Title: Writing From Family Heritage
Subtitle: Grandmother's memories
of the farm inspire author
By Marina Harris
Sunday, May 20, 2001
"The End of August" by Joyce Thompson of Pekin, Illinois is the
story of farm life at the turn of the 20th century told through her family's memories.
Joyce Thompson never imagined she could be an author---even when she began writing the story of her grandparents,
she didn't think she'd finish it.
After 12 years, however, she finally published "The End of August", a historical novel based on the experiences
of her ancestors, who lived on a farm near Green Valley, Illinois, at the turn of the 20th century.
"We all like to go back into our ancestors' past," Thompson said. "I want people to realize how
it used to be."
Vivid childhood memories and other people's stories helped Thompson keep writing. She wrote on an airplane, on
vacations---whenever she got a free minute. Again and again she delved back into the time of horses and buggies,
striving to recreate it.
"Since I wasn't living at that time, I did have to embellish the story with conversations, but everything
that happened in the book is true," she said.
In the book, Thompson's 96 year-old grandmother, Anna, remembers her life on the farm with her husband, Fred, and
their three daughters and two sons.
"She was a strong woman who went through many hardships," Thompson said. "In her time, there were
dreaded diseases and not enough medicines, but life had greater simplicity, and people lived as a family in a community."
Anna deals with many of life's challenges in the book, from dressing a dead infant to staying up all night by the
bedside of her sick husband.
"It was very exhausting to write this book," Thompson said. "I shed many, many tears because this
was my family I was writing about."
In spite of the painful realities, Thompson managed to show the joys of Anna's life, too.
"Sometimes I wondered what they (grandparents) did for entertainment," she said. "But it's their
work and community that gave them joy in living."
Some of the author's favorite chapters describe Christmas festivities, the appearance of electricity and Charles
Lindbergh's airplane flying over Fred and Anna's farm. Thompson said she even developed nostalgia for the past
and the things it offered. That's why she chose a windmill for the cover of her book, the cover she calls her pride
"I've always been fascinated by windmills," she said. "They are disappearing so rapidly. Our future
generations will only have photographs of them and wonder what they were used for."
The changing force of time also had its effect on Anna. In the 1940's, she and Fred moved to Pekin, IL, where he
died in 1953. She lived until 1976, and in her 90's, she spent many hours remembering the farm, a place where Thompson
said she truly belonged.
In the author's opinion, the past should not be forgotten.
"We tend to forget that our forefathers paved the way for us," she said. "We live in a fast-paced
world, and it's too bad we can't slow down a little."