html 4.0 transitional//en"> 1899 was a very good year!

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1899 was a very good year!

A lot of water has gone under, around and even over the bridge since my father was born one hundred years ago this month.

History doesn't note small town barbers' births but in that same year of 1899 two great writers worth noting were born. The Englishman Noel Coward, composer and actor as well as author, came into the world. My only claim to fame here is having stayed in the same Shanghai hotel room Noel Coward used to write his play "Separate Tables."

I feel much closer to the other great writer born in 1899. He was the Chinese known as Lao She. He spelled his name in English as Lau Shaw which is easier to pronounce. My book on his life and work, Lao She, Master Storyteller, was published this month by the Tao Foundation. Lao She has been called the Mark Twain of China. Others see him as the Charles Dickens of China. Either way he wrote about what he knew: the poverty and injustice heaped upon the ordinary people.

Hopefully the book will be in Brownwood bookstores soon. Until then it can be ordered by mail from The Tao Foundation, 74 Cottonwood, Waco, Texas 76706. The book is $20. and $3. for postage and handling. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to the non-profit Tao Foundation.

The book is a part of the celebration of the centenary of Lao She's birth, culminating in a two-day Lao She Symposium October 28-29 on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Lao She's son and daughter will be featured speakers as well as scholars from Stanford, Rutgers, Princeton and the University of Michigan. For more information on the book and the symposium see the Internet site WWW.LAOTAO.ORG

Now with the commercial over I can get back to the dearest one to me of those born a hundred years ago, my dad, Britt Edward Towery, Sr. He was born near Clarksville in Red River County, not far from the Red River. He was the fifth of seven boys and two girls born to poor but honest dirt farmers. His father was from Mississippi and his mother born in Texas but of Tennessee and Virginia stock.

When dad was five or so the family moved to Zephyr and then to Brownwood. When he wasn't in the cotton fields or his mother's garden he worked as a journeyman stonecutter. With no opportunity for high school he began barbering at the age of seventeen. I have a two-inch piece of marble, half an inch thick, formed like a book with "B.T." carved on it. He never talked much about it but I can't help wondering if may be there are some gravestones out at Greenleaf Cemetery that might be his handiwork. (July 30, 1999)

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