Posts Tagged ‘Hometown USA’

My post last week made the rounds, was read about 500 times, and was published in its entirety by the Chronicle newspaper in Glens Falls. And I meant every word.


The book is doing quite well. If you have read it and would like to help push it to the next level, please stop by and leave a review at my Amazon site.

Today Mr. Peachman and I will be back out at the Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market from 10 to 1. Come on out and see us!



Upcoming events are also listed below:

Sunday, Oct. 11 (weather permitting)
Hudson Falls, NY
Sandy Hill Farmers Market
Juckett Park, Hudson Falls, NY 12839

October 16, 2015- For Teachers- REGISTER TODAY
Saratoga Springs, NY
39th Annual Civics & Law-Related Education Conference
New York State Bar Association
Law, Youth and Citizenship Program
Human Rights Challenges: Past and Present
“American GIs and Human Rights Violations: Combat Soldiers Confront the Holocaust”


Nov. 5, 2015
Toronto, Canada
“Through the Eyes of Liberators: History Comes to Life”
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre
Holocaust Education Week

November 8, 2015
11-3 pm
Glens Falls, NY
The Chronicle Book Fair
Queensbury Hotel
88 Ridge St, Glens Falls, NY 12801

Sunday, November 15
2 pm
Glens Falls, NY
Book Talk/Signing
“Coming Home: Reflections on the 70th Anniversary the End of World War II”
The Hyde Collection
Warren St. Glens Falls, NY 12801

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I brought copies of my recently published book with me to the inaugural Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market on a beautiful autumn Sunday, not knowing what I was in for.

I was wiped out and overwhelmed.

I wound up talking to hundreds of people.  Some I did not know, but most I could place from somewhere in my life in being a part of this amazing community. I introduced myself to people that I should know, but who for some reason, I never crossed paths with. And to think the Market was orchestrated by former students who I remember very well, Joelle Timms and Jenny Demers. I am proud of them and their commitment to moving the town forward-and it’s just so comforting to know that the kids you had in class are now the leaders in making the future.

Matt Rozell at the Sandy Hill Farmers' Market. 9-26-2015. Portrait by Kendall McKernon.

Matt Rozell at the Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market. 9-27-2015. Grading papers before the rush. Portrait by Kendall McKernon.

I finally got to connect with Kendall McKernon, who has been trumpeting my work and is a major force himself in promoting the revitalization of this town. Be sure to pick up some of his amazing work in the following weeks as the Market continues every Sunday until November.

Some of my former students are now veterans themselves, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy, and came out to reconnect again and express their appreciation—and some parents whose kids could not make it because they are somewhere in the field today, stopped by to get a book for them. World War II veterans I did not know before came out to chat with me and Pacific veteran Alvin Peachman, especially Phil Battiste, who wanted to tell me he read my book THREE times and knew just about everyone featured in the book! I asked him if I got it right—he told me I was on top of my game. Phil told me he knew my late father very well and could place him and his family in the childhood house they lived in near him on the corner, during the Great Depression.

My best hometown friend’s mom came out to get a book and reminded me that I escorted her down the aisle at his wedding to his bride 32 Septembers ago- and Dolores was just was beaming with pride. Later, the still lovely bride stood in line patiently to get a book and reminded me that we need to see each other soon! My preschool teacher from 50 years ago came out to say hi, and I joked with a woman whose face I could just about place, and when she said that she was one of my former teachers, I immediately recited her first, last, and married name. I knew this because she was one of my first crushes and she married the year she had me in her elementary class. I told her she was still beautiful. She picked up two books.

My cousin, whom I have not seen in years, stopped by, picking up books for the family. She filled me in on her genealogy research and sent her son to get coffee for me, and restocked the books that Alvin and I signed, and helped keep us organized as a line began to form. My wife stopped in after Mass, and ran to the truck to get more books. My parents’ friends were there. Mom and Dad passed on ten and fifteen years ago, and seeing people I remember fondly from my own days of being raised right here brings my folks right back to the forefront of memory with a warm bath of affection and love that today was impossible to overlook.

