Clemmons native’s book recalls World War II era
He boarded the Southern Railway passenger train at Clemmons Station in 1949, but a part of Elmer L. “Sonny” Allen Jr. never left.
The memories of his childhood have now reappeared in a book, “The Paper Boy.”
Elmer Lee “Sonny” Allen Jr. grew up in Clemmons, delivered the old Winston-Salem Sentinel by bike on a route that included about 60 homes along U.S. 158 and Middlebrook Drive. He remembers swimming naked in Muddy Creek in summers, fishing at Idols Dam with his father and attending the youth programs at First Baptist Church. His childhood home still stands on Clemmons Road near Cimmaron Restaurant.
In many ways, his childhood is the storybook classic of the World War II era.
He is a Clemmons High Class of 1949 graduate. He later graduated from Catawba College, met his bride there and settled down in Salisbury, eventually becoming mayor. He still has many relatives in Clemmons, including the editor of The Courier.
It is no accident that the newspaper delivery boy in his book is named “Elmer Sparks.” The author and the editor share many of the relatives thinly disguised in the book.
Names have been changed to protect the guilty. Even Clemmons has been rechristened “Bodenheimer.”
Allen was born in 1931 during the Hoover administration to the late Elmer and Mamie Allen. After finishing at Catawba, he served in the Army 1953-55 and then began a long career as a banker and mortgage business owner.
His book begins on Pearl Harbor Day and ends on V-J Day, and the paper boy, Elmer Sparks, relates tales and experiences he had with the people on his newspaper route.
“Every afternoon as he made his rounds he heard stories,” Allen relates.
There’s an assortment of characters — FatDad and PoreMama and son Calvin who makes liquor; Mozelle Scott, an old black lady born during the “Silver War;” the Rev. Martin Luther Rumple, predictably a Lutheran preacher, the Doty family, the Barbers and the German POW Oskar Behkner.
The book borrows liberally from real events of Allen’s youth.
“Remember when it was a big deal to call ‘long distance’ on the phone?” Allen notes.
This is his first book. He has had signings in Salisbury and now plans to have one in Clemmons on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. at Cherry’s Cafe, 6000 Meadowbrook Mall.
He has also planned readings at various retirement homes and has found that many of his childhood experiences mirror those of other people from his generation.
“It was a most pleasant time,” he recalled.
His book has no rapes, no murders, no mayhem. One fellow dies in a car crash. He has taken artistic license in a number of places. A renamed Cooleemee Plantation has been moved up the Yadkin. Many familiar names and places are sprinkled throughout the book.
“I had the best time,” Allen said of writing the book. “I worked at night. I would laugh for awhile and cry for awhile. I became that boy.”
He said the unpolished language of his youth still lingers in his memory. “It was sort of basic and down home.”