Sonny has some stories he’d like to tell
SALISBURY — The first thing remarkable about Sonny Allen is his smile. It’s warm and slightly mischievous. There’s a twinkle in his eye. He looks at you as if waiting to tell you a story.
Sonny has plenty of funny stories — collected over 82 years, and he decided to write some of them for a book, “The Paper Boy.”
One story is how he almost came to blows over the title of his book. “I think it should be paperboy, one word.” It doesn’t matter — because the book is full of mostly funny stories about an interesting band of characters in a small town in North Carolina during World War II.
Albert Jr. is the paperboy or paper boy, and the stories in the book are all connected through him, though it’s not exactly a novel.
Sonny says he had great ideas for stories about people he’d met and imagined, but he needed some way to relate them. That’s how Albert Jr. (most people call him AbbertJr.) came into being. As the paperboy, he passes by the whole town of Bodenheimer, N.C., based on Sonny’s hometown of Clemmons.
AbbertJr. can hang out at the community store, Wellman’s, where the ladies gossip. He is a Royal Ambassador at the local Baptist Church. He delivers to the massive Puckett Farm with its families spread over the land.
He shares his stories with his friends of all ages. But, since this is a book of stories, he’s telling the reader about PoreMama and Fat Dad and Hub and Stella and the old black lady, Mozelle Scott, who says she was born in 1864.
Sonny has photos of PoreMama and Fat Dad in his office, along with their son Calvin and his fast Ford. Calvin never worked a day in his life. PoreMama is seen with a Sunday hat, an apron and heeled shoes slopping the pigs, tending to the chickens. Fat Dad looks for all the world like Oliver Hardy from Laurel and Hardy. “That’s my grandmother and grandfather and my uncle,” Sonny admits with a wink and another smile.
What about the other folk in the books? Almost all real names, though not in their original order. And there’s dozens and dozens of them.
Sonny, who saw a successful career as a mortgage broker go belly up when the housing market went bust, had an ingenious way of advertising.
He found that he did really well with radio advertisements, which ran in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and beyond. “I used to tell stories in those radio bits,” Sonny says. “I must have told thousands of them. I always scribbled down what the story was going to be.” It lead people to call in with their own stories. “I was a hit,” he says. “The radio stations loved me.” They sent Sonny and Janie, his wife of 60 years to New Orleans, Spain, northern Africa as rewards.
In school, Sonny, like AbbertJr., liked hearing stories and reading stories and telling stories. With that grin, it’s a good bet that he told some good ones in his younger years.
When he started thinking about sharing stories, he’d jot down ideas wherever he was and whenever they came to him. “Sometimes in church,” he says.
Sonny grew up in Davidson County and there was a huge farm there, like Puckett Farms. He has been to the farm and the big house there. He met the woman Mozelle Scott is based on in a hospital.
But most of the stories “came out of a blank mind, an idle mind,” Sonny says. There was never a time “when I said I’m going to start a book.” He started on a given story and one thing reminded him of another and another and he remembered the boys and girls he knew in school. AbbertJr.’s friend Robah, who they call Rober, is based on a childhood friend. Sonny remembers camping out next to a muddy creek as “a great part of my childhood.” The creek was a great place for boys to hang out.
Sonny doesn’t care for television, so he would sit at his computer in the evenings and write until he finished following the trail of one thing that leads to another. “It was compelling. I couldn’t quit.”
He wants the book to be more than something family and friends buy. As a former Salisbury mayor, he’s got something of a built-in audience. But Sonny wants to take it all around the Piedmont. He’s going to contact Dwight Sparks, editor/publisher of the Davie County Enterprise and Clemmons Courier, because one of the stories is about a German prisoner of war — and Sparks’ father had one of those prisoners working on his farm.
He wants to do readings and signings in Winston-Salem and Charlotte. “I want people to read it,” he says with a smile.
“I’ve never enjoyed anything anymore than this.”
SonnyAllen will read from and sign “The Paper Boy” at Literary Bookpost on Friday, Nov. 8, starting at 5 p.m. Cost of the paperback book is $19.95. It is also available online.