Firefighter's writing career ignited by town's history


September 04, 2001|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

AUTHOR BILL HALL of Sykesville is enjoying the recent publication of his second book, titled Sykesville.

Sykesville is a photo book with anecdotes and glimpses into the history of the rural town and people who built it.

Hall, a Baltimore firefighter for nearly 30 years, based his first book, Turnout, on his career as a firefighter. The novel was developed from journal entries and short stories he had written over the years.

Turnout took nine months to complete. The most difficult task was finding a publisher, he said. The rejection letters he received from the major publishing houses disappointed him.

But Hall persisted and sent the manuscript to Greenberg Publishing on Main Street in Sykesville. The company agreed to publish the book.

Once the book was published in 1991, Hall watched proudly as his fellow firefighters found themselves on the pages of his novel, memorizing each paragraph and each page they appeared on.

Hall loves to write and has worked on several other projects, including a children's book about a kangaroo and other animals of Australia; a play about the ill-fated romance and marriage of Sykesville's Betsy Patterson to Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon Bonaparte's brother; and another novel about Hall's experiences as a firefighter, Turnout 2.

Last year Hall was approached by Wiley and Claudia Purkey, members of the Sykesville Historic District Commission. They asked him if he would like to write a book about Sykesville. It would be a picture book, and it already had a publisher.

Hall jumped at the opportunity. The publisher, Arcadia, was doing a series called "Images of America," which focused on historic areas.

Hall spent seven months conducting interviews of local residents, including town historian Thelma Wimmer. He spent long hours searching for information and photographs at the Sykesville Gatehouse Museum and the Historical Society of Carroll County in Westminster.

The 128-page book features 217 photographs.

Hall said he enjoyed the research. Many of the photographs were taken by the three Jones sisters, who lived in Sykesville in the late 1800s. They specialized in hand-painted photographs.

"I feel very lucky," said Hall. "Many people dream of writing a book. I have done it."

Volunteers needed

Piney Run Park is holding its annual Apple Festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 29.

Volunteers are needed, said Deanna Hofmann, a park naturalist.

In the weeks before the festival, volunteers will be needed to make signs, to confirm other volunteer commitments and to help with general administrative activities. Volunteer bakers will also be needed to help prepare apple pies and apple dumplings.

Information: 410-795-6043.

Garden donations accepted

St. Joseph's Catholic Church is accepting donations of fresh fruits and vegetables for Carroll County Food Sunday.

Anyone wishing to donate fresh items should bring them to the gym kitchen on Liberty Road on Wednesday mornings for distribution that day.

Information: 410-795-7838.

Debra Taylor Young's Southeast neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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