Shooting Hoops and Rolling Dice
On the night of November 14, 2015, more than 100 Musselman & Hall employees and their guests descended on the college Basketball Experience for our annual employee appreciation night.
After an intense competition of free throw shooting, three point shooting, vertical jumping, horse and knockout; the group sat down for a delicious buffet dinner and program.
The following employees were recognized for their service to the company:
Rookie of the Year: Matt Watterson
Five years: Jeremy Newland and Larry Eilenstine
Ten years: Jason Casey, Brandon Hyden and Cody Worsley.
Fifteen years: Clint Hager and Derek Ephland.
Twenty Years: Dexter Phillips.
Thirty Years: Mike Barnes.
A few weeks later on December 11, another 100 plus employees gathered at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in St. Louis for the eastern Missouri version of the event. As the St. Louis operation is less than five years old, no longevity awards were given. However, the group enjoyed a fun casino night.
On the evening of November 23, my family and I gathered at our home to celebrate the 100th birthday of my father, Harry L. Hall.
Dad was born November 23, 1915 in Elephant Butte, New Mexico. My grandfather Harry F. Hall lived there while working on the construction of the Elephant Butte dam. Elephant Butte is in southeast New Mexico near Truth or Consequences.
The Halls were not wealthy people. My grandfather, one of four boys, was the son of a stonemason from Sedalia, Missouri. Grandpa was not formally educated, but the entire Hall family was grounded in the construction business. My great-grandfather, Nicholas Halthausen, was a stonemason. When my sister was attending college in Enid, Oklahoma in 1961, Dad drove us by the little shanty where they had lived in Oil Hill, KS, near Eldorado during the 1920’s. Grandpa had worked at the refinery there. Shanty is the right word-there was no hint of luxury.
In the mid 1920’s, my grandmother, Trixie Hall, died and left my grandfather with my father, his younger sister Dale and his older brother Raymond. It was also in the mid 1920’s that my great uncle, John N. Hall, contracted tuberculosis and moved to Arizona. Uncle John convinced Grandpa to relocate to Kansas City and take over his interest in Musselman & Hall Contractors.
Records show that Musselman & Hall thrived during the Roaring Twenties. Business in Kansas City was going well and Grandpa moved the family into the house I knew at 4008 St. John in northeast Kansas City. By then, Grandpa had found help raising his three children when he hired a housekeeper by the name of Dorothy, whom he later married. She was always, “Aunt Dorothy” and never Grandma.
As the stock market crashed and the depression hit, somehow the Harry Hall family survived. AS Uncle Ray went off to college to earn a medical degree and dad shuffled off to the University of Kansas to earn a Civil Engineering degree in 1939.
Dad married my mother two times. The first time they married secretly while dad was at KU and mom was in highschool. Thanks to my mother’s sister, Beulah, the secret was disclosed and my grandfather had the marriage annulled. Two years later, as Dad turned 21 and my mom turned 18, they were united again in a wonderful marriage that lasted until Dad died of stomach cancer on January 23, 1978 at the young age of 62.
Dad’s life was marked by three significant events. The first occurred during his youth-as a very good baseball player, he struck on the nose by a bat shattering his nose and leaving him permanently disfigured. He attempted plastic surgery but it was never successful. The broken nose caused Dad to be rated 4F for selective service. When other men went off to World War II, he was left behind to fly airplanes for the Civil Air Patrol. He would have loved being a pilot in the Army Air Corps, but that was not to be.
The second event, of course, was the secret marriage and the scandal that followed. This fiasco left my dad permanently disenchanted with his church and permanently scarred the relationship between my parents and their parents. It was ugly!
Finally, in June of 1954, my parents were attending a 25th Wedding Anniversary party for our next door neighbors in Raytown. During the party Dad, slipped and fell on a wet stairway – jamming the drinking glass he had been holding into his right hand – through the center of his hand, severing all the arteries and tendons. He nearly died from loss of blood. He did survive, but with a severely deformed hand which plagued him for the remainder of his life.
Dad was a complex man, raised without a mother, by the grandfather (who also lost his mother at an early age). He was never quite sure how to love my sister and me. He never hugged me or told me he loved me – he didn’t have to. I could tell it from the way he cared for me. He taught me discipline, honesty, and how to treat and respect women.
It took Dad a long time to accept Judy into our family. He was not good at accepting outsiders.
Not long before he died, he told me there were two women in his life. They became more beautiful as they aged. One was my mother Florence, and the other was my wife Judy. It was the nicest thing he had ever said to me. I think of it every day.
Dad worked at Musselman & Hall as a laborer to an owner from 1930s until he died in 1978. Under his leadership, the company survived the death of my grandpa in 1968 and the death of his partner and cousin, Ed, in 1969. He had the wisdom to lay out a plan to transfer the business to me-allowing the company to last for more than 100 years.
This was the group we refer to as “The Greatest Generation.” My dad was born at the beginning of World War I, raised during The Great Depression, tempered by the second World War (in which he could not serve), crippled by two debilitating injured, survived two airplane crashes and a car wreck-all the while providing a safe and comfortable suburban life for his wife and children. Way to go Dad! Happy Birthday!