By Tonya Matthews
Before Tracy Harder even realized that 2023 was actually the 35th anniversary since the events of August 8, 1988, in Eighty Eight, Kentucky, she’d already written the commemorative storyline celebrating her fond memories of that day. “It’s based on the day when our little community of Eighty Eight became national news,” Tracy said.
In the children’s book, Eight Eight Eighty- Eight, Quincy Anne, who is eight years old, loves everything number eight. As Summer Shade’s reigning Crazy Eights champion, she heads to Eighty Eight General Store to find someone to play cards with her. She finds instead a day filled with eights! Hundreds of people had come to celebrate 8-8-88.
The book will launch on Tuesday, August 8, and will be available on Amazon and locally at Candle Makers on the Square in Bowling Green. A book signing is scheduled in Summer Shade, Kentucky on Friday, August 11th at the Southern Wood shop located at 2503 Summer Shade Road from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
In this children’s book commemorating the day, Tracy takes those who were there back to the once-in-a-lifetime day when Eighty Eight, Kentucky celebrated its 24 hours of fame. And for those who weren’t there, she captures the community, its people, and its passion for the number eight.
Eight Eight Eighty-Eight, though fiction, includes references to actual events and people who took part in the celebration. Such as eighty-eight-year-old Elsie Maye Billingsley, grand marshal of the parade. Tracy remembers her grandmother, Elsie Maye, on that day. “Wearing a big hat and a huge smile, she proudly waved to the crowd. Good Morning America interviewed her and she talked with them like it was no big deal, as if she was talking to anyone else she knew. But it was a big deal!”
Tracy had no plans to author a children’s book, but as the storyline developed, she became committed to seeing it through. “I played around with the story in my mind, building it from special pieces of what I remember—and then put it to paper. I wanted to see the story kept alive for future generations.”
“Tracy approached me with her idea, a rough draft, and lots of excitement,” said Tonya Matthews, owner of Haleya Publishing. “That’s a winning recipe for a fun project. We teamed up, and in the matter of a few months, Quincy Anne came alive in a full-color, 40-page children’s book—ready to take kids and adults back in time to August 8, 1988.”
Thirty-five years ago the associated press, along with the national television news, covered the celebration events. The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune published articles dedicated to the town, its people, and the details of the day. People from all over visited, excited to be in Eighty Eight on the eighth day of the eighth month of the year 1988.
In the book, Tracy includes references to actual events. “A commemorative cake—8 feet, 8 inches long and 8.8 inches wide—was constructed on a flatbed wagon,” Tracy said. “And a couple from Casper, Wyoming came to get married in Eighty Eight, on 8-8-88 at 8 p.m. on the eighth step of the church.”
Tracy made sure to highlight the Eighty Eight General Store because of the special memories she and others share about their visits to the store when it was open. It was Rose Mary McPherson Byrd, owner of the store in 1988, who took the lead in organizing the events. “I can’t believe it has been 35 years since we decided to celebrate our community with everything revolving around eights!” she said.
Back then, Eighty Eight General Store created an 88-cent hamburger. Rose Mary shared, “With the four cents tax, the total was 92 cents. That’s eight cents change for those paying with a dollar.” Previous owners of the General Store, the Richardson brothers, were there for the celebration as well. “I wanted Mr. Richardson included in the book. When I think of Eighty Eight General Store, he and his family always come to mind,” Tracy said. “Even though the store is no longer open today, the memories people share are precious.”
Inside Eighty Eight General store was the post office that served its 70 addresses for its 200 or so residents. Tracy made sure that Postmaster Donnie Sue Bacon’s experiences were included. Tracy said, “Donnie Sue enjoyed the popularity of Eighty Eight’s postmark. Graduating students from as far away as the University of Southern California sent their graduation notices to Donnie Sue so each would be postmarked Eighty Eight, KY on 8-8-88. People in Italy, Argentina, and Singapore wanted letters mailed out of Eighty Eight on 8-8-88. The U.S. Postal Service sent a mobile post office from Louisville to help with this once-in-a-century chance for the special postmark.”
Tracy was sure to include how the town got its name. “Eighty Eight was named by Dabnie Nunnally, a postmaster in the 1860s. Legend has it that he reached into his pocket, found 88 cents in change, and decided that would be the town’s name,” Tracy said.
Ron Underwood, a former Summer Shade Honorary Mayor and owner of Southern Wood, is excited about Tracy’s commemorative children’s book that highlights many of the people involved and the unique events that took place on 8-8-88. About the celebration, he said, “Even though I wasn’t living here in 1988, I have heard all about that day! I’m amazed that people from all over traveled to the area to celebrate the day. Who knows, maybe we’ll document more folks with a love for the number eight with this upcoming event.”
The August 11 book signing does have a group planning a road trip to the event. The Corvettes Limited car club added the event to their summer schedule. First, the group will caravan through the countryside to Summer Shade. Then, stop by Southern Wood to support Tracy, a member of the club, and meet with carvers on hand to talk about their woodwork. The car club plans to have dinner at The Country Tyme Restaurant, just a block away. To top off the evening, Cash’s Olde Store, next to the restaurant, will be hosting pickin’ and grinin’ with local area talent.
“Tracy started out with plans just to have a small order of books on hand to sign at the event, but since then we’ve upped the order twice,” said Tonya. “Haleya Publishing was created for this exact purpose, so a want-to-be author, who isn’t sure of his/her next step, has the encouragement and direction to publish and share an inspired story. It is a joy to be a part of these God-given journeys of creating wholesome, meaningful publications. And it’s especially rewarding to celebrate a new author’s book release.”
“This was just a little family memento when it started,” Tracy concluded. “Everything just keeps growing. I hadn’t originally planned future publications, but Quincy Anne may have more adventures ahead of her.”