Book Club: Home to Harmony Thread

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Mar 27, 2009.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Rock suggested Home to Harmony, by Phillip Gulley, and I thought it turned out to be a gem. Great vignettes of life in a small town, written by a Quaker minister. It's set in a fictional town in Indiana, but it might as well be anywhere. This book really grew on me: realistic characters, humorous situations, nostalgia and poignancy without being sappy or sentimental, and beautiful spiritual lessons, without being dogmatic. Of all the stories in this book, I don't think there was a clinker among them. Plus, it was easy to read.

    Some questions, even if you skipped this book:

    Have you ever lived in a small town or do you now? Did you or do you want to stay there forever or get the heck out? Have you returned to a small town, and has it changed or remained more or less the same?

    What was your favorite story in this book and why? Mine was the one in which the pastor and co. attempt to deliver the bus to Brother Norman and the Choctaw and end up secretly stopping in St. Louis at Cardinals Stadium to see Mark McGuire go for the home run record. Of course, they end up in trouble when everyone in Harmony sees them on TV.

    Every small town, every church, every organization, has its town crank, like Dale Hinshaw. Hinshaw is narrow-minded church elder who "knew just enough Scripture to be annoying, but not enough to be transformed." Do you know someone like this--disagreeable, opinionated, contrary, a total pain in the you-know-what, but actually somewhat likable too?

  2. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    I'll just second your review. Less work. Haha.

    Actually, I did grow up in Harmony. Harmony, MN, pop 1000. In the 1940s it had no crime,
    no police, no locked doors, no parking meters, no traffic lights, no hospital, no swimming pool,
    no homeless, no graffiti, no traffic jams, no traffic accidents, one doctor, two school buildings,
    three churches, one water tower, no trash pick up, no mail delivery, no divorce, no
    gangs, no juvenile delinquents, no drug addicts, a nine hold golf course, one movie theater,
    a bowling alley, no music store, one car dealer,

    And the mail street was two blocks long.

    If you liked Philip Gulley, you might like similar books by Miss Read, Jan Karon, and Fannie Flagg's
    Standing in the Rainbow and its sequel.

    I have lived in two small towns and two big metropolitan areas. My ideal would be a small city that
    has a college.

    Personally, I wouldn't have put up with Dale Hinshaw or his female counterpart. But then, when you
    are a preacher, you pretty much have to. I used to be a circuit organist w/ a circuit preacher. We
    traveled to three small towns, one of which straddled the Iowa-Minnesota line. Maybe due to
    a surveying error. Anyway I sometimes played for 3 or 4 services on a Sunday. Got enough religion to
    last a lifetime.

  3. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Jean: Very neat that you looked up stats on Harmony. Seems like I looked it up on Google Earth once after Rock was talking about it, and found some caves just east of town. So there was one physician for a thousand people in Harmony during the 1940s, and there are 71 now. I wonder what the current population is. Seems like Rock said 8000 or so? What's the median cost of a home in Toronto?

    I grew up in a suburb that felt a bit like a small town, South St. Paul, Minnesota, along the Mississippi. I was definitely one who wanted to go as far away as I possibly could, though I like the rhythm and friendliness of small town life now (there are a few old Hispanic towns not far from Albuquerque that I love). My father lives in Wabasha, MN, home of the Grumpy Old Men movies with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

    Rock: Northfield, Minn, is pretty close to my ideal town: small, pretty, good cultural life, and two colleges, Carleton and St. Olaf. Didn't know you were a church organist. When I made my video documentary on Dvorak in Spillville, Iowa, a lady gave me a tour of St. Wenceslaus Catholic church, and she played the same organ that Dvorak played when he and his family visited the town in the summer of 1893. She played a few notes from the New World Symphony, which he finished just before leaving New York for the train to Chicago and then Iowa. They got off at Calmar, and then took a carriage to Spillville.

    Great note to those with group phobia on the other post!
  4. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Only went to Northfield once. My aunt and uncle were married there in 1950. I was ten. They are both
    80, still alive and still married. The only things I remember about the wedding are that the church was made
    of golden stone and the wedding reception featured a punchbowl made of ice.

    My aunt's aunt (or maybe great-aunt) taught at St. Olaf for decades. 40 or 50 years. When she was old
    and didn't go out much, she used to give her tickets for the St. Olaf Chior Christmas concert to
    my aunt and uncle. St. Olaf, you know, was considered to have the best choir in the state.

    Never been to Calmar, but it's in my old neighborhood. Calmar and Decorah are both in Winnesheik
    County. I was born in Decorah.

