Archive for the ‘David Halberstam’ Tag

BILL BRYSON, 1927, AND “MY FATHER’S HOUSE.”   18 comments

Working on “My Father’s House” has been a life changing eye-opener for me. As his youngest child, I had no real sense of the time when my father arrived in America in 1910 to the quiet little village of Forestville, Connecticut. My big sister and brother experienced much more of the earlier years. And of the amazing changes that occurred during his lifetime.

My sister, for example, remembers people traveling by horse and wagon, and isn’t sure just when trolley’s from Forestville to Bristol were replaced by buses. She also remembers as a little girl shouting to planes overhead, “Hey, Lucky. Give me a ride.”

My brother remembered the days when church services at Bethesda Lutheran Church were conducted in Swedish. In fact, he spoke Swedish with no apparent effort. I, on the other hand, begged my father to teach me Swedish. He didn’t, citing the prejudice he had experienced when he first arrived. I suspect it was really so he and my mother could talk behind my back while I was present.

I have come to realize how painful it must have been for my parents when all three of their offspring married outside the church. Some things make real empathetic sense when one works at getting inside the life of another.

And oh yes, I really miss my brother, partly because I miss him, and partly he isn’t here to answer the questions my sister is too young to answer.

So now to Bill Bryson’s “One Summer: 1927.” I’m not really going to write a review. 2164 people have already done that on amazon.com. I will say it’s a great read and I strongly recommend it. But I want to talk about the reason why I read it – to understand the times my parents lived through. And even some of the times I lived through with them, which has me reading David Halberstam’s “The Fifties” at the same time.

I loved Bryson’s book. His writing style is delightful. What got to me is realizing the amazing changes that took place in America and, indeed, the world, almost without people knowing it. Oh yes, people were excited about specific events. I must say, poor Lindbergh had my sympathetic understanding of the misery his Scandinavian shyness created for him as he became such a lauded hero. Some of the stories of how he – and his mother – handled it are really funny. I don’t think you have to be a Scandinavian to appreciate it.

But the thing that got me is how many of our current problems are rooted in the events of those days. Adding to that Halberstam’s events of the 50s – when I thought I was a grownup – just highlights how much things are changing right now right before our eyes, or maybe secretly behind our backs.

Aside from learning more about my parents’ lives, I find myself hoping to live another 30 years (yeah! Not likely!) to understand what’s going on now.

Now I’ll transport myself back to 1910 to write a few more paragraphs of “My Father’s House.”

%d bloggers like this: