Lessons Learned

Eau claire native offers life advice in second memoir

Amanda Boehm, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THEN AND NOW. Author Larry Pope of Eau Claire has published a second volume of memoirs, Lessons in Life, which details – among other things – his stint in the U.S. Navy.
THEN AND NOW. Author Larry Pope of Eau Claire has published a second volume of memoirs, Lessons in Life, which details – among other things – his stint in the U.S. Navy.

Larry Pope, author of the extremely entertaining memoir Shawtown Stories, has recently published a second book about his life. Wanting to tell the rest of the story about what happened after he grew out of his wild days in Eau Claire’s Shawtown neighborhood – which in his day was often called “Shot-town,” Pope wrote a continuation of Shawtown Stories titled Lessons in Life.  

Lessons in Life tells the story of Pope’s life from the age of 17 to retirement, beginning with the end of what Pope calls his “carefree childhood” in 1952. His father had gotten married, and Pope wasn’t interested in moving in with his new stepmother.

“I think what broke the camel’s back and really got my Dad’s attention was that I had informed him sometime around the middle of August that I no longer planned on finishing high school,” Pope writes in the opening chapter of Lessons in Life.

“You see, like most boys at this age, I thought I was plenty smart and that I knew more than most adults and certainly I was smarter than the nuns. Well, my Dad sat me down fore a one-on-one or should I say a one-on-none talk, Dad doing the talking. He said you have three choices and that’s two more than you deserve. One, you get a job and support yourself. Two, you move in with us and go to school. Three, you join the service.”

“In life, I strived for a job that I enjoyed doing. If you enjoy your job, you never feel like you’re going to work.” – Author Larry Pope, on one of the life lessons in his new memoir, Lessons in Life

Since one of his buddies was in the Navy, Pope picked the third option. “The Navy was really a lifesaver,” he says. It gave him determination. He worked with electronics, but the Navy told him that he would be a radio man and sent him to Hawaii (where he earned his GED, getting a diploma before the rest of his high school class back home). After his time in the Navy, Pope got into vending machine electronics management in Milwaukee, even though the Navy wanted him to stay and become an electronics technician.

While working in Milwaukee, he decided to open his own television repair shop in Eau Claire. The man he worked for in Milwaukee told Pope that if Pope couldn’t run a business, he could still have his electronics management job back in Milwaukee. “In life, I strived for a job that I enjoyed doing,” Pope says. “If you enjoy your job, you never feel like you’re going to work.” In Eau Claire, he opened Larry’s TV and ran the business successfully. He shares many stories of these life decisions in his new book.            

“This book is mostly about learning lessons,” Pope says about Lessons in Life.  “Shawtown Stories is just about wild fun.” Pope entertains his grandchildren by telling them his childhood stories. “Kids like the stories the best because they can’t have fun like that anymore. There were no computers, no iPods, no Game Boys, and it was a very good time,” Pope says. His grandchildren told him that he should write his stories down so that they will always have them. His granddaughter took Shawtown Stories to school, and her teachers and classmates loved the stories. “The rest was just for the kids,” Pope says about writing Lessons in Life. He wrote the books in stages, a handful of pages at a time.  “I think I grew up in the best time ever,” Pope says. “I don’t see it ever coming back.”

Both of Larry Pope’s books, Shawtown Stories and Lessons in Life, are available at the Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St.

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