For The Independent
Last week the oldest living Ashland Tomcat football player, Howard Hall, passed away at the age of 96.
Whether it was discussing businesses that haven’t been around for 70 years, hitchhiking back and forth to Morehead State Teachers College, the 1935 Ashland state champs that allowed only two points all season, or serving in the Elysian Islands during World War II, Mr. Hall had a lifetime of interesting memories.
Mr. Hall graduated in 1936, before Putnam Stadium opened. The Tomcats played on Armco Field, the Ashland Armco’s semi-professional football team’s field. About pro football, he chuckled and said, “I was too little and small for that. I was lucky to be a college boy.”
The star lineman played for Morehead and was captain of the freshman team.
Mr. Hall liked talking about his daughter, Carol Morrison, and his deceased wife, Evelyn. “She (Carol) was a pretty smart girl, she didn’t get it after me (laughs),” Carol is a principal in Clarksburg, W.Va. Hall is also fond of talking about his three grandchildren and his niece Glenda Miller who called regularly from her home in Alaska.
About the 70-plus years he spent at the current Elks Club and the old location on 15th Street, he said, “I used to live there.”
Hall’s neighbor Billy Steele, a fellow Elk, checked on Howard daily. “I’ve known Billy his whole life. I knew his father and his granddaddy very well. He comes over and I get him to tell me things that are happening around town, because he knows everything.”
Mr. Hall had a sharp memory from going to a silent movie at the Modern Theatre, bowling or shooting pool in the basement of the Camayo Arcade, Polly Judd’s parent’s Hamburger Inn or countless other memories. Usually when asked if he knew someone, he would excitedly say, “Did I know --------- (laughter)?” Then he’d recant a funny story about the old friend.
“I knew a fellow that bought a house out on Newman Street by just shooting pool, oh he was good ... I think Polly said her daughter used to travel here, the singer, on a big bus, and she had to park the bus somewhere else because everybody was knocking on the door wanting an autograph.”
About Claude Fannin, Howard said, “We were pups together… Boy he was smart … He started out, he had a little truck and they sold this, that and the other.”
Regarding the helmets in his playing days, “The only thing we had was just a little helmet, and that’s all, no face guard. There were a lot of broken noses,” Howard said. “When I went to work down at the railroad I was a typist and I made $3.98 a day.”
George Wolfford, a former reporter for The Independent, said when Howard got married, “They had what’s called a belling ... and the groom has to come out and provide treats, and they rode him around in a wheelbarrow.”
Three-sport Ashland Tomcat Jim Ward remembers seeing Hall play. “Howard was a pretty nice football player. He’s a good fellow.”
Former Tomcat Coach Herb Conley said, “All the history that he has to provide, and playing on Armco Field, that’s something special.”
Howard’s good friend Bun Wilson died in 2012 and his wife Mary said of Howard, “He is a real southern gentleman.”
Steele said, “I went in, he was all gussied up and got his sport coat and tie on and I said, ‘Howard, where you going?’ and he said, ‘Well I’m going to the grocery store.’ You wouldn’t believe how many people spoke to him at the grocery store.
“He’s from the old school. He’s a gentleman’s gentleman.”