James B. Osbon was a writer with a mission when he penned his new book, “Sand River,” which is set in Aiken.
“I wanted to try to explain Aiken to the people who live here and to the people who don’t live here. And I wanted to explain it from my point of view,” he said. “My hope was, at the end, that someone reading this book would say, ‘OK, I get it. I understand why I love Aiken so much.’ ”
Osbon, a native of Aiken who still lives here part-time, spoke about “Sand River” and his experiences growing up in the area during the spring general meeting of the Aiken County Historical Society on Sunday. A book signing and reception followed Osbon’s talk at the Aiken County Historical Museum.
Osbon described “Sand River” as a work of historical fiction that focuses on a period from 1948 until the present.
“The boy in the story comes to Aiken because his mother dies,” Osbon said. “The aunt he goes to live with is a historical nut and she tells him all this stuff about what Aiken is all about.”
Osbon wove his childhood memories of growing up in Aiken into the plot of “Sand River” and also included facts about the area.
“The man of the family in this book works in the hardware business,” Osbon said. “I put him in the hardware business because, believe it or not, Aiken was up to its ear in hardware stores in the 1950s.”
There were no fewer than five such stores in the downtown area and two others nearby, according to Osbon.
“I knew the man of the family was going to get fired a couple of times because he couldn’t keep his nose clean,” Osbon said, “and he needed to be able to go somewhere else to work.”
During his talk, Osbon reminisced about seeing his first television while staying in a hotel in Atlanta in 1948. Not long afterward, his father bought his own TV even though there were no television stations then in Augusta, Ga., or Columbia. Osbon’s father put an antenna for the TV on top of a pole outside his home. The contraption included a device that made the antenna turn.
“In my book I tell a story about a family on the north side of Aiken that gets a TV,” Osbon said. “Their antenna is like my father’s.”
The construction of the Savannah River Plant (now known as the Savannah River Site) in the 1950’s and the implications for the Aiken community are prominent in the plot of “Sand River.”
“The values that Aiken had before the SRS came here were good Southern values,” Osbon said. “We were worried – and I address this in my book – about what SRS was going to do to those values. But what happened, I believe, is that the SRS people who came here were smart. They looked at what Aiken was doing and they said to themselves, ‘This a pretty good little town, let’s not mess things up.’
“Slowly they merged their values with our values,” Osbon concluded, “and I think what we have today is a better town than we had before.”
Xlibris Corporation is the publisher of “Sand River.” Paperback copies of the book cost $20 apiece and hardcover editions are $30 each.