A first-time author has special help recalling family memories
People researching genealogy often get started after realizing that once too much time passes, some family history will be lost forever. While names, dates and places are important elements of preserving a family’s past, the stories providing the personal connection are even more significant.
Earlene (Sutliff) Campbell realized this and while attending a writer’s workshop she decided that sharing the stories of her youth was the perfect project for an aspiring, first-time author. However, unlike most people, Campbell had help from someone providing a unique perspective on the recollections of her childhood, a twin brother.
Campbell and her twin, Earl, better known as “Buck”, were born in Bushnell in 1939. Beginning with stories passed down through family members, along with their father’s journal, visits to past homes and general research, Campbell compared her memories with those of Buck’s. This process re-created the history of their shared childhood and resulted in the often humorous book, titled “Buck ‘n’ Me”, that Campbell recently penned and self-published.
“I realized that once I was gone there would also be a lot of family history, a lot of our family’s stories, that would be gone with me and I wanted to preserve that,” Campbell said.
As different memories arose, Campbell would share them with Buck, who often remembered details she’d forgotten.
“We’re twins, but we weren’t joined at the hip. Even if he wasn’t directly involved in the story, he’d sometimes have a different memory of things and I think it helped make everything as accurate as it could be. But he always told me, ‘It’s your story,’” she said.
The book begins with the story of their birth and those years of early childhood were documented through tales passed down by their parents, aunts and grandmothers.
Childhood nicknames were an important aspect of the family. “Buck” earned his moniker from his sister, who couldn’t fully pronounce the nickname their mother had bestowed upon him, “Buckaroo.” Campbell also had a nickname, one given to her by her father. He called her “Sweet” and the items she has from her father addressed with that name are now among her most prized heirlooms. Their older sister, Frances Lee, was known as “Punky,” short for “Punkin,” a name inspired by her skin tone during a bout with jaundice as an infant.
Campbell said putting down the memories of her small-town, rural childhood caused her to realize how much simpler and more pleasant life was during that time. “Buck ‘n’ Me” will cause readers to remember many of the games they played themselves as children, such as Captain May I, Simon Says and Red Rover, as well as the importance of metal roller skates, bicycles, ice skates and sleds.
“We’d stay outside and play all day. Things for children weren’t as organized as they are now, we just played and enjoyed such simple pleasures,” she said.
While much of the book is comprised of fond memories, family history, humorous stories and photographs, Campbell also touches on her family’s solemn and melancholy moments, those times which all families experience.
“I was told I can’t tell the good and not the bad,” she said.
Readers will also join Campbell as she reminisces about the many facets of rural life and the chores involved. Outhouses were still fairly common, clotheslines were in every yard and before any chicken was enjoyed as a dinner, Earlene and Buck had first spent an afternoon plucking the feathers. The twins also shared a paper route and like any true brother and sister, arguments occasionally erupted over shared responsibilities.
“It always seemed so serious at the time, but when Buck and I talked about those things all these years later we’d always ended up laughing about it all,” Campbell said of the funny stories of sibling friction.
“Buck ‘n’ Me” also chronicles how modern inventions impacted her family. Their family was the second in town to have the new gadget called a television and Saturday evenings would find their living room full of neighbors, relatives and friends.
Memories of the “good ol’ days” are both warmly remembered and now seen with a fresh outlook as to how hard those days actually were for her relatives. Through her stories, Campbell shares a great appreciation of the struggles faced by her family members through those years.
The memories continue through the awkward times of adolescence, first dates, first dances, and sneakily smoked first cigarettes. “Buck ‘n’ Me” wraps up with recollections of the years after high school and Buck and Earlene’s separate journeys toward creating their own homes.
All families have stories to tell and Campbell has not only honored her late brother, who died in 2016, while enjoyably sharing her family’s history, but quite possibly also helped others to recall their own forgotten family tales of days gone by.
“Buck ‘n’ Me” is 224 pages and was printed by CreateSpace. It’s available at various retailers in Princeton, including Good Scents, Annie’s Little Pots, Hoffman’s and Refaced. It’s also available online through Amazon’s website.
“And I can always be approached for a copy as well, if they’d like. I’m always happy to talk with people,” Campbell said.