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'Norcross (Then and Now)' Debuts Monday

The pictorial novel, authored by Norcross historian Sally Toole and Patch photographer Kate Awtrey, shows just how much Norcross has changed over the years.

When Arcadia Publishing asked Norcross historian Sally Toole if she was interested in writing a book in its "Then and Now" series, she jumped right on board.

"I thought it sounded interesting," said Toole, who's also a Patch contributor. "When I received a book from Arcadia about the city of Salem, Mass., in the series, I started picturing places and families in Norcross that could embelish a book like that."

Each book in the "Then and Now" series is a pictorial depiction of different places in a specific town that shows just how much the area's progressed over the years. The series installment for Norcross would mirror the same concept of having a vintage 19th or 20th century photo and a matching modern photo of the same place or thing, whether its local athletes, Thrasher Park or local businesses.

Being a historian and author of two other novels about the city, Toole started compiling old photos from different locals and neighbors. Finding enough "then" images was a challenge at times, but there were a few families who shared a bounty of old shots.

Toole called Sherry and Carl Johnson "book-savers" since they supplied her with 65 images from the later 19th centurty. The photos were once hung on the walls of their family dry goods store, located in what is now Zapata's.

Norcross residents Jeff Bolton and his sister Traci also let Toole use some of their family's old photos of churches, cemeteries and more.

"Their mother holds tight to those pictures," said Toole, "and it was funny because when I got to hold on to some to do the scanning [for the book], a time-consuming process, they told me 'Don't tell momma!'"

While Toole worked hard to obtain many of the vintage photos, she didn't work on the novel alone. Photographer Kate Awtrey, a Loganville resident who photographs for Patch and numerous other metro Atlanta publications, jumped on the project last summer after Toole asked her to shoot the "now" shots.

"I got to meet a ton of the local flavor in Norcross," said Awtrey, who also self-published a photographic memoir called, "Tree Faces, Tadpoles and That Stuff Called Gravy."

"I loved hearing everyone’s stories," said added. "It really makes you realize that even though these people aren’t nationally recognized that each person is special and has helped create local history."

Awtrey also assisted in organizing the book's chapters, keeping up with the layout planner and formatting photos.

Together, Awtrey and Toole were able to compile more than 200 vintage and modern images that made it into "Norcross (Then & Now)." One of their favorite shots in the book includes a 1930's Boy Scouts photo, which was compared to a shot of a modern-day Norcross scout group that looked "uncanny," according to Toole.

A personal favorite of Toole's is a shot of her father, Bill Hirsch, as an Atlantic Athletic Club volunteer 30 years ago. Toole was able to match it with a photo of her neighbor's dad at the 2011 PGA golf championship.  

Old and new photos of the kitchen also made it inside the book, along with an image of veterans from before 1900 that matched with some of today's vets.

For the final product, Toole and Awtrey are very happy with it.

"It's sharp, it's clean, it's fascinating even if you are not from Norcross," said Toole. "It has some cool match-ups of not only places, but people, too. I think we also have been able to fill the heavy captions with some great little known tales from this great little railroad town!"

"I absolutely love it," said Awtrey. "To know that we’ll be in Barnes and Noble and the library with our book is so incredible to me. We helped preserve a little piece of Norcross history, and made our own."

"Norcross (Then and Now)" debuts Monday, July 23, and can be purchased for $21.99 directly from Kate Awtrey (kateawtrey.com, kateawtrey@gmail.com) or Sally Toole (sallytoole.com, s.toole@comcast.net) for an autographed copy. The book also will be available at area bookstores and online at Amazon.com. Toole will be donating $1 from the sale of each of her books to animal rescue services.

Toole and Awtrey have booksignings scheduled next month: Saturday, Aug. 11, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 45 South Cafe, located at 45 S. Peachtree St.; and Tuesday, Aug. 14, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Whistle Stop Farmers Market at Thrasher Park, located at 7 Jones St.

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