Growing Up in the Last Small Town: A West Virginia Memoir is a humorous and poignant account of Bob Barnett, a bad student and undersized athlete coming of age in the 1950’s, but it is also the story of all of us who grew up in small towns across America between 1940 and 1960.
It was a time of simple pleasures that included shedding winter coats on the first day of spring, playing baseball until dark, watching four-hour children’s matinees on Saturday, and breaking plates in the town dump, our favorite playground. It was a time when we wrote term papers, ate fish sandwiches at the Fireman’s Carnival, cheered our high school teams, and lived for soak hops and dances –a time when getting the right date for the prom was more important than the election of the president.
The story is set in the unincorporated pottery town of Newell, West Virginia and captures the rhythm of life in small towns that we thought would never change. But change came quickly. Television became a staple of modern life in the 1950s offering Elvis, the evening news, and a vivid view of our changing world. School consolidations robbed the towns of their souls, supermarkets eliminated the need for corner grocery stores, and the closing of mills and factories brought an end to small towns as we knew them. The generation whose story is told in this book grew up in the last small town in America.
By Bob Barnett