Delivering Smiles, Along With ‘The D’
Hunter Hall, of Hartford, Vt., walks through Dartmouth's Sanborn House in Hanover, N.H., while delivering the college newspaper on February 27, 2014. Hall, 29, who has autism, has been delivering it on weekdays during the school year for over ten years, ever since he got the job through a placement program at Hartford Area Career and Technology Center. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hunter Hall waits for an elevator inside Dartmouth's Remsen Medical Sciences Building in Hanover, N.H., on February 27, 2014. Delivering just over 100 papers, mostly as individual deliveries as opposed to bundles, Hall takes about two hours every weekday morning. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
While working on his route, Hunter Hall stops to visit Dartmouth safety and security officer Tonya Carpenter at her campus office in Hanover, N.H., on February 27, 2014. "Now if I make you cupcakes, how are you going to carry them?" Carpenter asked, talking with Hall about his upcoming birthday plans. He replied that he would share them. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Listening to soundtracks from movies like The Lion King and Top Gun, Hunter Hall waves to a Dartmouth facilities staff driver while walking between buildings on his newspaper route through campus. Hall waves to all of the bus drivers and facilities operations staff that he comes across on his route. "I take care of all of my crew," Hall said. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hunter Hall checks his watch while talking with Laurel Denison in Dartmouth's Off-Campus Programs office in Hanover, N.H., on February 27, 2014. Denison had Hall's upcoming 29th birthday marked with multiple exclamation points on her office's wall calendar. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hunter Hall holds his cat Suko, named after a character on a cartoon he watches, while his mother Sally Hall feeds him leftover bacon from dinner at their home in Hartford, Vt., on March 4, 2014. Hall's bedroom features multiple cat posters, as well as golf balls he has collected while traveling and playing with his parents. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Hunter Hall carries a box full of bags of snack chips downstairs at Dan & Whit's General Store in Norwich, Vt., before stocking shelves at the store on February 27, 2014. Hall works at the store twice a week, taking a bus from Hanover after delivering the Dartmouth College newspaper. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Cashier Toni Gour high-fives Hunter Hall while they work at Dan & Whit's General Store in Norwich, Vt., on February 27, 2014. "We're a great team, boss." Hall said. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — Watching Hunter Hall at work, it’s easy to see why his high school classmates called him “The Mayor of White River Junction.”
Hall lives with his parents, Sally and Allen Hall, and has been delivering The D across the Dartmouth campus for a decade. In the process, he’s befriended professors and bus drivers, security guards and librarians.
“He knows more people than Allen and I,” his mother said.
Hall, who has autism, started delivering the Dartmouth College newspaper while he was a student at the Regional Re source Center at Hartford. On a recent morning, as he does most every weekday, he rode Advance Transit from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center to downtown Hanover. He sat up front to talk with driver Dana Whipple.
“My birthday’s coming up next Thursday,” Hall reminded him.
“Twenty-nine?” Whipple asked.
On the frigid morning, Hall wore his green Dartmouth ball cap, black headphones and a puffy winter coat. He scraped at the frozen condensation with his fingers so he could see out the window, and at each stop kept an eye out for familiar faces. Kim Hayes, who works at the college, asked to sit with him. Hall moved over and reminded her and Whipple to change their clocks.
If he forgets and shows up late for work, Whipple joked, “you might have to do the first run for me.”
“No way,” Hunter said.
“You know the route better than us,” Whipple said.
In Hanover, he headed to The Dartmouth, where he tucked about 100 papers into his backpack and a weathered canvas shoulder bag. Of four delivery people, Hall is the only one who is not a student, said Nicole Chambers, office manager at T he Dartmouth. The longest tenured delivery person, he’s also very dependable, Chambers said. Rain or snow, “he’s always here.”
For the next two hours, Hall wound his way expertly through dozens of offices. It’s one of his favorite parts of the job.
“I know the secret ways around the buildings,” he said. “I know all the back doors, the roads. I know everything about this town.”
Along the way, he reminded customers to set their clocks ahead, and, because it was the last day of the month, change their calendars. He also picked up soda can tabs, which he collects for David’s House.
“Keep ’em coming,” he said on one stop, scooping a handful of tabs from a small bowl. “And change those clocks.”
The bus drivers and college employees and aren’t the only ones who save the metal for him, his mother said. Her hairdresser, the oil delivery person, and employees at Gateway Motors, owned by his father and his father’s brother, Charles Hall, also collect them, she said. “Hunter’s got this huge network.”
In some offices, he slips the papers into a mailbox and moves on. But often, he stops to chat. In library acquisitions, he visited with Lori Heath .
“Hi bud,” she said. “What’s going on?”
“Miss Princess was licking my hair this morning,” Hall said, and they smiled about his cat.
He reminded Heath about his birthday. “You’re getting to be an old man,” she teased.
After flipping her colleague’s calendar to March, he was ready to make his next delivery.
“He’s just a special man,” Heath said.
“He brings joy to our lives.”
An avid golfer, Hall plays with his family and competes in the Special Olympics, walking all the holes. And he likes to keep moving. “I like to walk and visit with people,” he said.
Zipping from place to place, he sang along to the soundtrack from Ghostbusters, a full bottle of Diet Coke tucked into a pocket on the side of his backpack. Inside a building, he bought another, which he sipped between deliveries . On the street, he waved at passing security officers, workers and bus drivers.
“I know all the crew,” he said, popping a Hershey’s kiss into his mouth.
He’s always been outgoing. At age 3, when he was being tested for special needs, the one criteria for autism that he didn’t seem to fit was that he was very social, Sally Hall said. “He’s very friendly and very upbeat and energetic and loves having company over.”
Delivering the paper is the perfect job for him, his mother said.
“It’s so good because he interacts with a lot of people, basically for just seconds a day,” so h is tendency to be repetitive about some things doesn’t wear on anybody, she said. “He’s always like Mr. Friendly.”
Hunter, who also takes the bus to his part-time job at Dan & Whit’s in Norwich, knows most of the drivers by name.
An “incredibly sentimental” person, he cherishes the birthday cards they have given him over the years, Sally Hall said. “The bus drivers are great people. … I think they look out for Hunter and other riders like Hunter.”
Last week, toward the end of his route, he stopped at the Math Department. He handed a paper to Amy Potter, who asked about Special Olympic Vermont’s Winter Games in Woodstock. Hall, who snowshoes competitively, qualified for the games, which are taking place this weekend. If the weather was good, Potter planned to watch him compete.
“They love me, and I love them,” Hall said, after leaving the office. “I’m their No. 1 paperboy.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3210.