Bennie C. Hall

Bennie Caroline (Humble) Hall,
in 1940

Bennie Caroline Humble (1887-1976) was born on Nov. 23, 1887, in Huntingdon, Tennessee, to a fairly prominent—but also fairly tragic—local family. Her grandfather, George Humble, was the first judge elected in that county, a position he held for 30 years, and was also president of a local bank. George had three children: two who died in infancy, and 10 years later, son George Benjamin. George Benjamin, after whom Bennie (this is her actual name) was presumably called, married school teacher Alfaretta Huddleston, called “Allie,” in her home state of Arkansas when he was 18 and she was 21. Allie’s father had been a captain for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Bennie was their only child, born 21 months after their marriage.

George Benjamin enrolled in the dental school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and was living there while his wife and child remained in Arkansas, but met with a traumatic death at the age of 21 when he fell from the third-floor window of the boarding house apartment he shared with two other students. He had been with his roommates during the evening, then spent several hours with his landlady, and an hour later was found on the ground outside, badly injured, and died about six hours later. His roommates denied that he had been intoxicated, so it was supposed that he had been sleepwalking, which he had reportedly done as a child. Bennie was two years old at the time.

Bennie’s mother remarried and had a second child, Aileen, when Bennie was eight years old. Sadly, Allie died just three months after Aileen’s birth. Bennie then lived with her grandfather, who was highly esteemed and considered “an honorable man, upright in character and just in his dealings with his fellow man.” He died when Bennie was 15, and she was his only living descendant at that time. Her stepfather also helped to raise her, as did her mother’s family in Arkansas.

In May 1906, when she was 17, Bennie married Alaska Edwin Hall, who was 29, and known as “Lackey.” “The event was one of the most interesting in local social circles for some time,” gushed the Huntingdon paper, which went on to describe the groom as “a valued attache [for the railroad] … and one of Huntingdon’s most clever men.” Bennie, “always attractive, was exceedingly handsome,” the article continued. “No young lady in the city is more popular than she.” The couple had two sons, Edwin in May 1907 (in 1977 Edwin’s son served as special assistant to President Carter), and Ben in 1909. Lackey went on to serve as mayor for Huntingdon between 1928 and 1932.

“Miss Bennie,” as she was called, aspired to be a writer and designer, and in the early 1920s was a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens. Her first full-time job offer came from the magazine Pictorial Revue, which in the late 1920s was one of the largest women’s magazines in the country, and she accepted the job though it required a move to New York City. She then moved on to Elite Styles, a fashion magazine. She entered a contest to win a position for a paper published by Bernard McFadden and won, accepting the position as women’s page editor. The sensationalist tabloid New York Evening Graphic, which ran from 1924 to 1932, was so trashy that critics called it the “pornoGraphic” and “one of the low points in the history of American journalism.” It nonetheless launched the career of then-sportswriter Ed Sullivan, and allowed Bennie to author columns on fashion, shopping, and advice to the lovelorn, making her one of the first of the Ann Landers and Dear Abby ilk. She also edited a Lonely Hearts Club column for single people hoping to meet others that was so popular that a dance thrown on behalf of the Club in 1927 drew 20,000 people to a space meant to accommodate 5,000, and the New York police department had to be called in to control the crowds. She stayed with the paper until it folded in 1932.  

She began partnering with a writer friend to churn out novels, and in 1936 first wrote a book published under her own name, after another writer failed to meet a deadline; the novel was about a lonely hearts columnist and was called Lovelorn Parade. One profile of her claimed she had ghost-written 150 books and an additional 150 under her own name, but independent research turns up only 33 titles (seven under the name Hall Bennett, which she used for lustier novels), so this count seems highly unlikely. She eventually became an editor for book publishing giant Arcadia House, which produced most of her books.

In the 1920s, while she was living in New York and he in Tennessee, she and Lackey had divorced. He died in 1938, and she never remarried. She outlived her oldest son, who died at age 62, and in 1970, a year after his death, she returned to her home town of Huntingdon, Tennessee, where her second son was living, after nearly half a century living in Manhattan (in the Lower East Side, at East 17th Street and Third Avenue) and Brooklyn (on St. John’s Place in Crown Heights). She died in July 1, 1976, at age 87, survived by her son and four grandchildren.


Pen Names:
Bennett Hall

Nurse Novels:
The Voyage to Eden, Bennie C. Hall, 1950, Arcadia House
Redheaded Nurse, Bennie C. Hall, 1960, Arcadia House
Volunteer Nurse, Bennie C. Hall, 1968, Arcadia House
No Escape from Love, Bennie C. Hall, 1968 

Other Works:
April in Arcadia, Bennie C. Hall, 1957, Arcadia House
Blonde Mistress, Hall Bennett, 1949, Pyramid Books,
Blonde Peril, Hall Bennett, 1947, Phoenix Press
Both Were Young, Bennie C. Hall, 1948, Arcadia House
Call It Love, Hall Bennett, 1947, Century Publications,
Come Be My Love, Bennie C. Hall, 1952
Coronation for Cinderella, Bennie C. Hall, 1953, Arcadia House
Daily Inspirational Guide, Bennie C. Hall, 1941
Dear Susan Brown, Bennie C. Hall, 1947, Gramercy Publishing Co.
Diagnosis: Love, Bennie C. Hall, 1961, Arcadia House
Gift of Laughter, Bennie C. Hall, 1960, Arcadia House
Goldenglow, Bennie C. Hall, 1961 (also published as The Golden Glow of Love)
The Handmade Halo, Bennie C. Hall, 1966
Her Secret Star, Bennie C. Hall, 1947, Arcadia House
Homekeeping Heart, Bennie C. Hall, 1959
Lovelorn Parade, Bennie C. Hall, 1936
Mail-Order Passion, Hall Bennett, 1952, Intimate Novel
Make the Man Pay, Hall Bennett, 1947, Partridge Publications (UK)
Make-Believe Rainbow, Bennie C. Hall, 1955, Arcadia House
Man-Handled, Hall Bennett, 1947, Phoenix Press
Never Say No to the Navy, Hall Bennett, 1944, Phoenix Press
One Was Glamorous, Bennie C. Hall, 1955, Arcadia House
Operation Romance, Bennie C. Hall, 1954
Out of Step with Love, Bennie C. Hall, 1966
Southern Cousin, Bennie C. Hall, 1952, Arcadia House
Spiritual Diary, Bennie C. Hall, 1951, Arcadia House
Sweet Seventeen, Bennie C. Hall, 1946, Gramercy Publishing Co.
When Hearts Remember, Bennie C. Hall, 1958
You Can't Hide Love, Bennie C. Hall, 1957, Magnum Books

3 comments:

  1. This was my grandmother. Thankyou for all the interesting backgroud.

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    1. Hello, I believe I live in her son, Ben Hall’s old home that he built in Huntingdon in the 40’s. I would love to hear more from you if you know anything about him. If you’d be interested, you can reach me by email at emenjayy@yahoo.com.

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  2. Oh my goodness! I would love to talk to you about her -- I have enjoyed her writing, and she seemed so interesting! Would you consider emailing me? susannah.j.clark at gmail dot com

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