Orvan R. Hall--Editor, Publisher, Politician and Statesman
To adults in Mt. Vernon, Orvan Hall was a prominent business man - the editor and publisher of the Mt. Vernon Democrat and a long time Democratic politico - not one who ran for office, but who operated around the perimeter of Mt. Vernon, Posey County and Indiana politics. He was a strong leader in community projects and civic activities.
For me, one of the many newspaper carriers for the six-days-a-week Mt. Vernon Democrat, he was the man. While he always seems busy, he took the time to say hi and to give us a smile. When you own and run the only newspaper in town – the Rupert Murdock of his day – you have the ability to print as much or little human interest news as you want. And he always seemed to want to do that. Mr. Hall ("Hally" as my dad called him), would often put a couple inches of print in about a flower found blooming out of season, or morel mushrooms found the size of my relatively small fist.
In Mt. Vernon, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Mt. Vernon Democrat was the CNN of the day on election night. All around the Democrat building were chalk boards with the candidates and the precincts hand written in. No fancy predictions or computer generated fly-ins, just the hard truth of the day’s election. When all was said and done, winners and losers shook hands and went about the business of the day and the town. Mayor’s who had been fire chiefs or police chiefs or store owners came and went into office. Regular people served on the city council for a term or two. I think it was a much more agreeable time.
Mr. Hall was married to Mrs. Hall, of course, and she was my 4th grade teacher. As it were in the smallness of Mt. Vernon, she was also a friend and schoolmate of my mom, as were most of my elementary teachers. That was the time when you made sure you were nice in school because you would have heard about it again at home.
Delivering papers was a great learning experience. You knew you had to be at home when the papers were thrown off the van at your house. You had to fold them, and put them in the canvas bag in preparation for delivery. They of course had to be folded, because you were obliged to wing each one toward the porch or step of each customer from your bicycle. Some even landed on the porches. Weekly collection for the paper was a Saturday task. I went out in the morning – papers on Saturday were dropped off to be delivered at about noon. The paper cost a whopping $0.24 a week. That’s $0.04 a paper. Even at that price, it was hard for some folks to pay each week. As a carrier, we had to pay for our papers each week, so if we did not get paid by a customer, it was up to us to cover them. While I did not understand it at the time, some older folks had to wait for their monthly checks to be able to pay. My mom encouraged me to keep slow payers on the route. I think that may have been the start of my liberal and compassionate leanings. By the way, the carrier’s take from that route was $0.0075 per paper per day. That’s $0.04 a week. We typically had 125 customers.
Mr. Hall lived a good and respected life. He was a long time member of the Elks Club, and I had a beer or two with him as an adult. He was very involved in civic activities and helped form the Chamber of Commerce, was very instrumental in getting the bridge built over the Wabash River and was on the school board when Hedges Central Grade School (one of my alma maters) was built. He was also a member of the First Methodist Church for 50 years.
Thanks Mr. Hall, for a good start in small business and in life.