Once again, local author and historian Larry James has preserved the past in the pages of a book.
The latest, now available, is Neosho: The Baby Boomer Years, Part 1.
And, although history is something James has long enjoyed, this book is very special.
"This is my era," James said. "This is when I grew up, this is my friends' era."
The book covers the late 1940's, the 1950's and the 1960's in Neosho, a town that has grown and seen numerous changes since those decades.
James is the author of six books dedicated to Neosho history and a total of many than twenty history volumes. Like the others, this one is published by the Shoal Creek Heritage Preservation Group and as the title indicates, it's book one of two.
"This is the first time I've done it this way, wrote both parts 1 and 2. I did it so I could split the second half."
Although near completion, James has more work to do before the second volume is ready but it should be available in 6 to 8 months.
The book, like the other history books James has compiled sells for $15. Neosho: The Baby Boomer Years is available at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery Gift Shop, Mitchells Downtown Drug Store, Mitchell's on the Boulevard, at the Neosho Chamber of Commerce, Silhouette Imaging, the Newton County Museum and at Rod's Place.
James comes from one of Neosho's earliest families, who settled here in 1842. A retired math teacher and long-time Newton County Historical Society member, he's been focused on preserving local history since the 1980's. He began compiling local history because he realized very little was available.
"I worked for the Missouri State Historical Society as an intern. They didn't have a lot of Newton County history at that time."
The first project James worked with was a reprint of Goodspeed's 1888 History of Newton and McDonald County. Then his focus shifted to Neosho.
"The first one was Neosho:A City of Springs. We had a large committee on that one and that's the only one."
Since then James has put together numerous books on Neosho and other Newton County communities including Diamond and Ritchey. Some of his other Neosho titles are Here's To The Black and Gold, a Wildcat History, which deals with local schools, Neosho's Forgotten Past, Tom Benton's All-American City and Neosho: The First Century. Other books cover the rural schools of Newton County, mining history and churches.
Although after that first project, he's worked solo, James does have help. "I have some people who held proofread and my wife looks at everything. I try to analyze the information as I put it in."
He also prints as he goes, using a laser print, to be able to view the pages as he works.
Each book is about half text, half pictures, a combination that works, according to James.
"It's what people seem to like. We did one all pictures that basically flopped. We did one all text that didn't do well so I stick with half pictures, half text."
James described his favorite part of the process.
"I love putting together the pictures and see what the book looks like. Over the years, it's been easier and easier with each one, because I know more what I'm doing."
The books are popular in Neosho and among those who have a connection to the town.
"I get a lot of good comments, especially on this one from a lot of my friends, this is where we grew up. When I was a kid, everything was downtown. The Square was the focal point."
In this first of the two Baby Boomer Years books, James covers the Neosho Square and the downtown area. In the second, he will chronicle the way Neosho businesses began expanding onto Neosho Boulevard, which he remembers when it was still two-lane.
"When they first moved Neosho High School to the Boulevard, a lot of people thought they'd lost their minds. It was still rural. It really was on the western edge of town. The Square was the main area for a long, long time."
James brings to life a Neosho now past, through his photos and texts. Those who have the opportunity to talk with him in person receive hear more stories, reminisces about the days when Neosho had many parades, when downtown business stayed open late, especially at Christmas time.
Although much has changed, some things remain constant.
"The Square looks pretty much the same as it did then. The Square and the first block of Spring Street were the main areas for a long time."
With own family history rooted deep in Neosho, James' fondness for his hometown is evident in his work.
"It's been a great place to live," he said.
Thanks to James' efforts, the history of Neosho and Newton County has been preserved and he's not finished yet. His books evoke memories for many area residents and provide a window into the past for the younger generations.
Neosho: The Boomer Years Part 1 is now available.