Eddie Herrman, 1935-2012

Some of you may be aware of the book project I spent the last year traveling back and forth across the Midwest to complete. Today, though, I’d like to take you behind the scenes and introduce you to one of the people without whose earlier work I would not have been able to finish my own. Sadly, he is no longer with us, but his influence is evident (I hope) in almost every page of my work, and I thank him for it.

Here is a write-up from the Bates County news blog:

Community mourns loss of local historian

Local historian Eddie Herrman, formerly of Butler, passed away Saturday morning October 20th in Springfield, Mo.
Funeral services will be Tuesday at 2pm at the Schowengerdt Funeral Chapel in Butler with inurnment at the Oak Hill Cemetery with Military Honors. Visitation will be from 1 – 2 pm Tuesday immediately prior to services at the Chapel. Our community and the entire Bates County area has lost a true friend. Eddie Herrman, who spent his life here among us until he and Shirley moved to Springfield, to be near their son, has passed on to his reward.

Eddie worked at the Butler radio station KMAM/KMOE-FM for a period of time in the early years of his career. He later moved into insurance and spent the rest of his time in that business field. But he’ll be best remembered among us for his excellent work…a labor of love…giving us historical news about our part of Missouri and Kansas. His weekly article in the News Express was a feature that drew many readers every week. Eddie loved this area, and we were fortunate to be able to see past and present the work he put into living here.

The whole reason I originally embarked upon this journey was to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding and appreciation of my family’s ancestral home, the roots from which I eventually sprang. In the process, I have been able to peel away the cobwebs of time and faded memory and discover a heritage of surprising vitality and interest. In large part, that discovery was facilitated by the materials and stories collected by Eddie over several decades of activity, and which have recently been donated to the Bates County Museum. From 1985 to January 2012, bits and pieces from these materials appeared weekly in the Butler News X-Press as part of Eddie’s “Historical Happenings” series (a sort of “on this day in history” affair). Most anyone in Butler would tell you there is no greater authority on the town’s past than he. One person remarked, as we were debating the accuracy of a certain historical fact, that “if Eddie said it, then it’s right.”

I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I feel that as I sat and sorted through his pride and joy–photos, newspaper articles, flyers, and more–I made contact somehow with a kindred spirit, another of those who believe at their core that small things are often worth preserving, and more often thoughtlessly discarded by those who don’t really understand their meaning. Eddie loved his town and his neighbors, their story was his story, and he spent his life in the telling.

So, if you are ever passing through Bates County, have a few moments to spare, and wonder what the place is all about and what kind of people live there, take the main Butler exit and follow the signs to the Bates County Museum. Once inside, make a simple request: “Tell me about Eddie Herrman.” And all will be made clear.

Thanks, Eddie. Rest in peace.

Putting My Money in My Mouth (and Trying Not To Swallow)

Okay–first order of business.┬áTo my good friend Cal, who has demanded entertainment, this monkey dance’s for you!

Moving on…

So, recently I called on my fellow professional and amateur historians (anyone with a past, really, will do) to step up and help bring our attention back to the truly formative actions being taken by the so-called little people, or as Queen says, “behind the curtains in the pantomime,” on the theory that these are the things that really make the world turn, the small things individually which cumulatively give history its meaning, and without which it has none. In so doing, I feel I have finally found a calling worth hearing, and a job worth doing. Future generations–whether they know it or not–are counting on us to deliver to them some sense of community and collective memory, before it’s obliterated by a sandstorm of tweets and twits. No offense to those who engage in the Twitter, but consider this: the first page alone of A Tale of Two Cities would have taken about six months to transmit by current communications standards. The more we boil our lives down to barely minimum quips and not-so-quotable quotes, the less substantive our cultural expression will become and the harder it will be to find true feeling under the megabyte mountain of glib gobbledygook (say that five times fast!). I want my nieces and nephews to be able to express themselves and understand others without having to yank out a Smart(?)phone and become a road hazard to everyone around just to get it out.

But I digress…as always. The point of this is to say that today (or rather, tomorrow) I embark on an attempt to put my money where my mouth is. I’m off to Butler, hopefully to succeed in plugging my little corner of the dike. In short, I’m off to write a book (or die trying). Or not. Anyway, as I begin the task of researching, writing, and getting complete strangers to trust another complete stranger to NOT destroy their treasured family photos (I’m reminded of my brief career as a knife salesman in St. Louis–Good morning, ma’am. You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but I have a bag full of weapons here, and I’d love to come inside and show them to you…)–as I begin this process, I need someone who will keep me accountable. And so, tag, you’re it!

Probably this is not an adventure that will produce much excitement in the doing (although hopefully it will once it’s done), but I feel the need to let somebody know what I’ve done so that I make sure I’m doing something. So, from time to time I will post an update on my humble bloggy-thingy here, and you may feel free to ignore it completely. One of those things that’s really for my benefit, but–if you hear nothing for a bit and would like to tell me to get my a-double-dollar-signs in gear, it would be appreciated. In other words, I hereby extend an invitation to all and everyone to irritate the crap out of me, without fear of repercussions. And who doesn’t like that idea? I know Tammy does, in any case…

See you next time, then, on Mr. Woods Goes to Butler. Don’t touch that dial. Or do. Whatever…