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March's Book
When Cuba Conquered Kentucky
by Marianne Walker
Host Bill Goodman interviewed When Cuba Conquered Kentucky author Marianne Walker.

Bill:
Marianne Walker the author of When Cuba Conquered Kentucky and it's good to talk to you this afternoon.

Marianne:
Thank you

Bill:
Tell us where this story came from and how did you first discover the story and go about writing it.

Marianne:
The idea for this story came from a friend of mine about ten or eleven years ago. I was teaching at the college, but I was doing some free-lance writing when Pam Thomas, a friend of mine, a fellow English teacher, suggested that my next article ought to be about her husband's high school basketball team that won the state tournament in 1952. I thought her suggestion was odd because neither one of us was really interested in sports. At that time though, she was married to Howard Crittenden, one of the two star players on the Cuba team. She had heard much about the fantastic little team and about Howard's childhood. But her suggestion did not really interest me because by that time I had begun research for a biography of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.

Bill:
Uh Huh.

Marianne:
As a courtesy to her, I agreed to look into the matter though. However, after listening to Howard and his teammate Charles "Doodle" Floyd talk about their childhood, their experiences playing basketball for Coach Jack Story, and about how they loved to imitate the Harlem Globetrotters, I knew that Pam was right. Their history was a good one that needed to be recorded.

Bill:
Now you were in Henderson at the time doing what and what had you written?

Marianne:
I was teaching at Henderson Community College and had written only a few articles by then. I got a late start in writing. At that time the Louisville Courier Journal published a large, lovely Sunday magazine with color photographs. Do you remember it?

Bill:
Oh yes.

Marianne:
The first piece I ever had published was in the Louisville Courier Journal Sunday Magazine. It was also the first piece that I had ever submitted to any publication. Mr. James S. Pope, a kind and erudite gentleman, was the editor of the Magazine then, but I did not know him. When he accepted this piece that I had written about Henry David Thoreau, I was thrilled. That acceptance gave me confidence, and I will always appreciate Mr. Pope for giving me my start, so to speak.

I went on to write several articles for the Magazine. I did an interview with Bobbie Ann Mason, a writer I admire greatly, an article about Margaret Mitchell and John Marsh, one about breast cancer, and a couple of others. Meanwhile I did a review of a book about Lidian Jackson Emerson, wife of Ralph Waldo Emerson, for the New York Times Book Review. I have always been interested in the American transcendentalists -- those New England writers Thoreau, Emerson, and Alcott, but especially Thoreau. I also wrote an article for the Thoreau Society Quarterly: The Concord Saunterner.

I had not really done much writing. I didn't have time. I was teaching full time and too I had many obligations at home. Not ever having much "spare" time to write, I always write about subjects that truly interests me.

Bill:
Let me ask you another question about your earlier writing and your research and your writing on Henry David Thoreau. That's not mentioned in the book jacket so that might be of some interest to some people.

Marianne:
Uh huh.

Bill:
Tell us a little bit about that.

Marianne:
Well I don't know what to tell you except that I have always loved reading Thoreau's works. Years ago, I was fortunate to have as my teacher a Thoreau scholar. I took two graduate summer seminars on Thoreau. The seminars were held in Concord, Massachusetts, the home of the American Transcendentalists. A professor from New York State University, Dr. Walter Harding, a renown Thoreau/Emerson scholar, taught the seminars. Dr. Harding wrote the definitive biography of Thoreau and many, many articles. He was also a marvelous teacher and made those writers come alive for me and for all the other students in his class.

Bill:
So you interviewed Howard and did you start immediately on the research?

Marianne:
I did enough to write an article for the LCJ Sunday Magazine. In fact, it was the folks there at the Magazine who thought of that wonderful title WHEN CUBA CONQUERED KENTUCKY. I get lots of comments about that title. The article appeared in the February 1989 issue, and it drew a wonderful response from readers. I personally received many letters and I think the Magazine got a few too. However, I knew I had not told Cuba's whole story and planned to get back to it someday. But, as I said earlier, at that time I was busy with research for a biography of Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.

Bill:
Besides the piece that appeared in 1989 that I guess is some 30 almost 40 years since they won the championship. To your knowledge was anything else written about them or about their championship until you wrote the piece in 1989?

Marianne:
Bobbie Ann Mason wrote about them in one of her short stories that look back on her school days. She is younger than they are, but she grew up in the same area. She went to the same school and, of course, remembered them well. But, in that story, she does not go in depth about their experiences. It is more about her looking back to those times. Like all of her work, it makes for good reading.

Bill:
You are a native of Louisiana, but you have been in Kentucky for several years.

Marianne:
Yes, I was born and reared in Monroe, Louisiana. I still have family in Louisiana. But I have been in Kentucky for a long time. I married Ulvester Walker from Henderson. We met and married while we were in college in New Orleans. He went to Tulane, undergraduate and law school, and I went to St. Mary's Dominican College. After we received our degrees, we moved to Henderson where we made our home and he started his law practice. He went onto serve as city attorney, county attorney, and then for sixteen years as Commonwealth Attorney.

Bill:
When you first got to Kentucky and started writing and thought about being a writer what Kentucky writers did you read at that time and and who do you admire today?

Marianne:
Well, as I said earlier, I didn't start writing until late in life, until after all my four children were practically grown.

Bill:
But I think that's an interesting aspect of your writing life -- that you did start late and that you were in a different area of writing articles about uh relatively unknown philosophers and educators and then this book comes along. Did you ever think of another Kentucky writer or somebody that you read that you were trying to emulate in some way?

Marianne:
No, not really, but I certainly do admire many Kentucky writers.

Bill:
What are you working on now?

Marianne:
Well, I am working on something about Margaret Mitchell again.

Bill:
Hmmm. Could you tell us a little bit about that.

Marianne:
I'd rather not. I'm just at the research and drafting stage.

Bill:
So you have left Cuba behind. Let me ask you as a final question if you could just talk a little bit about Howard and Doodle and the other players and what they are doing today and how comfortable they were talking about this and what a thrill it was for them to once again tell this basketball story?

Marianne:
They are all semi-retired now and spend a lot time playing golf and swimming. Yes, they are thrilled with the book and have had a lot fun getting together again going to signings with me on several occasions. At some of these signings, men who played on opposing teams have come to see them. I have watched some wonderful reunions. They also have done interviews. Howard and I were interviewed by Jack Pattie on his popular radio program in Lexington and also by Ron Boone, for his wonderful radio program which covers the Elizabethtown area. Last February, Tom Goldman on National Public Radio "Weekend Edition," interviewed Doodle and Howard. However, I do believe that the Cuba Cubs' greatest thrill, though, was being introduced at half time at the Kentucky-Georgia game in Rupp Arena last February. Yes, I'd say they have thoroughly enjoyed the experiences they have had since the book was released.

Bill:
Do you still communicate with them?

Marianne:
Yes

Bill:
Well Marianne Walker thank you so much for talking with us on the bookclub@ket.

Marianne:
Thank you.

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Last Updated:  Thursday, 08-Jan-2009 13:20:31 EST