I’m reminded of stories for many reasons, not just because libraries hold mountains of story books, both true and fiction, but because I run into stories every day with people I meet, which need to be told. Here are some examples:
- We were attending a parade and a man passed by us, saying something to my wife, right up close in her face. Then he walked across the street. He looked rather shabby but was not mean. My wife was uncomfortable when he came back several times saying something to her each time, then walking away. A police department bagpiper came over to stand next to my wife—he had seen what was happening. He started to talk to the man. It turned out the man was homeless. The bagpiper/policeman asked him if he had a place to sleep that night. The homeless man said he did. He also told us proudly what ship he served on in the war. As he said quietly, “I’m just doing the best I can,” then he slid his back down the metal telephone pole he was leaning against until he was sitting on the ground. Our dog, a champion Border Terrier, Duggan, saw this, and went to him, put his paws on either side of his neck and gave him a kiss. The man hugged Duggan back and gave him a few nice scratches. Duggan stayed there with the man for a few more minutes. Tears appeared in my wife’s eyes. Here was a proud man who fought in WWII, was without a home, and found someone, a dog, loving him.
- I recently attended a friend’s brother’s memorial service, and heard stories of a rather remarkable person, not well known with a reasonable job, and never married…but fun, humorous, intelligent, and gracious with others, stories that others will remember for years and share.
- Plateau Area Writers Association launched a “Write Me a Story” contest for middle school students a few years ago, and while I’m not sure I want to remember some of those stories about death and destruction, there were some remarkable entries that caught everyone’s attention; you knew it was from experience; some bad, and some good. The association also has published an anthology Unexpected Heroes, short stories about people who have had great influence on member authors’ lives.
- A few years ago, I received a blank book entitled, Grandpa, tell me your stories. 365 basically blank pages to write a story a day. On each page is a thought or question to start me out, telling my grandchildren what it is like being me.
- At some point I finished reading the first volume of an autobiography of a Tacoma, Washington antique dealer. All the ways I found to Hurt Myself was a humorous look at his life that he could look back and laugh about, but also a bit of history of the area.
- I’m also the holder of a short history of The Alley Cats, a Dixieland band that held forth at many parties on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor; the Savoy in Boston; contest winner of the Arthur Godfrey’s show in New York; and various summer resorts around Michigan between 1949 and 1953. The “history” is entitled, Tales of an Alley Cat: The gospel Truth & Apocrypha: Facts behind the Truth (and also in front of it) by R. Grant Smith (the original piano player, later the clarinetist.) I instigated this work after talking with Bob Milne, the ragtime pianist. Grant writes, “The blame for committing this collection of mind-numbing stories to paper lies solely on the shoulders of Paul Jackson, who urged me to compile this literary ambush. All lawsuits and other legal actions (both criminal and civil) resulting from reading all or any portion of this publication are to be directed to him.” The stories are hilarious, and as ‘designated driver’ in attendance during some of the recited events. I have added addenda facts…err, stories, as I remember them. Grant is also the author of, From Saginaw Valley to Tin Pan Alley: Saginaw’s Contribution to American Popular Music, 1890-1955.
Libraries have many patrons with wonderful stories to tell, and librarians should be working to learn of those, enrich your community by informing others of the great wealth of knowledge among your patrons.