    Wow! The very organ Dvorak played. Do you still have your video? Is it viewable? Could you or
    a friend upload it on Youtube?

    I've never seen the inside of St.Wenceslaus Church, but it is conspicuous in pictures or when one visits
    the town. That's the same guy we sing about at Christmas. "Good King Wenceslaus looked out, on
    the feast of Stephen." I looked him up on Wikipedia. Said he was the Duke of Bohemia and lived
    about a thousand years ago. Assassinated when he was about 28.

    The pop of Harmony was 1000 when I lived there. Unlike some little towns, it is not dying. It now
    claims a pop. of 1100. Same as the pop of Hamline Univ. or Walker, MN where I labored as a social
    worker for one year. (No wonder I'm uneasy surrounded by ten or 12 million people.)

    When I was at Hamline, I went to a Mexican restaurant a couple times. I think it was in S. St. Paul. Not
    too sure. You remember such a place? Anyway it was a new experience for me. Loved Mexican cuisine
    ever since.

    Now, illustrating how much the world has changed since I was a kid, I looked up "Wenceslaus" on the
    net and found the church of the same name in Iowa City. Isn't that where you went to school?
    Anyway, the site had info about the church and times of service and then it said: If you have
    questions contact Jorge Lopez.

    So one way or another, everything is connected, especially if you're having Kevin Bacon for breakfast.

  5. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I like the "Jorge Lopez" of the St Wenceslaus Church in Iowa City. I do remember a very good Mexican Restaurant on Robert Street, due south of St. Paul. But the suburb due south of St. Paul is actually called "West St. Paul." There could well have been another Mexican restaurant in South St. Paul, which is actually southeast of St. Paul.

    I did go to grad school in Iowa City, though I never saw the St. Wenceslaus Church there. Iowa City is one of America's great college towns, too.

    I have my old "From the New World: Dvorak in Spillville" video on DVD. It's about 17 minutes long, but maybe I can find a way to put at least parts of it on Youtube. If I do, I'll definitely send you the link.

    You were born in Decorah? I do remember passing through there.
  6. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    ne Stuckart

    Tin foiled again. Above is all that's left of my post.


    The joy of owning a computer is exceeded only by the frustration of owning a computer.

    Will try again some other day.

  7. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Loved the quote that you pulled from the book:
    I can only make one person happy each day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.
    Heard one I liked the other day: "If we're here to help others, what are the OTHERS here for?"

    Thanks for the thoughtful response on the book!

    Very interesting and funny on how Gulley became a writer.

    A bit tired to say more tonight, but thanks, my friend!
  8. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    (got a second wind). Ha Ha.

    Also, checked out the q&A site on Gulley. I like his chair collection.
    Thoughtful guy, and a fine writer. I'm a big fan of Garrison Keillor's radio show, Prairie Home Companion, but I've never liked his writing, for some reason.
    Rock got me (and book club) going on Fannie Flagg for another writer who writes superb, small town Americana books. I didn't think I'd like her, but I was pleasantly surprised.
  9. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    I really enjoyed this book. Like Jean I had reservations about a book written by a Quaker minister but it was an excellent read.

    My favourite stores were the Chinese (Siamese) twins and Frank and the one where the couple eventually stood up to the horrid brother in law and adopted their niece. Actually, I enjoyed all the wee stories.

    It would be nice to think that towns like that exist but I dont believe they do although I believe they did at one time.

    Cant write much more, not having a good week so sorry cant join in but will catch up.

    love to all

  10. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Okee dokee, back again. I said, "Okee dokee," in a store one
    time, and the clerk asked what that meant. I said, "Same as
    Hunky Doree."

    I am typing this in my mail box to try and minimize the possibility of losing it. Not failsafe though.
    I've lost a couple
    of e mails this past week. Last night my e mail to my aunt in
    Rochester went puff. Later I was surprised to find about
    3/4 of it wound up in the "Save as a Draft" folder. Wonder
    how that happened.

    Here's a bit of humor I found somewhere on the net:

    Scottish library joke
    A man walks into a Glasgow library and says to the librarian, "Excuse me Miss,
    do ye huvany books on suicide?" The librarian looks up and says, "Na! Ye'll no bring it back!"

    W/ a tip of the tam for Rosie. Hope you feel better (bonnier?)
    soon, Kiddo.

    Jean, a very nice appreciation of Gulley. I went to the site
    and read the interview and saw part of the chair collection.
    They all seem to be vintage, don't they. I like a nice recliner

    Can't imagine a Quaker minister who rides a Harley and approves of gay marriage.
    Well, those Quakers can get feisty.

