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In 'Town Kid' Porter shares recollections of small town youth

Gary (right) and Melissa Porter are shown at an event for "Town Kid: Reflections of a Midwestern Boyhood." The two will be at a local event for "Town Kid" on Nov. 1 at the River Falls Public Library, co-hosted by Chapter2Books of Hudson. Photo courtesy of Melissa Porter 1 / 3
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Author Gary Porter is shown doing research for his new book, "Town Kid: Reflections of a Midwestern Boyhood" in his hometown, Greenfield, Iowa. Here, Porter was looking through bound volumes of the local Greenfield paper. Photos courtesy of Melissa Porter.3 / 3

Now a town of Troy resident, Gary Porter grew up in Greenfield, Iowa. Located southwest of Des Moines, with a population of about 2,000, Greenfield maintains a county seat and a town square with the courthouse in the middle.

Porter recently published "Town Kid: Reflections of a Midwestern Boyhood," a collection of 32 essays sharing his experiences growing up in Greenfield in the 1950s and 60s.

"Each one is accompanied by an old black and white photo," Porter said. "The majority of those photos came from what's called the Sidey collection."

Those photos are from the Sidey family, who ran the local Greenfield newspaper for many generations, Porter said.

In his essays, Porter shares "snapshots" of his youth, memories of visiting the swimming pool across the street every day over the summer, visiting the town square, and frequent visits to the fairgrounds on the edge of town.

"I just say the real inspiration for the book came from all of the generations before me," Porter said.

He said people back home in Greenfield and here at his current home have been asking him when his book will be published.

Porter was an accounting professor for his entire career. He'd written textbooks before. Shortly after he retired, he and his wife Melissa's dog, Duffy, died.

"I decided to write a book, somewhat fictionalized, about his time with us," Porter said. "That was my first attempt at creative writing. But a few years back, I'd starting writing these essays."

He sent some of them to his hometown newspaper, "The Adair County Free Press," and they published a few of them

"So I thought this could become a collection, and turn it into the book," Porter said.

One of the essays in his book was actually read at a River Falls Reads event at the River Falls Public Library,

Porter said his essays try to capture and bring to life his memories.

"My writing really relies on the senses, whether it's sight or smell or sound," he said.

The 32 essays he chose for the book focus on people and places in the town, such as landmarks like the town square or his school. Others focus on individuals, such as his great-uncle Albert and great-aunt Grace.

Melissa Porter said the essays in the book are divided into three sections: Living, leaving and longing. Living being Gary's memories of growing up in Greenfield, leaving being memories from when he'd moved away, and longing focusing on missing his hometown.

Gary Porter said he enjoys sharing his stories with others.

"Everyone has a hometown," Porter said.

He enjoys speaking with people after reading from his book, and hearing their own memories of their hometowns.

"The hope, too, is that it allows, say like grandparents, to then read these or tell their grandkids about home and what life was like back in the 50s and 60s," Gary Porter said.

Events

The Porters launched the book at Gary Porter's class reunion in Greenfield.

Now they're starting to share the book locally. A book signing is scheduled for 7 p.m., Nov. 1 at the River Falls Public Library, co-hosted by Chapter2Books of Hudson.

"Town Kid" will be available for sale and signing at the event, and can be purchased locally at Chapter2Books, The Phipps Center for the Arts, Valley Book Seller in Stillwater, Minnesota, and amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. "Town Kid" will also be available through the MORE library system.

For more information on "Town Kid" visit facebook.com/thetownkid.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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