Then, there was the girl (woman! mother!) who told me she is in her 7th year teaching at a nearby school, with her own sister teaching in an adjoining classroom! I remembered S. as being very happy and fun in class, and congratulated her on becoming a teacher, because I even in high school I could sense that she would  make the world a better place just by the sheer force of her ‘good will to others’ presence. I wish I paid a little more attention to the little one who was with her, but she kind of struck me when she volunteered that I was the reason she was a teacher. We had never had that kind of conversation in the classroom—but that is the way it works, and I am lucky enough to hear this later in life, rather than eavesdropping at my wake! Just a few weeks ago, a young man from my first year of trying to survive as a teacher came out to my first book talk and raised his hand when I called for a show of hands of former students in the room. I could not place him right at that moment, but later, when he told me his first name, I could spell ‘Ehren’ correctly as if it was 28 years ago. He teaches history in Albany, and told me I was the reason for that…

But of all the wonderful blasts from the past, tugging at my subconscious was the presence of the young woman who was standing back and watching me sign a book for her friend (one of my former students, now a combat Marine veteran of the Iraq war, with whom I was chatting away and really enjoying getting to know again). She was quiet, in the background, but smiling as T. and I talked, and just kind of gazing at me in a special way. I knew that I knew her, but just couldn’t place it—so I finally asked her. And it all came flooding back, when she spoke her first name. Half a lifetime away, at an immensely difficult time in her life, I had reached out to her and taken her under my wing while she struggled through and worked to regain some balance as a sixteen year old. We did not speak of it, but before she left she stepped forward because she said she had to give me a hug.

When I see my brother, who lives in Alaska, once a year, when it is time to part, he puts his arms around me and squeezes me hard, in silence. So it is. I did a lot of hugs today, but she got the hardest squeeze, in silence. Bless you, C. So it seems that ‘Repairing the World’ has turned out to be a theme in my life’s work, and in most teachers I know, but in truth, it starts at home, and it works both ways. Bless everyone who has played a part of and enriched my life in so many different ways.

I write about the feeling I have for my hometown in the introduction of the book. I have been moved and shaped in so many ways by the veterans, by the people who came out today, and the hometown folks who could not make it. I hope the book is but a small token of my appreciation, and if you read the book, you will see it is my attempt to give back, but also pay it forward for the younger crowd who step up and make the vision real.

Mr. Peachman had a great day, and was on the receiving end of many hugs himself. He knew just about everyone who saw him, and held his own court in the temple of the Hudson Falls Farmers’ Market. Thank you Joelle for asking me, and Jenny, who did so much, and all the others with a vision for this small town on the Hudson that we all call home, no matter how far we have wandered. So I remember the words:

I cannot forget where it is that I come from.

A small town.

Matt Rozell and Alvin Peachman at the Sandy Hill Farmers' Market. 9-27--2015. Portrait by Kendall McKernon.

Matthew Rozell and veteran Alvin Peachman, 9-27–2015. Photo by Kendall McKernon.

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We are about a week out from the launch of my first book, The Things Our Fathers Saw.  It clocks in at 286 print pages, and none of it is filler. Over 30 veteran stories are featured. The angle is new and unlike any other WW2 title out there. I am pretty excited. You get some butterflies, too; you are throwing yourself out to the world and you are going to be judged every time someone picks it up. So, why do it? I’d like to tell you what the experience of writing a first book has meant to me.

First off, I have been planning to write this book for well over a decade. Why?

The Things Our Fathers Saw - Front Cover

Besides the fact that it has been a major portion of my life’s work, I’ll offer up the other cliché that it is ‘a story that needs to be told’. Though I didn’t wake up one day and decide to write a book. The stories have bouncing around in my head for years.  I’ve shared them over and over again in my classes. The men and women who told them to me and to our young people are gone, or sadly won’t be with us forever. And I’m not taking the stories with me when it’s my turn to go. This is my legacy, this is their legacy, and more importantly, if you are an American, it is your legacy too.

And I don’t care how much you know about World War II, or the Pacific War. You WILL learn something new in this book. Not because I am a genius or an expert, but because I thought that I was pretty well-versed on this history, but I learned  A LOT myself in the research and writing of it. And if you are a bit hazy on the subject, or maybe were a wee bit disinterested in it when in school (if you were taught it in the first place), you are about to be blown away-by the writing, I hope, but especially the history.


