By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Hokes Bluff High School history teacher Jill Braddy Boatwright gave her students some unique assignments and the opportunity of several lifetimes by involving them in the researching, writing and collecting of photos for “The History of Hokes Bluff,” a recently published book containing stories of local history.
Boatwright worked with fellow teacher Steve Millander to write an earlier version of the book in 1999. Over the years, Boatwright said, people had shared more history of Hokes Bluff with her, and she’d heard from people who wanted copies of the book. She decided it was time to update it.
The new version doubles the size of the last and contains photos of and interviews with many people who’ve called Hokes Bluff home for decades, offering not only the big picture of the town’s history, but the more personal stories of local families.
To capture those stories, Boatwright assigned students to do interviews for the book. The subjects had to be over 50 and have some connection to Hokes Bluff.
Keaton Langdale interviewed his great grandmother and helped with other interviews.
“It was actually pretty interesting,” Langdale said, and taught him many things he didn’t know. “Most kids sit in history class and they may think it’s boring. It was just really interesting listening to the stories of people who went off to war, or had businesses here, or even were housewives.”
Boatwright said the assignments brought many students and their families together, through the sharing of stories of family history.
In classes, Boatwright said students study what happened in history’s big picture, and then look at what happened locally at that time. She said the school has a subscription to Ancestory.com so that students can research their own family history.
Courtney Entrekin said she learned a lot about Hokes Bluff from participating in the project. Students not only did interviews, they collected and scanned many photos for the book. The students went the homes of some residents, and like that of local genealogist Lillian Ward, and found a virtual library of information about the history of Alford’s Bend.
“We went to her house five or six times,” Amy King said. “My family is not really from Hokes Bluff. I had no idea there was so much history in Hokes Bluff.”
The girls enjoyed looking at school history – sports like tennis and wrestling that are not currently played at the school, and beauty pageants. It was especially interesting to them to see the hairstyles of bygone eras and the fashions.
There were several people who played a large part in collecting information for the book, like Lillian Ward, and Jimmy Gidley. Boatwright said Sherrill Morris – Keaton Langdale’s uncle – and Linda Sue Norris were a great help in getting people together to share their stories and photos and in collecting information and images.
In updating the book Boatwright and the students learned an important lesson about the passage of time. Many of the people who helped with the book in 1999 passed away before work began on the new version.
“Keaton’s grandfather was a great help to me on the first book,” Boatwright said, “and he had passed away.”
Along with all the younger generation learned from their elders, the older folks learned something about the whippersnappers as well.
“A lot of the older people don’t think anyone cares what they have to say. We showed them that we do.”
“They wanted to tell their stories,” Langdale agreed. “We gave them someone to listen.”
Boatwright said Hokes Bluff is a unique community, “like stepping into Mayberry.” She said Hokes Bluff’s people through the generations have a true love for their hometown.
“You learn from those people who local our town and they pass that love on down,” Boatwright said.
The book is published by AlanDavesPublishing, an internet-based small business publishing company owned by Hokes Bluff native Alan Daves. To get a copy, people may visit http://historyofhokesbluff.webs.com and order the book. The cost is $19.99 (softcover) or $44.99 (hardcover) It will also be available through Amazon.com. For more information, contact Boatwright at 256-492-1360 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.