Guest column

Jim Hale still loving his hometown

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Getting the message to the public comes naturally to Jim Hale, 65.

His family owned four newspapers in Virginia which started in 1880 lasting until 1980. He worked at the newspaper during high school and did a little bit of everything -- bookkeeping, light writing, and when he was "forced to," operated the old press.

The Vietnam War was in full swing in 1965 when he was an Air Force information specialist. As editor of The Skyhawk newspaper, owned and published by Grove City Publishing, he did stories and gathered photos from Vietnam about Ohio men and women serving in the military. He then released the information to the appropriate hometown newspapers. He did tours at Lockbourne Air Force Base, which is now Rickenbacker.

"This assignment was my first experience with Grove City," Hale said.

And he never left.

"When I finished my tour of duty in 1968, I chose to stay in Grove City. I liked the people, liked the community. I was supposed to go back to Virginia and take over the newspaper but stayed here," Hale said.

He became editor of the Grove City Record until 1970, tried and liked public relations and sales in other settings but came back to the Grove City Record for seven more years.

Next he was editor of the Pike County News Watchman newspaper in Waverly, Ohio.

His wife of 36 years, Linda, was a huge support, and remains so today.

"I would bring film home and Linda would develop the photos. I bought her a dark room for our paper anniversary," he said as he and Linda chuckled at how appropriate and cute that was.

After his newspaper career, Hale wanted to give back to his community as a volunteer. In the early 1970s, he was appointed by then mayor of Grove City, George Haughn, to the Community Fair Board.

"This fair evolved into a four-day event and had a huge draw," Hale remembered. "We had tractor pulls, frog jumping contests and anything we could come up with that was old fashioned. It was held at Windsor Park and we did this about six years."

As Hale was living in Grove City, raising a family and active as a volunteer, he was learning what made the town tick, what the people and businesses had to offer. And he wanted to let others know.

In 2005, he became executive director of the Grove City Area Visitors and Convention Bureau. Using all his writing, sales and public relations skills he took the town to a new level of advertising and visibility. He came up with the slogan, "Grove City: Where people visiting Columbus stay."

"That slogan was necessary because we were advertising outside Central Ohio; Columbus was included to show Grove City was nearby and a great place to stay overnight," Hale said.

The city advertises in five different states and several Ohio cities; in Reader's Digest and Ohio Magazine.

Proving his belief that Grove City is an exceptional place to live and visit, Ohio Magazine named Grove City its Best Hometown for 2012-2013.

The history of Grove City runs deep, like many Ohio towns. Hale said he feels a responsibility for teaching young people the importance of history and communication. It helps that the Visitors and Convention Bureau office is housed in the city's museum. When students visit, he challenges them to bring a relative and give them a tour telling what they learned.

"Quite a few have done this and it's rewarding to hear the young people (telling the history)," Hale said.

Although Hale retired in January, he already has plans to keep his days full.

He has self-published a book about his grandmother Eliza J. Bausell of Lebanon, Va. She lived to almost 101. He is working on a history of his great grandfather and his experience in the Civil War as a captain in the 21st Virginia Cavalry and when he was a POW at Camp Chase in Columbus. His flag is at the museum. After that, he'll finish a book on his father who was a Methodist pastor and a modern day circuit rider in Virginia and Tennessee.

Whatever he chooses to do, it will involve his love of words, family, history and his hometown since 1965, of that you can be sure.

Reach guest columnist Liz Thompson at LizT911@gmail. com.

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