[Book Cover]

Looking for the Lights
& the Music

An American Family's Odyssey During
the Great Depression and World War II

A book by Joanne Rains

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"I've been reading your book this week and can hardly put it down. You write so clearly, honestly, and with such humor that I can't stop reading."

"Your book is much better than lots of bestsellers that I have read."

"You're in elite company: I kept thinking of Willie Morris, Russell Baker and Frank McCourt. What have they got that you don't have? It made me laugh, tugged at my heartstrings..."

"Your insights into your family give the reader a real understanding of the American Family."

"The book is a page turner. I could not stop reading. I stayed up late and got up early just to finish it."

[Ampersand] Synopsis

[Ampersand]  Photos

[Ampersand] Excerpts

[Ampersand] Table of Contents

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[Ampersand] About The Author

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     Looking for the Lights & the Music is the compelling true story of the adventures and mishaps of an American family struggling with the challenges and deprivations of the Great Depression, the upheavals of World War II, and the sadness of one family member's mental illness. With affection and humor, the author recounts the trials and exhilarating moments she and her brother, Volney Pohlman, experienced during their growing-up years.

     In this poignant memoir, Joanne Rains tells of a family forced to move constantly, living a new and different life in each location. Flood, drought, unexpected freezes, and finally the collapse of the price of wheat, drove them from their small Missouri farm to the urban environment of St. Louis. Their next move, to New Jersey, made them caretakers of a wild animal farm until Thelma, the children's mother, returned to Normal, Illinois, to complete her education. After a failure as tenant farmers in Illinois, they finally returned to St. Louis, where the Saint Louis Zoo was one of their everyday haunts.

     Among the colorful characters in this book is the author's uncle, Volney Phifer, a wild animal trapper and trainer who trained Leo, the MGM lion, and took him on world tour. Leo is just one of many animals featured in the book, including a baby lion named Trader Horn, a gentle zebra, a baby chimpanzee, and the monkey who terrorized a St. Louis neighborhood.


Click on photo to view enlargement and caption
[Thelma and Volney Pohlman] [Volney Phifer and Leo]
[Joanne Pohlman with Horse] [Bill Pohlman]


     "We look like a bunch of down-and-out Okies," Volney whispered to me.
      "No, we look like we're from Missouri," I whispered back. "We look the way people think Missourians look." I had already been called a Missouri hick and an Okie by kids on the school playground.
     And now here we were, horse and wagon and cow, plodding slowly along looking just like a bunch of Missouri hicks.

     A few weeks later there was no snack when we returned home. Instead Thelma was cuddling a forlorn little big eyed creature all wrapped up in a blanket. The baby chimpanzee had almost no hair and was covered with scabs. She was so tiny, about the size of a two-month-old human, and so thin, just skin and bones. She appeared-to be all eyes, all very sad eyes.

     When Bill came striding into the Visitors Room, he seemed the same as usual. Except that he smoked. He smoked constantly. We talked. He described the hospital routine. And then he said, "Well, Joanne, I guess we have to say now that now I am just one of the nuts in the nuthouse."
     "Of course, you're not. You're not nuts at all."
     "Then what am I doing here?"
     "You won't be here long."

     Just for the record the date that changed my life was January 4, 1947, I wrote in a letter home:

     "We went downtown today. I bought a pair of boots. I can't afford to, but Rosemary and Ruth persuaded me that I couldn't afford not to. We have about six inches of snow on the ground, and the temperature this morning was 12 degrees below zero. It is slightly warmer inside. When I bought my boots, a nice fellow waited on me. He goes to the University — wants to be an engineer. He said he was going to call me. I hope he does."

[Ampersand]Table of Contents

1.     Two Christmases 1
2.     The Dance 20
3.     Thelma Phifer 36
4.     Young William Pohlman Becomes "Wild Bill" 66
5.     The Newlyweds 83
6.     The Farm 96
7.     The Farm — Death and Dreams 116
8.     The Wolf Prowls and the City Waits 141
9.     Friends 162
10.     Goodbye to Pine Lawn 188
11.     We Go East to Beat the Depression 213
12.     Missourians in New Jersey 223
13.     New Jersey — The Wild Animal Farm 249
14.     We Elect a President and Lose a Fight 273
15.     College Town 294
16.     Where Can We Go? How Can We Live? 319
17.     Tenant Farmers 353
18.    "That Year on Myrtle" 371
19.     The Upstairs Flat 410
20.     Letters from Billy 429
21.     War Abroad — World War II 441
22.     War At Home — The Divorce 458
23.     All Good Things Are Possible 475
24.     Columbia, Missouri and Points East and West 497
25.     Troubles Piled on Troubles 527
26.     Mental Illness 541
27.     In Sickness and in Health, Love Forever 559
   Epilogue: Life Goes On

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     Looking for the Lights & the Music

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[Ampersand]About The Author

[Photo of Author]
     Joanne Rains graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. While in Columbia she met her husband, Ewell Rains, who was a student of engineering. The couple moved to St. Louis, where she took evening classes at Washington University. After a transfer to Cincinnati, Ohio, and the birth of three children, Mrs. Rains continued her education with graduate work at the University of Cincinnati. She taught for many years at the CAS college of the University of Cincinnati, where she achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Psychology. She retired from the University as Professor Emerita.

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Comments or questions may be e-mailed directly to the author.

     Looking for the Lights & the Music
was published by

Over The Transom Publishing Company
9 N. Church Street
Fairhope, Alabama 36532
E-mail:   letters@overthetransom.com
Web site:   www.overthetransom.com

Looking for the Lights & the Music, Copyright 2002 by Joanne K. Rains
All Rights Reserved

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