Former Independence resident Milton F. “Mit” Hughes has recently deposited in the Jackson County Historical Society’s Archives a collection of stories about his Jackson County families titled, “Bygone Days.” Mit, 84, and now living in Indiana, has invested considerable time to draft a nearly 400-page memoir that his family is sure to treasure. And because of his generous donation, the public may also have access to first-hand accounts that would otherwise have been lost to time.
Rarely do we see recent history written so expertly as in “Bygone Days.” It’s a gem. It features colorful recollections in the form of an anecdotal autobiography. Every page brims with local history through lively stories and vivid descriptions, with emphasis on the times Jackson Countians dealt with the Great Depression and triumphed through World War II.
Mr. Hughes tells of life along Blue Ridge Boulevard and of the 39th Street area extending along Crackerneck Road to U.S. 40, long before they became subdivisions and big-box shopping areas, like Independence Center, Bolger Square and Eastland Shopping Center.
Every page is enlivened by warm feeling, humor, the atmosphere of the Dust Bowl and hard times, and it conveys the glory of boyhood and family life. Hughes portrays people he knew at Pitcher School and William Chrisman High School, where he was graduated in 1946. He also tells stories of his ancestors and relatives – details about them that future generations may only glean from “Bygone Days.”
Hughes tells of dairy farming, of travel over the Great Plains in winter, and of home maintenance under old-fashion standards. He portrays the persons who influenced him in his youth.
But, he also ranges farther out. He records his experiences at Scout Camp, in Florida, at Harvard College, and eventually in Europe. In all, he achieves a high degree of historical validity, while entertaining the reader and drawing unforgettable pictures, through his clear narrative style.
“Bygone Days” contains 77 pages of photographs. And Society Archives volunteer Pati Kidwell helped to create an index to enable readers greater access in locating particular names, places and subjects.
Writing one’s life story is daunting, keeping most people from starting. Plus, most believe their lives aren’t extraordinarily worth writing. I disagree, since too many patrons approach the Jackson County Historical Society’s Archives lamenting they wished they’d listened more closely father or grandmother when they were younger. “Now they’re gone.” Would you want your grand or great-great grandchildren to have the same lament?
We recommend you write down one memory at a time. Start with your favorite. If you find yourself diverging to another topic, start and make that a separate story. If you never do another, you’ll have one more than when you started. But, I guarantee once you start you’ll have another, random story you want to record. Before you know it you may have a nice collection. Pass them down.
Page 2 of 2 - Go the extra step, Donate it to the Society’s Archives. That’s the extraordinary difference between one reader and the next – the very few who will document and then donate materials for posterity.
While the society’s copy is available for research on-site by appointment (call 816-252-7454) and copies of selected pages or the entire document may be made for a nominal fee, a second copy has been deposited at the Midwest Genealogy Center, and, once bound and cataloged, may be borrowed from the library on a 30-day loan (this may be another couple of months at this printing).
Congratulations and thank you, Mr. Hughes (and Mrs. Hughes, who we acknowledge as accomplishing a supreme secretarial feat).
David W. Jackson is archives and education director of the Jackson County Historical Society.