July 09, 2007

More from Millie Kalish

From "'Grandma, tell me a farm story'...and boy, did she ever" by Susan L. Rife for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida, where Mildred Kalish, author of Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression -- now winging its way to me -- lived with her husband in retirement until 2005:
Kalish began compiling her memories into book form about 20 years ago, when she would walk her 4-year-old granddaughter, Meredith, to school and entertain her along the way with stories from her childhood.

"She would say, 'Grandma, tell me a farm story,' " said Kalish. "That's the title I did the first draft of the book with. I worked on it off and on until about 2002, then decided to really get to work on it."

Her friend, Marilyn Harwell, a neighbor for "years and years and years" at Pelican Cove, said the two would sit "for five years, talking about her book, drinking single-malt scotch." ...

Although Kalish wrote the book for her family, she thinks it has a broader appeal, thanks to nostalgia for simpler times, and, she said, "Part of it I honestly think has to do with the fact that the world is in such dreadful shape. We're having tainted food come in from China -- shrimp, toothpaste, beef, everything -- and we're having this awful war, the whole Mideast thing, and the political thing. I think that people feel they could not control their lives. In our day, we controlled almost everything about our lives. That gave us a sense of self-sufficiency and self-reliance that people don't have today."

[Mrs. Kalish's son Greg] described his mother as "the most unbelievable optimist," and said her greatest gift to him had been her love of the outdoors. When he and Doug, who now lives about 10 minutes away from Harry and Millie Kalish in Mountain View, were kids, their mother would awaken them at 2 a.m. to drive far away from city lights to watch meteor showers.

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