After almost 30 years in the care of the Sauk City Public Library, the late author August Derleth’s archives have a dedicated space.
A ribbon cutting was held July 9 for the new August Derleth Center, fittingly located at the entrance to Derleth Park on Water Street in Sauk City.
Walden Derleth, son of August Derleth, spoke about his father’s legacy and his appreciation for the Society’s diligence in maintaining the archives.
“It has been exactly 45 years and five days, almost to the minute, that my father was pronounced dead, and I unfortunately, watched him die,” Walden told an audience of about 60 people. “The August Derleth Society since its inception really helped soften that memory. The Society and its members, through the newsletters, helped heal that wound.”
Walden shared some humorous stories about his father, while acknowledging the advancements in technology and availability of books in many forms.
“There are so many ways a person can read a book,” Walden said. “There’s smart phones, there’s tablets, there’s Kindles, ebooks. Let me tell you how my father felt about embracing new technology.”
He said one summer day an IBM Selectric electronic typewriter salesman came to his home to sell his father a typewriter.
Derleth typed his manuscripts on an Olympia manual typewriter to which he was very attached.
“It wasn’t very long that salesman was running out the door,” Walden said. “How do you embrace all the different ways a person reads then put a book of dad’s in their hands? It starts right here, folks.”
While the Derleth Center’s spacious room with natural lighting and wood flooring has the just-moved-in look with unpacked boxes, Derleth Society president Tracy Heron spoke with excitement about its future plans.
“Today we are building not only on the successes of former Society members who dreamed about the day when there would be a physical Derleth headquarters,” Heron told the audience, “but on the success and timelessness of the immense body of work of August Derleth himself.”
John Fox and his wife Janet traveled from their home west of Monroe for the opening of the Derleth Center.
John Fox wore a T-shirt of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” one of Derleth’s biggest influences for his own book, “Walden West.”
“We just got the Derleth bug last fall,” John said. “So I told my wife, I know what shirt I’m wearing today — one that says ‘Walden’ on it.”
Janet said the two of them came to last year’s Walden West Fest to see another author, Michael Perry, who was the keynote speaker. She said she won a book after filling out a raffle ticket.
“We started reading them and thought, oh my God, they’re good,” Janet said.
“We starting reading other books like the ‘Sac Prairie Saga’ series and it was good stuff,” John said. “We had so much fun at the Society meeting last year, we thought why not come back?”
Heron said once the Derleth Center is organized and made operational in the coming months, it will serve as a place for writers’ workshops, a book store, museum and a starting point for tours of the trails in areas Derleth wrote about. The Center does not yet have established hours of operation.
The beginnings of the Society date back to 1978 when Richard Fawcett, a school administrator from Connecticut, came to the former Firehouse Restaurant in Prairie du Sac and held an open meeting to start the August Derleth Society.