By Ron VandenBoom
Start talking to Ira Hall about how he got into the house moving business and youre bound to bring a smile to his face.
After 64 years as part of a family that moves homes, its hard for him not to conjure up stories of his father, his grandfather or even of his son-in-law.
My dad and his dad were in it, Hall said, as the smile begins to creep across his face. And my son-in-law and daughter are working with me now. And their daughter and her husband is working for us.
As if that werent enough The other day the great granddaughter was out packing a shovel, he said. Thats five generations.
Its a family tradition that extends back to a time when his father moved homes using wooden spoke dollies and steel wheels.
It was quite something, Hall said smiling again, this time in disbelief. I wish I would have kept some of the old equipment.
Hall said his father used to move homes on tandem dollies made out of Model T rear-ends.
He never seen anything this nice for moving, he said, nodding his head toward the trucks and other modern equipment parked on the lot. It was all hard, real hard work.
Hall moved his first house more than 40 years ago during the 1950s from a lot where the U.S. Post Office sits today to Washington Avenue in Highland Park. It was a time when he also worked full time for the Burlington Northern Railroad.
Since then, Hall House Moving has relocated 30 to 40 homes a year without ever having had an accident.
Today Halls House Moving uses the latest in technology to move homes off of their foundations and place them again on new foundations at different locations. They had the first unified jack system in the state, Hall said. The system uses a hydraulic unit that allows the home to be raised uniformly regardless of the weight on any one jack.
A crew of four or five people are all that is needed to raise, move, and lower, a home.
Its been quite a ride over the years, Hall said.
I used not to be able to wait to get to a job, he said, and the harder the job the better.
Hall enjoyed a good challenge and with no two homes exactly alike it was common for him to have lots of challenges.
But today Hall has had two back operations and one shoulder operation that have brought him to the edge of retirement.
Anymore, Id like to give it up, he said. Over the years it takes a toll on you.
Hall said his back problems were not the result of on-the-job accidents, but at the same time he believes there has been a cumulative effect due to the type of heavy work he does.
He hopes his son-in-law, Ron Ray, will follow in his footsteps. He is already a partner in the business and after 25 years working along side Hall he has learned the trade.
It takes a lot of years of learning, Hall said. You cant just sell to anybody. Its a hard business to sell. It really would be, because they got to have the knowledge in moving and like it.
Halls moving is currently involved in moving the homes from the old Havre Air Force Station 13 of the base houses so far with plans to move eight more.
But this kind of a job is not unusual for Hall. He has been involved with government contracts and moving government housing frequently during his years in the business. This project is little different.
Another thing that never varies is the paperwork that needs to get done before any home can be moved.
You have to get permits through the state and also from the towns, Hall said. The wife does all of that. If it wasnt for her doing the paperwork we wouldnt be moving.
Most of the permits take about 10 days to be approved and then the process of notifying the power companies, phone companies, cable companies and the Montana Department of Transportation begins. Sometimes even a police escort is needed, Hall said.
Its quite a recycling business, he said. Its the biggest recycling business I know of. We save a lot of lumber.