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February Program: Jim Reed, The "Huckleberry Finn" of Halifax

Updated: Feb 29

By: Dylan Bowman, HAHS Board Member

February 29, 2024



The Storyteller

With Spring on the horizon and storms blowing in the warm air, there is nothing that gets me more ready for the spring (and that season that comes thereafter) than stories of past adventures lived out during those warm days in our very own hometown.


And there is no better storyteller in all of Halifax than Jim Reed.


For this month's program, attendees were graced with an hour or so of stories, memories and laughs from Halifax's very own "Huckleberry Finn," who had lived through many of America's greatest and darkest times, all while writing his own story into our local history books as the years passed.


Jim Reed describes his stories and memories to a large, amused audience. Photographs by Dylan Bowman.


Tales to Astonish...

With a captive audience before him, Jim leapt into his incredible tales without hesitation, starting with a brief overview of America's history in the 20th century before circling back around to the beginning of his own...his birth.


After whispering to the doctor through his stethoscope to "get him out of there," years passed, and Jim became a young boy, full of vigor and boyish spirit. His adventures ranged from mapping the whole of the town of Halifax to riding a girl's bicycle around town, complete with a handlebar basket.


Many of his stories were of his memories fishing, especially with his grandfather, "Pap," near Clemson's Island and "The Shack" that sat on it. Jim relayed that, early on, he had built his own fishing rod from the branch of a shrub outside Elsie Chubb's house on Strawberry Alley (behind the HAHS building), a bit of string from Willet's Shoe Factory, and a safety pin from Clara Shamo in town.


"I wasn't allowed to have a fish hook," Jim recalled, "O, the miseries I had to endure."


After picking newspaper wires out of muddy puddles on the curbs of second street and sitting along the curb while they dried for many months, workers from Willets would walk by and call out, "What did you get Jimmy? How many did you get?"


The same workers, knowing the poor chap was trying to configure a makeshift rod, would then turn to Jim's "Pap" (also named Jim) and say, "Jim, why don't you ever get that kid a real fishing rod?"


Jim also told of he rode his bike across Second Street and the railroad crossing (against his mother's wishes due to traffic) to see, quite possibly for the first time, the magnificent Susquehanna River in all of it's glory.


"It was," Jim stated, raising his eyes and closed fists to the sky, his knuckles giving a sharp, audible crackle as they tightened, "the most beautiful sight I had ever seen in my life."


Jim Reed holding a photo of "The Drug Store" (Landis Pharmacy)...the local hangout during his generation's time (sat where the Halifax EZ Mart gas station now sits on the corner of Market and Second Streets). Photograph by Dylan Bowman.



Jim's Most Famous Tale

Near the end of Jim Reed's presentation, he pulled out his most famous story, as only he could tell it...The Tale of Chief Coga's Son.


Chief Coga's son was a Susquehannock brave who lived on Clemson's island with the rest of their tribe. He was in love with a Native American princess, but, as many things go in our world (even to this day), the princess ran off with another brave, leaving Coga's son so brokenhearted that, one day, he walked out into the Susquehanna River and was never seen again.


One day, when Jim Reed was 8 years old, he was wading through the river trying to find crawfish beneath large stones, his boat anchored at Coga Rock in the Susquehanna, when all of a sudden, his ankle was seized firmly from under the Coga Rock by what felt like a hand.


"That was it." Jim said, "I thought, 'This is the end. This is it!'"


Then the grip loosened. As he slowly reached beneath the water and the stone to pull his foot free, his wrist was cut, leaving a scar on his wrist that remains there to this day.


"Chief Coga's son had a flint knife," Jim said. "He cut my wrist, and that was the day we became Blood Brothers. He remains out there to this day. "


Turnout

Turnout for the evening was a phenomenal 37 individuals, demanding extra seating and refreshments. To the Society's surprise and pleasure, even after the presentation had concluded, attendees stuck around long afterward, chatting with friends, family and community members.


It was a beyond successful evening with many other excellent presentations on the horizon. If you are interested in visiting one of our monthly programs, check out our Events page for more information on upcoming sensations. We look forward to seeing you there, and we thank Jim Reed once again for sharing his memories and stories with the community, further strengthening the bonds and histories that we all share.


Jim Reed signs limited edition posters featured at the event. Photograph by Dylan Bowman.

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