Depot Street Memories
The Lawler Stories
By Bill Sheridan
“This book is comprised of a number of essays written at various stages of my life. It does not really have a beginning or an end. At some point I will stop writing. That will be your cue to stop reading.”—Bill Sheridan
That’s Bill Sheridan’s opening to Depot Street Memories, The Lawler Stories and my cue to expound on this simple yet powerful—and highly readable—book!
In what began as a series of news articles and vignettes penned over several years, Iowa writer, Bill Sheridan, shares what it was like growing up in post-World War II America–1944-1961. In this he provides a look back for those of us who began life as he did, without TV, mega malls, the Internet and nonstop worldwide communications; in an America where, frankly, children were more likely to build and maintain independent character than they are today.
However, Bill Sheridan’s experiences in his small northeast Iowa hometown were a lot like growing up at the same time on New York’s Long Island as I did.
It’s just that young Mr. Sheridan was paying attention!
Comic Irony and Bathos
Life is seldom always pretty or funny–although along with disappointments, fate dispenses its share of humor. Bill has a keen ear for life’s pity and relief, and Depot Street Memories (the family lived on Depot Street) includes rich examples of both.
Among the smiles and pleasant recollections is Bill’s description of Lawler as a “small town that was almost a big family, where people gave youngsters a hand up and wanted to see them do well.” For instance, Bill always admired the creativity of his late-classmate, Allyn Einch, who excelled in quick thinking, and the wise compassion of their 4th grade teacher, Sister Mary Elise, who apparently knew when it made sense to give a kid a break.
Having been caught by the Sister with other boys in a noon snowball fight, Bill’s friend is asked if he’d been throwing them, and if so, if he knew the punishment would be having his fingers smacked? Allyn denied this, so the Sister asked:
Allyn, I saw you out there, so I will ask you again. Were you throwing them?
No, Sister. I wasn’t throwing snowballs.
If you were out there with the rest of the boys who were throwing snowballs, and I saw you with them, just exactly what were you doing?
I was catching them, Sister!
Sister paused, stifled a grin, and moved on without saying another word to him. She did not smack Allyn’s fingers.
Ironic bathos was also hard at work in Lawler. Quoting the late radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey, Bill concedes: “Not all we call progress is progress,” and for every happy encounter with the good people of Lawler, Bill’s childhood included run-ins with a few dim bulbs in life’s marquee!
Bill’s widowed mother, Virginia, was a strong, independent woman. Although Bill wishes his Mom had been more willing to seek help from others, Bill and his siblings worked hard at young ages “to help keep the family ship afloat.” For the boys, that included mowing lawns and shoveling snow:
I recall one time knocking on the door of purported millionaire, Frank Eichoff. He owned a successful hardware store and years later left money in his will to build a fabulous new Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. On that particular snowy day, however, he wasn’t feeling quite as generous. I screwed up my 10-year old courage and asked him if he would like his sidewalk shoveled. Taking one look at me he growled, “Let the guy who put it there take it off,” and slammed the door in my face.
But as Bill wryly emailed recently: “We Hawkeyes don’t let perfect get in the way of almost tolerable!”
Connecting the Dots
I’m sure we’ve all had experiences like Bill Sheridan describes so well in Depot Street Memories. Still, those future generations whose formative years routinely accustom them to TV, mega malls, the Internet and nonstop worldwide communications will, as Bill puts it, “Never know what it is like to live in a town where those things are irrelevant.”
In my view, when it comes to building and maintaining independent character, there’s a Lawler boy in all of us.
If we’re lucky.
To order your copy, visit:
Bill Sheridan-Freelance Writer
Sheridan Writes, LLC
8106 Brookview Drive
Urbandale, IA 50322
Bill Willard is a commercial freelance writer in Clearwater FL. A high-impact writer and editor for over 30 years, in addition to his byline pieces, Bill’s beat includes ghostwriting and editing for businesses of all types and sizes, professional practitioners and individuals. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for his popular e-blog, “Take Back America” or information about his affordable articles for financial advisors and other small-business owners.
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