Dear Diary - 2016

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION - Jeff Hall Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, con­trib­utes col­umns to Berk­sMont News­pa­pers. Ques­tions/ com­ments­may be di­rected to jef­frey­hall77@com­cast.net

It would have been great if some­one had en­grained in me as a child to keep a diary dur­ing my life. No, I wouldn’t have to be a huge suc­cess to make it in­ter­est­ing. If noth­ing else, it might have been some­thing I could leave to my kids in case at a cer­tain point in time they won­dered about my thoughts, where I lived, what was in­volved in my work, my in­ter­ests, my suc­cesses and my fail­ures. I al­ready know it made a huge im­pact on them when I told them I had to go to sum­mer school for Al­ge­bra af­ter ninth grade. They im­me­di­ately asked about other ar­eas of my life where I didn’t mea­sure up.

This col­umn isn’t quite like that. I thought I would look back at just the year of 2016 and share some high­lights with you as far as some of my ar­ti­cles are con­cerned. Dur­ing 2016, I have re­viewed eight books. Three of them were by Lisa Scot­to­line. I must ad­mit I am par­tial to Lisa be­cause I love mys­ter­ies and ap­pre­ci­ate her writ­ings. I would only have re­viewed two of her books ex­cept I re­ceived a let­ter from Lisa’s As­so­ciate Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic­ity for St. Martin’s Press in New York City who had read one of my re­views on Lisa and of­fered me an ad­vanced copy of her new book at the time, “Dam­aged”. Also, I re­ceived a call from a leader of a lo­cal book club which reads Lisa’s books say­ing the club had been in­vited to Lisa’s book club week­end, which oc­curs in Oc­to­ber, with over 1,200 guests in­vited (this year) for the last few years. She told me if the club was in­vited again this year, they would in­clude me in the club. Since Lisa lives lo­cally, I was ex­cited to ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion if it came. Un­for­tu­nately, this year this par­tic­u­lar book club was not in­vited. Oh well, maybe an­other year Lisa.

I’m not sci­en­tific in se­lect­ing the books I choose to read. The best way so far that I’ve found is se­lect­ing one book from each decade from a list from the 1940’s to the 2,000’s as se­lected by a com­mit­tee for Pa­rade Mag­a­zine, from the Sun­day Phil­a­del­phia In­quirer. I still have a way to go us­ing this pro­ce­dure since I’ve done the 1940’s, 1950’s and the week of De­cem­ber12th I re­ported on my fa­vorite book yet, the clas­sic “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird” by Harper Lee, writ­ten in 1960. I would not like to re­port on a book if I had seen the movie first. Barb in­formed me we had the DVD for this book and we watched it on De­cem­ber 14th. I pre­fer color films but this one was in black and white, which was quite ap­pro­pri­ate be­cause it took place in a small, poor, south­ern town dur­ing the de­pres­sion and be­cause of its sub­ject mat­ter. There are not many men that mea­sure up to the principled lawyer, At­ti­cus Finch, played by Gre­gory Peck, who among other things de­fended a Ne­gro wrongly ac­cused of beat­ing and rap­ing a white woman.

Also, dur­ing the year, I wrote 49 col­umns un­der the head­ing of “Per­son to Per­son – Im­pact”. These are my fa­vorite col­umns be­cause there are no lim­its. They may be spir­i­tual in na­ture, about peo­ple who have in­flu­enced me, ex­pe­ri­en­tial, or just plain silly. As “my busi­ness grew”, I hired my good old men­tor from my Army days, Beetle Bai­ley, to re­view all in­com­ing mail and pass on the most in­ter­est­ing pieces so I could tell you about them. Later, Miss Vic­to­ria Wither­spoone (with an “e”) came on staff to help me with my in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing for ar­ti­cles by be­ing a bug on the wall. Un­for­tu­nately, I got a bit car­ried away when I as­signed both of them to fig­ure out why I was be­ing “rep­ri­manded” by the Tri County Record be­cause they were blam­ing me for their de­crease in cir­cu­la­tion. I was sur­prised af­ter writ­ing this tongue in cheek ar­ti­cle that I re­ceived replies from three peo­ple telling me they were sorry I was hav­ing trou­ble with the pa­per man­age­ment!

An­other ar­ti­cle told the story of Miss Betty Bar­ton, whom I had for ninth grade bi­ol­ogy. She was an­cient, at least in her stu­dents’ eyes, be­cause she had taught par­ents and in some cases grand­par­ents of her stu­dents. She also had many pe­cu­liar­i­ties. The rea­son why this ar­ti­cle was among my fa­vorites is two ladies came to me and told me they had Miss Bar­ton too (and these ladies were even older than I, grad­u­at­ing from high school in 1958 and 1959). One of them, whom I had not met be­fore, grad­u­ated with my sis­ter, Linda, and they were best of friends dur­ing high school, but had not seen or talked with one an­other in decades. This dear lady phoned my sis­ter and had a good con­ver­sa­tion with her shortly be­fore Linda died on Novem­ber 13th. I am re­ally grate­ful for this lady’s phone call and her en­cour­age­ment to Linda. An­other en­cour­ag­ing thing hap­pen­ing as a re­sult of these col­umns in the Tri County Record was a friend of mine con­tacted me and asked if I would give a short pre­sen­ta­tion at her book club about how I started writ­ing for the pa­per un­der the head­ings of “Book Beat – Im­pact” and “Per­son to Per­son – Im­pact”. Un­for­tu­nately, I could not be­cause I was out of town at the time of the book club meet­ing. Pos­si­bly an­other time?

I have said this pre­vi­ously, but I think it bears re­peat­ing. I am not a re­porter. I am a story teller. My general guide­lines are: to be truth­ful (ex­cept for tongue in cheek ar­ti­cles), to not dis­par­age any­one and to not poke fun at any­body with­out per­mis­sion. How­ever, I don’t mind pok­ing fun at my­self.

I’m look­ing for­ward to 2017 with more book re­views and per­sonal in­ter­est sto­ries. Will my “staff” grow? What kind of sub­jects will I write about next? I will have to “dream” about that while ei­ther fall­ing asleep at night or try­ing to awaken in the morn­ing. In the mean­time, God bless each one of you……Jeff

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