New Madera history book brings surprises

For The Madera Tribune Madera Sketchbook by author Lawrence F. Lihosit.


History comes in all shapes and sizes, and they all appeal to me. I particularly enjoy the four or five standard histories of Fresno and Madera County. I say standard because they all follow a similar chronological format.

Last week, however, I was introduced to a work of history that is truly unique. It is entitled, “Madera Sketchbook,” and the author is Lawrence F. Lihosit.

When I first saw the book, I was taken aback. It had over 120 scenes from all over Madera, but there were no photographs. It consisted exclusively of drawings, each with a cutline.

Lihosit apparently had roamed Madera and its environs looking for scenes that he could make come alive. He moved from the country to the city with ease as he drew harvest time on Avenue 12, Lee’s Concrete on Pine Street, and Starbucks on Avenue 16.

He has kids playing at James Monroe School and a taco wagon on D Street. He has even caught my friend Wayne Boren playing his guitar at Country Waffles.

Lihosit’s work has added a brand new dimension of interpreting Madera’s past to our local collections. He has captured us as we were at the dawn of the twenty-first century. As he says, “This book is a simple statement about what Madera, California momentarily looked like.”

“Madera Sketchbook” struck me so forcefully that I had to find out more about its author. Who was this man who came here and drew our town?

Well, one thing is for sure, he is not a novice. This is his 12th book, and each of them has fascinating titles. “Jesus was Arrested in Mexico City and missed the Wedding” is one that has certainly piqued my interest. I hope it is still in print.

Lawrence Lihosit was born in Chicago in 1951, where he started school. At the age of 12, his family moved to Arizona where he completed grammar school, high school, and undergraduate studies at Arizona State University. Later he completed coursework for a Masters degree in Urban planning at la Universidad Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City.

He has studied creative writing, drawing, painting and etching at Skyline College in San Bruno and earned a teaching credential from Fresno State. Before retiring, he was an urban planner in Alaska, Arizona, California, Honduras, and Mexico.

Lihosit has been described as a travel writer, and his books bear this out. His “Slackers Confession: Essays and Sketches” includes about 150 ink drawings depicting places and people all over Latin America, North America, and Central and South America.

His travels have taken him from the salmon spawning Nushagak River Basin in Alaska to the fertile Argentine Pampas.

Lihosit’s artistic talent is accompanied by a pleasant sense of humor. When asked how he determined what scenes in Madera to draw, he responded, “It was done with an ancient, secret code only known to artists.”

Likewise, when asked which of his books is his favorite, Lihosit claimed it was the “next one.”

Lihosit and his family moved to Madera in 1995. After earning his teaching credential, he worked in local schools as a substitute for 2 1/2 years. Since then he as donated a considerable number of hours volunteering at James Monroe School.

Lihosit considers Madera Sketchbook to be a time capsule of sorts for the next generation. The book has been reduced in price to $9.99. It is available at Madera Mail Drop, 1625 Howard Road and on-line through books. Copies will also be available at the Madera County Library for Authors’ Day on April 28th (Saturday) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Why not come on out and meet our latest local author?