Have you ever wanted to put yourself in another place and time? How about attending a party in the “Roaring Twenties”, or skating to the melodies of an Oompah band on a frozen lake? If you have, When We Were Growing Up will be your ticket. The author asked people who were children in the first half of the 20th Century to jog their childhood memories. The result is an inspiring collection of reminiscences that gives dimension to one of the most exciting eras in the history of the world. The “Norman Rockwell-style” illustrations by award-winning cartoonist David Byrne bring out the humor in each interview. Some readers will recognize themselves; others will see their parents. Young readers will experience history, but this time, with a name and a face.
Dina, born in 1914, saw people in her neighborhood in Greenwich Village, New York, bring food out to the soldiers coming off the ships after World War I. George, who became a Tuskegee Airman, tells some funny stories of how his early brushes with the law in Asbury Park, New Jersey, finally convinced him that “crime don’t pay.” Dan from Washington explains why he didn’t need a school bus. His father, a section foreman, rode him to school on a ten-foot “speeder” that was used by railroad workers to check the tracks. Thea, from Arnhem, The Netherlands, remembers waiting at the open window on Dec. 5 to see what kind of candies Black Pete, Saint Nicholas’ helper, would bring her. Portia tells why even the women in the “wild west” Kentucky mining town where she grew up carried guns in the pockets of their dresses. Abe, who at nine had his boyish dreams dashed with the Nazi invasion of Poland, demonstrates his indomitable spirit as he humorously describes how he got away with stealing potatoes in a prison camp.
Truly, the children in these stories lived in hard times, but by pulling together with their families, they turned them into good times. Many had to work to help support their parents, especially those who lost their fathers at an early age. Taking any jobs they could find, they juggled work and school by starting at sunrise and ending at sunset. Even with all of these challenges, every one of them finished high school; some went beyond.
As diverse as all these stories are, they have one common thread—their challenges made them stronger. As we in our nation and around the world face our own hard times, it may be comforting to know that with the help of humor, hard work and hope it is possible to overcome all odds.
About the author
Pat Pattan, (nee Yeo), grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where she studied to be a teacher. Marriage brought her to New Jersey in l965, and she became a citizen in l976. She has always been a writer, starting with short stories in elementary school, poems in her school yearbooks and articles in the local newspapers. The idea for this book came when a little girl asked her the question: “What was it like when you were growing up?” As she started talking about her childhood she caught the interest of all the people at the function she was attending. The idea for a book was born. The interviews began with friends and relatives and expanded to people from newspapers. Early on it occurred to her that an illustrator could add a “Norman Rockwell” effect to highlight the humor that ran through the stories. She found the perfect artist in the person of David Byrne.
About the illustrator
David Byrne graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a degree in Industrial Design. Since retirement he has been working as an editorial cartoonist for a local newspaper. As well as being an artist, he is a sculptor. He is a member of the International Society of Animal Artists.
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