Echoes of Three Rivers: Landmarks and Lore
$22.50, paperback, 364 pages
by Earl A. McKee Jr. and Gaynor B. McKee with Carol Nadine McGrew
(2017, Kaweah Echoes Press)
Available at Three Rivers Historical Museum and online
There is only one reason that someone should endure the painstaking process of writing a great book — they have something important to say. Even a cursory look through Echoes of Three Rivers: Landmarks and Lore, the reader cannot help but realize that Earl and Gaynor McKee, along with Carol McGrew, an Alles descendant, have something important to say.
This recently published book is the most comprehensive work ever produced documenting the people, places, and events of Three Rivers and Kaweah Country.
On Sunday, Aug. 20, from 1 to 4 p.m., the authors, Earl and Gaynor McKee, lifetime residents of Three Rivers, will be the guests of honor at a reception and book signing at the Three Rivers Historical Museum. The McKees will recount some of the book’s best moments and how this landmark project came into being.
After the completion of Earl’s first book, Echoes of Blossom Peak, in 2013 the overflow of stories that did not fit became the basis for the second book. But its unique cultural perspective would not have been possible without the recollections of Gaynor and a generous helping of historic photos from many collections.
The life and times of Earl and Gaynor McKee have had plenty of trials and tribulations but through it all the McKees, who were both raised in Three Rivers and were high school sweethearts who have been married for 66 years, have had an indomitable spirit, genuine zest for life, humility, and a contagious humor.
This past year has been particularly trying for the McKees as Earl recovers from a difficult knee replacement. He missed playing his first Jazzaffair ever (out of 42) but was wheeled into Lions Arena just in time for the three-day festival’s Grand Finale.
Earl is on the mend now and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him on horseback soon. The new book contains a generous helping of historical scholarship and what every local history book aspires to be: a definitive retelling of the lives and times of the people who made and shaped the history of their part of the country.
In the new book’s dedication, Earl expressed his deep gratitude for Carol Nadine McGrew’s contribution to this oversized 364-page undertaking:
“Without her tireless and relentless commitment to record and preserve my life’s musings and stories, none of these happenings would have seen the light of day. Carol has literally spent hundreds of hours interviewing me and recording historical facts and tales from my recollections. Way beyond that, she has herself done extensive hours of research on the untold history of Three Rivers.”
Earl admits that he cannot take credit for the completion of these books. Recognition for that monumental task must go to Carol. But what Earl and Gaynor can take credit for is living life to the fullest, their indelible memories, and being ambassadors of Three Rivers wherever they have traveled, which includes Earl on horseback on nearly every trail and mountain pass in Sequoia-Kings Canyon country and together to all the corners of the earth with the High Sierra Jazz Band of which Earl is a founding member.
“The first book was like sitting around the campfire and listening to Earl, one of best storytellers of our era,” said Carol. “The new book contains a lot more history and researched facts.”
Carol said it was her good fortune to have had the time to tape Earl McKee’s recollections and to assemble them into the new book.
“Downloading Earl’s memory was a real joy, and there are a million more stories to write,” said Carol. “It was funny how many times Earl and Gaynor both told stories about various things but cautioned, ‘We can’t put that in the book!’”
Oh well, there’s always the next book.