If one walks through the streets of Granite City and listens closely, stories abound of its history, coming from the sidewalks, the trees and the shadows of the large, historic buildings.
“I remember Granite City as a very busy place,” says author and former Granite City resident Helen Lorene Grippo, calling from her home in Raleigh, N.C.
Grippo has a myriad of memories involving its storied, industrial past, and is truly “writing about what you know.”
“We moved to Granite City from Bear Springs, Tenn., when I was 6 years old,” Grippo says. “My family moved to Granite for work, and I remember the sound of the steel mills day and night.”
Although “The Hobo Angel” is Grippo’s first book, she has had many articles and short stories published in Reader’s Digest, Home Life, AARP Bulletin Today, United in Faith and East Coast newspapers as well as literary magazines at North Carolina State University and Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College).
So where did the unusual title come from?
“Hobos used to come to our door asking for food and my mother would give it to them,” she says. “I wondered why she’d share food with them when we barely had enough for ourselves, and my mother would tell me, ‘Hush child, one of them might be an angel in disguise.’
“I would look at the hobos as dirty and scruffy as they were, and secretly wonder if they had wings under their shirt.”
Grippo goes on to explain that her mother stressed the importance of the Bible verse Matthew 25:35 (“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, for I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...”).
The book reflects on the importance of faith and spirituality over the span of its 28 pages. The Hobo Angel himself, “Hobo Ben,” is “allowed to return to earth whenever a call for help came through.” He stops to work at places reflecting the past landscape of his travels: greasy oil fields, bloody meat packing plants, steamy steel mills, and cold, wet riverboats.
The book found its origins 10 years ago as a Christmas card, and underwent revision and editing after Grippo joined a writers’ club.
“Many of my articles were rejected at first, but I’ve learned that it’s vital to keep writing and not to get discouraged,” she says.
She goes on to stress the significance of continuous revising and reading.
“Reading is incredibly important for sharpening writing skills,” she says. “I first discovered books in the Granite City library as a child.”
Grippo dedicates “The Hobo Angel” to the memory of her parents, who “taught (her) the values that really matter in life.”
The book is available for purchase at Just IMAGINE Publishing, Suite D of 2914 Nameoki Road in Granite City. Just IMAGINE Publishing is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and by appointment Friday and Saturday. Online purchases can be made at http://justimaginepublishing.net/bookstore.html and Just IMAGINE Publishing can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.