Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
The Madera Tribune freelance photographer Benny Munoz, left, and publisher/editor Chuck Doud hold copies of Larry Lihosit’s 16th book, “Neighbors: Oral History from Madera, California Volmue 2.” Both Munoz and Doud were featured subjects in Lihosit’s book.
For his 16th book, Madera author Lawrence Lihosit wanted to focus on residents of the town he has set roots in for the past 25 years.
Lihosit’s “Neighbors: Oral History from Madera, California, Volume 2” concentrates on interviews from a variety of residents to give a glimpse of their interesting past and insights into their thoughts.
“It’s not scientific about who I chose,” he said. “Some of the people I knew because I’ve lived here for 25 years. Some were recommended to me. Some were friends and some were acquaintances. For example, I worked out in the same gym for 25 years, I know that person is an immigrant. I work out with him and we talk. I approached him and told him I was writing a book and see if he was interested in being interviewed. Sometimes, talking with these people, especially my friends who I’ve known for a while, made my jaw drop. There were all kinds of stuff I didn’t know about them.”
Lihosit feels a sense of gratitude to the City of Madera and this is his way of paying it back.
“My wife and I are really appreciated that we had the opportunity to move here and raise our kids here,” he said. “They had an excellent upbringing in Madera. We’re happy with how it turned out. I’m not a rich man. One way I could pay back would be to offer a piece of history of Madera.”
Although “Neighbors” is his 16th book, Lihosit says the publishing and writing process hasn’t gotten easier.
“It never gets easier,” he said. “After every book, I tell my editor never again. He laughs at me. I’ve been saying this for 25 years to him.”
The range of subjects in “Neighbors” is vast, from a restaurateur (Mo Platt) to a newspaper publisher (Chuck Doud) to a former director of the Madera County Redevelopment Agency (Jim Taubert) to a current Madera City Councilman (Cece Gallegos).
Lihosit even made the photographer of the cover photo one of his subjects — Benny Munoz, a freelance photographer for The Madera Tribune and former Madera Police officer. Lihosit and Munoz chose the Madera Babe Ruth All-Star team from 2005 for the cover photo.
“I contacted Benny Munoz for the photo for the cover,” Lihosit said. “I gave him an idea. For the first one, I wanted the marching band from Madera and it featured a Hispanic. This one, I wanted a baseball team. It would be preferred if it had Madera on the uniform. I wanted to make sure there was a mix of kids. I didn’t care which year. The first one had a female playing the sax. This one has males. The next one will be a young woman running a race and you can see her jersey or a female playing soccer.”
The subject of the first chapter, Norman Bolex, was one that was recommended to Lihosit.
“Bolex was one of the people recommended to me by a friend of his,” he said. “I approached him and he said sure. He was a very honest man. He recommended another person — MoJo Platt. My son knows her. He worked with her at the Vineyard. I approached her and she was generous with her time. She was very impressive.”
Lihosit asked for about an hour of the subject’s time and just let the talk about what they wanted to talk about.
“Some of them get pooped after some time,” he said. “Some went over, but some kept going. It depends on how fast a person talks and how much they digress. Some will talk and take a detour and talk about something else. That gets edited out, obviously. When you read the book, some will be shorter than the others.”
Although the book has barely hit the market at Amazon.com, Lihosit is already working on Volume 3 to “Neighbors.”
“Volume 3 will have a little different twist,” he said. “I wanted to put a little more emphasis on volunteer organizations. Volunteer associations are the soul of America. It creates a sense of community in the United States. I am putting a list together of organizations in town. I was going to contact them and find out who has been a member for a long time.”
Volume 1 of “Neighbors” can be found at Mail Drop, GBS Hardware, The Vineyard and San Joaquin Winery and on Amazon.com. Volume 2 should be out by next week, and Lihosit already has pre-orders for Mail Drop and GBS.
“If you punch in the title or my name, my books will come up,” he said. “I’m expecting my shipment of books soon. Everybody that participates, I promise them a free copy of the book. If they want to buy more, I will give them a discount. My homework, once the book arrives, is to deliver the book to their house. I’ll spend three days driving around town with a backpack of books to give the subjects to thank them. I have a team of people who have been involved. I went to Office Depot and Mail Drop to help me format the cover. With the format inside the book, I did that. I did the maps. It’s really cool to do.”
Now that Lihosit has the finished product in hand, he is proud of what he was able to accomplish and is encouraged to keep writing.
“I’m very happy with the way it turned out,” he said. “It’s a very interesting portrait of our community with all these different stories. I tried to give complementary information in the appendix to flush out who are we. In Volume 1, it was a chronology, it went from 1872-present. It talked about a lot of things, when building went up, when there was a drought, grapes were hit with pests. There are all kinds of interesting stuff I put in one chronology. When talking about Madera County, there are about eight really good books about the history of Madera County. They are done very professionally. When talking about the City of Madera, only Bill Coate has a book. There is no other published book. I am kind of filling a little bit of void. He is concentrating from 1880-1950. Mine, since I’m doing interviews with living people, is from 1950-present.”
Now that book No. 16 is finished and he is starting Book 17, Lihosit never would have thought he would have been an author.
“I was out of the country for five years,” he said. “I was in the Peace Corps in Honduras and went to Mexico to work on a master’s. I really wanted to write. When I came home, I started to write a novel when I was 30. I wrote about 220 pages. I put it away and then looked at it a month later and realized it was the worst novel I ever read. I knew I needed to learn how to write. I enrolled in a junior college and started taking course. That was in 1981. It was a long time ago. It’s been a really long process. In the beginning, I wanted to write a novel. It’s not a very good venue for me. I had a couple I wrote, but threw them in the garbage. I wrote a couple of short story books. I find fiction a lot harder to write than non-fiction.”