New History Book about Montgomery...
- ..fyi..aj wright // ajwright@...
From: Capitol Book [mailto:capitolbook@...]
Sent: Wednesday, October 04, 2000 9:17 AM
To: Capitol Book
Subject: October 1 Column
MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER COLUMN OCTOBER 1, 2000
"City's War History May Become Local Bookstore's Bestseller"
As we write this column, we've just finally received in the store the book
we'd thought would be our bestselling book this year, bigger even that Harry
Potter, bigger even than Winston Groom's history of football at the
University of Alabama. And now that we've had a chance to see the book, we
have no doubts. Why? Because the book is better than we'd let ourselves
hope, and it's one that should have appeal to a huge number of people in
It's called "Montgomery In The Good War: Portrait of a Southern City
1939-1946," written by Montgomerian Wesley Newton, Professor Emeritus of
History at Auburn and a WW2 veteran, and published by the University of
Alabama Press ($34.95 hardback). The book follows Montgomery, and many
Montgomerians, chronologically through the war from the invasion of Poland
in 1939 through the end of the war and the demobilization period and return
home of those Montgomery veterans who were lucky enough to come home.
We haven't read the whole book yet. One reason is that we took our reading
copy over to Thomas's parents house, and we can't get the thing back from
them. And we know they haven't finished it either, because as they read each
paragraph it sets off a 5 minute discourse along the lines of "I remember
him. He dated so and so, but when he came back from the war she had married
such and such, but now he lives in Anytown. I haven't thought about them in
years. Why, do you remember when he....?" And yes, there is even the
occasional episode recounted in the book that they remember somewhat
differently from the way the book tells it, but that just adds to the fun of
the thing. We're actually thinking about just giving them our copy in
appreciation for the many, many little local history lessons we've gotten
from them, all from memories sparked by this great book.
Here's a few Montgomery names you may recognize from the book: Kenneth
"Peanut" Adcock, Silas "Brook" Nettles, Jack Merrill, Peggy Penton, Algie
Hill, Ralph Loeb, Lee Allen, Jerry Yelverton (he, we learn, had a crush on
Peggy Penton, and introduced her to Glenn Miller, in whose band he had
played), Dorothy Ghent, John Sawyer, Billy Crane, Tacky Gayle, Tommy Oliver,
Dootsie Ball, Isabel Dunn, and many, many more. Many more. How about G.T.
Alexander and O.C. Crow, both leaders in Montgomery's black community back
then? Or Sherman White and Robert Coprich, black Montgomery servicemen
killed in action, whose deaths, like those of nearly all of Montgomery's
black soldiers, went unreported in this newspaper? The story in the book of
Sherman White's parents' being denied a seat at the post-war dedication of
the cenotaph at the intersection of Washington, Church, and Court Streets is
both heartbreaking and infuriating, but it did at least have the effect of
inspiring us to go downtown to visit the little monument for the first time
ever, and Sherman White is who we'll think of from now on whenever we see
it. Small consolation to the Whites, we know.
You'll learn - or be reminded of - the "Feather Duster" murder of prominent
insurance executive David Holloway in 1943, the sensational Esther Drew
murder case of 1944, the huge uproar over vandalism at Lanier High School
the same year, the Montgomery rationing board, wartime sex in Montgomery,
price controls (the Elite Restaurant was cited for price gouging in 1943,
and so was the Candlelight. Do you remember the Candlelight?), the football
game at Cloverdale Junior High School, right across the street from our
where our store now stands, on Dec. 7, 1941. And about a million other
things, big and little, going on around Montgomery during the war.
Certain books just beg to be owned, and this is one that really does belong
in the library of anyone with any Montgomery roots at all. And lest it
remain unsaid, let us say it: Thank you to Wesley Newton, who has done a
huge service to this city by writing this book, and preserving the
recollections of so many WW2-era Montgomerians before it became too late.
Selling books is fun, and rewarding, but how great must it be to write a
book such as this, and to know you'll be remembered and appreciated for it
for years and years to come?
SPECIAL NOTE TO INTERNET SUBSCRIBERS ONLY:
Wesley Newton, the author of this book, will appear at the Montgomery Museum
on November 2 at 7 PM to discuss the book. We'll also have a panel of people
from the book to discuss life in Montgomery during WW2. It ought to be fun.
We'll send more details as the time approaches.
Capitol Book & News Company
1140 E. Fairview Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36106