinner, low and behold they had sauerkraut and wieners. I ate them anyway because I was hungry. I wrote to my mother and told here where we were. She sent me $5.00. Ralph and I really did celebrate. We went down to a place in Los Angles to a restaurant called Booís Brothers and for 35 cents you could eat all you wanted. Ralph and I went in there and really did stuff ourselves. By then we were discouraged and for 16 year old kids it was hard to get a job. We decided to come back to home plus the $5.00 was already gone. We had spent it for food and everything. We started out one morning to go back home to Ajo. It took us 5 days to hitch hike from Los Angeles to Ajo. During those 5 days we had nothing to eat at all. We stopped at Holtville, California. Holtville is probably 40 or 50 miles from Yuma. We got out on the outskirts of Holtville one evening just before dark and there were 40 or 50 fellows out there hitch hiking. You know it was pretty hard to get a ride. We started walking. The next morning about 9:00 we walked into Yuma. Ralph and I stood out on the highway from 9:00 in the morning until late in the afternoon trying to get a ride and no one would give us a ride. Ralph said, ďLetís ride a freight train.Ē It scared the dickens out of me. I didnít want to ride a freight train but he finally talked me into it. We caught a freight train and rode into Gila Bend. Gila Bend is only 42 miles from Ajo. The only way to get a ride into Ajo was to catch a ride in a car or on an old bus that ran on rails. Eddie Davies was the operator of the bus. He always left Gila Bend at 2:00 in the morning. It would take two hours to go those 42 miles. Mr. Davies put us in the baggage area and let us ride into Ajo free. I remember we got into Ajo about 4 or 5:00 in the morning. I went home and was so hungry. I came into the back door of the kitchen and went to the ice box and grabbed out bacon and eggs. We had an old kerosene stove and I lit that up and started frying bacon and eggs. My mother heard me and she came running in there and grabbed me around the neck. I was sure glad to see her and that bacon and eggs was the best meal I had in my life.

Some time later our house burned down. My mother had a pot of beans on the stove. They boiled over or something. The house caught fire so we had to live for quite a few months back in those little shacks my father had built as apartments.

Shortly after that, the Ajo Mining Company decided to lay everyone off. A few of the men got to work. My dad was a shift foreman in the mill so they kept him on and told him he could work for 3 months at his regular salary and be laid off for 3 months. My dad was too proud or I donít know what his trouble was but he didnít want to stay in Ajo and work. He wrote to Lewis Douglas who owned a big interest in Phelps Dodge. Lewis Douglas wrote him back and told him he could go to Jerome where he could put him to work in the mill. We left Ajo and started toward Jerome and got as far as Wickenburg. My dad was quite a drinker in these days and he got hold of a bottle of booze and started drinking. The whole outcome of it was my dad rented or leased a little service station and restaurant. We stayed in Wickenburg and didnít go to Jerome. He didnít try to go there. We stayed in Wickenburg for about a year.


Because times were so bad my mother and dad decided to go separate ways for awhile in order to get food on the table. I donít know where my dad went but my mother went to Tucson and stayed with Grace Gibson. She got real sick. She couldnít get the right medical treatment so somehow Grace got her into the Los Angeles County Hospital in California. She had phlebitis and was packed in ice from her hips down. At that time they didnít know how to treat that kind of ailment. She was there for a few months and died there. In my younger years, the only time I prayed was when my mother was sick. I asked that my mother not die. It was always hard to pray after that time because my prayer wasnít answered.


During the years between 1932 and 1934, I had several different jobs. I worked in one place in Wickenburg. I got $1.00 a day and my board. I had to rent a little old trailer house out in the woods. I worked form 6:00 in the evening until 6:00 the next morning. I was the cook, the waiter, the dishwasher and the service station attendant. I had to sell for the man who also was a bootlegger. He kept bootleg whiskey and every bottle I sold for him heíd give me a quarter. Thatís how I worked there.

I also worked in a little mining camp at Truth or Consequences, New Mexico for a little while. I worked with my dad. To start with, I had to go into an old mine and dig the ore they had shot the night before and put it into a car and push it off to a dump where it went into the mill. It was a little gold mine I worked 2 or 3 days underground. I remember that the 2nde or 34d day I had to dig rock out. They showed me how to take a little pick and knock off the sides of the roof where they blasted. The blasting would leave loose rock all over the sides and on top of the tunnel. I went in there one day to pick off where it looked safe. I started working and I stuck my shovel into a rock and picked up a shovel full and turned back of me to put it into the ore car, when the whole top of the ceiling caved it. It missed me by inches. That scared the living day light out of me. I went down and told my dad I didnít want anymore of the underground. He put me in the mill to work with him.

I had another job in El Paso where I worked for Fred Hervey. Fred Hervey is the man who owned the Circle K stores at one time. I worked for him first by starting out as a dish washe and I got to be a cook and finally I got up front as a soda jerk. All 3 jobs paid the same money. I got paid 24 cents an hour. I remember when I was working for Fred Hervey washing dishes; I broke a big dinner plate. The plates, even in those days, cost $1.00 for the bit section plates. Fred saw me so when pay day came along, the cost of that dinner plate was taken out of my check. When I was a cook, Fred came back into the kitchen and rummaged through the big ice box and found a package of meat, a roast, that was spoiled. When pay day came the cost of the roast was taken out of my check. When I got up front jerking sodas, I was standing by him one day and his wife came in. She was mad at him and had a little pistol. She took a shot at him and that scared me. One of the kids, Moon Mullins, who was working there was in the army but he worked there part time also. We had known he had fallen in love with a married woman. Moon came in one evening and said she rejected him. He was going to kill himself. He went into the kitchen where Fred kept a little revolver. Moon got a hold of this and started to go outside. Fred came along and took it away from him. Then Fred took all the shells out of the gun and threw them out into the backyard. Awhile later, Moon went back and got the gun and when no one was looking went out and looked all the backyard and found one shell. He took that shell and killed himself.


