As an 82-year-old, lifelong Virginia resident, Samuel “Dick” Harris has seen his fair share of changes in the world around him. He always wanted to record what life was like back in the “good ol’ days.”
All it took was one word said by a complete stranger at a Field Day of the Past event a couple years ago to spur Harris to action.
While watching a steam engine in motion at the event, Harris said a teenager walked up and questioned what the machine before them even was. After an in-depth explanation, Harris was greeted with what he saw as a less-than-enthusiastic, one-word response.
“That made me realize that what I call the “cool generation” doesn’t have a clue and doesn’t understand how life was in the past,” Harris said. “It’s history.”
Armed with a measure of motivation, Harris set forth to write a book about his life growing up on a farm in Spotsylvania. The book, entitled “Dick’s Book,” spans 1936 to 1956, where roads were scarcely paved, electricity was reserved for the upper class and using the bathroom meant taking a trek outside to a separate shack.
“What I’m attempting to do here is to describe how life was and how it was done, so when I’m gone it will survive me,” Harris said.
Despite discussing events of more than half a century ago, Harris’ book delves into some of the most meticulous details of his life growing up on a Spotsylvania farm with four elder siblings. Chapters are divided into the different phases of life, such as baling hay, working the garden and even gathering around the radio as a family to listen to the day’s events.
Major moments in history are also tied into the book, from worldwide events such as listening to news about the Pearl Harbor attacks on the radio to more local events, like the construction of Interstate 95. Harris said he tried to cater to both male and female readers by discussing household topics of interest to both
To read the entire story, see the Dec. 26 edition of The Central Virginian.