© 1990 Kathryn Tucker Windham
Anyone who grew up in Selma, Alabama, prior to 2011 had heard of Kathryn Tucker Windham, and odds were they cherished her. A master storyteller, she inspired an annual Tale-Tellin’ Festival that survives today. Odd-Egg Editor is a brief memoir of her newspaper days, before she became a local legend. Beginning with the Montgomery Advertiser in the 1940s, covering the police beat, Tucker expanded her career to land a position in Birmingham and later settled in her hometown of Selma just as the civil rights movement was warming up in the 1960s. This memoir has a lot of little stories, with colorful characters — a playful judge who once busied himself creating spitballs during testimony, an inveterate escapee named Billie Jean who counted herself a friend of the cops and her regular judge– as well as a few sadder stories. The title of the book comes from Tucker being assigned all the odd stories at the Montgomery Advertiser, and is itself a colorful collection. One could easily read it as two decades of journalism from mid-20th century Alabama , but I was drawn to it for the author’s voice. Although she was too advanced in age to do a lot of storytelling during my youth, I heard her a time or two at Cahaba Day festivals. Even in her last years she was a volunteer at the Selma-Dallas County Library, firmly ensconced in the town she loved and which loved her back. I enjoyed this account of her getting started — of overcoming prejudice against her as a young woman invading male spaces like the cop beat and the governor’s hunting camp — very well.
This sounds like a gem of a memoir… I don't know if it's a West Coast problem or what, but sadly it seems like storytelling is a fading art form, especially live storytelling.
That's sad to hear, but perhaps there are individuals like Windham working there as well. I'm friends with a man who is absolutely gifted at remembering and passing on stories — he gets into it, with twinkles in his eyes and lots of expressive delivery — and have learned to appreciate the skill enormously. I'll probably read more of Windham; I also have a cassette tape of her reading stories.
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