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The Chenango Kid: A Memoir of the Fifties Hardcover – February 28, 2012
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From the Inside Flap
So here's lookin' at you, Kid! Not only did you (and your sidekick, Smiley Burnette) give the author pleasure watching your movies, but your nickname gave him a title for a book about watching them--and about all the pleasures, pains, joys, sorrows, triumphs, and failures of growing up in the Decade That Never Ends. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
More About the Author
After attending the public schools of Binghamton and graduating from North High, he went to Harpur College (forerunner of Binghamton University), from which he received a B.A. in history. He taught school in England for a while, then enlisted in the U.S. Army. After military service and graduate study in journalism at Penn State, he worked for a time at the old Evening Press in Binghamton (forerunner of the Press & Sun-Bulletin). He went on to work at several other newspapers, most notably the Milwaukee Journal.
He is also the author of the novels "Invisible Hero," "Dragon in Amber," "The Lost World: A Sentimental Journey," and "The Flight of Alice Blue Gown."
Top Customer Reviews
If this were only a memoir, it would be well worth reading. But it's more than that, so is even more worth reading. Mr. Miller places his family's life within the wider context of the 1950s, and shows how they - and their Chenango Street neighborhood - were influenced by popular culture. Education was important to young Roger, so we get great stories about favorite and not-so-favorite teachers, administsrators, fellow students, and 1950s school life.
As someone who grew up not far from Mr. Miller's environment, I can vouch for his accuracy. As someone interested in American history and culture, I can appreciate his many closely-observed details. And for the lover of a good story...well, that's here too.
Miller's parent were legally separated in a decade where that was a scandal. His mother enjoyed men and beer in good measure. His father was a smart, kindly but clueless slacker who read magazines, acquired patents without doing the market research, and played solitaire, "the deck of cards limp and soft and their spots and figures faded with use." One half-sister was sent away to reform school, and the other Miller never met until late in life. Why? Don't ask. In the ethos of the silent generation, as Miller puts it, "Why bring up not-nice things? You might have to explain them."
Fortunately, Mr. Miller tries. His voice rings true. The memoir is strongest where it is most personal. When it discusses the decade's movies, television, and comics, it lacks the bedrock of emotion many readers need to be able to read as Mr. Miller did when in high school: "with my whole being, taking in greedily what was before my eyes and coming into my ears."
My favorite part of the memoir was the description of Lopez, PA, "where you went to be allowed to be something that you weren't where you came from." It's a boy's paradise, but the kitchen in his grandparents' house has an "amber-colored flypaper hanging in the kitchen, thick with flies." Here, it seems poverty is redeemed by rusticity.
In fact, all the particulars of Roger Miller's early life, dates and details duly appended, build up to a hugely entertaining autobiography that I, at least, found hard to put down. Maybe that's because roughly we lived through the same times, but, a dividend beyond that, the personal wry, spry guy that comes through here is someone you want to be friends with. Not just to discuss those days, innocent and not so innocent, that are gone forever, but to ahare the memories that still remain with us who lived them.
Miller's interesting astringence, fostered by the bittersweet days of youth covered here, is often relieved by his ironic refocusing, but happily he does not adopt the all-seeing omnipotence that some autobiographers enjoy . (For instance, in discussing some of the music of the time, and its "combination of clever inspired writing and excellent musicianship," he muses, "I wonder what I thought of it as a teenager. What did I think I was seeing?")
His laser memory alone would make this book, as a reliable record of the world "the way it was" in those days, but the use to which he puts it helps to explain not only the Miller version of life but the national direction of his time, so soon aborted.
Still, beyond the details that make this autobiography an unparallelled record of the times, the reader cannot miss the hard-won fight that made the writer what he is, as well. A fight that was well worth the effort, in a time that rewarded such struggle.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a gift to my brother who found it wonderfully informative and researched, a delightful personal memoir. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Fireuser
I grew up in the Binghamton area - this book brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. Very nostalgic.Published 20 months ago by mercy nursie
Great book. My husband grew up there at time and it was a real blast from the past. Must readPublished 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
After reading all the above reviews, I don't have a lot to add except that I couldn't agree more! My fathers family grew up in the Moonblock and I'd always heard of the big fire,... Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by David
The Chenango Kid: A Memoir of the Fifties. I choose to give this rating because I was at the Moon block fire that begins the story of the Author Roger K. Miller. Read morePublished on April 9, 2013 by Bertie Sullivan
The author grew up in Binghamton NY near my home. We went to the same schools. We are the same age and we knew of course many of the same people. Read morePublished on January 13, 2013 by Gail Cruz
Highly entertaining. By the time we enter college, most of us have been shaped and scoured by the experiences of home life and high school. Read morePublished on January 3, 2013 by Tar Heel
The Chenango Kid, by Roger K. Miller was fabulous account of life for us in the 50's. He's one of my favorite authors, and I hope he comes out with a new book soon. Read morePublished on September 4, 2012 by bankteller7
I was happy & suprised to see a memoir on my birth city. I lived at the same house in Binghamton for 19 years & enjoyed remembering about old haunts. Read morePublished on August 5, 2012 by Gerald Ross