This book received three five star ratings at Goodread's
ISBN 0-984205-1-3, $28.00
(softcover, 248 pages, illustrated, 6x9")
Point Reyes Cypress Press, Point Reyes, CA
There are second acts in American lives — and the letters of Moses Perry Johnson prove it.
Perry, as he liked to be called, was a successful St. Louis businessman, a manufacturer of steam machinery, who, at the age of 54, left his large family, his business, and the mansion that he had built to make a new life in the far west, promising to send for his mistress, Cynthia, a red-headed, Gibson-Girl cabaret singer, when he could.
For more than fifteen years Perry’s letters to his eldest daughter, Lucy, chronicled his adventures in vivid detail, bringing to life the times, the people and the places he lived among. The early letters in this illustrated volume describe how he survived, almost penniless, in a Washington lumber camp, exposed to the dangers of dynamite extraction of lumber, and how he struggled mightily to get a better job, visiting (and admiring) Vancouver in his search. In San Francisco, he found work as paymaster for the Panama Pacific Exposition, doling out the payroll in gold coins drawn from Wells Fargo. When this job ended, Perry was happy to get the job of accountant for the largest hotel in the new National Park of Yosemite, working seven days a week, twelve hours a day. When the hotel closed, he went to work at a hydroelectric dam, spending his last years on the far reaches of the Merced River, fending off rattlesnakes and bears from the log cabin he shared with Cynthia, and receiving occasional family visitors.
Anne Dick’s introduction takes us back to the early years of Perry Johnson’s life when he sold dry goods and steam farm machinery to the Indians in Oklahoma Territory once trying to collect a debt from a rich Indian with six deadly notches on his pistol. In an afterword, Anne Dick presents circumstances connected with Perry Johnson, his steam machinery business, his family, and life in St. Louis at the turn of the last century.
In an age before telephone, automobiles and planes, before internet and smart phones, Perry Johnson’s letters bring to life an America that has long since passed into history.