How We Wrote the Auburn Book

by | Mar 21, 2014

By John Anderson

A few of the many photographs rejected by Arcadia Publishing.

A few of the many photographs rejected by Arcadia Publishing.

History is very important to mankind. If we do not regularly remind each other of our past, it will be lost in the future. Many years ago, the only way to relate history was by word of mouth. The written word has done a much better job of preserving historical facts.

In early 2013, a group of Auburn citizens decided to put down on paper Auburn’s local history. Historical Society member Sari Bitticks was Chair of the Book Committee and Sonja Carr served as Co-Chair. The result was “IMAGES of America AUBURN” with 128 pages and over 200 photographs.

The project began with a proposal to Arcadia Publishing in Charleston, South Carolina. Once accepted, photographs from the Historical Museum were submitted for consideration and nearly all were rejected for quality reasons.

Ms. Bitticks said, “It was kind of frustrating sometimes. Reject, reject, reject.” Scans weren’t good enough; a photo was second generation; or a photo couldn’t be used because it came from a newspaper. Every contact with the publisher was by email, and the only human they met along the way was the salesman at the very end. The lack of personality wasn’t helping at this point.

Then, Fred Mirliani of the Photographic Preservation Center came into the project. As a 1961 graduate of Auburn High, he still had a lot of admiration for his hometown. He digitized photographs, performed hundreds of hours retouching images in Photoshop on the computer, and supplied images that were acceptable to Arcadia.

When the historical society put out a plea to Auburn residents, a flood of local images arrived, but many lacked descriptions. Clifford Granger, Harry “Sid” Mason and Ken Holstrom assisted with identifications while Richard Hedin and Robert Breault provided additional photographic support. “Unofficial Official” Town Historian Kenneth Ethier wrote the Foreword for the book.

Computer literate Sari Bitticks did almost all of the word processing while Sonja Carr roughed out the photo captions. For about 11 months, these two women put in a combined 40 hours each week. And their efforts were not

Sari Bitticks and Sonja Carr listen as Ken Ethier addresses the Historical Society.

Sari Bitticks and Sonja Carr listen as Ken Ethier addresses the Historical Society.

in vain. The book is well organized and reads well.

These facts were presented at Tuesday’s Historical Society meeting. Ken Ethier asked questions of these women and got some great responses. He also related that two previous books have been written in 1975 and 1977. Neither was anything like this fine publication.

Out of the original 550 books, about 400 have been sold. The Museum is considering purchasing another 150 to make sure they have them in stock. When the finished product was shown to the Auburn Public Schools, they purchased 25 so all libraries could have multiple copies.

“IMAGES of America AUBURN” can be purchased for $22.00 at the Auburn Historical Museum at 41 South Street. The museum is open Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 9:30am to 12:30pm.

One great personal moment came out – late last December, Sari and Sonja were at the Museum when a delivery of five books, “authors’ editions”, was made. Sonja’s words that day, “It’s real.” It is real, and it’s a good read.