- Associated Press - Monday, December 21, 2015

LEXINGTON, N.C. (AP) - Author and Lexington native Alice Sink has an incredible memory, which her readers get the benefit of each time they pick up one of her 24 books.

In her latest, “The Way We Were: 1940’s and 1950’s,” Sink, who now lives in Kernersville, takes her readers on a journey through these two decades of what people in the South were watching at the movies and on TV, playing, wearing, eating, celebrating holidays, viewing parades and more. The idea for the book grew out of conversations with friends after they viewed a vintage film sent to them showing Lexington people and places.

While the photos in her book are exclusively of people and places in Lexington, the written material is presented in a way that is universal for any small, Southern town in the 1940s and ‘50s.

The cover photo sets the theme showing meticulously dressed elementary-aged students at Robbins School dressed in stiffly starched and ironed white shirts and bow ties and their white-glove clad hands neatly placed on their laps for a group photo after the school minstrel show. Sink is the third person from the right on the second row.

“I printed 800 postcards of that photo and sent them to every person I knew in Lexington and asked them if they would buy a book on this topic,” said Sink, who is a retired associate professor of English at High Point University. “They all said yes.”

Like most of her books, Sink settles on a general topic before writing begins and then lets her memories take over. Her table of contents is the last thing she completes, she said, noting how she works backward. Sink’s easy, almost conversational style of writing brings history to life for readers. In chapter 8, “Slang,” Sink writes: “During our growing-up years, we were taught by our parents, school teachers, and Sunday School teachers that slang was not becoming. Of course we did pick up some of the more colorful expressions, but we used these almost exclusively in conversations with our peers. Remember this one: ‘Back Seat Bingo’ was kissing while in a car.”

In chapter 14, “Events We Will Always Remember,” Sink writes: “When we had a childhood bout with a sore throat, our parents took us to Dr. Leonard’s office. ‘Stick out your tongue,’ he’d say, and we obeyed like the good children we had been taught to be. He would grab our tongues with a small thin white towel, hold on tightly, and swab our throats with silver nitrate. He’d always give us a big hug, tell us how ‘brave’ we (had) been, and send us on our way.”

In other chapters, she writes about the thrill children felt each Saturday morning when armed, usually with 50-cent allowance, they set off for downtowns across the South to spend the day watching movies and looking and wishing for hours at all the interesting things stocked at dime and department stores.

“I just remember a lot of things,” Sink said during a recent interview. “There were two dime stores across from each other (in Lexington) - Macks and McLellans. We got fresh-popped popcorn, chocolate drops, orangades and peanuts. Each different department had a counter and clerk that would patiently allow us to look and look and look at everything.”

The girls, she recalled, gravitated to the cosmetic counter where they coveted Evening is Paris perfume.

“It stinks like crazy, but then we thought it was wonderful,” she said.

Trips to the March Hotel lobby meant an hour or more of taking magazines from the enormous wall rack to read and then place back.

“You were supposed to move three feet over and buy the magazine, but we didn’t,” she said with a laugh. “We just read everything and then put it back.”

That’s because sometimes the girls were saving up their 50-cent allowance until they had enough for the latest ear bobs (what we now call earrings) at the Belk-Martin store.

Sink hopes readers take away a view of history written in a more casual tone than most history books and documents. She also hopes, she said, it brings back a flood of their own memories of these two decades.


Information from: The Dispatch, https://www.the-dispatch.com

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