Obscure Memoirs

Obscure Memoirs

The library recently received an inter-library loan request for "A Time in the Life of Israel Szapiro #129564" by Irving Shapiro, Howard Shaff & Audrey Shaff. This brought back memories. My grandparents knew Shapiro well, and they loaned me the book to read when it first came out in the late 1980s.

When I looked on the database that most libraries use to let the world know which books they own, I found only five copies in existence. One in Denver, two in Connecticut and two in Holocaust museums. Uhoh, only five? That's no good. A more local search led me to one copy in our area. That library was happy to loan the book to the Gering library for our patron. It is possible that other copies of this book exist, but it's not likely there are many more copies in libraries.

Shapiro was a Holocaust survivor and a local businessman. He wrote a memoir of his childhood and early adulthood.  Here's a quote about a forced march he was on. "I ate what I think of as the best meal I ever had…I knew I was going to die that night from hunger. Even the German Guards were hungry. They killed and roasted one of their dogs, but they were not as hungry as they thought. When the taste of the roasted dog sickened them they threw the meat away. I managed to retrieve a piece of it from the dirt. It was more than a feast."

This led me to search for other stories like this one, by other local authors. Stories like “History of the Japanese in Nebraska” by Father Hisanori Kano. I found 13 copies of this book in libraries, but not our own. However, we do have his book “Nikkei Farmer” in the collection.

Another local author who has an interesting story is Anita Osborn, who wrote “Echoes of the Past” with her son, Don. It tells of Osborn’s childhood in China and Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. I found copies of this book in 13 libraries.

Dorothy Bronson's 1986 biography, "Dorothy Bronson: a self-portrait" by Vivian Burns can join these books, with four copies in Nebraska libraries, one in Alabama and one in the Library of Congress.

A more recent biography is Eduardo Hernandez Chavez's  “Elvira: A Mexican Immigrant Woman 1909-2012.” Chavez interviewed his mother, Elvira Hernandez, and compiled a memoir. about her family who made their home here. This memoir is more recent, but is only held in a handful of libraries. 

I am undoubtedly leaving out some important books on this list. I focused on Scotts Bluff County, but I also looked for Leon Moomaw's book, "Pioneering in the Shadow of Chimney Rock" and found 23 books scattered through seven states.

All of these stories are representative of our community and its history, but they could be lost forever if we aren’t careful. If you happen to have a copy of Shapiro’s book, or others like it, please consider donating it to one of the area’s public libraries, the Legacy of the Plains Museum or the West Nebraska Family Research and History Center. Any of these institutions will work to preserve it.