author pens book
about growing up in 40s, 50s
that many others will remember
Helen E. McKinney
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 2011) Deanna ODaniel
has fond memories of growing up in Kentucky. What makes them special
is the time period and all it encompassed. The 1940s and 1950s are preserved
in her book, Kiss Your Elbow, A Kentucky Memoir.
I feel like I belong to a unique segment of the population,
said ODaniel, 70. Her family made the move from the country to
the city during a time of mass migration in American history.
ODaniel has penned
a book about her life
growing up in Kentucky.
ODaniel was born in Gethsemane, Ky., in Nelson County.
That same year, famed intellectual, Thomas Merton, arrived at the Abbey
of Gethsemane mona-stery there. The home in which she was born is now
known as the Thomas Merton Retreat Center.
Her family lived on a farm that had been in the same family from 1918
to 1946. Her book depicts what life on a farm was like; it describes
department stores in Louisville when shopping was a social occasion.
Ladies wore hats and gloves, and everybody rode the bus, she said.
People were more social back then. ODaniel remembers
the Union Station train station at 10th Street and Broadway (where the
Tarc station is now located) and the soldiers from Fort Knox that one
would see gathered there. People would come and go frequently, since
Louisville was known as the Gateway to the South,
As the oldest of 11 children, she was the other mother to
her siblings many times. While her mother had her ninth baby, ODaniel
was responsible for watching her eight siblings. At age 12, she had
to cook, clean, tend the garden, and busy her siblings while keeping
an eye on them. But it was something she did and never balked at the
idea; it was just expected of her and many young girls like her.
The neighbors helped a lot, said ODaniel. Everyone
knew their neighbors and knew they would need to rely on them at some
point and could do so, she said. We used to have a wonderful social
The title of the book is derived from an old Southern saying that refers
to making the impossible happen. When ODaniel was 4 years old,
her grandmother lived with her family and she would ask her grandmother
when she would get to be a boy and do all of the fun stuff boys did.
Her grandmothers reply was to kiss your elbow before falling
asleep at night and you will wake up and be a boy.
I lived in America at the best time. It was a peaceful, prosperous,
friendly world after the war.
Her family moved from Nelson County to what was once a rural area of
Hikes Point in Louisville. Her father still farmed but also worked at
a brewery. She wrote the book partly because she wanted people
to get into the flavor of farm life.
One chapter in the book deals with hog killing, once a common chore
on farms. Ive gotten a lot of response from people about
the hog killing. We had a special set of knives we used just for that
and people want to know what happened to them.
ODaniel relates stories of buying banana splits for 39 cents,
visiting the Dime Store and spending time on the riverfront at Fontaine
Ferry Park, which existed from 1904 to 1968.
ODaniel began a 30-year teaching career at age 19. If you
had really good grades, you could receive an emergency teaching certificate
at that time, she said. In this post-Baby Boomer era, many classrooms
were overrun with 50 to 60 children, and teachers were desperately needed.
She taught fourth grade at Holy Name in Louisville and
had approximately 40 children in her classroom. Students had a
deep respect for their teachers, she said.
When she was a young student, ODaniel had always enjoyed writing.
It was a form of entertainment but something she put aside for many
years. After her mothers death in 2001, ODaniel returned
to writing and began working on her memoir.
Shes been published in anthologies and newsletters, and belongs
to two writing groups: the Cherokee Roundtable and Women Who Write.
Mary Popham met ODaniel through the Cherokee Roundtable and said
she is a very honest and detailed writer.
One of ODaniels main strengths is her telling of the
details of the areas she writes about, said Popham. She
has a good memory and the ability to re-create scenes. Popham
said she is an inspiration to others who want to get books published.
She knows how to promote her book.
Peggy DeKay has been director for the latter group since 2009 and remembers
ODaniel coming to the group meetings and bringing short
stories to read. These short stories turned into the chapters
of her book.
She would bring stories faithfully and poems, too, said
DeKay. The group critiqued ODaniels work and encouraged
and supported her efforts, as they would do for all 40 members.
By the time the book came out, we all felt as if we had been a
partner in making the book happen, said DeKay. Being part of Women
Who Write was a wonderful way to compile a book and get constant
The book is rich with the history of the area, said DeKay. Its
a treat for anybody interested in Louisville history. Shes quite
ODaniels book was published by AuthorHouse Publishing Co.
in Bloomington, Ind., and is available at Carmichaels Bookstore
and several other area bookstores. More can be found out by visiting
her website at:www.KissYourElbowKentucky.com.
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