By Joyell Nevins
November 17, 2013
… I’ve met some older people in my life who had such interesting stories to tell that I’ve often wondered if anyone cared enough to even listen to them, let alone record the stories so they’re not lost when the old person isn’t around anymore to tell them. I wrote this story because I wanted to remembeer, and I gave the first copy, mistakes and all, to my brother because he’s the one who shares these memories and probably has as many more that I’ve forgotten or never even knew about, but I wanted to get at least this much written down before we’re both too old and stupid to remember.
- Copyright page introduction, “Just Paul” by Polly Britton
PLEASANT HILL - It started as a short story in a creative writing class. It became a book to memorialize a father and jumpstart a frustrated writer.
“Just Paul,” written by Polly Britton of Pleasant Hill, is a collection of memories woven together from when she and her older brother Pete were growing up in Sulphur Grove, Crystal Lake and Vandalia (she moved to Pleasant Hill in 1987). The Paul in the title and on the front page photo is her dad, Paul Britton. Paul passed away in 2001, on the cusp of 9-11 and Veterans Day.
“I’ve been writing fiction my whole life,” Polly said. “But the best books to me are when you get the feeling this author has experienced this, they really have. It just makes a better story. I needed to write what I knew about - and there was no subject I knew better.”
What she’s found though, since “Just Paul” was published, is that people in her generation and her parents’ generation feel like they’re reading their own story.
“Everyone said, ‘oh my gosh, this was me,’” she said.
The book tells stories of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s with Pete, Paul and Polly’s mother Billie - a.k.a. Harley, Paulette, Andrew and Wilma.
“Nobody in our family ever goes by their real name,” Polly laughed.
In fact, the title comes from her dad’s, whose full name was Andrew Paul, insistence to go by his middle name. He worked at the airport for years and everyone called him Andy, which according to Polly, he hated. After Andrew Paul retired, he had to obtain another birth certificate to fill out certain paperwork. And on the birth certificate, the only name listed was Paul.
“We don’t know if it was a clerical glitch or what,” Polly said. “But the birth certificate read just ‘Paul Britton’.”
Although Paul is the focus, the book is dedicated to Pete. He now has three sons and many grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 12. The grandchildren never got a chance to meet their great-grandfather, as Paul passed away before they were born.
“Now they’ll get to meet him in print,” Polly said.
When she completed “Just Paul” and had it self-published, Polly gave it to Pete as a present on Christmas Eve. She said he stayed up the whole night reading it. All the nephews have read it as well, and two of Pete’s older grandchildren. They got to read stories from life on a farm with ponies, calves and other animals, with a man who was hardworking, quiet and loved his wife.
Pete described their dad this way: “Dad was a quiet, caring, hardworking man who loved God, his family and his country. He lived a good life for 85 years and showed me what a man, a father, and a husband ought to be.”
Paul met Billie when he got out of service in the Navy and bought a farm in Newberne, W. Va. in 1946. She was the daughter of the man who sold the property to him. By 1947, they were married.
“We always said he literally got the farmer’s daughter,” Polly joked.
Polly described her parents as a team. She and her brother could never get an answer they didn’t like from one parent and run to the other one like some of their friends did.
“It never worked - you go ask the other parent and you got the same answer,” she said.
She never heard them raise their voices to each other, either. They had been married for 44 years when Billie passed away in 1991.
Paul loved his children as much as he loved his wife, according to Polly. Even though he was a man of few words (“when he had something to say, the whole room would stop,” she said), his actions demonstrated his depth of feeling.
One such action that stands out in Polly’s mind is when she left Ohio to go to college in Texas.
“He gave me a hug and he said, ‘be good’ - and I have,” she said.
“Just Paul” is available for purchase at www.amazon.com, or by mailing a check or money order for $14.99 to Polly Britton, 300 Stichter Road, Pleasant Hill OH 45359. Polly also donated a copy to Milton-Union Public Library, West Milton, and Oakes Beitman Memorial Library, Pleasant Hill.
Polly is currently working on a second book called “Billie,” in memory of her mother.