Dorothy Johnson, a former board member, has published her memoir “From Village to Boomtown” and has a book signing on Wednesday, January 28th, from 1:00 to 2:30. Johnson participated in Susan Briggs Wright’s memoir class to accomplish the writing and production of the book. Please join us in honoring Dorothy’s accomplishment as she signs copies of her book (there is no charge for her book at this event). In addition to having been on the WIH board and having served as vice-president, she is a retired Exxon employee who volunteers her time which is matched by Exxon in contributions. We visited with Dorothy to find out more.
WIH Reporter: What inspired you to write this memoir?
Johnson: I grew up in a small town of less than 600 people in New York near Rochester, which was completely different from my children’s growing up in Houston which had over 938,000 residents in 1960. I wanted to leave my children a sense of how different our lives had been growing up.
WIH Reporter: How did the memoir get started?
Johnson: I was a regular student at The Women’s Institute, and when I saw that Susan Wright was going to be teaching a class on memoir writing in Spring 2007, I decided that was the time to get started. I stayed in that class through Spring 2013, when I decided I had to get it finished, and worked one-on-one with Susan to complete it.
WIH Reporter: It sounds like you include a lot of memories about Houston in the past. What stories do you include in the memoir?
Johnson: I divided my book into various subjects starting with a description of the area in which I grew up, The Finger Lakes, and included a little family information such as a description of the houses we lived in while I was growing up. Then I took my readers through my life, growing up, which included my time in college and my early life in Houston.
Next, I described my life with my husband as we moved from a small duplex home to Sharpstown, and then to Nottingham, where I have lived for over 50 years. In each of these chapters, I include what was going on with my children, and some of what was going on in Houston and the world, all of which affected our lives. As the children left home, we became empty nesters, and after Carroll’s death, I describe widowhood and retirement.
Since my grandchildren are in their late 20’s and 30’s, I have a chapter on advice to great grandchildren in which I impart advice about living the good life, which is also applicable to all generations. I finish with some information on family genealogy and end with a chronology which helps to put events in my life and my family’s lives in perspective, with the events of their worlds.
WIH Reporter: What has been the response so far?
Johnson: I have had several comments from friends who have read the book about my description of rationing during WW II. The younger ones never experienced it as they were born after the War, and the older ones had forgotten it.
Some friends have wondered how I remembered so many subjects which my book covers. It was comparatively easy. In Susan’s class, we read whatever we had written in the previous week, and so many of the readings of my classmates reminded me of things that happened in my life. I noted them so that I could tell of similar experiences in my life.
WIH Reporter: How did you go about the publishing process?
Johnson: When I got ready to publish in July, 2014, I had a friend, Chuck, who managed the process. He had owned a printing company which he sold when he retired, but “he kept his hand in” and managed negotiations with the printer. I emailed the document to the printer which indicated where photos were to be inserted. My friend delivered those and got a price for the book which I felt was reasonable, and I signed off on it. I received 3 or 4 iterations of the book via email, made changes to them, and finally the book went to print in October. I received the final product in late November. I believe having someone handle the publishing made the process much easier.
WIH Reporter: How many books have you disseminated?
Johnson: So far I have given away around 350 copies, and have received great response from those who have read it – quite a few who read it in one sitting!
Dorothy Johnson’s book signing takes place on Wednesday, January 28th, from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm, and everyone is invited to attend. Image above shows The Shamrock Hotel on what was the edge of countryside south of Houston, Texas in 1949, shortly after construction.