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5 Best Events from 1959

An excerpt from a guest post I made at With Love for Books to celebrate the release last month of Son of a Preacher Man. 

Back when I first started blogging, somewhere around 2012, I created a series of posts called “The 5 Best…” The 5 Best What, you ask? It could be the 5 Best of anything: books, songs that tell stories, holiday movies, flavors of ice cream, etc.

I don’t blog as often anymore, but I still love those 5 Best Lists, so I thought I’d revive them for this new release.

In Son of a Preacher Man, set in the US South, 1959 is a significant year because during that summer, Billy Ray Davenport and Lizzie Quinlan find each other. If we in the states remember anything about 1959 today, it’s often some tragedy like the airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in an Iowa snowstorm. Or some political event like Fidel Castro ascending to power in Cuba.

Other things happened that year, however. Maybe they weren’t serious events, but they made the world just a bit better or more interesting.

And so, I give you, the 5 Best (or at least Very Good) things that happened in 1959 (besides Billy Ray meeting Lizzie, of course!)

1. Alaska and Hawaii were granted statehood in the US – Alaska was first in January followed by Hawaii in August. They were the last two states added to the United States of America.

2. The Sound of Music, Rogers & Hammerstein’s musical about the Von Trapp Family, premiered on Broadway. It was made into a film, starring the fabulous Julie Andrews, in 1965.

3. The Boeing 707 Jet Airliner came into service, cutting 8 hours off the time of a transatlantic flight.

4. The Guggenheim Museum, which collects, preserves and interprets contemporary and modern art and was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opened in New York City. And finally…

5. Hugh Laurie, actor famous for the “House” TV series, as well as an inspired portrayal of Mr. Palmer in Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility”, was born on June 11th.

If you remember 1959, what were some of the best things for you from that year? If you weren’t around then (I wasn’t), did your parents or grandparents tell you anything interesting from that time?

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Son of a Preacher Man by Karen M. Cox – Review

Thank you, Mira!

Obsessed with Mr Darcy

Although they say don’t judge a book by its cover or title, I’m glad I did. I bought Karen M Cox’s new novel, Son of a Preacher Man, because of the title: it borrows it from Dusty Springfield’s classic song with the same title, and the hero of the book, “Billy Ray was a preacher’s son/ and when his daddy would visit he’d come along” just like in the song. It was published by Meryton Press 5 years ago as At the Edge of the Sea. I think the new title is a better choice and much more fitting. It’s written in first person singular telling the story from Billy Ray’s point of view. The opening scene is – in 1959 summer, Southern Virginia – very descriptive, in the best sense of the word. I can imagine every moment. I can see the colours, smell the scent, hear…

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Son of a Preacher Man

Love for “Son of a Preacher Man” – Thank you, Rita!

From Pemberley to Milton

Son of a Preacher Man is a beautiful romance with an introspective tone that along with its characters take us into a journey of self discovery and acceptance from their teenage years into adulthood.

It was one of my favourite books this year and I have to start this review by saying I highly recommend it to readers who are looking for a character driven novel with an unforgettable love story.

I don’t usually like modernizations but I have recently started reading different era romances and I’m glad I did because I would have been missing incredible books such as this one.

The story starts in the end of 1950’s in a small town called Orchard Hill where we are introduced to Billy Ray, a young man like no other with a great sense of duty, righteousness, respect and kindness, but a little naive with the ways of the world…

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#ChildhoodUnplugged

When I was a child, somewhere around 7 or 8 (early 1970s), our family’s television set broke. It was an old, black and white relic, and my folks—you’d have to know my folks; they don’t worry about stuff like that—just didn’t bother to get another one. This period of “TV famine” (back then, no TV was like no internet is today) gave me a unique perspective compared to many of my peers. For a short time, way before it became a hashtag, I had an “unplugged childhood.” And it changed my life from that point forward.

If you had asked me during that TV drought, I would have groused to you about not being able to see the annual Wizard of Oz special and Saturday morning cartoons, but looking back, I’m glad I had that period of time to myself without televised media for two reasons:

  1. I was already a reader by that point, and I read a lot of books, even when we had TV. But once TV could never be a distraction for me, I read even more. This period of time just so happened to coincide with a time when I was starting to read longer chapter books, and it set me on a path of voracious book consumption that lasted until I discovered boys and other adolescent distractions. From what I know now about such things, that excess of exposure to print cemented my vocabulary, and my knowledge of grammar, syntax, morphology, and story structure in a way that no excellent teacher (and I had several) could do on his/her own. It was learning by immersion, and it took a hold of my impressionable mind and never let it go.
  2. When I wasn’t reading, I had to entertain myself in other ways, and the way I often did that was by acting out stories—ones I had read, and some I made up. In that space created by boredom, I developed my imagination and learned to live inside my own head. I truly believe that time period was one of the things that set me on the path to be a writer. It’s no coincidence that I wrote my first book, the unpublished (thank goodness!) masterpiece, Big Blue the Elephant (written and illustrated, mind you) in 1974, right after that time period without TV. For those months? a year? I was probably bored out of my gourd, and that was most likely a good thing ( https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201801/can-i-let-my-child-be-bored )

I don’t remember how long this TV break up lasted. I do know by the summer after I turned 8, a new color set found its way into our house. I know we got TV back around this time because my mother spent the entire summer watching the Watergate hearings ALL. DAY. LONG. My dad set up the rabbit ears, we got 4 stations (the 3 major networks and PBS), and the picture was often terrible.

So, I went back to watching a little TV in the evenings and on Saturday mornings. Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley gave us our news again. Bicentennial minutes started playing on TV. I dropped what I was doing to watch SchoolHouse Rock. I kept on reading but not quite as much. I got to see the Wizard of Oz special.

TV didn’t destroy my childhood, and an absence of TV didn’t save it. But it made me different, and I’m grateful for that unplugged oasis in a sand-filled sea of constant noise and change.

My kids (now in their 20s) never had an unplugged childhood, even temporarily (their dad would have Freaked Out.) I tried to guide and limit their screen time, but that was a lot harder than when I was a kid, and all a parent had to do was not replace a broken set. My kids are kind, wonderful, functional adults.

But somehow, I think they missed out.