Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood (Great Lakes Books) (Paperback) Review

Waiting for the Morning Train: An American BoyhoodI never met Bruce Catton, but I corresponded briefly with him in the mid-1970's.The same qualities that marked him as a correspondent--courtesy, graciousness, and gentle humor--illuminate this lovely memoir of a great historian.
Catton grew up in Benzonia, Michigan, "a city upon a hill," as he correctly notes, very close to Lake Michigan, where the old certitudes held seemingly invincible sway over virtually every aspect of one's daily life.Catton's father was the superintendent of Benzonia Academy, whose main building is now Benzonia's library.
The memoir, which recalls the years between the author's birth and his graduation from high school, is a series of reflections on what it was like to be a boy just as Michigan's logging era was drawing to a close, when sleepy Benzonia, along with the rest of the nation, was about to drift into the maw of the violent twentieth century.Catton writes of boyhood ambitions and boyish pranks, of the rich history that made Michigan's Lower Peninsula what it was, and especially of the Civil War veterans whose stories would later prompt Catton to devote years of his life to recording the history of that great conflict in rich anecdotal detail.
Though unabashedly nostalgic, "Waiting for the Morning Train" is neither saccharine nor bitter.Catton was far too experienced a writer and historian to let his emotions get the better of him.This is, nonetheless, a rich and moving memoir of a time which, though it may seem virtually within reach, we will never see again.
I recommend this book highly as a gift for yourself and, perhaps, for that reflective friend who can appreciate personal history told with universal appeal.Bruce Catton was, quite simply, one of the greatest writers and historians this country has produced, and in many ways this deceptively modest little volume represents the zenith of his literary achievement.

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