    Ken, I hope you can post your video on Youtube. Last night
    I was reading about a new recording of Beethoven by the Minnesota orchestra.
    The current conductor is Osmo Vanska.
    Can you tell he's a Finn?

    Here's a quote I found from our old friend Dorothy Sayers:
    This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with
    great force.

    Just started reading a book about the movie industry in Florida
    during the silent era. Hundreds of films were made there. The
    author says Jacksonville, Florida, is the biggest city in the country
    (in terms of square miles). Who'da thunk it?!

  11. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Rosie: You mean your town in between Glasgow and Edinburgh is not like Harmony? ;) Funny, neither is northeast Albuquerque. I liked your top picks of the Harmony stories. It was your birthday on April Fools' Day? As the Who says, "Hope we don't get fooled again!" Hope you had a good birthday, and hope you feel better again soon. I hope you're getting some spring sunshine, and no cold winds off the Firth of Forth. Or was it the Firth of Fifth?

    Jean: Great idea about re-reaing the last paragraph of each story for nuggets of wisdom. Thanks for the birthday wish! Neat that you remember peoples' birthdays. I don't know anyone for whom that does not feel good, to have their birthday remembered. Mine is on the 14th, the day before Tax Day. I turn 35 (just kidding; I'll be 43). When is yours?

    Rock: Gotta agree with Jean. Don't let this go to your head, but your posts are always treasures. Not sure how you do it, but always seem to load them with humor, spirit, wisdom, and history. What would we do without your reminders that "everything is connected?" Even your trivia is interesting. So thanks, my friend. And what is the name of that book on the silent film industry in Florida. The Albuquerque Library is putting a freeze on all new book purchases (budget cuts, you know), so it's time for Interlibrary Loan again.


    [This Message was Edited on 04/03/2009]
  12. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Here's the skinny on the Florida Film Book. (My aunt in Rochester, former teacher and librarian) told
    me that expression comes from the police "skin sheet".)

    The book is "The First Hollywood" by Shawn C. Bean who is described as a newspaper and magazine
    writer in Florida. This appears to be his first book. I am on page 30 something; interesting, but I hope
    it gets a tad more interesting pretty soon.

    We got one of those armful of books at the library again. Gordon puts a dozen books on hold, they
    all come about the same time, and it's too much too soon (See Diana Barrymore and Debra Frazier).

    Am also reading some other books including Honky Tonk Angel, bio of Patsy Cline and the score for
    Orfeo ed Euridice. What do they have in common? One is the story of a poor country gal who had
    talent and just needed some luck. The other is an opera by a composer from a foreign country who
    also had talent and was named Gluck.

    Thank you for you kind remarks re: my posts. They did not go to my head. They went straight to my
    heart. I am basking in the warm glow.


  13. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    Jean was right my wedding anniversary - we wed on 1st April 1995.

    I have a lot of reading here to catchup with.

  14. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Rock: Alas, my library doesn't have the Florida film book.
    Liked the luck/gluck parallel. Everything IS connected.

    Picked up Wordsmith by William McNeill, half of the famous PBS duo McNeil/Lehrer. McNeil did the book and documentary, The Story of English. I like Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way.

    Rosie: Well, happy anniversary, then! :)
  15. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Yes, everything is connected if only because we are on the same planet, or in the same solar

    I read a book some years back by NcNeil or Lehrer. Can't remember which. Anyway it was the one
    whose father owned a two-bus bus line. When he grew up, he (whichever one he was) collected
    bus stuff: tickets, routes, signs. Finally ended up w/ an old bus. As I have frequently noted,
    collectors are crazy.

    Here's a book some folks might want to dip into. Each chapter is complete. No story line. Good
    for people like me who feel they don't belong in the modern world.

    "Little Heathens." Hard times and high spirits on an Iowa Farm during the Great Depression.

    A book of memories by mildred Armstrong Kalish, retired Professor of English at several
    Iowa schools who decided late in life to finally get warm and moved to CA.

    Chapters deal with farm chores, books, religion, medicine, wash day, box social, etc.

    I skipped the opening chapters where she and her widowed mother and siblings move to the
    farm of her strict and stern Germany grandparents.

    Have started a book called "The Star Machine" by Jeanine Basinger. How the studios groomed
    and trained candiates for stardom.

    Warner Bros. had 4 tough guys: Cagney, Robinson, Raft and Bogart. She points out the
    differences that gave them their individual star power.

  16. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Rock: The Star Machine sounds great. Will look for that one.

    Jean: Haven't gotten Spoon River Anthology yet. (Reminds me of "Moon River.")
    I'm GREATLY enjoying Wordstruck. I need to read more good books by Canadians. Will also check out that website on Spoon River.

