Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Remembering James Hallman

Hi Bill

I have been thinking about our father this morning for some reason. As you know, he was a remarkable man who struggled through his younger years, and worked hard to provide a good life for Mom and us boys. Below are some of my thoughts about him. If you want to add your thoughts about him please do so.

Me and Dad - Our property is on the left
Our father, James Hallman has been gone now for about 48 years. However, I still think of him often and I am grateful that he was part of my life. He was an incredible person (and father) who had a big influence on me during those seemingly fleeting years while I was a young boy and then while growing through my teenage and college years. He died suddenly one day in 1969. He had walked back from our mailbox at the end of our long driveway after retrieving our mail and my Aunt Helen’s mail (she lived next door to us). He walked into Aunt Helen’s house and handed her mail to her and then just fell dead on the floor. He was 54 years old when he died. Needless to say, that was a tragic day for our family and friends.

Dad building an addition to our house
However, we have a long legacy of memories of him that our family cherishes and embellishes. I still think about him frequently and miss him very much. He was quite a man, who lived through many difficult times during his 54 years on the planet. His father (Emerson Hallman) died when Dad was very young and his mother, Lila Brantner Hallman, had her own problems to deal with and was not able to take care of him. Therefore, he lived in an orphanage at a very tender age, when orphanages were not very nurturing institutions. I’m not sure where the orphanage was located, but I believe it was somewhere around Saxton PA. Luckily, his uncle, William S. Hallman (WS) and WS’s wife, Mable, who lived in Altoona PA, eventually took him into their home and raised him through his junior high and high school years. They treated him with caring affection and provided a safe and secure home for him to grow up in. During his time growing up with WS and Mable, he experienced what it was like to be part of a loving family with a mother and father figure to depend upon. He flourished in junior high and high school, both as a student and as an athlete. He was an awarding-winning pole vaulter and a very proficient boxer while in high school. He was not very tall, maybe 5’7’’ or so, but he was very muscular and very smart. (BTW: WS was my great uncle, but I always knew him as my grandfather, and he was a wonderful grandfather, indeed. Unfortunately, Mable died when I was only one year old so I never got to know her.)

HS Pole Vaulter
Dad met our mother, Marie Newton, while in high school and they were an item from the get go. They were married shortly after high school and they rented an inexpensive row house in Altoona, PA. Our father worked at several different jobs that did not provide a living wage after high school. However, he eventually landed a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad shops in Altoona, which did provide a living wage. Working for the railroad also deferred him from serving in the military, during World War Two and the Korean War. Meanwhile, you were born in 1941 and then I arrived in 1949.

I don’t remember the circumstances, but somehow our parents moved in with our grandfather (WS) 1950 or so, shortly after Mable died. Grandpap had a beautiful large brick home with plenty of bedrooms, and a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen, sun room, and a full basement, and large attic that I loved to play in with my friends as I grew older. We lived with our Grandfather until the summer before I began second grade, and I remember that it was a wonderful time for both me and you, Bill. I also attended kindergarten and first grade near that neighborhood.

Jimmy and Marie
Our parents were certainly not wealthy, but living with Grandpap helped them save a little money. Dad landed a slightly better-paying job at the Hollidaysburg Pennsylvania Railroad Reclamation Plant (or something like that), where he used a cutting torch to cut apart scrapped railroad cars in an outside scrapyard. It was a very difficult and dangerous job, and he suffered from several serious injuries over the years. He also endured breathing toxic fumes and chemicals in addition to many burns from the cutting torches. However, he did what he had to do to support our family.

He didn’t make big money, but it was enough for him to eventually buy a few acres of land on route 220 between Altoona and Duncansville near the Alto Reste Cemetery. That property had been part of a large apple orchard and the apple trees were still there on the neglected, wildly over grown, weed infested property. Our Uncle John and Aunt Helen purchased an identical acreage next door between our land and the Alto Reste Cemetery.

James, Brother Bill, Marie, and Dopey Little Clarkie
Our father somehow cleared our acreage pretty much by himself although he and Uncle John helped each other sometimes. However it was a horrendous job that Dad gladly endured during weekends, after work, and on holidays and vacations when he did not have to work his job. I remember playing on that wilderness property while he was working there. It was a lot of fun for me, but he and Mom had to keep me under control while he worked on clearing that land. He pretty much tamed that land all by himself, but it took some time. That property also had a dilapidated small cabin on it, which he slowly renovated and our family eventually began living in it. Over the course of many years he added two additions to that structure and transformed it into a beautiful large home for our family.

It was amazing how many different kinds of skills Dad had (or developed) over the years. He did electrical wiring, roofing, plumbing, carpentry, cabinet making, landscaping, tree trimming and removal, concrete laying, mechanical car and tractor repairs, etc. I watched him do much of that work, but I was mostly too young to help him or even to learn much about those skills for many years.

In addition to the skills I mentioned, he had lots of other skills and interests. He was a very talented artist. He grew up drawing all kinds of comical caricatures and also painted landscapes and even portraits in water color and oil. He and Mom also played pinnacle regularly with some of their long-time friends. He was also an active member of a Masonic Lodge in Altoona.

Unfortunately, Dad also coped with numerous health conditions over the years. He suffered from a long-time heart condition, and endured a few serious heart attacks. He also suffering severe headaches and eventually discovered that he had a cerebral hemorrhage and underwent major brain surgery at a hospital somewhere in Ohio. However, even while suffering major health problems, he would not stop working. Eventually, he was forced to retire on disability from his job. However, he just couldn’t sit around resting. He had to be doing something and he endured his health problems for many years while continuing to work on enhancing our house and property.

James Hallman 1915 - 1969
He was a remarkable man of many talents, which included being a wonderful husband and father. I spent many hours watching him work on many different tasks, and he made and effort to explain what he was doing and why he was doing it. As I got older I realized how much I learned from him and how wonderful those times with him were. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to laugh. As you know, our Mom was never the same after Dad died. She, you and I (and our Grandfather) were devastated, and I can still feel that pain after all those years. I miss him and I think of him often. However, I know that he is still alive in our memories. He will always be with us.

Sincerely,

Clark

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