On Saturday I was on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Ky., for a book signing event. The previously quiet lobby and art gallery of the beautiful Norton Center became considerably noisier as more and more people arrived for the 11:30 alumni recognition ceremony. Folks were milling about the tables where a number of authors were prepared to introduce their books to the crowd.
A robust-looking older gentleman and his smiling wife approached our table and picked up a copy of The Last Resort. I glanced quickly at their name tags, which identified them as members of the class of ’48 and ’46 respectively. I immediately recognized that they would be about the same age as some of the boys who visited Pud’s camp—which meant they might have a genuine interest in the book’s first-person account of a time they would remember.
Before I could formally greet them, the gentleman looked at the author’s name and said, “Goodlett, huh? I used to know a Vince Goodlett in Frankfort.”
I smiled broadly. “Well, that would be my uncle, the oldest brother of the author.”
“One of the best attorneys of his time,” he continued. “With Hazelrigg & Cox, you know.”
And thus began a wonderful conversation with this couple who still reside in Frankfort. With so many of their generation no longer with us, it was just amazing to stumble into someone who knew my uncle well, who had fond memories of Vincent Goodlett, who died in 1973.
During the event that morning I was able to reconnect briefly with a number of other people who have danced through my life: classmates and professors and people I admired from afar. I also chatted at length with a few who were inspired by the work we had done capturing a piece of family history. So many of us have possession of stories or letters or diaries that we find fascinating and that we’re fairly certain other readers or history buffs would enjoy. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to take that first step toward sharing them.
I hope the publication of The Last Resort will encourage others to dig into the documents their families have preserved. Day by day we’re losing an entire generation—a generation whose lives spanned incredible changes in our country and who played pivotal roles in both building and preserving this nation.
I wish I had had more time to talk to the couple who stopped by our table and learn more about their own stories. I hope they enjoy reading about Vince’s younger brother and the close bond that existed between the two.
At the next book signing, I think I’ll be more prepared to listen rather than talk.