Saturday, February 9, 2019

Looking Back-A 1950s Boyhood

Looking back at a place in time when playing outdoors with other kids presented opportunities for many life's lessons that eventually carried over to adulthood.
Author Craig Nagel takes the reader for a look back at the year 1953 when he was 11 years old. We get a glimpse of what Nagel considers one of the best years of his life in his memoir  book Looking Back-A 1950s Boyhood

It's Nagel's newest book published by River House Press, Aitken,MN. For Nagel his roots are embedded in a place where life outdoors in the company of his friends afforded him opportunities to nurture his dreams. Over time many of these learning experiences built up his self-confidence as well as developing appreciation for his family's support for all his creative endeavors. 

Craig Nagel is from the Pequot Lakes area. He has published short stories in several literary magazines, essays, children's stories. and a coming-of-age novel titled Fred’s Way. In the 70s he started a weekly newspaper The Country Echo and published it for 7 years before selling it and turning his interests to other things. Since 1981 he has written a biweekly column for the Echo called “The Cracker Barrel.” Here readers can find Nagel's observations of the world around him-sometimes witty, sometimes philosophical, but always fresh and unique which have earned him a loyal following over the years. Two collections of this work have appeared in book form: A Place Called Home and A Sense of Wonder. In his newest book Looking Back-A 1950s Boyhood, Nagel has tried to present as accurately as possible what life was like in his boyhood with the hope that these recollections might stir parallel memories and provoke the reader to reflect on some of the ways the world has changed, for better or for worse over the past decades.

The small town of Long Lake, Illinois is some 40 miles NW of Chicago. It was just that place where boyhood adventures abounded every day and changed with the seasons. Nagel and his friends found the outdoors ripe for their escapades. If what they needed wasn't available they created it using ingenuity and resourcefulness. Nagel paints vivid images as he describes the Long Lake area and each of the places that were important to him and his friends. Nagel's voice is clear using concise language with words that are carefully chosen, well written and delivered in a folksy style. Each chapter takes the reader to a different place within the town of Long Lake as Nagel shares his boyhood recollections. Along the way he digresses frequently sharing with the reader some important background information to help better understand the locale and time period as well as sharing bits of wisdom gained with his each new learning experience. Readers may even find some of Nagel's experiences run parallel with their own childhood recollections.

Growing up in the 50s proved to be a time of a simpler life for him. Boredom was not a word found in Nagel's vocabulary as he felt there were hundreds of things to do and explore. Each season seemed to bring more and different things to do for Nagel and his friends. Looking back over the passage of time Nagel realizes what a major role specific places played in his boyhood adventures growing up. The lake no matter what the season was a central part of his experiences with friends. The channel in the winter provided the perfect place to skate and play hockey. While Nagel and his friends enjoyed all the lake had to offer with swimming and fishing, there also were many other shared learning experiences. He recounts how often they applied trial and error methods such as the time they fixed up a rowboat and the difficulty of using a makeshift trailer to haul the rowboat to the water, building a raft which kept sinking and building simple model sailboats. Each experience required Nagel and his friends to think creatively as they often lacked financial resources and necessary materials. The lumberyard was one his best places for resources.

Certainly The Field was a place that contributed to Nagel's life long passion of baseball. It was here he and his friends learned it was possible to create a ballfield with limited resources and scarcity of equipment. The close proximity of Long Lake to Chicago's Wrigley Field fueled Nagel's baseball passion. It also created a bond between him and his father, an avid Cub fan who helped Nagel improve his skills out on The Ballfield.

Aside from The Beach, The Lake, and The Field, The Bluff was one of the most favorite places for playing. His friends called themselves the Nagelville Raiders. They put forth an admirable amount of effort creating Nagelville. It was comprised of a village on top of The Bluff complete with individual handmade huts. For Nagel the idea of living directly off the land, making his own shelter and fashioning necessary implements needed for survival as well as defense and comfort, was clearly his idea of living in harmony with nature. It trumped whatever excitement others might have wearing a ten-gallon hat and shooting a a six-gun.

Nagel's writing imparts old fashioned values of playing outdoors, respecting nature, being resourceful and valuing friendship.

Nagel's books can be purchased at Turtle Town Bookstore, Nisswa and Wild Daisy and Timeless Appeal, Pequot Lakes, purchased directly on Nagel's website or from Amazon. 
Check for upcoming spring events on his website and his Facebook page

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for telling us about this Minnesota author and a book I'd enjoy.


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