Monday, November 26, 2012

A Read, A Signing and A Plan

Since Lessons Learned has hit the shelves (and the internet @ amazon) I've entered a whole new side of the writing business - marketing. I've had a very successful launch. I've participated in author events, spoken to groups about my journey to publishing and developed a website.

December 1, this coming Saturday, I will be entering yet another venture. A Read. A ten o'clock in the morning Read. A Coffeehouse, ten o'clock in the morning Read.

The place is Java Journey and its existence is a story in itself, so check it out, and then plan to come Saturday morning. 2149 N. Center St., Hickory, NC 28601
I've read to groups from my book before, but I knew the specifics of the group and they knew a little about my book. This is different. I'll be with other authors who will also be reading from their works. They know about my book because we're in a marketing group together and have shared with each other for months.     It's the visitors I'm wondering about, the ones who have never heard of me or Pilot Mountain School. Should I select favorite vignettes, stories within the story, or should I go for the history that is so fascinating and rich?   For sure, I will read the preface, part of which is to the right of this blog post in the "About" section. I will read the first page of chapter one where I compare an empty school to a mausoleum, and the final page of chapter thirteen where I declare it to no longer be a mausoleum, instead remodeled and reborn. It's the inbetween part I'm not sure about. What to empahsize - the school during World War II - the school during integration - the way the community moved from poverty to prosperity - in my time limit, what snippet can I pass along that will make them realize why I wrote this book and why they should read it.   I'll figure something out, appear at Java Journey eager to read and sell and sign. Next week, I'll let you know how things turned out.   Catch of the day,   Gretchen  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Edith Satterwhite

This past weekend I was the guest speaker at the fall meeting of the Alpha Nu chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. The members are current or retired educators, so I felt a kinship to them with my teaching background. More than that, I know one of their former members, Edith Satterwhite, teacher and principal at Pilot Mountain School.

"Know" perhaps is not the word I should use in this context. I was never fortunate enough to meet her since she died in 1999, long before I began this project. Yet I know her well. I know her through her former students who looked to her for guidance, through her co-workers who remember her as hard working, through her family who praises her for being their rock, and most of all, through her writings.

In a written version of a speech she presented at her church, she showed her personality. "A little more than fifty years ago I came to this community shortly after Pearl Harbor in 1941. I was twenty-nine and a half years old. My hair had already turned grey...that's one reason for my being called Old Mrs. Sattershite for the last fifty years. You know the other reasons..."

She dropped out of high school in order to care for younger children in her family when her mother became too ill. She returned the following year and graduated top of her class.

To raise money for tuition at Appalachian Teacher's College, she worked as a nurse at the nearby mental hospital. She appeared before the North Carolina state legislature to open their eyes to the horrific conditions she witnessed there.

As a beginner teacher she lived away from home, only returning during the fall break when her school closed for the fall harvest season. She eventually married and found a position as teacher and principal at Pilot Mountain School the year it opened. Not only did she teach the ABC's, she participated in the home front war effort. She weighed scrap metal the children brought to school and awarded prizes for those who earned them. She collected nickels from students buying war stamps and converted their filled booklets to war bonds. She stayed late and came on Saturdays to register families for their ration booklets.

She always taught a combination class at the school, two grades together with two sets of lessons going on at the same time. She was music teacher, physical education teacher, art teacher, librarian and nurse.

More than that, she inspired children. She encouraged them to always reach higher goals. Many former students of hers became teachers because of her influence. Her legacy lives on in the students they in turn taught in their classrooms.

Yes, just like me, many in the county "know" Edith Satterwhite through the actions and words of the children who once sat in her classroom.

What better way to live on than through an unbroken chain of teachers.

Catch of the day,


Monday, November 12, 2012

The Map and a Tale of Three Counties

One email I received about halfway through the publishing process was from my editor suggesting that a map showing the Pilot Mountain area would be a great addition to the text, giving the reader a sense of place.

So I set about doing a map.

I sorted through geological maps in the North Carolina room of the Burke County Library. I reviewed maps I had run across in my research, most importantly a map by former school superintendent R. L. Patton showing the locations of county schools in 1925. I eliminated, added back and then re-eliminated school names and landmarks from my potential map, deciding to stick to only those that I mention in the actual text itself.

I sketched a basic map, went to my trusty computer whiz-kid and showed him what I wanted, where to locate the Catawba River and the two main creeks that go through the community, those so important in the gold rush days, Silver Creek (I have yet to figure out why it's not Gold Creek) and Brindle Creek. We determined where on the map to place the South Mountain State Park and the mountain peaks that played a part in the text as well.

