Reflections on the WEHS Book. Quick background. From August, 2013 through April, 2014 I compiled a book of memories written by folks who went to the same high school I did—West End High School. There were also some life stories. The book is called, “West End High School Memories and More”. One of our classmate artists did the cover for the book.
West End High School in Birmingham, Alabama, a relatively small high school in student numbers, but significant in the number of people who were to be outstanding later in life. They tore WEHS down in 2009, demolished it, dismantled it into dust and debris, and that makes these memories all the more important.
It was one of the best times in my life, but also a stressful time in my life. I had all of these wonderful memories e-mailed to me, but also I had to get the book right.
Not many people are afforded the memory lane I was allowed to walk, some might call it an eclectic collection of memories because of their wide range.
Did I get the book right? That’s a matter of opinion. Most thought so, or else they didn’t speak up to the contrary. A minor few voiced discontent, but in a project of this nature, I expected that.
We had some people walking the halls of WEHS, who were about to become awesome, and that is a word I do not use often.
Doctors wrote for the book, some medical, some PHDs. A medical doctor in particular who is still today one of the best in the country. That’s based on other doctors’ opinions I have talked to, not just my opinion alone. He was a neighbor of mine in high school.
Another doctor, a cosmetic surgeon, and another neighbor of mine in high school, did not have the opportunity to write for the book, because he died from colon cancer. I did not know relatives of his who could have written about him. I am quite certain his story would have been interesting. I ran into his mother in an elevator one time, and had a short chat with her when he was in residence at Johns-Hopkins, and what he had experienced up to that time had already been interesting. He was in my wife’s class, and had to bypass a class reunion because of a medical conference in Chicago. At the next reunion, probably five years later, maybe ten, he was gone.
Some PHDs wrote for the book who took their education and invested it in educating other people. The number of people who benefited from those WEHSers must be exponential rather than a simple addition of a few people.
Some people don’t like to talk about lawyers but we had some. We had some who said they would write for the book, but never did. Perhaps fearful of some legal ramifications, I don’t know.
Engineers wrote for the book. Engineers are always so precise in what they do, because they have to be. I thought they would be very measured in what they wrote, but they weren’t. They broke away from that mold for some very good writing.
There were retired military people, one in particular who had met some very well-known people, and was able to show the human qualities of these people in what he wrote. He had a couple of military experiences I am sure he did not wish to repeat.
Another of the military people wrote about a very life-threatening experience, which made all the news and TV media. We just didn’t realize at the time he was one of those people experiencing it. There was a letter associated with that experience he allowed me to reprint in the book. A letter I wish everyone in the world could read. I can assure you, it would make you a better human being than you are right now.
Then there were ordinary folks like me who wrote for the book. That’s what made this book so amazing. A number of the people who wrote for the book did not know me personally, yet they e-mailed their stories in to me, trusting that I would do the right and proper thing with them.
I only wrote one story for the book, because the WEHS book was to be about other people, not dominated by me. There was another book I was aware of at the time in the process of being put together by someone else, not of high school memories, but memories of older folks totally unrelated to what I was doing. I was aware one person was trying to dominate the writing for that book, and I would have none of that in what I did for the WEHS book.
I am a prolific writer as evidenced by this site which I started in November, 2014, this site now in length probably being three times as long as the WEHS book. I had any number of stories I could have included in the WEHS book, but thankfully I didn’t let my ego override common sense.
Did I choose the right story for what I wrote? I enjoyed writing it, if that is any criteria. I thought about it a long time. I did have another story I could have used instead. It was about one of our teachers who had died, Meme Gibson. I had originally written about her when I wrote for Senior Living. I was struck by the fact that students loved her and flocked to her classes in high school, yet at her funeral there were relatively few people. The contrast struck me, and I spent the length of the story I wrote trying to figure that out.
Do I have any regrets about stories that weren’t in the book? Yes. One about Henry Hartsfield, the astronaut, a WEHS and Auburn grad. I tried to reach him. Henry died in July, 2014. He might not have been able to write for the book because of health issues, but I blame myself for not trying harder to reach him. My usual tenacity deserted me on that one.
I did send off for a copyright on the WEHS book once it was finished. My daughter helped me fill out the seven or eight pages available online. There’s always one question you can answer to see if anyone actually reads what you send in. Their question, “Why did you write this?” My answer, “To prove I was insane so that should I need to use the insanity plea later, it would be credible.”
When we sent in the completed pages, we included an E–book which was acceptable to them as a completed book. They charged the fee to my credit card, and I thought in a couple of months or so, the copyright would be arriving in the mail.
Earlier this year, I received an e-mail from the copyright office that the form of the book was different from what I had submitted. They charged the additional fee to my credit card.
I haven’t checked, but I do believe the original copyright runs for thirty-eight years. I am hopeful the copyright arrives from the copyright office in that period of time, because it is much easier to extend the copyright for a second thirty-eight years, if you have the original copyright in hand.
Someone, or maybe more than one, suggested a sequel should be done. That suggestion is not quite as outrageous as it seems at first glance. I don’t know how many people said they would contribute to the book along the way, and did not. A number of people would have written for the book after I reached the point I could take no more stories.
One thing I did after all the books were mailed out. I went back to see how many e-mails had gone back and forth between me and the writers of the book, potential writers for the book, maybe writers for the book, writers who threatened to write for the book, people who thought about writing for the book, and people who wrote me saying what I was doing was a good idea. The number of e-mails—1,400 plus. I didn’t realize I had dealt with so many people.
There you have it. The chronology of the WEHS book that gave me a great deal of pleasure in doing it. For those who obtained copies of the book, I hope it was pleasing to you as well.