Donald T. Little grew up in Swarthmore as the grandchild of four venerable Swarthmore grandparents, who lived in the town for 226 years in aggregate. He recalls and describes these ancestors in Lives Well Lived, recently published by Lulu.com and available there and at Amazon.com.
What motivated you to research and write the book?
Likely a mindset gained from my mother. She, even as a teen, was fascinated with the family stories. She, in later life, gifted her family a collection of documents, journals, letters, photos and her own autobiography. This collection placed in three ring binders was 30 shelf inches thick. So that others might share in this treasure, Jennifer A. Rolfsema, and I produced a two volume printed set called Virginia’s World.
Given this propensity and perhaps obligation to disseminate family connections, I borrowed from that collection and added other available materials and printed Lives Well Lived, a biography of my four Swarthmorean grandparents. I have written 13 books, and contributed to five books written by other authors. Most were family history, but a huge breakout effort was to write and publish a book called Aphrodite’s Embrace, addressing the relationship puzzle and decoding the enigma. This small volume is intended to speak to such questions as later teens might ponder. What methods and resources did you use for research? All was close at hand to start, and then I traveled to Cleveland, Buffalo, Warren, Chester, and dozens of other places to glean from public records additional information.
Which of your ancestors were your favorites, based on what you found?
In my case, the four grandparents that I wrote about all lived in Swarthmore, as did I. It was therefore my good fortune to share time with all until I was 12 when the first passed on.
My mother’s mother, Vernon, was a most loving, considerate, nurturing type, so I guess she had the most impact on me.
As for the forebearer with whom I am the most fascinated, it would be my third great grandfather, Benjamin Hallowell, a Quaker school master of some prominence in Alexandria, VA, who among many leadership outcomes, was a founding force for the establishment of Swarthmore College. His wife suggested the college name and henceforth sprang the borough.
In what manner did I become acquainted with his persona? I first and foremost read his autobiography, a copy of which is at the Friends Historical Society section of the college library.
Tell us a little about yourself and your time in Swarthmore.
My parents moved back to their childhood town a few years after marriage in the Swarthmore Presbyterian Church. I was three when we arrived at 413 Haverford Place. I went to Rutgers Avenue Elementary School, and from kindergarten age, always walked or cycled to school.
I was active in Cub and Boy Scouts, Sunday school, summer camp, newspaper collection business (about ten tons of newsprint sold); attended junior and senior high school at College Avenue. Walter Reynolds and I co-initiated what became Sea Explorer Ship (troop) 329 sponsored by the Lions Club. We met in the former Girl Scout building on Cresson Lane, that building having been re-purposed from construction shacks used when the Swarthmore underpass for Chester Road was being built.
Academic pursuits were not particularly rewarding, yet practical topics like science, drafting and manual arts suited me quite well. I marched in the band with trombone and attended youth fellowship weekly, between hundreds of hours spent rebuilding a 36-foot boat owned by our Explorer unit. I graduated from George School in 1957, after leaving my K-11 classmates (though I have attended most of the reunions since).
My family moved to Shaker Heights, Ohio, from whence I embarked on the beginning of my engineering education at Penn State. As for more, I have published my autobiography in a trilogy of 25-year segments called, Wanderings and Ponderings.
What advice do you have for other would-be authors with similar interests?
Start with what you know. Ask others for their recollections, photos and family documents. Then, without further hesitation, begin to word process.
Unless you are highly organized and have already carved out the table of contents and so forth, then I encourage just writing. I find that in the process, many avenues of inquiry present themselves and more travel and research ensue. The shape and length of the publication will eventually reveal itself. I urge using Creative Chica or other such resources to design the book, the graphics and interface with the printing entity.
Having found good results from Lulu Press, I encourage you to evaluate their offerings. In the end, the paper and ink are the least expensive aspect of the whole adventure. Everyone has a story, so be encouraged to share yours and those who came before, so that those who come after find threads from the fabric of lives well lived.