Dean Hall and wood go back a long way.
“My dad taught shop,” says Dean. “I was always the little kid hanging around in the shop.” Now 84, Dean is the fellow with the workshop, and his own son, Dan, a dentist, is often there with him. There’s a certain rightness to the way things have worked out.
The Hall boys in Eupora are busy making crooked handle spoons in preparation for Market Street Festival, which will fill most of downtown Columbus the first weekend in May. From their booth on Fifth Street South May 6, the Halls will join more than 225 arts and crafts vendors from more than 10 states, some as distant as Ohio and Wisconsin, says Main Street Columbus Executive Director Barbara Bigelow. “Market Street is proud to host many, many local vendors as well,” she added. These artisans and craftspeople will bring with them everything from pottery to handmade furniture and toys.
As for Dean, what began as a hobby around 2005 grew to surpass all expectations. After retiring from the insurance business and wrapping up a fourth term as a county supervisor, he was open to a new idea or two. He’d done some projects with wood before. He even recalls, perhaps prophetically, whittling a little spoon from found wood for a granddaughter on a camping trip. So, when his son Dan brought back a carved wooden utensil after visiting a craft show in Fairhope, Alabama, and said something like, “You need to start doing this,” Dean did.
“It was a hobby that kind of got out of hand,” Dean laughs, which he seems to do plenty of. The Crooked Handle Spoon was soon off and running, Dean making spoons from woods harvested off family land and Sue, his wife, handling finance.
“I always told everybody that I took no credit for the work, but that my job was to take the money,” Sue says. They’ve been married 64 years. “Can you imagine living with an old man for 64 years?” she teases, with a generous and good-natured chuckle.
The Halls’ spoons all have a distinctive characteristic — a crooked handle. No particular reason, except that, “The Lord told me to make that thing crooked ’cause it’s easier to do crooked than straight,” Dean says with a telltale twinkle.
As the years have advanced, son Dan has carved more time in his busy days with the dental practice to assist Dean with harvesting woods and making the spoons, spatulas, pie servers and, more recently, ladles the Halls are known for.
“I help do a little bit of this, that and the other,” Dan says modestly. “I feel honored that I can help them. I get a lot out of it; it’s time well-spent.”
Father and son work side by side with bois d’arc, walnut, oak, river birch, mimosa, box elder and other woods, drawing out the intrinsic beauty and organic personality of each. Cherry is one of Sue’s favorites, the deep, dark hues that comes from old cherry, as well as the more auburn palette of other cherry varieties. It’s a craft that keeps them all close to their roots in a way, connected to a place the family has called home since the early 1900s.
“They do beautiful work and have been coming to the festival for years,” says Market Street Festival Chair Amber Brislin, pleased to have the Halls returning. “This is my 10th year to organize the festival, and I have had the pleasure to get to know many of our vendors very well. They are fun, dedicated folks, and they pride themselves on offering fine art, quality merchandise and food items.”
The Halls may not take The Crooked Handle Spoon to as many shows as they once did, but Dean praises the Golden Triangle’s festivals. He calls Columbus’ annual Market Street a “great show,” one they plan to bring a couple hundred spoons to. Seldom do take any home.
“The part we enjoy most is meeting people and, year to year, seeing the friends again that we have made through the years,” Sue says. “You just wouldn’t believe the people we see at the shows — we have been truly blessed. In a way, it’s like a reunion.”
n email email@example.com
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.