Could everyone write one simple essay about something that once happened in Saltaire…that they saw or were a part of…and put it on one big website? Somebody should collect a lot of stories before we all forget. Otherwise it is like a line in “On The Beach” : The history of the war that now would never be written.” -(JO'H)

Friday, October 10, 2014


MAURA STARKEY BALABAN recalls how Saltairians made possible an author's GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL while Saltaire kids like MARGARET ELKIND now admit they may have given sometime-Saltairian HARPER LEE a lifetime case of writer's block:

MAURA: Here’s some Saltaire trivia I thought readers of Saltaire 38 might be interested in…
In today’s Writer’s Almanac there’s a blurb about Harper Lee, the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird. ” The Broadway composer/ Saltairian who supported Harper Lee while she wrote her book was Michael Brown and his wife Joy of Atlantic Walk.

MARGARET ELKIND (also of Atlantic Walk) confrsses:
There's a good book called “Mockingbird”, by Charles Shields, and it really goes into detail about how Lee wrote the book. She was working for an airline and trying to write and had little time to do so. Her good friends, Joy and Michael Brown (!), had her over for Christmas (where their darling children played around the tree --- think Michael Jr. and Kelly --- Addy wasn't born yet), and their gift to her was $. They told her to quit her job at the airline and write her book, and she did.

I would like to take partial credit for Harper Lee never writing a second book... (sad though I am that she never did). In "Mockingbird," Shields said that Lee went out to the Browns' house in Saltaire to work on her second book but was terribly distracted by the noise and commotion of kids running in and out. Sam (Elkind) and I were some of those kids. We were renting the house next to the Sconzo' house (owned by the Shweigerts??), and Sam and I liked to noisily tear into the Browns' house to see baby Addy.

Ed. Note: JOH writes: We all remember Harper Lee very well because she was always out on the dock fishing for snappers. I thought she liked fishing. Guess she just had to get out of the house to get away from you screaming kids. I was a day camp counselor dealing with Saltaire brats that summer, so I can assure you that nobody would have blamed Ol' Harper Lee if she had just jumped off the dock into to bay and swam back to Alabama to get away from you kids. 

Reprinted From   April 28, 2011 5:12 PM


jimmy said...

JOH writes: We all remember Harper Lee very well because she was always out on the dock fishing for snappers. I thought she liked fishing. Guess she just didn't like screaming kids.

Rob's Rules said...

Cool piece of Saltaire history -- what year was Harper Lee out in Saltaire? And does anyone know if any of To Kill A Mockinbird was influenced by her Saltaire visit

This could be some serious material for Hugh O'Brien on movie night.

Mary said...

To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960. Which means, it was certainly written before then. I myself was born in '54, which would make me six at the time the book was published. The Campbells' first summer in Saltaire was '61, so I imagine we missed Harper Lee. How old were you, Margaret, the summer she was writing it? Pretty small, I suspect.

Margaret said...

Harper Lee was out in FI the summer of '65 when I was 4. I have no memory of her, but I do remember running in and out of the Browns' house. When I read that Lee was distracted by noisy kids, I thought, oh no!

Margaret said...

Mary --- I don't know if Harper Lee was every out in FI before the publishing of To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960. I wasn't born until 1961. I was referring to her summer at the Browns' house in 1965 when I was 4. I'm your sister Jean's age. I read a book called Mockingbird by Charles Shields who said Lee was out in FI the summer of '65 and had a hard time getting work done on her second novel because of the noise and commotion of kids running in and out of the Browns' house. We rented the house across the walk from the Browns, and we were quite the noisy bunch of kids. So, I jokingly wrote to my friend Maura Starkey that we may have been the reason for Lee's writer's block! Maura thought the story was funny and posted it on this blog.

Mary said...


Thanks for the update! Didn't realize that Harper Lee was in Saltaire in '65. I thought you were Jean's age, so pre-1960 didn't make sense to me.

Now, it's all clear. I was under the impression that she was only out there when she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.

Learn something new every day.

John Wait said...

My Dad and I fished with Harper for snappers. Always in the sluiceway at the big dock. I had no idea who she was until years later when reading her book, my parents told me about her.

When we ran out of bait, we'd seine more. usually in the boat basin near the big dock. We shared our shiners with her.

I recall she asked how we cleaned snappers without a knife (if you fish, you know) and that she was a quick learner. Not at all squeamish.

Anne Correa said...

I remember seeing the movie "To Kill A Mockingbird" on movie night at the club and apparently Harper Lee was in the audience. Don't know the exact date...