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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Library contest in line with historical books

By NANCY TULLIS (ntullis@reviewonline.com)

NEW CUMBERLAND - Just as two books about Hancock County life by men who grew up there are fresh off the press, Swaney Memorial Library staff is encouraging area children to do some "hometown" writing of their own.

The library staff is accepting entries in its first writing contest for children. Entries can be submitted through July 30.

Anna Raines, director of Swaney Memorial Library in New Cumberland, said the library's first story writing contest gives local children a chance to show off their writing talent.

The topic of the library's writing contest is "Life in Hancock County."

Entries will be judged by Swaney Memorial Library board members. Winners will be selected based on content, creativity, organization and mechanics.

"We want to see Hancock County through the eyes of our local children," Raines said.
Stories are to be hand-written by the children and 250-500 words, Raines said. Children may submit entries to the library by July 30 and winners will be announced Aug. 5.

There are two categories for entries: authors in third through fifth grade; and sixth through ninth grade. Entrants are to write on only one side of a sheet of paper.

Stories may include illustrations, but they are not required, Raines said.
Each submission must include a cover sheet with the child's name and grade level, a contact phone number and a word count.

Recently published books "Rock Springs Park" by Joseph A. Comm and "Growing Up in the Last Small Town - A West Virginia Memoir" by Bob Barnett are now available for purchase.

Comm will be a guest of the Chester Kiwanis Club at 7 p.m. Monday in the Chester Municipal Building for a book signing. His book is one in Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series. After a meet-and-greet, Comm will speak at 8 p.m. about how his book took shape.

"Rock Springs is near and dear to the hearts of a countless number of people, each of whom has a 'Rock Springs story,'" said Catherine Ferrari, executive vice president and CEO of Hancock County Savings Bank and a member of the Chester Kiwanis' planning committee for the event. "This is truly a special event that will enable us to go back in time and share those stories."
The Rock Springs book release is timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the park's last year of operation in 1970.

Comm moved to Chester with his parents when he was 3 years old and grew up witnessing the silent skeleton of the Cyclone, which had been the Rock Springs Park roller coaster, Ferrari said.
Currently a teacher in and resident of Greensburg, Pa., Comm became fascinated by the lost but beloved amusement park.

Alvin Fineman, planning committee chairperson, recalls dancing in the Virginia Gardens dance hall under the crystal ball, riding the Whip and the carousel, listening to the wisdom of Lowell Thomas or the music of Eddy Duchin and enjoying real homemade taffy. "Rock Springs Park is still in our hearts," he said.
Barnett's book is published by the Jesse Stuart Foundation, which regularly republishes many of the books of Kentucky author Jesse Stuart and periodically publishes books with Appalachian themes and settings. The book is about Barnett growing up in the 1950s in Newell.

"Bob Barnett has written an astonishingly accurate account of the innocence and naivete of the 1950s," said Cheryl Johns of Chester. "His memoir of growing up in Newell is both joyful and poignant."

Barnett retired in 2007 after 35 years of service to Marshall University as a coach, faculty member and administrator. He received a bachelor's degree in physical education from Marshall in 1965 and earned both master's and doctoral degrees from the Ohio State University.

"The book is about me, because it is a memoir," Barnett writes in the preface. "however, I also attempt to chronicle the response of people - specifically the people of Newell - as they tried to grasp the changing landscape of a post-war, modern America."

Advances in technology and the shift of traffic from winding two-lanes to multi-laned interstate highways changed the landscape of the American small town, Barnett writes.

"There are still little towns, but they are tied to a national culture in a way that small towns never were," he said. "The world has come into today's little towns through television and the Internet, on interstates, with McDonald's and Wal-Mart; and the unique character of each small town has vanished. ... My generation was the last to know what it meant to grow up in a small town."

Retired Huntington newspaper employee James E. Casto notes that the Homer Laughlin China Co. plays a key role in Barnett's account of his hometown. He said, however, that by substituting a steel mill or a coal mine for the pottery, the conversation could be about any one of countless numbers of small towns in 1950s America.

Casto referenced a passage in Barnett's book where he states, "Small towns in postwar America represented family and friends, security, and a chance to work in the mill and capture a part of the American dream."

"A dream, alas, that today has faded," Casto wrote in a review, "but it has been given new life in Barnett's affectionate memoir.

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