Bill was raising his children in the small Kentucky town, Cynthiana. It was a great place for a kid to grow up in the 1940s. A kid could jump on his bike and ride in any direction to find one of seven fishing holes within an easy pedal through town.
The favored basketball court for the children was the Fitzgerald place, as it was usable well into the nighttime hours because of the spill over light from the hospital parking lot. Chasing fireflies, listening to radio broadcasts of Kentucky basketball games, as well playing with a little pet dog named Herman, filled the life of Bill’s son.
But before we get to Bill’s son, you need to know that Bill was not really the name of the dad. When Bill was a little boy, there was a newspaper cartoon that featured a kid named Bill. When as a boy he started hanging around the garage in town where the mechanics were working, they started calling him Bill, and the name stuck.
Bill would work on the cars, never for pay, but to learn. He became a good mechanic, he learned how to repair things, he was good with tools, and he learned to build and could do plumbing as well. Those skills enabled Bill to raise and support a family during the Great Depression, which wasn’t easy, but he did what he could to provide.
Bill’s son, never knew how hard it had been and how tough life was. The son never heard his dad complain. Instead he knew his dad would go to wherever he needed to if there was work to be found. Then after being away would return back to Cynthiana in the Kentucky bluegrass to take care of a sick family member if they needed help. Eventually, their family would never leave Cynthiana again.
Bill’s son knew him better by another nickname, “C.C.” which was a shorter version of his given name Charles Curtis. Eventually, C.C. worked for the post office and later served a couple of terms as Harrison County Sheriff. Cynthiana was destined to be the place where C.C.’s son would learn a lesson that would change the trajectory of his life forever.
One day, while he was in high school, C.C.’s son came home early one afternoon from basketball practice at the local high school. The perplexed dad listened to the explanation his son offered him. It seems that his son had gotten angry, his son thought he had been treated unfairly, and his son had quit the basketball team. That is why he was home early and that is why his basketball career was now officially over.
C.C. gave his boy time to finish his story and then told him, “you get back to that gym, you run, don’t walk, and apologize…..(our family) we don’t quit what we start.”
As you can imagine – his son did exactly what his father had told him, took the advice, and never forgot the lesson he learned that day.
It would be years later, on the streets of Cynthiana, that the city would unveil a wall sized mural honoring C.C.’s boy, a true hometown hero who had made good. He had impacted the lives of more people than he would ever know.
But in a moment, during the ceremony when the mural was put on display, C.C. recalled that if his son hadn’t listened, if he hadn’t taken his fatherly advice, that this day of celebration and everything that had happened to get to it would have been lost.
In Cynthiana, the townspeople remembered the beaming pride of Charles Curtis Hall the day his son, Joe B. Hall, was named to succeed the legendary Adolph Rupp as Kentucky head coach.
Yes, C.C.’s son was Joe B. Hall and would go on to be a legendary coach in his own right.
Through the years, Coach Hall would impact the lives of players as an assistant and head coach at UK. He would influence fans across the country, he would touch the lives of families, friends and all who had the chance to spend time with Coach Hall.
Can you imagine what might have been lost if Joe B. Hall hadn’t listened to his father’s advice on that day when he quit his basketball career in high school?
But he did – and the advice of a father saved the day – and blessed the lives of others for years to come.
On another note – and this is nothing but pure speculation. C.C.’s son, Joe was about 10 years old when his grandmother Laura Harney pulled him aside and told him his name was “too short and too plain…. Let’s add a middle initial to it to make it more interesting. From now on, you say your name is Joe B. not just Joe. It is Joe B. Hall.” That is the official story of where the “B” came from. But you have to wonder if Joe’s mom, Ruth didn’t share with her own mom stories about her husband as a child and the nickname of Bill, which had been bestowed upon him down at the garage, for no reason except he needed a nickname. When grandmother decided to add a middle name to her plain named grandchild, perhaps she was thinking about Bill, because after all, it had been his father’s unofficial name. The world may never know, but it makes you wonder….
The great mystery of the ages in Kentucky basketball, what does the B in Joe B. Hall stand for?
Perhaps – Bill? Nah, but it does make for a great story!