The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992 Page: 126

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

knowledge of family life and values on the frontier and raise many intriguing
points for further study.
St. Edward's Unwernty PAULA MITCHELL MARKS
Chronicle of a Small Town. By Jim W. Corder. (College Station: Texas A&M Uni-
versity Press, 1989. Pp. x+175. Acknowledgment, illustrations. $16.95.)
In Chronicle of a Small Town, Jim Corder gets about as close to his material as a
writer can. The book is ostensibly a "chronicle" of life in the small Texas town
ofJayton from the years 1934 to 1946, based on Corder's collection and reread-
ing, some years later, of certain editions of the Jayton Chronicle. Corder's family
moved to Jayton in 1934, and though they left in 1939, he was interested in the
years through 1946 when he would have graduated from the Jayton High School.
The idea grew out of Corder's 1983 chance encounter with Kent County clerk,
Cornelia Cheyne, at the funeral of Corder's Uncle Martin in Jayton. After ob-
taining as many of the papers as he could from various libraries, Corder pro-
ceeded to write a personal chronicle of what he remembers and how it contra-
dicts the accounts in the Jayton paper for those years.
Chronicle is an unusual blending of objective narrative- including economic
and social aspects of the town-with personal narrative involving the nature of
memory. While his original intent was to "set down a little chronology of [his]
life as a boy in Jayton" (p. 21), Corder found that he "often lived without see-
ing"; neither as a child nor as an adult could he "now remember or record" the
accurate truth of the place (p. 33).
Jim Corder's persona in Chronzcle is a subtle and compelling one. Despite his
professorial role at Texas Christian University, Corder maintains the familiar
voice of the folklorist, intent upon catching the meaning of a people and a
place, its essence. His honest theme throughout the book is the inaccuracy of
his own memory, and he underscores this in a number of incidents in which he
catches himself "misremembering" certain details, or not remembering at all
what the newspaper reports as verifiable fact. Oddly enough, many of these
instances involved himself, such as his appearance on the honor roll or in a
school play; some were communitywide activities, such as the county fair or
First Monday, which most local citizens would know.
What is troublesome about the book is its overabundance of minute detail
about certain aspects of town life, for example, a paragraph detailing problems
of water and soil conservation and CCC enrollment in 1937. Perhaps the histo-
rian would relish the details, while the reader concerned with Corder's search
for personal meaning in the history of Jayton looks forward to his observations
about the nature of reality.
Nonetheless, Corder's book echoes with universal questions about memory
and reality and how we view ourselves in terms of our own pasts. The echo is
evident in Corder's use of the motif of "far geography"-his fascination with
maps that depict far-off places while trying to find his small-town roots; it is


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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992, periodical, 1992; Austin, Texas. ( accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.