Remember when gas was so cheap you could cruise Broadway all night long? Remember how bands used to play at Crystal Blue Lake on Sunday afternoons? How many of your friends could you squeeze into a car on buck night at the drive-in? What was it like to hang out at the Mary Ann Sweet Shop? Did you ever wear saddle shoes or a poodle skirt or ride in a ’57 Chevy?
Ask any of these questions in a group of Baby Boomers, and you’re likely to start a conversation that goes on for hours. The Hannibal Writers Club wants to have that conversation with members of the community. “If you grew up in Hannibal during the ‘50s and ‘60s, we want to talk to you,” said Kristie Darley, one of the club’s founders. The club is compiling stories of these memories and asking for input from the public.
“The title of the book is ‘Growing Up in America’s Hometown,’ but even if you didn’t grow up here, I’m sure you have stories that would reflect American culture during that time,” Darley explained. “That’s what we’re looking for.
“We want stories from primary sources that can be used for historical reference by future generations, stories that show how life is different now than it was back then. But we are also having a lot of fun reliving those memories as we are putting the book together,” Darley said.
Jim Mitchell, a club member, added, “We already have stories from members of the club, but we want to give the whole town the chance to share their memories.”
Topics covered to date include: Christmas, summer vacations, shopping downtown, paper routes, school, Screamin’ Johnnie’s, and the Kennedy Assassination. “Just because someone has written about a topic already doesn’t mean that we can’t use your story,” Darley said. “You might have something different to add.”
Some stories for the book are written by people who didn’t grow up in Hannibal. One is about tenement life in the city. But all show what life was like back then and how it’s different from American life now.
The Hannibal Writers Club has previously published several books, which are sold locally in museums and stores. The best-selling books have been senior citizens’ memories, “ 2 Good 2 Be 4 Gotten” and “2 Good 2 Be 2 Soon 4 Got 10.” The club is seeking the kind of public participation it had for those books. “We did interviews with people from all walks of life, and those people have now passed on, but they left a legacy that survived them when they told us their memories,” Darley said. “They still live in the pages of our books.”
Page 2 of 2 - Stories for the new book may be submitted several ways. One is to write the story and send it to a member of the club, either by email or regular mail. Club members can also interview anyone wishing to contribute to the book. “We can come to them, or they can come to us,” Mitchell said, for an interview at a home or public place. “Just give us a call or drop us an email, and we’ll try to accommodate you.”
The club meets at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at the Hannibal Arts Council at 105 S. Main Street. Anyone wishing to contribute to the book is invited to attend a meeting and be interviewed.
The club hopes to complete compilation of the book this summer. Stories may be emailed to Darley at email@example.com, and Mitchell can be reached by calling (573) 406-0037. “I’m going to see what I can do about setting up a Facebook page as well,” Darley said. “We also have a post on Facebook on Growing Up in Hannibal, Mo.
“We also would love to borrow any old photographs that people have from that time period. We really hope the public will become involved,” Darley said. “This is everybody’s chance to go down in history!”
Some possible topics include: school, stores and restaurants that once were, Viet Nam, the old YMCA, shoe factories, train travel, neighborhood games/playing in the street, milk delivery, city buses, floods, and dating. Any stories that someone would want to share with their children would be appropriate for the book.