By Brenda L. Holmes
Reann Lydick Poray never thought she would be a published author but that all changed when she committed to writing about her hometown of Plainfield.
The book, entitled Plainfield, is a pictorial history book that is now part of the Arcadia Publishing series “Images of America.”
“It seemed like a natural fit — local history is what I love working with every day and I thought this project was right up my alley,” Poray said.
The book will be available Oct. 22 and will retail for $21.99. It’s a 128-page softcover book filled with historic photographs of Plainfield taken throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
Poray has worked as a historical and genealogy librarian for 21 years. She’s a Plainfield High School graduate and holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from Taylor University and a master’s of library science from Indiana University.
She worked at the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington for 10 years, moving back home to Plainfield when she and her husband, John, began their family.
“I was commuting to Bloomington every day,” Poray said. “I loved it there and still do, but when this job came open, I had to come back here.”
She’s now an integral member of the staff at the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library. Poray serves as the manager of the Indiana Room.
The book project idea came from an e-mail originally sent to the Danville Public Library. Arcadia Publishing had started the Images of America series and was spreading the word to libraries all over the country.
“I thought it was a great idea and thought it would be really cool to do one on Plainfield,” she said.
The process included submitting a proposal and committing to having the project done during a set time period.
Poray went to the library director at the time, Edra Waterman, to see if she thought it would be a project the library would support. After receiving her blessing, she began working on the book in her off-hours, researching the photographs in the library’s collection.
“We have all these terrific photos so when I would clock out I would just stick around looking at different files and photos,” she said. “I would make copies and take them home. I even commandeered our dining room table for much of the work.”
She said her husband was very supportive and would often lend a helping hand.
“I’d say ‘hey, come look at this one!’ and he’d stop what he was doing and come take a look at whatever photo I was considering,” she said.
Her parents, Bob and Judy Lydick, also helped with the “leg work” during the project.
“My mom came to the library and went through some of the old Plainfield Messenger newspapers looking for one specific thing for me,” Poray said. “I also called my dad any time I needed to get a target date for any photo that had an old car in it. He’s terrific on dating cars. I really appreciated their help.”
The book’s chapters include Early Plainfield, Downtown Plainfield, School Time, Religious Life, Business, Above Plainfield, Transportation, Fun Times, Indiana Boys’ School, and Around Town.
“We really have a neat Boys’ School collection from the 1930s and ‘40s,” she said. “They’re from when it was really a teaching and reform school. We also have a lot of great aerial photos. I thought it would be fun for people to see those.”
One of her many favorite photos is in the business section. It’s a photo of Bill Strafford and his then 2-year-old son, Bill Strafford Jr., in front of the Strafford’s Pharmacy vehicle.
“I have so many favorites,” she said. “But I just love this one.”
The cover photo is of children from Plainfield elementary schools, all dress up for the play “March of the Tin Soldiers.” The group was ready for dress rehearsal in their matching white soldier costumes. It was taken in front of the John C. Reeder house at the corner of East Main and Wabash streets some time in the early 1920s.
Poray dedicated the book to Susan Miller Carter, a long-time employee of the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library. Carter died in 2009.
“She was a great lover of local history and made the Indiana Room what it is today — a robust archive of Plainfield’s history,” Poray said. “She inspired the love of local history to all who knew her. I think she would have been pleased with this book.”
Locally, the book will be available at Barnes and Noble at Metropolis in Plainfield. It may also be ordered through Amazon or Arcadia Publishing.
“It’s nice to be able to conjure up memories, reminisce, and recall what the community was like in earlier days,” Poray said. “My hope is that folks will open the book, look at the pictures, and say, ‘Oh, I remember that!’”