A love story.
A sports story.
Everyone has a story. Many pass from one generation to the next – around the kitchen table, in porch rockers or, perhaps, whispered in private.
Joel Srodes, of Marlinton, found a most fascinating story in a box – a box containing newspaper clippings, photos and school yearbooks.
He and his wife, Jean, were packing up their Sarasota, Florida, home, scaling down possessions for their move to Marlinton.
That’s when Joel discovered the “story.”
“I opened the box and I sat there for hours going through stuff,” Srodes said.
While he was fascinated by the discovery, Jean was less than enthused, having been left alone to continue packing.
The story of Phoebe and Earl spans their lifetimes, and the writing of that story was five years in the making.
“I wrote the first words, working at Watoga State Park on the night shift,” Srodes said. “I had a yellow legal pad and stated sketching out the story.”
His writing venue improved over the next couple of years, when he and “Phoebe and Earl” settled in a picturesque location in San Marcos, Guatemala, on the shores of Lake Atitlan, where he writes five-to-six hours a day.
But who was this Phoebe?
Srodes writes that she was “a ‘looker.’ The best looking mother in the neighborhood….but Phoebe was a whole bunch more; she was the epitome of class.”
Always well-groomed and well-dressed, Phoebe wore heels with every outfit.
“If she wasn’t wearing heels, then she was barefoot,” Srodes said.
She was smart and had class, but she also had a fun side that she maintained throughout her life.
Entries in The Tatler, from Huntington High give a glimpse into her early life.
Name: Phoebe Kinney.
Weakness: Goin’ places.
Achievement: Lotsa things.
Noted For: Makin Whoopie
Generally Found: Everywhere.
In Our Opinion: Plenty cute.
“Phoebe was wild,” Srodes said. “She did everything first. And she struggled with her evolving sexuality” in the religious atmosphere of the home.
While her mother was frustrated with Phoebe’s wild side, Srodes said her grandmother reveled in Phoebe’s life.
Fast forward to the eighty-year-old Phoebe.
Phoebe and her longtime friend, Margaret, always enjoyed a drink or two together, but during a month long visit they “enjoyed another intoxicating activity.” Margaret introduced Phoebe to marijuana.
“That stuff would keep us laughing for hours on end,” Phoebe said.
Although Phoebe enjoyed a bit of “intoxication,” it did not control her life.
Earl was not so fortunate, and therein lies the tragedy.
Phoebe loved to read and was an avid reader all her life.
Earl Marple, on the other hand, had never read a book.
Phoebe knew she was going to college.
Earl didn’t care if he finished high school.
But they were both good dancers.
“Phoebe and Earl” is far from your everyday story of young love,” Srodes writes. “Phoebe and Earl” is a romantic, historical fiction novel with a tale of the quest by Earl Marple, to become a World Champion. Marple started boxing competitively when he was 15. He proved his mettle both in the amateur and professional ranks. Highly regarded as a “fighter that fights,” he was a huge drawing card.”
Although Marple began his boxing career at the age of 15, he was not of legal age for such things.
But Earl wasn’t interested in what was legal or illegal, he lived for the moment.
And he fought enemies, in and out of the ring.
Newspaper clippings re-cord his success in the boxing ring with headlines such as, “Earl Marple Scores Decisive Victory over Billy Blue,” “McHenry Fight Card Draws Several Thousand Fans; Marple Bout is Best.”
Outside the ring, Marple loved Phobe, and “the box” contained a love poem he sent her which was titled “Phoebe.”
“Gentle, modest little flower.
Sweet epitome of May,
Love me but for half an hour.
Love me, love me, little fay.
Sentences so fiercely flaming
In your tiny shell-like ear,
Would always be exclaiming
Of I love you, Phoebe, dear…”
Phoebe did love Earl, and the unlikely pair married.
Despite Earl’s best attempts, alcohol too often reared its head in this love story.
Phoebe and Earl divorced when their son was six years old.
Over time, Earl got help and the love story resumed. They remarried, only to have their relationship severed again – following the war – by alcohol and abuse.
Years later, when Phoebe received word that Earl had been sober for eight years, she quietly said, “I never denied my love for him.”
“While some aspects of the story have been fictionalized, the crux of their relationship is well-represent- ed,” Srodes said. “The essence of the couple in all their glory as well as the vicissitudes of their lives has been captured, and at times, it was raw.”
“Phoebe and Earl” is available from Amazon.com where it has received “5-Star” ratings and the following reviews have been posted by readers:
• “A long read, but a good one! I’ve never been a boxing fan, but was entertained by Earl and his determination. I understand why his mother didn’t want to go to his matches. I admire Earl. He’s intelligent and kind. And, a champion boxer! Unfortunately, the whiskey was no friend to him or his relationships, especially with Phoebe. Phoebe certainly added some enticement to the book—intelligent and definitely not a pushover. She truly was madly in love with Earl. As he was with Phoebe. And, while Earl and Phoebe were young, they certainly had fun times together with one another and with their friends. Someday, I’m going to visit Huntington, West Virginia, and take along this book as my guide through town.”
• “When you read this book, it will rekindle your memory of your first love. It is a love and a sports story, which would make a wonderful movie. The culture of the 1930s is vividly detailed including fashion, feeling, and politics… It is a must read!”
• “Phoebe and Earl” is a great story, well written, which makes it a great read. It is one of the most enjoyable books I read this past winter and look forward to more books by this author.”
The wait for the next book won’t be long.
Srodes’ first novel, “The Sins of the Mother,” was written in the early 90s, and is now being edited for publication.
For more information or to order a copy or Kindle version of “Phoebe and Earl,” visit jrsrodes.com. There is a link to amazon.com
An autographed copy of the novel is available for purchase direct from the author.
The 800-page book sells for $15.75
Back to the question of “who was this Phoebe.”
The epilogue answers that question, and more.
Jaynell Graham may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org