Get to Know Steve Petkoff, Six Bridges Featured Author

Tell us briefly about your book.
Holly Street tells the story of life growing up in the Arkansas Delta in the 1940s and 1950s, particularly in Helena. As a youngster, I learned how to work early by helping my father on his bread route. But working did not take away from all the adventures of exploring, playing, and taking advantage of the various landscapes and shenanigans available.

What motivated you to write it?
The pandemic allowed me the time to write stories that I’ve told over and over all my life.

What kind of research went into your book?
The stories did not require much effort, and I knew them by heart and had told them many times over the years to anyone who would listen. Most of the time, people enjoyed them and wanted to hear more. The only research done was looking at old photographs and contacting friends and family members from long ago. Verifying the dates related to information for the origination of products took up most of my time.

What was your favorite part of writing this book?
The entire process was such a joy. I kept busy during the pandemic and surprised myself when I began to write. I had no idea it would be so easy as the words and memories started to flow.
My goal was to create a contrast between how life was during the era of the 1940s and 1950s and compare it with today’s inventions and changes. I wanted the present generation to know about the past and to see the difference while learning that their ancestors were young at heart, just like them, but under different circumstances and surroundings.

What are you reading now? 
I have been spending most of my time reading old newspaper clippings and searching online in preparation for my new book, a take-off of the incident I wrote about in Holly Street when we found a coffin on our playground.

What does it mean to you to be promoting your book as a local author?
The support has been unbelievable. People I have not seen or been in contact with since childhood have reached out to me. My friends on Facebook have increased by nearly 100. One friend found me, and he and his wife started to come to my church. It was a sacred moment when they joined, so my wife and I were there to support them.
It is unbelievable how this generation of my family has come forward and wanted to know more about our heritage. The city of Helena-West Helena invited me to participate in Delta Roots Music Festival earlier this year to sell books and now has invited me back to sell even more during the upcoming King Biscuit Blues Festival.

Are you excited to see any other authors at Six Bridges Book Festival? Who/why?
I am extremely excited and honored to participate in SBBF. After seeing the other authors’ bios and pictures, I am sure I am the oldest participant. I know my book is not a literary work of art like the other authors’; it is, however, a connector. It makes people laugh and have fun recalling memories and past times. I don’t know any other authors, but I feel a little like a fish out of water included with these very talented people.

It sounds like you had an adventurous childhood. How do you think it compares to kids growing up now?
I think we had more freedom during my early days.
Our parents did not have to worry about us. Our toys were bicycles, roller skates, and slingshots. Today kids have iPhones, computers, handguns. Our parents did not have all the pressure of divisive politics like what goes on today, so life was more straightforward.

You drove a bread truck at eight years old. Could you even reach the pedals?
No, but the seat was attached to the floorboard with a hinge allowing it to tilt forward. So, I leaned toward the steering wheel and looked under the top curve of it to view the streets. Only once do I remember where I could not reach the pedals, and I wrote about it when I knocked the front porch awning off a customer’s store.

Is your book completely true, or are there some fabrications?
All of my stories are true. I still have friends who remember them, and we still enjoy the memories and have fun laughing and recalling them.

Sponsored in part by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Betty Rowland Wittenberg Foundation.

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