New book paints a portrait of the ‘Brides of 1941’
What: Bonnie Bedford Park at Dolly’s Bookstore
When: Noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24
Where: Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St.
Authors who will be at Dolly’s Bookstore on Saturday, Nov. 24
• 12-2 p.m. -- Rick Pieros and Heidi Shadix-Pieros, authors of the best-selling “Gilbert the Park City Moose” books. Rick Pieros has published his own books “Park City Past & Present” and worked with fellow photographer Mark Maziarz on “Park City: A Portrait”
• 2-3:30 p.m. -- Katie Mullaly, author of the “Land of…” children’s book series
• 4-6 p.m. -- history writers: Bonnie Bedford Park, author of “Brides of 1941;” Patrick Hearty, author of “The Pony Express in Utah;” and Monte Bona, James Nelson and Steve Clark, authors of “Legends, Lore and True Tales in Mormon Country”
When Bonnie Bedford Park discovered a box of letters that her parents and grandparents sent to each other back in the 1930s and 1940s, she had no idea the correspondences would inspire her new book, “Brides of 1941.”
Park stumbled upon these letters in 2012, just after her father, Buster Bedford, and mother, Roberta – whom she calls Robin – passed away within five months of each other.
“I knew I needed to hang on to them, and I began to transcribe the letters with the intention of sharing them with my siblings, nieces and nephews,” she said. “I thought it would be nice to have these letters digitized to pass around.”
Those digital copies turned into “Brides of 1941,” which Park will sign from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 24, at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St.
Park will be among a group of writers who will start signing their books at noon.
The idea to turn the letters into a book, which focuses on the lives of her mother, her grandmother and their families prior to United States’ entry into World War II, began to take shape when Park attended a self-publishing workshop taught by author and former Parkite Stacy Dymalski in 2014.
“During the class, Stacy put everyone on the spot and asked why we were taking the class,” Park said. “I told her about the box of letters and left it at that.”
The more missives Park transcribed, the more fascinated she became with her family’s history.
“I realized this was the real deal, because, while they weren’t anyone famous, the letters captured their lives during a certain period in (our country’s) history,” she said.
Park’s grandparents on her mother’s side – T. Wayne and Dr. Lelia McLatchey Skinner – lived in Chile at the time, and Park learned much about their lives through the letters in her parents’ box.
“My grandfather was a mining engineer for the Braden Copper Company there, and my grandmother, although a doctor, didn’t spend time practicing medicine,” Park said. “She became a property manager and a school teacher.”
Park realized her family’s story was an interesting subject for a book after transcribing the letters.
“I already had an interest in personal histories, because I’m a documentary-loving gal,” she said with a laugh.
A few months after she took Dymalski’s workshop, Park attended a free personal history program at the Park City Library that was hosted by Paulette F. Stevens, founder of the Life Story Library Foundation.
Life Story Library Foundation is an organization that encourages people to write their memoirs with the purpose of spreading “respect and empathy” in the world, according to its mission statement.
Park began volunteering for Stevens and organized a seminar on memoir writing at Deer Valley in 2015.
“I got involved because I remembered something Paulette told me,” Park said. “She said, ‘If you are interested in personal history, you need to finish a project.’”
Along with organizing the seminar, Park decided to write her book.
“Although the letters were transcribed, I needed to learn more of my mother’s backstory, so I transcribed her five-year diary,” she said.
Park turned to the internet for more research about the Depression era, which included the establishment of the Social Security Administration, the National Unemployment Insurance program and the National Labor Relations Board.
“The intention of adding all of that was to also educate people about that time period and remind people what was going on in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration,” Park said.
In addition, the author felt she needed to go further back in time and add a little more substance to her portrayal of her roots.
“There’s a chapter that takes readers back to the Civil War,” she said. “The hardships my family went through back then trickled down to my grandparents and my parents, and shaped their values.”
Those values were then passed on to Park.
“They understood the value of service,” she said. “They understood the value of education. These are things I hope younger readers will take away from the book.”
Park is grateful she discovered the box of letters, if only to preserve them as family documents.
“These days there are people who FaceTime with their kids, and while they can have immediate means of communications, there is no record like my parents and grandparents’ letters,” she said.
Park City’s Memorial Day Service will extend into a plaque-placing ceremony at Squatter’s Roadhouse Pub