As a boy sitting at the feet of his grandmother, listening to her and her sister tell stories of their childhood in Porterdale, Nathan Hipps found himself transported to a different time - a time when to come down with the measles likely spelled death and families were torn apart from the disease.
The stories of Hipps' grandmother and great-aunt form the plot of Hipps' novel "Remembrance."
The book details their survival of a 1905 epidemic of measles, which swept through Porterdale, and the aftermath of their father's death from the illness and their subsequent move with their mother to her parents home and her eventual marriage to their uncle.
"My grandmother and her sister are the ones that I got really most of the information from," said Hipps who will be giving a public reading from his book Tuesday at the Newton County Library. "I've always been interested in history. When they would sit on the front porch and recount the history of their lives it was just fascinating to me."
Published by Cypress Publications in 2006, "Remembrance" traces the lives of Hipps ancestors in Porterdale after the 1905 death of his great-grandfather Luther Smith from measles, to Hipps' great-grandmother Leola's decision to move in with her estranged parents in order to support her two young daughters, to her eventual marriage to Luther's brother, John Smith and their subsequent move to Fitzgerald in Ben Hill County.
"She married her deceased husband's brother because his wife had died shortly after giving birth," said Hipps. "Back then it was just a marriage of convenience he needed a wife for his five kids. She basically had to what she had to survive and for her daughters to survive.
"There were some definitely growing pains," said Hipps of the blending of the two families. "There was a difference in personalities between the two families."
In addition to his conversations with his grandmother and great-aunt, Hipps researched his book by traveling to Covington to look up old copies of The News on microfilm at the Newton County Library where he was able to find his great-grandfather Luther's obituary and learn more about the measles epidemic.
Tuesday's book reading at the library will begin at 7 p.m. Hipps will be signing copies of "Remembrance" and taking questions from the audience about his writing. Several family heirlooms, including his great-grandmother Leola's autograph book will also be on display.
A native of Fitzgerald, Hipps was raised in Tallahassee, Fla. where he graduated from Florida State University with a degree in communications and creative writing.
Hipps currently works for WFSU-TV, the PBS affiliate in Tallahassee and has just completed his second novel.