While sitting, letting my dog ‘JC’ run and chase rabbits on the grounds of, and waiting for time to ‘open the gates’ to the Christian County Historical Museum and Genealogical Society last fall, I began to read one of the many books the Genealogical Society has on its shelves entitled “Memories of a Central Illinois Farmer.”
Written by long-time resident of Christian County, John A. Brookens, and edited by Linda McElroy, the short stories/happenings really struck a chord in my heart. On the back of the little book of 170 pages is written:
“From fighting bumblebees to planting corn to witching for water, John Brookens tells how they used to do things in “the good, old days.” His memories span the years from the turn of the century to 1989, his 90th year. He tells his stories with simplicity and humor, mostly directed at himself.
He wrote this book as a legacy for his descendants, but his efforts can be appreciated by anyone interested in the early days of this century in Illinois. In these hectic days, we can all enjoy looking back at a simpler lifestyle and profit from the lessons he learned. –Editor”
At the next CCGS Board meeting I asked permission of past board president Rosella Brookens (John’s daughter-in-law) if I could scan the book and put it on the CCGS website, so others around the world could have an opportunity to read it. Rosella said she didn’t have a problem with doing that and she would ask her husband Harold.
The next day I received an e-mail from Rosella saying that she had mentioned it to her son Dan and he suggested asking permission of the editor, Linda McElroy, who happens to be granddaughter of author John A. Brookens. I e-mailed Linda and below is her reply:
Thanks for your message about my grandfather's book. I'm glad you like it. My grandfather kept journals all his life so much of what he wrote was based on these and not just the recollections of a 90-year-old. We can be reasonably sure that most of the dates and significant events are accurate, but the details are as he recalled them.
He typed the rough draft himself on a portable manual typewriter with no margins and no breaks. He sent me pages as he completed them and I organized them into the categories with headings as seen in the book. I then sent my version to him for his review.
For part of the book, I tried to use a chronological style, but many of the subjects wouldn't fit into this pattern so I used headings and subheads that I thought would help the reader find things of interest.
At one point, Grandpa admonished me to not change the grammar because he only had an 8th grade education. The funny thing is that I did not change the wording at all. I simply organized it and added paragraphing, margins and headings. Apparently an 8th grade education in his day was enough.
We worked on this book together for about 6 months. I spent almost every weekend and most evenings typing it and formatting it for the book. For some reason, I felt driven to get it done. The day I got the book back from the printers Grandpa was hospitalized with a heart attack. They put in a pacemaker, but he only survived about a week. I am thankful that he got to see his book. He even made some minor corrections to it from his hospital bed. Unfortunately, he didn't get to sign copies for his children and grandchildren, but I had copies for relatives at the funeral. I'm sure my grandfather would be proud that his book is still being read. It is really his book so, of course, you have my permission to scan it and put it online.
Linda McElroy Granddaughter of John A. Brookens”
It is with great appreciation that we, of the Christian County Genealogical Society add John's book to the CCGS website. The book is housed in our library in the Pence building of the Historical Society and you can come out and read it during our ‘open’ hours.
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And now we proudly present, in it's completeness...