W. Edward Crockett Courtesy photo

Local writer W. Edward Crockett is scheduled for an Author Talk at the South Portland Public Library on Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. to discuss his memoir “The Ghosts of Walter Crockett.”

The book is about “the joys of youth and love of family set on Munjoy Hill against the backdrop of poverty, uncertainty, and the ever-present specter of an alcoholic and often homeless father,” according to the library’s website.

Author Talks are a series organized by the library’s Marie Plouffe. The series has run for the past six years and features local authors. The writers visit the library and usually talk about their latest work, read from their book, talk about the creative processes, and often end with a question-and-answer session. Books are usually available for purchase at the sessions.

“I grew up in Portland on Munjoy Hill back in the 1960s and ’70s,” Crockett said. “I went to Portland area schools. I’m the youngest of eight to basically a single mom who had her own health issues. So as a result, we became what they call back in the day ‘your stereotypical products of the state.’ I mean, basically we were welfare kids. And the system wasn’t as complex or robust as it is today.”

After high school, Crockett went to the University of Maine and then to Boston College for a master’s degree in business. Eventually, he returned to Maine with his wife and they have lived in Portland ever since.

In the memoir, Crockett writes about his experiences growing up on Munjoy Hill, where he lived on Kellogg Street. The book addresses the contrast between the Portland of 1970 and of today.


“It’s things you don’t necessarily think of,” Crockett said on the differences. “The things I think of when I drive through the hill these days are ‘where’d all the kids go?’ because when I was growing up, literally, there were hundreds and hundreds of kids running around on the hill and the streets were our playground. There were no cars on the street.

“A lot of families like mine didn’t even own a car and the ones that did, you know, had one car, and tucked it into the one lane driveway. So the streets were wide open, it’s where we played ball. Now, today, you go up there, and you can’t find a parking space … it’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just different.”

The memoir focuses on Crockett’s family, in particular his father. “It’s really the story of my dad,” Crockett said. “From the time I was 2 until 19 he was a homeless alcoholic living on the streets of Portland.”

Crockett decided to start writing his father’s story in 2013. Originally, he wrote the piece as a screenplay, before deciding against it.

“I started (the screenplay) and I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing,” Crockett said. “So I put that away and I said OK, I’m going to write the story that’s in my head, in my heart, and I quickly realized that the story would be incomplete if I didn’t share my feelings and my thoughts. So it basically evolved into talking about my dad and his trials and tribulations and miraculous comeback and how I dealt with all that. You know, as a kid, into adulthood, until the end.”

The book took three and a half years to write.


“One of the amazing things is he had his last rites five times while he was on the streets those 17 years,” Crockett said of his father. “Which basically means the authorities think you’re about to die and they call a priest in to give you your last rites.”

Crockett explained the emotional process of writing the book. “It definitely was cathartic,” he said. “I didn’t realize maybe some of the memories that were buried pretty deep, you know. Especially the negative ones. Until you got it out. And it was like taking a burden off the shoulders.”

The memoir is about Crockett’s mother as well as his father. “I was very fortunate, because I didn’t have to live with the alcoholic and a lot of the negatives that come with that on a daily basis,” he said. “My mom was obviously the courageous one that kicked him out and provided us with a little more freedom from the impacts of his disease. And you know, the book in its deepest level is a tribute to my mother.”

Crockett mentioned that the things his family dealt with are incredibly common, and that many people can relate to the things that happened in his life. “A lot of times when you are reading a story like this, you can internalize and personalize a lot of what happened with your own life,” Crockett explained. He said he wrote the book in a positive way and he hopes that it can help other people feel better about their circumstances.

W. Edward Crockett’s book “The Ghosts of Walter Crockett” Courtesy photo

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