Sumter Daily Item, September 13, 1978
Happy Birthday, Uncle Murr!
By MARGARET WHITE
ITEM Staff Writer
Apparently retirement and old age won’t catch up with 92 year-old Murr Hall. And how can it when he’s still busy working, exercising, teaching Sunday School, and actively participating in two clubs.
Today is ‘Uncle’ Murr’s (as he is fondly called by many here Sumterites) birthday and he says he doesn’t feel any older than he did about 15 or 20 years ago. However, he does say that he doesn’t see how any sense will come out of this article. Throughout our
and interview he kept referring to the article I was going to write as a bunch of mess and that he didn’t want to fill the pages of the ITEM with his story. Well here begins the mess.
Mr. Hall says that he has been working all his life and doesn’t see any reason to stop now. “I asked my Mama if I was born on Friday (the 13th) because I’ve had so much bad luck. She said “No you were born on Monday at 7 in the morning when the whistle was blowing for the people going to work.’ I said, “Yea, durnit, and I’m still going to work.”
“Well, why do you work now,” I asked him. “To keep from rusting,” was the reply.
But really Hall emphasized that he doesn’t remember when he hasn’t been working. “My mama used to say, “Now while you are resting, do this.’ I think it’s good to keep busy,” he continued. “If you sit and think about your aches, pains, and worries, you get into a habit.’
He also added as he looked at his sister, Mrs. Mildred Brown of Sumter, “Boy, she (referring to me) sure is gonna have a time getting all this mess straightened out.” Mrs. Brown retorted, “She’ll probably throw it all away.”
Mr. Hall was the bookkeeper for the old Williams Veneer Co. Now, he is a bookkeeper for a local businessman. Does he think because of his age, his employer worries about the quality of his work? “I don’t know if he’s worried but you needn’t make reference to it. It might give him an idea.”
EXPECTING A LENGTHY philosophical answer, I asked the old-timer to what he attributed his longevity. The answer? “MY genes I reckon.” He continued to explain, “long life runs in our family. My Mama lived till she was 95. One of my nieces, Mildred Shaw (of Sumter) said she hoped she has some of our genes in her.
But Mr. Hall does have a little bit of philosophy to offer. He said, “Keep a stiff upper lip, the corner of your mouth turned up and trust in the Lord.’
I was curious about how Mr. Hall, who was married for 57 years but had no children, became known as Uncle Murr. Well, he told me. I’ve got more nieces and nephews in this town than you can shake a stick at. There are so many Browns and they all call me Uncle Murr. (His sister is the widow of Robert T. Brown, Sr. and they have eight children, six of which live in Sumter, and 11 great nieces and nephews here.)
“I’ve got one “nephew” that drives a bread truck,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter what corner he sees me on, he always yells ‘Hey Uncle Murr.'”
But Mr. Hall says he likes the nickname. “It lets me know that I’m not just one match in a box. People know me.”
Not only does Mr. Hall attribute his longevity to his mother, but also his on-the-spot readiness to go. “They use to ask my Mama, “Wanna go?’ She’d say, ‘Yea, where?’ I inherited that from her. But I don’t want to go to the moon,” he added. And because of his parental ‘gift’, Hall relates one of his more exciting experiences in the past years.
“I was home working in my yard when Rob Beaty (his great-nephew) came by and asked me if I wanted to go to Santee. Alice (Rob’s mother and Mr. Hall’s niece) was fixing a picnic lunch. Well, I went with Robert like I was. My other niece, Betty Cain, wanted me for something and called me but couldn’t get an answer. She came over and still couldn’t find me. She found my shirt and tie on the bed like I had left them. My pants were in the chair. She called Murr Brown (her brother and another of Mr. Hall’s nephews) and told him she couldn’t find me bathroom door was stuck. He (Brown) said he knew I was in the bathroom drowning. They called the police and they went all over the lot and the house. They (police) kept saying they knew I was here because all my clothes were here. They were going to call the fire department to bring a searchlight. Betty called the sheriff at Manning and asked them to go look at Bobby Brown’s Santee house and see if I was there. He (Bobby Brown) told them yes he knew where I was. I was either at Davis Station, Alcolu or just about home.
Now they always ask me if I am behaving myself or if I have been lost lately.
What’s Mr. Hall’s everyday routine now? It includes just about anything, he replied, “I start at a quarter of six and keep busy till bedtime.” Some of his activities include a daily walk from his home on Salem Avenue to the Post Office on North Main Street, lunch and work at 2 pm.
BUT HE DOES MORE than that. After our interview I was telling some of his friends that I had talked to Mr. Hall, but he wouldn’t tell me a lot about himself. So, they filled me in on some information. Hall is the only charter member of the Kiwanis Club and still an active member. He is also a member of Fortnightly, a men’s club that meets every two weeks for dinner and the host member presents a paper on a subject he researched.
Well, this past year Mr. Hall’s paper on Gullah was chosen to be presented at Ladies Night. So, when I went back to take pictures of this perky old man, I told him that his friends had told me about some of his activities. He said, “DO Lord you must be talking about people when you leave them.” But, he did tell me about his paper. “I have the history and development of Gullah,” he said.
How did you feel when they told you your paper had been selected?
Have you ever had ice water thrown in your face?” he said. “I think it was worth it. I thought there were several others that were better.” Did you mind having to present it to ladies?” I questioned. “It’s six of one and a half a dozen of the other — it’s torture, either way, you present it,” he said.
Hearing Mr. Hall tell me about walking to the Post Office and seeing his 65 Dodge parked under the garage, I was curious Why I didn’t drive. He said. “My medical team told me not to.
“My doctors and family,” he piped. But it didn’t take this young-at-heart long to find a way to get around all the supervision. Now he drives his car up and down the driveway. “I drive it up and down the lane,” he said as he grinned proud of himself.
“For how long,” I asked. “Till it gets limbered up.”
Still busy being a reporter, I continued to pop him questions but I never felt like I was getting anywhere because he constantly outsmarted me by giving me pert, humorous answers. Finally, I said, “You aren’t telling me enough.” He said, “Good Lord, I’ve already told you a lot more than I’ve told anybody else.
“So knowing I had better hurry and get finished “asking'”. I said is there anything you want to do in the next few years. “I don’t if there is anything,” said the contented man. “When tomorrow comes I want to be able to go until sundown. If there is anything I need, it’s a new pair of knees.”
With an answer and attitude like that, what more can you say except HAPPY BIRTHDAY UNCLE MURR and I hope this article doesn’t “mess” up your birthday.
Sumter Daily Item, September 13, 1978