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I come from a small, gossipy town in northwestern Ohio. Change the geographical location and it tends to have some things in common with that naughty New England town we've been discussing.

You may or may not remember a book called "Peyton Place." It was about a small, conservative, gossipy town in New England in the 1950s. The town was filled with scandalous secrets and otherwise nefarious goings-on. The book was made into several different movies and a long-running TV soap opera. As a nation, we were pretty prim and proper in the middle of the last century, so when the book came out in 1956, it caused quite a stir. It was actually banned in some places. The Canadians declared it indecent and New Hampshire's Manchester Union Leader called it "a complete debasement of taste." But did that diminish its popularity? Of course not.Jewett

I come from a small, gossipy town in northwestern Ohio. Change the geographical location and it tends to have some things in common with that naughty New England town we've been discussing — a lot of people in close confines, a lot of family intrigue, a lot of less-than-sterling morals in evidence. Heck, we had nothing else to do but gossip and generally cause havoc in whatever enticing, outrageous, devil-inducing way we could.

Here is the way things can go in a small town: You think you have a romantic commitment, only to find that someone you counted as your best friend is circling in for the kill. You think a promise is a promise and a secret is a secret until the first is dishonored and the second is spread to whoever will listen, and that's everybody. You probably add to the problem because you gossip right along with your friends. There's nothing else interesting to do, and besides, there's a thing called vengeance. It's almost impossible to avoid these pitfalls, because of the situations you will inevitably find yourself in.

Here's a case in point: My friends Tom, Jane and I grew up together in our knock-off Peyton Place, and as a result, have all been loosely related at various times in our lives. This could only happen in a small town. My sister Bev (nine years older than I) was first married to Jane's older brother Ron, a stand-out basketball star known as "The Snake." They had been dating since the 8th grade. Bev and Ron had two kids, so Jane and I ended up having the same niece and nephew. Years later, Bev and Ron divorced and Bev then married Tony, who was Tom's brother and also my brother Mac's best friend. So now, Tom, Jane, Mac, and I all had the same niece and nephew, and Tony was their step-father. We were all friends and then suddenly, we were all relatives.

As I say, these things only happen in small towns. I'm still in touch with Jane and Tom, even though my sister eventually divorced Tom's brother Tony, too. Naturally, there was a lot going on behind the scenes with all this, just like in the notorious book — but I'll leave that to your imagination. Meanwhile, I had a crush on Tony right up until the time he married my sister. It was all quite the soap opera. Quite the little Peyton Place.

My daughter, who lives in a large city, assures me that there are some pocket Peyton Places to be found there as well. Maybe the tendency to embrace a sinful existence is just part of being human and when it comes right down to it, we all live in the shade of Peyton Place.

Kay Cora Jewett can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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