Eastern Shore Lore Makes New Book A ‘Must Have’
By John P. Evans III
Longtime Caroline County resident Francis (Sonny) Callahan is well known for his expansive collection of postcards and the stories behind each one.
He’s also known for his story-telling. During his eighty-plus years he has picked up quite a treasure trove of tales – tall and otherwise.
“Over the past several years I have heard the same phrase, you should write a book,” said Callahan in a recent interview.
And now, he has.
Callahan’s collection of Eastern Shore lore is appropriately titled “Treasured Memories of an Eastern Shoreman,” and was published in September 2016. The first printing, though small, sold out quickly. The interest, Callahan said, called for a second, though smaller, printing.
Selling – and giving away – 250 books – doesn’t make it a New York Times bestseller, though it does offer testimony of the local interest in his recollection of Mid-Shore memories.
”What could possibly be written that would interest anyone else,” said Callahan of the thought process for his collection, continuing that “. . .a tremendous amount of thought with each keystroke was made in an attempt to supply for enjoyable reading this once-in-a-lifetime book of my memories.”
Callahan swears to the veracity of each story and asks that the reader “will remember that many of the things I wrote about happened somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 75 years ago.’
“There are cases where what I intend to be factual in my mind, may not necessarily be so in someone else’s that lived during those years,” he said. “There is no intention on my part to lie or exaggerate for the benefit of a good story. The stories as they are told in the book are mainly the product of a waning memory at the age of 80.”
Callahan credits David Gleockler, a resident of Ridgely, with bringing his stories together as an edited unit that chronicles his memories into a readable group of short stories and historic remembrances.
“He made the book. I gave him the stories and he formatted it and put in the proper typeface for readability and made sure it got e-mailed to the printer on time to meet the publication date,” said Callahan. “I was really pleased with what he did with it.”
In all, there are 260 pages with a total of 65 short stories accompanied by 63 photos, some coming from his postcard collection. Several stories make up each chapter with the chapters running chronologically.
“There is so much information in this book,” said Callahan. “I have received so much positive feedback. A lot of people have read these stories and can relate to them.
“Why the book has sold, I think, is that so many people who have read it remember the incident written about, or they recognize the name of the person in the story. I used a lot of names in the book, and except for those who have died, I got permission from most of the people named. The stories are pretty much from Caroline County, and the towns of Denton, Ridgely and Preston,” added Callahan.
During his professional career Callahan worked at Choptank Electric and Campbell Soup, retiring from Choptank. He was born in Queen Anne but has lived in Caroline County all but five years of his life. He turned 81 on April 11th.
“Being a native gave me authenticity to write these stories,” said Callahan.
Perhaps the most famous person written about in the book is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who often went duck hunting in Cambridge and used Sonny’s son, Danny Callahan, as a guide. Obviously, President Carter’s friendship with Danny was shared with Sonny, as well, who writes of Carter in several of the book’s chapters.
“After I met Jimmy Carter, I wrote him a letter (in 2005) and he responded. In his letter, he acknowledged my ability to write and suggested that I might write a book one day. His comments are what energized me with the idea to write a book,” said Callahan.
Callahan said he had a great time writing the book though he’ll make little money on it.
“I didn’t write the book to make money. I figured I needed to sell 147 to break even.” he said. “I wrote it to share my memories with others.”
Callahan said that despite the small number of books he published, word of his book has been widespread among his friends.
“I’ve been surprised by the comments I have received about the book and how many people are telling others about the book,” he said. “It has been very amazing to me the response I have had. I guess people love to read stories about the old days.”
Callahan credits his wife Nancy for supporting his idea to write the book and for helping him to keep the project going.
Callahan said that over the years he has been asked to write other books and been asked to allow his postcard collection (which now numbers more than 900 cards) to be used in other publications.
He also said that he isn’t likely to publish another book, though he has many notes for another.
Over the years, Callahan has been involved in many community organizations such as the Boy Scouts, the Masons, as a Judge on the Orphan’s Court and on the Board of Directors for Choptank Electric.
Anyone wishing to purchase a copy of Callahan’s book needs to contact him at 410-479-2460, or can buy one at his wife’s beauty shop, the Magic Mirror, on Deep Shore Road. Callahan also said he carries copies of the book in his car. The book sells for $24.95 and Callahan said he will personally autograph any copy sold.