SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Tracy Henry has a story to share. She got it from her 94-year-old grandmother, Gearline Steadman.
More than two decades ago, Henry asked her grandparents to write down some of their memories so that she could chronicle them in a book.
“I’ve always been interested in history, people’s history and my family’s history,” Henry said.
Her grandparents’ recollections focused on growing up during the Great Depression, one of the most difficult times in American history.
“I always said that I was going to write a book on each one of them when I got old enough and my kids were older, and I had time to do it,” Henry said.
Henry’s grandparents had very different childhoods. Her grandmother grew up in Akron, Ohio, and her grandfather was a farm boy.
Her grandmother’s story is featured in, “The Little Girl Who Survived the Great Depression.” Released a little over a week ago, it is available in paperback for $10.99 at www.amazon.com.
“I still have her copy with me because of (Hurricane Dorian),” Henry said Friday. “With all of the shutdowns, I haven’t been able to send it to her but I have it in my car so I can send it to her today.
“She real excited because Akron, Ohio, where she is, is where the story takes place.”
Steadman was extremely pleased to learn that her story would become a book. She and “The Little Girl Who Survived the Depression” will soon be profiled in an Akron newspaper.
“She cried and shook,” Henry said. “She couldn’t believe it. She was in tears because she was so happy.”
“The Little Girl Who Survived the Great Depression” has the potential to impact a lot of lives.
“It fits in perfectly with our lessons so I am able to use that book in school when I am teaching,” Henry said.
The author believes history lessons are more impactful when individual experiences are shared.
“People actually did go through the things that you read about in history books,” she said, “but they don’t seem like they come alive because you don’t know the people.”
Henry said that the value of frugality that her grandparents learned during the harsh economic times of the Great Depression remained with them.
“They would use (an item) until they couldn’t use it anymore,” she said. “Like every car they ever had, they used cash (to buy it). They never used credit.”
Henry said it took about six months to get her 42-page book published. It is illustrated by fellow Springfield Elementary School teacher Brittany Lein.
“It’s wasn’t as easy as what you think,” Henry said. “You don’t just write a book and it gets published. You write, revise, write, revise and then you let it sit awhile.
“Then you look at it again and it goes to the publisher. Then the publisher takes it and you almost have to start back at the beginning, and you go, ‘On my God! Why do I have to do this again!
“You do it so many times — going back and forth — until you get a final product.”
Henry believes the book emerged a better product because of the process at Palmetto Publishing in South Carolina.
“I was a little offended at first because they wanted to change some things,” she said. “I thought it was perfect but then when I started working with the publisher I realized that, no, everything that I think isn’t what someone else thinks, and there are better ways to say something and how to write something.”
Henry regrets that she didn’t get her grandfather Ronald Steadman’s story published before he died five years ago. Her responsibilities as a teacher and mother impeded her but she is working on it now.
“I was so upset with myself but I didn’t have the time,” she said. “I made it a point to get my grandmother’s story done before something happens to her.”