When he was a kid, Shorty Hall would look at one of those toys that delighted industrious boys who liked putting stuff together and picture himself building fanciful contraptions.
“I really wanted an Erector Set,” Hall said, recently.
When Hall, 65, talks about those days of asking his father to get him a set for Christmas, the excitement is still in his voice. I can feel it and relate, because I remember the joy my first Erector Set brought me. I remember building the red and gray towers and silent metal pets out of the beams and plates and screws and bolts.
Hall never got his set, and he never lost his desire for one.
About 15 years ago, Hall, a retired consignment auctioneer who specialized in exotic animals (“everything the state would allow except the big cats”), saw a notice from Pennsylvania that an old carnival Ferris wheel was for sale. He made an offer and the contraption was shipped to him … in pieces.
“It came with the assembly instructions,” Hall said, “and I put it together.”
Hall said he did have some help setting it it up on his Aiken County
farm on the Old Jackson Highway, where today it sits, silently, at the end of he long drive onto his property, peeking above the trees.
“It’s a landmark,” Hall laughed.
As I inspected the wheel from ground level (it’s never been turned on), its 12 cars sat motionless and the string of white lights hung limply from the wheel’s rails and beams. I could imagine carnival music and the press of the crowd at the fair, the smell of candied apples and popcorn. A memorial to amusement and childhood dreams.
Hall, who is just enjoying his retirement these days, got an offer from a gentleman from Tennessee to purchase the Ferris wheel about four years ago
“He had to have it for his farm,” Hall said. “He sent me a check, but he never came to get it.”
Halls’s Ferris wheel can be seen at 923 Old Jackson Highway between Beech Island and Jackson in Aiken County.