For a guy who has published four books, Kent Stever makes an unusual claim: "I'm not a writer," he said. "I was a math teacher, a truck driver, a school principal."
But writing is something Stever, 78, discovered he likes to do. His specialty is taking a nostalgic look at the Winona of his boyhood, which was the subject of his first three books.
His latest is "Historic Tales of the Hiawatha Valley," published by The History Press.
"I'm totally in love with growing up in Winona," Stever, who now lives in Lakeville, said.
It shows in his new book, which looks back fondly on a small-town boyhood in the 1950s. There were excursions in the nearby bluffs and woods, the excitement of the circus coming to town, and the thrill of watching a semi-pro baseball team play under the lights on a warm summer night.
Interspersed with these memories are looks at the people, places and events that played an important part in the life of southeastern Minnesota during the first two decades after World War II.
Stever writes about Winona's Hot Fish Shop restaurant, the Pepin Pickling Co., the Hiawatha train of the Milwaukee Road railroad, and the times the Minneapolis Lakers basketball team played exhibition games in Winona.
Much of the research for the book was done at the Winona County Historical Society and through the Winona newspaper archive maintained by Winona State University. Photos in the book are from Stever's personal collection, and from the historical society.
He opens the book with a retelling of the legend of Princess Wee-No-Nah and the native people of the region.
The idea of writing about the Hiawatha valley, which includes the Mississippi River and the bluff country in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, had appeal for Stever.
"I learned my values in valley," he said. Those included hard work, independence and a desire for self-improvement.
He wonders, Stever said, if young people today have the opportunities to learn those lessons and experience what he called the "adventure" of growing up like his generation did.
"It's about an era, rather than a place," he said of the book.
"Historic Tales of the Hiawatha Valley" is published by The History Press, and is available online at historypress.com, and at bookstores and gift shops in the region.
Stever will conduct a Learning is ForEver class for aspiring writers at 10 a.m. Thursday at Rochester Community and Technical College. The class, "A Writer's Journey," is in Room H1415 at RCTC. The fee is $13 for LIFE members and $21 for non-members. For more information, call 507-280-3157 or go to learningisforever.net.