    More later. Tired tonight.

    [This Message was Edited on 04/07/2009]
  17. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    I had planned to participate in this months discussion but I had to get my computer dewormed which took about a week. I did not have a chance to read "Home to Harmony" before it was due back at the library. Then I remembered that you do not have to read the book.

    I read "Little Heathens" and found it quite an interesting book. What a different life back then. Just reading about the daily routine was enough to make me want to take a nap. I also found all the home remedies such as spider webs for scraped knees, fascinating. It's a wonder that they weren't all fat since the food was made with lots of lard not to mention spare animal parts such as pig brains. They worked off the calories and the motto was, "Never Waste a Thing".

    I read "Little Heathens" around the time I read two other great books, "A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana" and" She Got Up Off the Couch, and Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana" by Haven Kimmel.

    Haven Kimmel is also a Quaker minister and her book is about growing up in Mooreland Indiana which is near Indianapolis Indiana. Her sense of humor is very dry. Funny, two authors, both Quaker ministers, living probably less than a hundred miles apart, writing about life in a small town. Only Kimmel's book is about her childhood. My dad lives somewhere between the towns,so not many o degrees of that separation there.

    Someone mentioned, sorry I don't want to hit the back button and lose this post, that they were surprised that Quakers would approve of gay marriage. Quakers, especially the ones who have the less formal "friends meeting" where they all sit around on chairs in silent meditation, until someone gets a hankering to speak or wake up with a snort and have to say something to cover up the fact that they weren't awake, are very liberal. Also very rested.

    My BIL comes from a long line of Quakers, is very liberal and also believes that weddings should not be a solemn event.

    Anyone remember when Fannie Flagg was a stand up comic and would imitate Lady Bird Johnson? She was often on the "Smothers Brothers" TV program. I am humming the tune to "Memories" by Barbara Streisand.

    I loved "Fried Green Tomatoes" and remember being surprised that she was also an author. I will have to try one of her other books.

    Well, here I am rambling on about this and that when I just dropped by to say that I plan to read "Home to Harmony" and the book for next month.

    Someone once said that if you ask me the time, I would explain how a watch works. I don't think it applies at all. It's all relative. In fact I think it was one of my relatives who said this.

    Getting late here in the Midwest. Bed must go I.

    g ap
    [This Message was Edited on 04/08/2009]
  18. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    That's absolutely right! You can ALWAYS chime in, even if you haven't read the book.

    Your post made me laugh, especially with your commentary on the Kimmel titles, Quaker rituals, and your tendency to, when asked the time, "explain how a watch works." I enjoy your ramblings!

    Hope all is well in the Midwest, and you get a chance to read H to H.

  19. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    a book. I already took it back to the library so can't give you the name of the author. I think
    the title was Queen's Gambit. It was a historical mystery. The detective was Leonardo di

    This is relative because Leo wore a watch! One of his own making, of course. It was not
    specified if it featured an alarm or chimes.

    The book was one of a series. I did not find it too appealing, so one was sufficient.

    Peeked at 3 showbiz biographies. Land O Goshan. These people must write w/ sledgehammers.
    Wham! Wham! Wham!

    George Hamilton. Page after page. I was really good looking and a sexy stud!

    Kathleen Turner. I'm over 50 and I'm glad of it and I've become a sensational actor!

    Diahann Carroll. I was the first Black entertainer to do this and that and the other thing also!

    Over and Over!!!

    Had to give up after a couple of chapters. Even worse was the drivel put out by Loretta Young.
    After I got the Part, I knew God was looking after me. When I won my Oscar I knew God had
    answered my prayers. I dedicated my blah blah blah.

    The author of the book admired Loretta for her beauty and the smart way she managed her career.
    She also said her public piety was the subject of much hilarity in Hollywood.

    Time for a nap. I hope to have the energy to visit the libary when I awake. Have 3 bags of books
    to take back.

  20. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    People often told my mother in her younger years that she looked like a cross between Dorthy LaMour (sp?) and Loretta Young. My mother always made us watch Loretta's show after we took our baths on Sunday nights. I think it was on Sunday nights.

    We had many a laugh while growing up as my mom, at least once a week, would sweep in the room and say, "Hi I am Loretta Young." If there was a door around for her sweeps it made this much funnier. Somehow, it never got old. However my mother and Loretta did.

    I don't recall her imitating Dorthy.

    BTW, I do not think I have ever posted as much as I have the last two days.

    Thanks, it has been good therapy!!!

    [<i>This Message was Edited on 04/09/2009</i>]
    [This Message was Edited on 04/09/2009]