Here is why I did NOT write the book. It was not about the money, and any author who writes for money, well, that is a book you probably do not want to read. I did not set forth to cash in, or write for “personal gain”. I think my brother said it best, simply, when he told me it is just something that you have to do.

That said, the book did not write itself. It has been in the works on a daily basis for nearly a year now. I’ve gotten up at 1:00 in the morning and worked to 4 or 5 AM, slipping back into the sack for a power nap before charging off again to school. Somedays, it killed me.

The past month, since school got out, I have been glued to this chair. The manuscript that I have been working on has been updated and revised 41 times since final exams wrapped up. I’ve gone back and forth with my beta editors and my mapmaker, Susan Winchell-Sweeney, on at least a weekly basis since April. I spent my school vacations studying, researching, editing and transposing a never-before-published prisoner of war diary, and cross-referencing and tracking down confirmations for the stories that appear in my book.

And I have found out that some super best-selling authors on similar topics should have done a little bit more of this type of homework.

So what you are going to get, is my best.


Some people looked at me curiously when I said I was going to publish independently-mostly people who are caught up in traditional publishing. ‘Self-publishing’ gets a bad rap, gets ‘poo-pooed’-and there is a LOT of dreck and drivel out there. But for me, and for my brothers who are also writers, we just don’t want to deal with the gatekeepers at this time (my brother lost the rights to his first book, watched it go out of print, and had to buy the rights back when the opportunity arose). This allows us the independence to produce the work that we have envisioned in our heads with total control. That is not to say that you don’t seek help in the form of editing, the title, the book layout and design (I even had a contest of sorts on Facebook to refine and select the final cover design, with feedback from hundreds). But I’m told that the first thing a traditional publisher is going to ask today is, ‘how will YOU (the author) market this book?’ What is your following, and where is your brand? Voilà. Woodchuck Hollow Press came into the world.


Final edits coming to you from the Woodchuck Hollow Studios.

Marketing? That is a whole other venture, the business side, I suppose. Personal gain did not figure into the motivation for doing this, but obviously I have incurred expense (that cover cost us a small fortune, but worth it, thanks to Damon Freeman at Damonza.com), and in investing so much of my time, I chose to forgo other opportunities to supplement the family income. I don’t know how to explain it, it is just something that I had to do (though that walk-in closet that I started for my wife last summer still is not done-but we are still married!). If a major publisher or bookseller shows interest, we can talk. But we are not going to lose sleep worrying over the numbers. The woodchucks will handle it.

Built-from-scratch cabinet doors for inside walk-in closet. By scratch means I cut the trees for it. Kinda like building a book. On to the next set.

Built-from-scratch cabinet doors for inside walk-in closet. ‘By scratch’ means I cut the trees for it. Kinda like building a book. On to the next set.

Stay tuned for more details. It will be available on Amazon in print and ebook format, and signed copies will be available via my website (http://matthewrozell.com/) or at local events I may be invited to do. Thanks for following this blog, and you can get more frequent updates if you are on Facebook by following/liking the AuthorMatthewRozell page.

Any others out there who want to share the experience of writing a book? Comments on my comments? Now if you will excuse me, I have to go out and deal with that pesky woodpecker who keeps hammering away at my house. Have a great day!

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In 2003, I set out to interview a retiree living on the quiet boulevard leading up to our high school. I sat on his backporch with him for a few hours on a late spring afternoon. Born in 1922, he was in the Navy, serving as a radioman on a destroyer escort, and he seemed to be everywhere in the Pacific during World War II. Like John A. Leary, he also spent a great deal of time supporting the Marines, and saw his first action in the South Pacific in the reduction of the massive Japanese base at Rabaul on New Britain.

Mr. Peachman turned 93 this past March. He was my high school history teacher.


Alvin Peachman

From “The Things Our Fathers Saw” by Matthew Rozell.

From “The Things Our Fathers Saw” by Matthew Rozell.



