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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, August 28, 2008
Memories of a Sixties Kid
By Zach Simeone
BERNE Local writer Joyce L. Abele is hoping that her new book, a recount of experiences from her childhood, will become a fun tool for teaching kids about some key points in our country’s history.
Her book, Sixties Kid, is mostly autobiographical. “Some people’s names are changed, and I embellished a little bit to make it that much more interesting,” she said. “Let’s face it most of us don’t have a childhood that would make for exciting reading all the time.”
“It’s basically memories of my childhood,” Abele said. She grew up in a time that, she says, a lot of today’s kids don’t know very much about: the post-war era.
“I’ve always written poetry when I was a little kid, short stories now and then,” said Abele. “In the first section of the book, my sisters and I go and visit with my cousin for seven weeks while our mother is in the hospital,” she said.
“I moved around a lot, had a very happy childhood in Long Island and New Jersey, and lived through these times that were partially shaping our times today the assassination of President Kennedy, the start of the Vietnam conflict, the beginning of hippies,” she said.
She decided to start writing it all down, she said, “when I thought about how, when my daughter was younger, she read the American Girl books,” which contain fictional accounts of the adventures of young girls, woven into important points in history.
Sixties Kid is a collection of three episodes from Abele’s life, “but each section could stand alone if it wanted to,” she said.
When she was in college, and thinking of becoming a schoolteacher, Abele wrote the start of what she called a teachers’ guide for using Sixties Kid in the classroom. She was an English major at Central Connecticut State University; she had gone to school to teach. “But that career plan didn’t work out,” she said.
“There’s so much mention of the way things were then and how different they are now,” said Abele. “There are mentions of certain recipes that are used that could be fun in a classroom, art activities, and performance activities that are referred to.” And, of course, there’s the historical aspect, she said.
“There’s a lot of singing and reference to a particular stuffed animal of mine,” she added, “and a lot of reference to being thankful, which is what I am that I had such a happy childhood and that I can share it.”
Life outside writing
In addition to being a writer, Abele is a community theater member. “I haven’t performed in a while,” she said, “but I’ve done some directing, and I’ve done some costume and set work for school plays.”
She has also worked at the Timothy Murphy Playhouse in Middleburg, and has been involved with the Hilltowns Players in Berne since its creation. “So, I’m a charter member,” she said. “I’ve had some fun on stage and it’s fun to be involved.”
Abele is also an avid quilter, and has been ever since she moved to the area about 25 years ago. “I went to the Altamont Fair and saw Ruth Norray’s booth, when she used to give classes at her house, and I just picked it up there,” she said.
Now, she makes quilts on commission. “I belong to the Voorheesville Village Quilters, and I make quilts for gifts and for my home,” she said. “It’s very therapeutic to do something that stays done.”
As for her future as a writer, she would like to “write further, because, of course, there are other things that have happened in my life,” she said. “I could even go back to the same time period and focus on other events.”
Now, Abele is working on an original version of the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, best known for writing Little House on the Prairie. It is a collaboration with the very same cousin whom she visits in the beginning of Sixties Kid.