All that finished, I felt it was time for the truth or consequences test. Take it to the old-timers at their breakfast hangout and let them critique it. Good idea because critique it they did. More like they argued it, discussed it, made suggestions. Slide the creeks around because Silver Creek is closer to the county line. No, slide it back over here. No, over here. Move the peaks because they aren't that far to the north.

Walker Top is easy to find, one tells me. Drive to the dumpsters on the road, look directly above the one on the end, and that's Walker Top.


After much deliberation and back and forth comments, the men came to a consensus and I came up with a map.
Then yesterday, over a month after the completed book was launched, a friend of mine pointed out that I had left off a bordering county. My mind raced through the outline, wondering where I could have gone wrong. He told me, and my fingers raced to the computer to verify. All those people I had consulted couldn't have missed it, I said to myself as I waited for a county map of North Carolina to appear on the screen.

I can see where I was misled. Drats. He was right, but only by a hair.

Seems that there is one place where three counties meet, Burke, Cleveland, and Lincoln, about at the spot where I have a the jagged lines above the words Cleveland County. This man is a preacher now at a church that used to be called Three County Rock Church. He told me about a rock that was the marker for the three counties, how it was in a museum in Cleveland County until recently when it was returned to its spot. He told me about how, when he first preached at the church, he stood at the pulpit in one county and his congregation sat facing him from the pews in another. Issues with building permits a few years ago caused them to petition the state to re-draw the county lines. The state approved and finagled the line around the church so that now the entire church facility is in Burke County. But for a bit, only a short distance, Lincoln County touches Burke.

So the map is incorrect, by a hair.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Election is History

No, I'm not referring to 2012, although it is now over and into the history books.

I'm thinking of the election stories I caught while I was interviewing the former students and teachers for this Pilot Mountain School project.

In a mock election in 1968, the school overwhelmingly selected independent candidate George Wallace with all but two votes. Those two went to Richard Nixon, leaving Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey with zero votes. The results were similar in the next cycle, Richard Nixon again winning.


This picture is in the book, although photoshopped a bit to remove the crease in the center. It was taken by one of the teachers during a mock election the year Nixon trounced McGovern. By that election date, Pilot Mountain School was mere months from closing its doors forever. The students holding those signs or cheering for a candidate were looking to a future that promised newness, not to the past of their grandparents.

Those very children now are grown and at the ends of their careers, successful for the most part. They have become the citizen leaders of the community and have led productive lives. As they went to the polls this past Tuesday, I wonder if they were thinking about this date in 1972 when they learned about the election process, or about the election of 1968 four years earlier when they were even younger, just barely old enough to comprehend. Probably not, but the democratic process requires training each generation in order to stay alive, in order to pass along the value of the freedom to vote and to have a voice in the future.

Hooray for Pilot Mountain School teachers who went to great efforts to hold mock elections.

They trained the future that we now know as the past. Think about that sentence and then think about the responsibility that is upon all our shoulders.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Birthdays at Pilot Mountain School

Besides being All Saints Day and Halloween Recovery Day, this day, November first, is my birthday. I'm keeping it low keyed, a list of chores to do, lunch out with my husband, a dinner meeting this evening with my sorority sisters. Once upon a time I sat at home waiting for the phone call from my daughter and son. Now I am mobile and I go out and about with my cell phone ringer on its loudest notch, still waiting for the well wishes call from my daughter and son and now, grandchildren.

During the interviews for the Pilot Mountain School project, I caught several birthday stories and ran across several birthday photographs. One even ended up in the book itself, page 116, although I didn't identify it as a birthday party in the caption. Several pictures didn't make the cut, like this 1957 celebration, complete with the special soft drink, a rare treat for children of that era.

Or this photo given to me by a man in the community. His sister's birthday celebration didn't happen at school, but in a home, and I could not justify including it in the book, but doesn't this picture tell a story!

Fifty odd years have come and gone since these celebrations. The presents have long been forgotten, destroyed, tossed to the back of the closet, lost. The memories have been catalogued in the brains of these children, dragged out on command, or hidden so deep they will never surface.

Birthday parties for children of the fifties might not have had theme napkins or clowns and jumping machines, but deep down, deeper than the clothing, the haircuts, and the decorations (or lack thereof) there is no difference in a photograph of a 1957 birthday party and a 2012 birthday party. There is happiness and there is promise.

Hooray for birthdays, past, present and future.

Catch of the day,