George Kelly – after whom one of our Tracy schools is named and who was a mainstay of this community – was unmatched as a weaver of tales.
As he loved the education of children and he was proud of his service to the United States. He came to me and asked if I would edit a book he was writing; it was a collection of bits about his military career.
George was full of yarns and — by his own admission — had no little amount of Blarney. Some of that flattery he used to convince me to help him.
Even though it takes multiple staff people working in shifts at the Tracy Press to make my own stuff understandable, George wanted me to edit his book.
We set to work. The tales were warm and funny. George, having been in elementary education and serving as principal of Central School, was not a great speller but a wonderful storyteller.
It is not known where the manuscript is now. It may be it is suspended, as are fourteen of my own novels, between the secretary and the publisher at Penguin Random House.
Where have all the storytellers gone? For one place, they hold forth at the Roasted Bean.
This Tenth and B St. coffee house plays host to a large group of veterans and their friends who share tales of adventure and misadventure. It does not stop there. They do not live in the past and comment on the present and even look toward the future.
As a person who also likes to tell stories, my family has been long suffering. My daughters were instructed to raise their hand if they had heard a story before. By the time they were twenty I thought they were waving good-by every time I started to speak.
There are just a limited number of great adventures and interesting experiences that can be remembered and then shared with others.
Each anecdote reminds us of another and we build on it. One thing leads to another memory and the chronicle goes on. Sometimes the details may get muddled, but the truth always stays the same.
The men at the Roast Bean have the right to share their understanding of how life unfolded through their own narrative. It doesn’t make the stories any less worthy, nor make their friendships any less important.
Stories have a way of pulling people together. They allow others to see into our histories and experiences. They fill out our portrait.
Our stories draw people and experiences into whole cloth. They are gifts to the present and the future. We need to tell them and we need to hear them.
Thus, our memories are important and our tales are the building blocks of history. We need to listen.
"Mr. Kelly" – as so many knew him – allowed people into his past, present and future. We could identify with him in both his victories and his challenges. His humor tempered it all.
He is gone now, but his stories live on. May it be so with the tales of the Roast Bean and with all of the rest of us.
•Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4201 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.