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Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers' Favorite
War Babies in a Small Town: Everyone He Met Was His Straight Man by Fred Hammer is a memoir that beautifully captures the spirit of a period that is well defined. Readers are very aware of the baby boomers, the silent generation, and the millenials, but few know about the war babies, those born during the years of WWII, between 1939 to 1945. In this book, the author shares his story and features characters who might be clowns, small business owners, short-order cooks, teachers and more in another life. Readers follow the story of a humorist who saw everyone as his straight man. Hammer was born in central Pennsylvania, and raised in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania, living a rich life that reflects the soul and spirit of the time.
This memoir is culturally rich, set against the backdrop of a small community where everyone seemed to know everyone and where traditional values were strong. We encounter characters like Winfield Scott Crain – Pop Pop – and Mrs. Manucci whose death is presented in the first chapters, and many others. There are very interesting elements that define the pivotal moments in the life of the author and that allow readers glimpses of what it was like to live in this community. The descriptions of the setting and of characters are terrific. There are other interesting moments like the protagonist learning to pump gas at the tender age of six.
Hammer transports readers to a historical time that is interesting, exploring the traditional and social values of the children born between the Great Depression and the boomers. I enjoyed how the author captured the family and the community spirit of the time. The family mattered much to this generation and it was a time when they had high regard for traditional institutions. War Babies in a Small Town is a memorable cultural and historical commentary about an era that should inspire every American to rethink their current values. Filled with interesting stories and rooted in historical facts.