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Book benefits Spencer Library

By Rose Post

Salisbury Post

Martha Agner wasn’t planning to write a 12th book. But then she never planned to write her first book until she started tracing the genealogy of the family of her husband, the late Dr. Roy Agner, and suddenly — or maybe not so suddenly — realized she’d written a book.

And she realized that an interest in history and family genealogy can turn a nurse, whose primary career has always been wife and mother (with seven children and 23 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren), into a writer, a writer whose books get read because they’re about real people and real things those people do.

But this 12th book?

It’s about Martha and what it was like growing up in Spencer.

And The Art Station, owned by Lee Thomas and Sara Gettys, is sponsoring a book signing this week — on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. — and the books will be available for purchase.

All proceeds from sales are for the benefit of the Spencer Library’s renovation project.

The book signing also coincides with Spencer’s Christmas gathering in Park Plaza and the surrounding area.

Not that Martha planned it all that way.

It just happened through the years because she and Roy decided to move their house on Mocksville Avenue across from Rowan Regional Medical Center and next door to his office, Rowan Diagnostic Clinic, to Mahaley Avenue, and her children asked her to write a book about their homeplace that had just been moved.

After all, they’d lived there more than 30 years, and planned to spend another good part of their lives in its new location.

But she had a different idea.

Instead of writing another book about their homeplace, she says, “I thought I needed first to let them know what it was like for me growing up in Spencer.”

That suited the children, so she pulled out her pens and pencils and began just like she’d started those other 11 books and was surprised when they were finally finished.

And what a good time she had doing this one, remembering how warm and cozy the coal stove was in the kitchen in the winter when she was a little girl and how hot it was in the summer. And the fragrance of sun-dried clothes that still lingers in her memory.

And remembering that she was told when she was little that babies were brought in the doctor’s satchel.

“And I still remember, when I was 4 or 5 years old, walking down the stairs from Dr. Slate’s office and crying because he wouldn’t give me a baby out of his satchel. Mother took me to Cook’s Drugstore for an ice cream to salve my hurt.”

And what a good reception she’s getting for this new book from all kinds of people who want many of her books.

She’s enjoyed them all, but quickly admits she probably had the most fun of all writing about growing up in Spencer because that gave her back her childhood for a little while.

Since it was the story of her as a child, it started, naturally enough, with her birth announcement and moved forward.

“And one of my sisters,” she says, “said it was the story of all of us.”

And it is all of them — their parents and grandparents and the schools they went to and the parties they had and the holidays they celebrated and graduating from high school and going off to learn about nursing school in Philadelphia.

Nor could anything have been more predictable than her final paragraph.

Her road to education and adventure, she wrote, began on the railroad when she got a “pass” to ride the train to Philadelphia because her father, B.R. Withers, was a long-time employee of Southern Railway.

Now the book is finished and titled, “From Whence I Came,” and sub-titled, “Wandering Thoughts,” and it gets immediate response when someone looks at the baby picture of a tiny Martha Withers who became Martha Agner when she grew up.

And it’s taking on a life of its own with a few gentle pushes from Martha.

She’s placed 100 of the 500 books that have been printed in The Art Station on Salisbury Avenue in Spencer so anybody who wants to read about the first 17 years of her life and about Spencer can for $15.

But it’s not just about Martha because her memories of growing up are like the lives of all railroad children half a century ago.

She has also given 100 copies of “From Whence I Came” to the Spencer Library’s renovation fund. And all the money from their sale will help the library’s sorely needed renovation.

The books donated to the library are in memory of her husband, the late Dr. Roy A. Agner Jr., whose thirst for knowledge and love of books began early and lasted a lifetime.

As a child, she says, he read the whole Lincoln Library, the equivalent of a modern encyclopedia.

“And it’s my hope that other children and adults will enjoy the benefits of the proposed updated library housed in the historic Spencer School building.”

Dr. Agner graduated from there in 1941 and she in 1942 from Spencer High School.

Laura Brandt is chairman of the Spencer Library renovation committee. Lisa Perdue at Spencer Town Hall is responsible for the library account from the sale of the books, and the Art Station at 514 S. Salisbury Ave., Spencer, is the sole distributor.

“In order to make my children aware of the influences in my life that made me the adult that I became, I needed to write the story of my growing up in Spencer,” she says. “Family relationships, neighborhood children and games, religious experiences, visits to grandparents in Danville, Va., medical treatments, knowledge and sometimes lack of medical knowledge, Christmas celebrations and ‘the Park’ are some of the subjects touched on in the book.”

And there are many pictures.

“The old part of the park is now a shopping center named Park Plaza that has recently undergone a transformation delightful to behold,” she says. “When I recently visited the historic remains of Spencer School — grades one through 11 — now Spencer Library, I discovered a beautiful and spacious new park with a gazebo instead of the old goldfish pond in the center.”

The park is adjacent to Spencer Library which is to be renovated when funds are available to support the project. The architectural drawings of the proposed library renovation will also be on display at the Art station.

And Lee Thomas will never forget what she overheard from a customer browsing through a copy of Martha’s book, “From Whence I Came,” and turned to her friend.

“You’ve got to read this book!” she said.

“And nothing,” Lee Thomas told Martha, “could have made me happier.”

She wants everyone to buy — and read — a copy.

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com. & lt;i/ & gt;

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