Damariscotta resident James “Jimmy” Hall has always been a hard worker and a helping hand to many in his hometown; it’s just what he likes to do.
“It’s just been great,” he said. “The life is simple, nothing big. It’s just steady go, go, go.”
Hall, likely known to most from decades spent with Colby and Gale Inc. and the Damariscotta Fire Department, grew up in Damariscotta. At age 12 he started working for Lincoln Tire Service, now Sullivan Tire on the corner of Church and Main streets, on weekends and after class at Castner School to help support his family.
After graduating from Lincoln Academy, Hall stayed at Lincoln Tire for a time before his Army service, then moved to the Chevron station in Newcastle, which is now home to the Shuck Station restaurant today. Next came Yudy’s Tire, commuting each day to Hallowell. Hall spent five years there, managing the station for the last three, followed by the coastal sales route for Stratham Tire, selling tires from Brunswick to Belfast.
In 1983, he began managing Colby and Gale’s Main Street service station. He had asked to lease it, but the company’s management told him instead he could run it like his own while they paid the bills — which he did for the next 24 years. On paper, Hall retired in 2007, but he still can often be found making deliveries, running errands, fixing things, and visiting in the break room.
“It’s a great company, and I just never left them,” Hall said. “I can’t say enough about them. They take care of their employees, they take care of their business, they take care of their customers. It’s a five-star business.”
Early in his career, Hall did spend a few years away from home working on the winding cobblestone streets of Germany and France as a wrecker operator for the U.S. Army from 1965-1967.
He had tried to sign up the year before with hopes to go to Fort Devens, see Germany, and do mechanical work. The Army didn’t need his mechanical experience that year, but drafted him the next to do those same three things.
Returning home felt natural, Hall said, and there he has stayed.
“Your hometown, it’s just one of those things you grow up in and you get acquainted with people and you know everybody and everybody knows you,” he said. “It’s just a nice town. I get along well with my hometown, and that’s why I want to stay.”
In 1970, he married his wife, Joan, who worked at Yellowfront Grocery. They were introduced by mutual friends, went to dinner, and “from then on, it was history,” Hall said.
The two have been married for 53 years and have four sons. The Halls took regular road trips to Canada to visit Joan’s family and still spend time at the family camp in Cherryfield, where Hall has snowmobiled, gone deer hunting, and fished since 1971.
Hall’s commitment to his career and his family is matched by his dedication to the fire service, which he joined at age 18 with an invitation from a neighbor, Walt Gallant.
Hall has been a full or honorary member of a fire department ever since, over 60 years. He spent a few years with Nobleboro and Newcastle, but has been a long fixture of the Massasoit Engine Co., which provides firefighting service to Damariscotta. He was chief from 1985-1987, assistant chief from 1981-1984 and 1988-1998, and has been deputy chief for a decade. [12 years]
“I try to give back with the fire department stuff,” he said. “I tried to give back what I could and help out.”
He gained a reputation for showing up to many scenes and often being the first one there, earning him the nickname “High Speed Hall.” He said there is no secret to his speed, but being able to leave Colby and Gale whenever a call came in helped.
“You see a lot. There are good days and there are bad days, or good fires and bad fires, and I’ve been at all of them,” Hall said. “There’s never a good fire. Those are small.”
Over the years, he has seen trainings, regulation, and paperwork increase.
“You used to go to the fire, put the fire out, come home,” he said.
The Damariscotta department has a good group of people, he said, and a need for more young recruits. An important part of the role is to keep moving, according to Hall.
“We tried to take it home with us. We’re trying to keep it with us,” he said of details from fire scenes. “We don’t want to spread it around and tell all these things to happen …You don’t share it.”
Hall still does just about everything there, too. If someone asks for a hand,
“If I can do it, I’ll do it,” he said. “Any way I can help out.”
In 2019, he received the Chief Bob Maxcy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lincoln County Fire Chiefs Association.
“There is no firefighter alive today (who) has had a larger impact on the Massasoit Engine Co. than Chief Jim Hall,” his nomination materials read. “He always stands ready to answer the call for service and lend a hand to any and all in need.”
This year, Hall was recognized for 30 years holding a senior officer’s position, which surprised him, he said, because he hasn’t been keeping track.
The 2014-2015 Damariscotta town report was dedicated to him for his community involvement and long service to the town, especially with the fire department.
In his spare time, Hall collects vintage car and gas station signs. His biggest hobby is collecting badges and patches for fire and police departments, finding some online and others through word of mouth. Hall frames the patches himself in themed groups and also enjoys collecting some license plates.
His advice for young people is simple: “Keep their nose clean, work hard, and enjoy what they do. They’ll get out of it what they put into it.”
For his own part, he still likes to just keep going and give back what he can, which he plans to do for as long as possible.
“It’s been a busy life,” he said. “It’s been a good life. I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
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