Back in August of 2005 I traveled to southern Illinois as a side trip to an NFA convention which was held in Nashville that year. Luckily, flutists travel light so my other mission during that trip was to visit a long-lost sister in her home town in Illinois. Along the way I was able to see some of the places that she had called home for a large part of her life. This entailed a road trip in a 2004 Ford Mustang (40th anniversary edition !) which I obtained from an airport rental agency. (Don’t you just love showbiz towns ?!) It was the most fun I’ve ever had driving a rental car.
On my way up north I went through Hopkinsville, which happened to be the town where my sister grew up clear into her teenage years and with information she supplied I even spotted her high school. I met up with my sister Susan at her Clark County home staying for about a week and we had so much fun just driving around her locale that we started discussing the historic landmarks, architecture and also some of the locals. When I realized that the hero of the next county happened to be James Jones, the author of From Here to Eternity, we decided to go into Robinson where he grew up and check out his childhood home and a few other buildings associated with him. I was surprised to find out, when I was doing my research on another trip, that when he came back from the war in the 40s most of his family were dead and he couldn’t even move back into his childhood home because it had been sold!
That story got my attention and when I came home I started doing research- right in the midst of my work on castles- on my sister’s county and the county where James Jones grew up. A couple of months later, after I obtained a contract to write a book from all my research, I made another trip specifically to Clark and Crawford counties to collect photos and stories from the locals and found quite a few famous people who hailed from Crawford county. Additionally, the region had a rich and surprising history with prodigious leaders, builders, movers and shakers. It turned out that Robinson could have very well been the birthplace of Walt Disney, the bartender of the TV show Gunsmoke Robert Brubaker was also born and raised in Robinson and his family had been there for many generations. Burl Ives hailed from a border town of the county and he and his sisters and brothers went around the entire southern Illinois and border states area singing, while very young, and were known as those singing Ives. The Heath family of Heath English Toffee fame took up residence in Robinson in 1902 and the factory which was built onto an existing confectionery exactly 100 years ago remains- even though they sold out to Hershey only a few years ago.
I was certainly destined to write this book which was fascinating to work on. Being my first historical work published by a major publishing house, I was particularly painstaking in making sure the photographs obtained had correct information collected along with them and the publishers limited the word count on my captions so the information had to be interesting but brief. I love challenges like that, however, so the entire project was right up my alley. I even did the layout of the book, from the front cover to the blurb on the back, which is generally not handled by an author so it was a great learning experience on publishing a pictorial history book.
Only seven weeks ago on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance day, I was reading through newspaper accounts about men who have lived past 100 years of age and survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Reading their stories reminded me of how much historical information I uncovered on James Jones concerning his involvement in the war, specifically at Pearl Harbor. Crawford County’s library files on James Jones are FAT ! James’ writing of that fateful day in From Here to Eternity was actually a highly dramatic first hand account of the event from the Scofield Barracks and it will be well worth your while to read it if you want to know more about that fateful day and WWII. My book on the county, however, shows what an illustrious background James came from and explains why he referred to the town and its citizens many times in his novels, stories and non-fiction. To obtain a copy of my book you can click the link below to get started. If you want it signed let me know and I’ll make personal arrangements to make sure you get a signed copy. My treat to you.
Only the dead have seen the end of war. – Plato