July 1998

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Penfield Blog Description

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Penfield Press will celebrate twenty years of publishing soon 1979-1999. 

Each year nearer the millennium gives pause for reflection. 

My late husband John Zug, a retired newspaper editor and publisher, and I, a photographer/journalist, named Penfield Press after my grandmother, Eva Adora Penfield Lang, whose legacy as a pioneer and teacher instilled a family love for recording events, reading books and building home libraries. In 1878, at the age of five, she journeyed by covered wagon from Wichita, Kansas to Bellingham, Washington. Her Civil War Veteran father had flipped a coin- heads to go, tails to stay-heads won out, and they went on virtually the last wagon train west. She told of being terrified all the way by stories of skirmishes and the news that Custer had recently suffered defeat in his last stand against Native Americans. Today, her great-grandchildren are variously descended from immigrant Swedes, Norwegians, Scots, Brits, and a trace of Black American and Native American ancestry. 

In her 80s, Eva left California retirement to arrive by jet to my home in Iowa. From covered wagon to jet, ahead of her time, she graduated from San Jose College and taught school on Whidbey Island, Washington, where she had to walk on a big log to cross a creek and ravine to get to the school. Her devotion to teaching and learning has been a family tradition for over 100 years. 

My great-great-grandfather was a printer for Harper & Row in New York City for a year. A Scotsman, he brought his family to America by ship in the 1850s. One of their children died during this voyage, so when they reached Ellis Island, heartsick, they could not make the trip to their farmland in Iowa. They stayed a year in New York. Some 150 years later, we, through Penfield Press, packaged two ethnic titles about Polish Americans and Italian Americans for HarperCollins in New York. Our Penfield Press titles Polish Touches: Recipes and traditions and Intriguing Italian Recipes are spin-offs of that assignment. 

In these almost 20 years, we have found great pleasure in meeting people eager to share and celebrate their heritage. As we developed books about immigrant Americans who came from Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Finland, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland, our lives were enriched by learning more about the sacrifices and struggles many endured in building America, and how their descendants lovingly continue many traditions of their ethnic heritage. 

My husband Dwayne and I share Norwegian heritage, and we have a little grandson who has a T-shirt that boasts “Made with Norwegian Parts.” The Scandinavians seem to be able to laugh at themselves and share that humor, which we have reflected in our title Joyful Nordic Humor. 

We are leaving July 31 for Seattle. From there we will visit Bellingham to see where Eva Penfield lived. Then on August 7, we fly to Alaska to photograph, see book customers, and tour by plane, train and boat. It has taken me fifty years to get there. I had planned to go with a friend in the summer of 1948, but got married, instead, to my first husband, Arthur Heusinkveld, and worked as a photographer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. A child of the Depression, I was thrilled when I was offered a job for that summer. 

Dwayne, age 68, and Joan, 69, are traveling with backpacks, camera bag, and one small roll-on suitcase. Talk about light! Dwayne has four changes of clothing and I have accused him of being “excessive” since I have only three. He tells me to add perfume! 

We will produce some articles about the experience of seeing Alaska without the plan of a regular cruise or tour. An octogenarian friend took the pricey cruise last fall, and said that almost everyone he met was in a wheelchair, so he recommended this only if you’re rich enough and can’t walk. 

WE ARE GOING WHILE WE CAN STILL MOVE IT! 

In the meantime, please call our office: 1-800-728-9998, if you need books. John Johnson, Maybelle Mays, Connie Schnoebelen, or Dorothy Crum will be of help. Please, note the Sale Books page being developed at this site. Walt Meyer will keep you posted of bargains as they become available and new specials each month. 

Have fun, we?ll be back August 21, dead tired after an all night flight from Anchorage to Chicago. 

Joan