Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to reminisce about growing up in a small town and returning there to find a sense of home.
The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.
I recently participated in a multi-author event at the local library. It was part of the 130-year anniversary of the town of Hanford, CA. As I was sitting at my table, a woman came up to me and said “I’ve heard you speak at an event.” Several others said “Oh, I’ve heard of you.” One said “I’ve been dying to meet you!
Ah, the benefits of living in a small town. For years I’ve held the title of “Local Author.” People are proud of me. Not as proud as they are of Steve Perry, who I went to school with. But proud enough to make me proud.
In 1961, my family was stationed at the Naval Air Base in Lemoore, CA. The town population was 2,561. There was a healthy population of Portuguese people and the area was known as dairy country.
The natives questioned why the Navy would build a base inland, nowhere near the ocean. The base was for carrier training for jets, a safe place for pilots to practice take-offs, landings and the occasional ejection. By renting fields around the base, the population was safe from mishaps.
We weren’t welcomed with open arms. Farmers didn’t want their daughters mixing with sailors. But that changed as money started coming in. Shopping increased and houses were rented, plus the town got a stipend for every base kid who went to high school in town.
Growing up we dragged D Street on Saturday night, all of a half-mile. If you’ve seen American Graffiti, you’ve had a glimpse of Lemoore in 1969. Most of us graduated and left town for college or jobs. Many of us returned home years later.
I lived in Fresno and did most of my writing there. I worked with a Sheriff’s Dept. narc team and that’s where I got inspiration for my mysteries. But, I was unacknowledged in a city of half a million.
Lemoore has grown to a population of 27,285. I moved back in 2005, after my parents died. When I bought my house, neighbors knew I was moving in before the deed was signed. Cattycorner lived my mother’s best friend. Across the street was a woman I’d known in high school. Next door was the parents of a boy I went to high school with. Welcome home!
The Class of ’69 has bonded and often have mini reunions. I like the fact that I know the local librarians because I’m a constant customer. The woman at the post office went to school with my sister. The clerks at the grocery store are familiar to me. I’m in the Women’s Club and American Legion. I’m more involved with my community than I ever was in Fresno where I never knew my neighbors after living there for 17 years.
So yes, I’ll take a small town over a city any day. No, we don’t have a lot of “culture,” but we do have a lot of heart. I’m a little fish in a little pond, and that’s fine with me.
As John Mellencamp sang: “Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be.” And that’s good enough for me.