Bobbie (Erna) and Edgar James Hall in 1950

My dad went to El Paso and stayed with his mother until she died in 1935. Then my dad inherited quite a bit of money. I donít think too much cash but he inherited 3 houses in El Paso and the home in Vinton. He sold it all. I donít know how much money he got out of it but he drank it all up. Then he met a woman by the name of Bobbie. I donít even know her last name but they got married. They were married longer than my dad and mother were married.


While I was working for Fred, one of my friends from Ajo wrote and told me that Ajo was going to open up again. I quit Fred and went back to Ajo. I got a job working out in the open pit mine. I worked only a few days on the track gang. I made $2.40 a hour. Then I had Ginger to take care of.

Bill, Jim and Ginger

Ginger was my youngest brother. He was staying with me. I told Ginger as soon as I got a raise in pay for $4.12 a day, I would buy him a new bicycle just to celebrate. I only worked a week on the track gang, that's the labor gang. Then they promoted me and made me a brakeman for $4.12 a day. I went down to the company store and bought Ginger a bicycle. Late on, Bob Lipps, who was my uncle and who was 1 year younger than me, came to Ajo to get a job.

Bill, my brother, was in the CC camp. He came there to work, also. All three of us batched together in the little house my dad had built.

I worked as a brakeman for one year in the open pit mine there. We had a shut down for four weeks that year for summer vacation. After the mine opened, they gave me a job as fireman on a steam shovel. That was a much better job than braking and the line promotion there was much better. In those days you could work on a steam shovel which was a three man operation. They had a fireman, a craneman and then an operator. The firemanís pay was $4.12 a day, the cranemanís job was $5.40 a day and the operator job was $7.00 a day. We worked 7 days a week. We didnít get any over time. It was straight money. I remember later the next year they promoted me to a craneman. I remember my first check I got for two full weeks work was $90.00 clear. I thought I had the world by the tail. Nobody had as much money as that.

Bill and Jim

From grammar school, high school and including the time I worked in Ajo, I had a few good friends. We all ran around together all the time. Of my friends there was Dave Doren, Jack Gray, Leslie Waley, Ira Stewart, Faye Stewart, Inex Armstrong, Irene Armstrong, Carl Lemmiueriex, Bill Gree and Gootch Greer. We were boom companions. We all traveled together for all those years. Even one time in 1936, there were four of us fellow, Bill and Gootch Gree, myself and another fellow who wasnít in our crowd but he went with us to Long Beach, California for our vacation. We went there for a month. We rented an apartment right on the beach. We paid $50.00 for the monthís rent. I remember that as soon as we got there we headed for the ocean. I had saved $100.00 for that vacation. My part of the rent was $12.50. I remember I changed into my bathing suit and went down to a little outside shower. I left my billfold in that outside shower. I went swimming in the ocean for a couple of hours. Then while swimming I remembered I had left my billfold there. I ran back to the apartment to see if it was still there and luckily it was. I didnít lose my money or I would have had to come home. We all bought round trip tickets on the Greyhound so if we had spent all our money we would be able to get back home. I always spent my money a little faster than anyone else. It seemed toward the last 10 days I began to run short of money. They had a Bingo game nearby that gave prizes of cigarette cartons. You could take the cigarettes across the street and trade them in for cash. I played Bingo one day because I thought I might be able to win one of the prizes and I did. I won $25.00. That kept me going for another 10 days and saved me from having to go home early.

Jim and Madaline, daughter of Lilly Tracy

I only worked in Ajo for 3 years during that period. I went to work on the first day of January, 1935 and I quit in December of 1937 so that was nearly 3 years. During 2 years of that time, there was a fellow by the name of Skitter Blair. Glen Blair was his real name. He went with a girl by the name of Evelyn Arella. I went with a school teacher by the name of Emma Morris. The four of us were more or less boon companions. We went to dances and had lots of good fun. Emma was a real nice girl. She taught school in Ajo. She was born and raised in Clifton, Arizona. When Ajo opened up in 1934, in July, her father came over from Clifton and went to work as an electrician. Emma was going to the University of Arizona in Tucson and graduated as a school teacher. She came to Ajo and lived with her parents and taught school. During those years of growing up in Ajo and working there, I had quite few different girl friends but nothing serious. I didnít want to get married. I had a terrible enough time taking care of myself with getting married.


When I quit Ajo in December of 1937, I went to El Paso and stayed with my grandparents Lipps. I then decided to go to Austin, Texas and visit with my cousin. I stayed three months with Virginia Tracy or Virginia Cook, her name then. Her mother was Lilly Tracy, a sister to my grandmother Lipps. She was married to Bill Cook. Bill worked for one of the big department stores downtown. We had a lot of fun.

1927-1938 1938-1974