Old Arizona’s Dick Wick Hall Puts Salome on the Map, Humors Travelers
Excerpt from Arizoniana by Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian.
Some of the West’s most colorful characters ended up in Arizona sooner or later. For some, it was the lure of the boom town bonanzas. Others found it a refuge from the restrictions of more established societies in the East.
For DeForest Hall, it was the wide open spaces and the weather. He liked the high desert around Wickenburg so well that he changed his middle name to Wick.
Dick Wick Hall as he became known, (he needed a new first name to rhyme with his new middle name), opened a gas station out west of Wickenburg in a forlorn spot he named Salome. The Los Angeles to Phoenix highway wasn’t much more than a cattle trail in the 1920s and Hall’s dry sense of humor seemed to fit real well with the local climate. He was an instant hit with travelers.
Hall plastered homemade signs on the walls of his so-called Laughing Gas Station, and along the dusty road for several miles in both directions poking fun at the weather, bumps and ruts on the Arizona highways. One advertised “Free Hot Air” while another proclaimed, “Arizona Roads Are Like Arizona People: Good, Bad and Worse.” The best laughgetter was, “Smile, Smile, Smile, You Don’t Have To Stay Here But We Do.” The eye-catching signs provided a welcome relief to bone-weary travelers and inspired even the most cynical Californian to grin and bear it.
A desire to tell the outside world about the wondrous wonders of Salome inspired Hall to publish a newspaper called the Salome Sun.
His homespun stories were spiced with mythical characters such as the “Reptyle Kid,” “Chloride Kate,” and “Sheep Dip Jim.” Soon the whole country knew of Salome, Arizona, where lived with a dehydrated 7-year-old frog who hadn’t learned to swim because it had never seen water.
Perhaps Dick Wick Hall’s greatest contribution was in the area of leisure time activity. Unwittingly, he also discovered a way to keep the snowbirds, who flock to Arizona in the winter, off the streets. This was the famous Greasewood Golf Lynx. The course was 247 miles long and had a par of 16,394. Along with the usual golfing equipment, he pledged to provide canteens, pack mules, camping equipment and maps. “A winter visitor could spend the whole season here and play only one round of golf,” he bragged with understandable civic pride.