Luckily, early support from the Traverse City Record-Eagle helped get word out about the book. Testimonials and memories of Hickory flooded in from all over the country -- through emails, blog entries and phone calls. Hickory Hills veterans pulled dusty shoeboxes full of forgotten mementos out of their closets and basements. People poured out their hearts, re-creating for us a sense of the magic they had experienced at Hickory.
At times, the work seemed endless. We pulled all-nighters in ski team hotel rooms. We made phone calls while traveling across Michigan for ski races, cross-country and debate competitions. We often conducted three interviews a day -- between ACT preparation and studying for finals. And just when we felt exhausted or discouraged, we would be rejuvenated by calls like one from a 70-year-old skier in Colorado who still has her very first Grand Traverse Ski Club race bib hanging in her living room.
We felt compelled to share the stories of so many who took the time to speak with us, who shed real tears of joy in the retelling.
After more than 70 interviews, we've learned that history is best expressed through stories -- real voices describing real experiences. And as we've become immersed in these stories, Hickory's history has become more than just one more obligation for two busy high school students -- the story is a part of us.
Hickory has meant the world to so many people. And knowing they're depending on us to share their stories has compelled us to keep going and never give up.
While words can speak volumes, we also know pictures can shout. "Light the Night" could never have captured the essence of our little hill without the stunning photographs of local photographer Jack Bensley. The Bensley family's generosity in allowing us to see Hickory through the eyes of young Jack Bensley gave us a clear vision: The book had to revolve around his images. It just felt right.