News and Tribune

December 20, 2012

Sarles releases collection of ‘Looking Back’ columns

Clarksville historian, author publishes her third book, holding events Saturday

By SHEA VAN HOY
shea.vanhoy@newsandtribune.com

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Each week, Jane Sarles goes to the library branch in Jeffersonville and spends hours looking through microfilm of newspapers. Just like journalists then and now, she’s in search of a good story.

And she’s found thousands in nine years of writing “Looking Back” for the News and Tribune and The Evening News.

The best of those weekly revisits to old newspapers have made their way into her new book “The Best of Looking Back, Local History as Printed in Clark and Floyd County Newspapers over the last 100 Years.”

“The writing is the best thing about [the news],” Sarles said “It’s how they handled the language back then. These columns demonstrated the style of journalistic writings of the day. It shows people how things are the same, and different. It’s like a collective diary of the area.”

Text on the back of the new book shows one of Sarles’ favorite entries.

“Eddie T., the Utica fat boy who floats like a cork, will give his swimming exhibition Saturday evening at the foot of Spring Street at 6 o’clock.”

That description of the boy would not fly in contemporary newsrooms, or with many readers.

“It’s amazing the openness — the things that were said that you’d never say now. There are very good items that I haven’t used in the columns [because of the language],” Sarles said.

With the volume of material, however, there’s still more than enough good content to fill her columns, and now her third book. Sarles also is the author of two other history books — “Clarksville, Indiana,” a photo-heavy publication, and “Journeys Through Clarksville’s Past.”

Sarles doesn’t just examine news stories for her columns and new book. She looks at the newspaper as a whole, including advertisements.

“The flavor of everyday life is more readily shown by what is being sold, what is being endured or what pastimes were popular than by economic, government or political reporting,” she writes in the book’s preface.

It’s often the comical stories that are memorable to Sarles and readers.

“Selections are often funny,” the preface reads. “Items of former days can be appreciated for the humor that is evident from our distanced and more sophisticated perspective.”

That can come in the form of deadpan reporting, such as this gem: “The Evening News notes that the flag at the courthouse remains at half mast, but so far as is known, nobody is dead.”

Sarles said she worked on the new book for the last couple of years, and is happy to have it available. She credited her friend Robyn Reinhart with helping out with the design work on the publication.

Sarles will be giving a presentation about working on the book at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Jeffersonville Township Public Library, 211 E. Court Ave., Jeffersonville. A book signing will follow the event. The books are selling for $22. She also will have a signing event earlier in the day at 11:30 a.m. at Destinations Booksellers in New Albany. Sarles says she hopes some of the area readers who enjoy her columns will pick up a copy.

“I get stopped on the street by people I don’t know who say, ‘you write Looking Back,’ Or people I haven’t seen in 30 or 40 years say it’s the first thing they read in the paper,” Sarles said. “They tell me how much they enjoy it. I’ve had positive feedback over the years. I thought, these items are too good to lose and not revisit in a book.”