Appalachian life celebrated

Published 9:34 am Thursday, July 22, 2010

KITTS HILL — It’s a remembrance of times past that is part of the fabric of who Marilyn Schraff is.

The Kitts Hill native, who today calls Cleveland home, has put down her recollections, laced with genealogy and local history in “Appalachian Childhood.”

“Family was very important,” Schraff said recently in a phone interview from her home. “I describe the closeness of cousins, the closeness of the community. When there was a need, the community was there to help you, whether it was your house on fire or a death in the family.”

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Working at times as a teacher and a social worker, Schraff got the inspiration for the book from her children and grandchildren.

“They used to ask me how I grew up,” she said. “They knew I had horses and cows and didn’t have indoor plumbing. I just started writing stories that became chapters in the book.”

Often at family reunions, relatives would encourage Schraff to turn her stories into a manuscript. That manuscript turned into what Schraff likes to call historical multicultural literature.

“I talk about prejudice in one chapter and our food, how we milked our cows and made our own cottage cheese and butchered our own animals and ate wild animals,” she said.

Another inspiration for Schraff came after she took a postgraduate class at Ohio State University on multicultural literature.

“There was little available from Appalachia and I thought it was important for our story to be told by someone who lived it,” she said.

Schraff, 63, was the daughter of William L. Thorntons, a farmer and worker at Semet Solvay, and Vedna Yates Thornton, who came from a family of moon shiners.

“Her grandmother was arrested for bootlegging,” she said.

Although Schraff’s family were longtime Lawrence Countians, the Thornton moved to California after World War II.

“I was born there and came back when I was 2,” she said.

Her saga begins with her first meeting of her grandmother when the family came back to the Ironton area and ends with her graduation from Ironton High School in 1965.

“It was probably the most wonderful time in American history, when everybody was doing better,” she said.

Saturday Schraff returns to the area for a book signing at the Briggs Lawrence Library in Ironton Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.