Over the weekend I went to a couple of good estate sales where I picked up several good books.
I was happy to see the book by Janice Holt Giles. Chances are you have never heard of her, but she was a popular mid-range author in the 1950s-70s. She never got rich from her writing, but she was able to support herself, and that is saying something.
Janice Holt was born in Arkansas in 1905. As a child she moved to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) where her parents were both teachers. She grew up with books and music and went to college. When her first marriage ended, she and her daughter moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Janice worked for Dr. Lewis Sherrill, Dean of the Presbyterian Seminary.
On a trip to visit family in 1943, Janice happened to share a 40-hour bus ride with Henry Giles, a soldier on his way to a new assignment. In two days on the bus they became such good friends that they corresponded throughout the rest of the war while Henry was in Europe. When he returned from active duty in 1945—although they had not seen each other since the bus ride—they married immediately. Henry was 11 years her junior.
After a year in Louisville, Henry could not bear the big city any longer, and the couple moved to Adair County, KY, living on Henry’s family land. Janice, as I recall, had quite a lot to adapt to–no indoor plumbing for one thing–but love will conquer all. Janice wrote and Henry farmed.
I always thought they must have been a very interesting pair. Their unusual romance and life together is the stuff of good fiction. Indeed, some of her earliest books have a strong autobiographical flavor.
Anyway, I was interested to discover, while checking Holt out on the internet, that the Janice Holt Giles and Henry Giles Society was established in 1996 to preserve the literary legacy of Janice and Henry Giles and to restore their log home.
Their home is now open to the public, June-October on Saturday and Sunday.
Every year there is an arts and crafts fair in early October, and I am thinking of adding this event to my calendar for 2016. The OM’s family is from Kentucky and I have long wanted to investigate the Bluegrass State.
In the meantime I am reading The Six-Horse Hitch and enjoying it very much. She is a thorough researcher and she always knows her subject. If you are interested, I recommend you check out some of her other books. The Piney Woods trilogy, consisting of The Enduring Hills (1950), Miss Willie (1951), and Tara’s Healing (1952), though not as famous as, say, Catherine Marshall’s Christy, is just as good. I have not read all of the Kentucky trilogy, but I have read Hannah Fowler (1956) and thought it excellent.
Reading historical fiction, especially about American pioneers, is for me a good escape from today’s Modern Problems.
(Photos are from the Janice Holt Giles and Henry Giles Society website.)
*Blue Moon of Kentucky by Bill Monroe