When I was told that John Hall was waiting for me on the line in my office on Monday morning, a part of me already knew what he was going to say (see front page, “Hall retires from Stark’s”).Like many of you, I had been hearing all week that John had sold Stark’s to Perry and Jerry Hood, and that he would soon be out of it completely. And, sure enough, John wasted no time in letting me know he was on the way out of the back door of Stark’s for the last time on Monday morning.
Why is this such big news around here and around town? Well, let me put it like this:
I am 44 years old. Stark’s opened when I was young, around the time I entered into the world of little league baseball. Stark’s was the only sit down and eat restaurant on Highway 28 bypass at that time. The highway was still two laned. The hill on the north side of 28 was still there, and wheel paths from where daredevils and young drivers with new cars and trucks climbed the apex of it. Most of the area surrounding Stark’s was wooded and undeveloped. The Jitney and Walmart shopping centers were still years away. Fast food restaurants were nowhere to be found in town. I think Pizza Hut, in its former location just to the east of Stark’s, was the only other eating place in that part of town at the time.
Exxon was the lone filling station as one entered the west side of town, and it was a true filling station. Attendants pumped gas, checked oil, cleaned windows and headlights and tail lights. Quarts of oil in cans were neatly stacked on the outside of the station near the gas pumps. It would be considered a throwback in this day and age.
Anyway, our family was in Stark’s a good bit of time, for ice cream after school or ball games, for supper before ball games or practice or for lunch after church on Sunday. Every now and then, Dad would take us in for a late breakfast after a morning hunt. We would see John Hall nearly every time we went in the door. And, he would always, ALWAYS speak to us. He still does today when I bring my family in.
Stark’s has been a familiar place for many of us in this community, and for our children, our mothers and fathers and grandparents. John–and many of his wait staff and cooks over the years–have been like family to each of us in the community for the past 32 years. John will be missed, but I bet we will be seeing him around more than he lets on.