CAMERA ON INTERVIEWER: Today, we are talking with Mrs. Katherine McGurk, a supporting character in the historical novel Dust and Roses by Wes Brummer, published by Wild Rose Press and available on Amazon. (Narrator shows copy of book.) Katherine is a housewife, mother of three and the wife of Sam McGurk, former pastor and popular social commentator on Wichita’s KSKN radio station. This May in 1935, Sam’s local program Heaven and Earth will reach a national audience through the Alliance Broadcasting System. Let’s get to know Katherine better and hear a special message from her about her daughter Sara.
CAMERA ON KATHERINE MCGURK (Interviewer’s Voice off camera): “Missus McGurk, I see by your nice furniture you’re not a part of the twenty-five percent unemployed during these hard times. Why is that?”
KATERINE MCGURK: “Our family has been blessed by Sam’s success in radio. It’s such a new medium and, I think, listeners crave a soothing voice to help them make sense of the Depression. Sometimes it’s hard to know who to turn to. Since he left his church, he joined KSKN to start a Sunday morning program that combines religious teaching with the news. (small laugh) When Sam’s not around, I tell personal friends he got the show because he was cheaper than a choir filling in the same time with hymns. But he’s won his success. Now, that Wichita is a part of Alliance, his show can be heard from here to New York.
INTERVIEWER: “That must make you proud.”
KM: “Proud, but worried. My husband tells me how some celebrities have ruined their careers by saying something they shouldn’t have on live radio. Could that happen to him? I have a recurring dream that Sam will do that as well.
INT: “That shows concern about your family.”
KM: “I do want my children to stay close and get along. It’s not always easy. As a radio personality, my husband’s job is to stir emotion with his broadcast. My children are becoming adults with their own opinions—each one rebellious in their own way. That’s how the trouble started—when Jay talked back to Sam..
INT: “Jay is your oldest son?”
KM: “Jason is twenty, and of the three, he most takes after me—even more than Sara. He runs errands for Sam and wishes he had his own car and a place to live, but that’s not practical in these times. He is just as willing as Sara to take on responsibilities but, he can get rebellious.
INT: “Are you referring to the disagreement on April the sixth?”
KM: “It was a Saturday evening. More like a spat than an argument, but it set the tone for what happened later.
INT: “We’ll get to that. Tell us about your youngest boy, Michael.”
KM: (smiles) “Michael is a bookworm. He’d be perfectly happy if he was left alone to read his detective story magazines. Or listening to The Shadow. I can send him to the corner bakery to buy bread, and he’ll come home two hours later—the loaves smashed—after running into friends. Still, he’s good at finding things, so Sam sends him to look for out-of-town newspapers for use on his program.”
INT: “That leave you daughter, Sara.”
KM: “Well, Sara is my oldest, and she’ll turn 23 next month. She is so restless, working downtown, answering Sam’s fan mail all day, and then going out to dance or ride in her boyfriend’s roadster. If only she stayed home more. I can’t blame her much. I used to be a thrill-seeker when I first met Sam. We rode for miles in that green Tin Lizzy of his. My parents didn’t approve.
INT: “Do you see any connection between your story and Sara’s?”
KM: (nods solemnly) “I think she’s looking for attention. Or affection. Or love.” (with sadness) “Same as me when I was her age. Our stories ended the same. With shame.”
INT: “She is with child?”
KM: “A child’s inequity isn’t limited to sins of the father. I am guilty as well. And now she must contend with the mark she has placed upon herself. I pray that somehow, she breaks the cycle. When I was young I thought about ending my unborn baby’s life. But I didn’t. Sara was the source of my shame who became my greatest joy.”
INT: “She is an expectant 22-year-old woman. You can’t protect her anymore.”
KM: “I would have sent her to Hutchinson to stay with relatives. She could have had the child there, given the baby to an orphanage, and come home soon after. But Sam stepped in. He feared his daughter’s shame would soil his chance for stardom on the Alliance network. And so, he banished her from home. I don’t know where she is.”
INT: “Has that affected your feelings about Sam’s profession?”
KM: (with bittersweet nostalgia) “I long for the day I could go back to being a preacher’s wife in a small congregation. Organizing the social events and potluck suppers, managing the clothing drives, overseeing the Thursday night soup kitchen…I don’t know how I did it with three kids running around the church.
INT: “You still attend service there?”
KM: (surprised he’d say such a thing.) “Of course. I only wish I could convince Sara to go. She was such a wonderful singer, practically leading the choir. But since Sam left the church for his radio show, Sara refuses to step through the doors.”
INT: “How do you see your portrayal in the book?”
KM: “I don’t like my home cast as a place of constant tension. Sam felt much pressure in pursuing his goal. Stress caused him to lash out at Sara, and his blood pressure was already high to begin with. Now, we don’t know where she is. With one shaky lead, Jay and Michael are looking for her. I don’t have much hope they will find her.”
INT: “We wish the boys good luck. Can you tell us a secret about that no one knows about?”
KM: “Wes tells me he will work on another novel featuring Sara McGurk. And if all goes well, the third in the series will be set in Topeka. At most, there will be four books, the last when Sara is well into her sixties.”
INT: “Thank you for your time Missus McGurk. I hope Jason and Michael find Sarah.
KM: “Thank you, sir.
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