You can view a book preview at the Amazon site. Available in digital and paperback format. Book can also be purchased at http://matthewrozell.com/order-the-things-our-fathers-saw/



 Book Description: At the height of World War II, LOOK Magazine profiled an upstate New York community for a series of articles portraying it as the wholesome, patriotic model of life on the home front. Seventy years later, a high school history teacher and his students track down over two dozen veterans residing around ‘Hometown, USA’ who fought the war in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to the surrender at Tokyo Bay. They resurrect firsthand accounts of combat and brotherhood, of captivity and redemption, and the aftermath of a war that left no community unscathed. Here are the stories that the magazine could not tell, from a special generation of Americans speaking to the youth of America today.  270 pages.

About the Author: Matthew Rozell’s teaching career is now spanning 4 decades, beginning as a quiet kid returning to teach in his own hometown to being recognized as a national History Teacher of the Year and as a recipient of a national Medal for History Education. Rozell is a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Teacher Fellow, has had his lessons filmed for NBC Learn, and has even been chosen as the ABC World News Person of the Week. He is also a recipient of several state and local awards for history education. He writes on the power of teaching and the importance of the study of history at his website,teachinghistorymatters.com.

He can be reached at marozell at gmail dot com.

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This story below is an excerpt from my first book. It was published for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

My friend Jimmy Butterfield used to come to my classroom with his bride of 60+ years, Mary. She would joke with him, and us, and call him by his high school nickname, “But”. Maybe it was “Butt”, I don’t know, but they had fun playing around with each other in front of 17 and 18 year olds.

Jimmy, of course, was blind and hard of hearing. Mary had to yell at him, he would crack a grin under the dark glasses and flirt with her. The girls loved it. When the hearing aide was cranked up to eleven, we would get some echo and feedback, which didn’t seem to bother him, or the students in the class listening to his story. He just liked to talk to the kids.

Several years ago, after the two of them and Danny Lawler (another First Marine Division veteran of really hard fighting in the Pacific at Peleliu and Okinawa) came to my room for an afternoon, I came home to an email from one of my senior girls, telling me how meaningful meeting Jimmy and Mary and Danny was to her and her classmates. I still have it.

You see, Jim Butterfield got struck not once but twice in the head by enemy fire at Okinawa about this time in May  1945 (that is 70 years ago this month, if you are noticing). He was evacuated first to Guam, then to Hawaii and later stateside for over 18 months, and as many operations, for reconstructive surgery.  When he did realize that he would never see again,  he was ready to tell his high school sweetheart to leave him be. Not to get attached to him, a blind man.

Well, she told us what she thought of that. They ran a small mom and pop store back in Glens Falls together until they retired.

Why is Jim’s story important? Well, you’ll have to listen to him tell it. You have the sense of the unfolding realization of the loss he is feeling, but at the same time, wonderment at his and Mary’s resilience in making a successful life afterwards. The sacrifices made by this and other generations of veterans becomes real. We need to also note that Jim came home. Chappy and many others others did not.

Jim never looked for sympathy or pity- and of course would be the first to point out that Memorial Day is for those who did not return. But still, if we are to pause as a nation for one weekend to remember, we can’t forget what this nineteen year old from Hometown USA gave up as well.

Mary and Jim have since passed on. What obstacles they overcame together…

Rest on Jimmy and Mary. Thanks for letting us witness your story.


From "The Things Our Fathers Saw" by Matthew Rozell.

From “The Things Our Fathers Saw” by Matthew Rozell.


Mary and Jim Butterfield Jan. 2007

Mary and Jim Butterfield in my classroom, Jan. 2007.


Excerpted from “The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation from Hometown, USA“. Order the book here.

 Book Description: At the height of World War II, LOOK Magazine profiled an upstate New York community for a series of articles portraying it as the wholesome, patriotic model of life on the home front. Seventy years later, a high school history teacher and his students track down over two dozen veterans residing around ‘Hometown, USA’ who fought the war in the Pacific, from Pearl Harbor to the surrender at Tokyo Bay. They resurrect firsthand accounts of combat and brotherhood, of captivity and redemption, and the aftermath of a war that left no community unscathed. Here are the stories that the magazine could not tell, from a special generation of Americans speaking to the youth of America today.  292 pages.





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