McCrabb: Principal says upbringing with abusive father ‘shapes me to this day’

It was normal for Chuck Hall to be lying in bed, listening to his parents arguing.

His father was an alcoholic and after a night in the bars, Fred Hall would come home and take out his frustrations on his wife, Connie. He would sometimes choke her, then release seconds before she passed out. It was a sick game he played

But on this summer evening in 1975, Hall, the oldest of four children, heard his mother being dragged down one flight of stairs, from her bedroom to the living room. She was screaming, as she had done countless times before when they lived in a trailer.

“Oh, Fred. I’m sorry. Don’t beat me. Please don’t beat me.”

Those tearful words are etched in Chuck Hall’s mind, even today, 43 years later.

“I thought I wasn’t going to see my mother anymore,” he said quietly. “It had escalated to that point.”

So at that moment, Chuck Hall, only 16 at the time, knew it was time to stand up to his father. Time to show him the true meaning of being a man.

He grabbed a baseball bat, and with his two younger brothers and sister standing behind him, Hall went after his father, unsure if he should yell or hit him with the bat. He yelled at his father, whom then turned the loaded pistol away from his wife to his three frightened children.

The children ran out of the house and no shots were fired.

Later, Hall talked to his mother and encouraged her to get a divorce. She told her son: “Your father said, ‘I will kill you and your family if you ever leave me.’”

He responded: “Living like this, I’d rather be dead.”

His parents eventually divorced and now, as Hall sat in his office where he serves as principal of Marshall High School, a charter school in Middletown, he admits that night changed his life’s path.

“That was one of the best days of my life,” he said with a smile.

Then he lost the smile. “That’s sad to say.”

Hall, 59, recently shared his childhood memories — call them horror stories — during a high school banquet. No one said a word. The audience was too busy wiping away the tears.

When Hall was born, his father was 19, his mother was 15. They got married days before he was born. The Hall family, which eventually included four children, lived in a trailer in Piqua. The four children slept in one king sized bed and their parents slept in another room at the other end of the trailer.

There was a kitchen area in the middle, but no running water.

Just down a dirt path was an outhouse and next to that, was a large trash area, a breeding ground for rats. Hall said he remembers those rats gnarling on the floor of the trailer and his father nailing 2-by-4s to keep them out.

When Chuck was 10, he said, his uncle came to the trailer. His father and uncle got into an argument and his father shot his brother in the chest, a few inches from his heart. When police investigated, the two said it was an accident.

Eventually, Piqua’s city leaders condemned the three-block area where the Halls lived, and placed the residents throughout the city. All the homes and trailers were demolished.

That move “rescued” the Hall family from living in the trailer, he said. His mother died when she was 59; his father died at 75.

Hall, who now lives in Vandalia, raised two sons as a single father and, after getting remarried, has a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. There are pictures of his children around his office.

“My family and Marshall give me worth,” he said.

Hall, who has been a principal for 15 years, 10 at Lifeskills Academy and the last five at Marshall, said those “very influential moments shape me to this day. I can relate.”

He knew that if he survived that upbringing — unlike many of his friends who either were imprisoned or killed — he wanted to enter “a helping field.”

After graduating from Piqua High School in 1979, Hall went to Edison State Community College on a partial basketball scholarship. He then earned his bachelor’s degree from Wright State University and a master’s degree from University of Dayton.

Some boys grow up wanting to emulate their fathers. Hall said his dream was to “go the other direction.” The world didn’t need another alcoholic, abusive husband and father, he figured.

He credits two mentors in his life, a local pastor and his best friend’s father.

“Those two helped encourage me,” he said. “We were around kids who were robbing and stealing. I easily could have gone that path. A lot of kids who have been through what I’ve been through, they turn to the streets.”

Instead, Hall turned to his students.

“I believe the Lord has allowed me to go through that and survive that so I can be a help to others,” he said. “Being here at Marshall is the best job. It’s the perfect place for me to be. This job has given me purpose. I knew there were others out there like me so I dedicated all my life to helping others.”

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