In her latest novel Georgie Girl author Elizabeth Sumner Wafler pays homage to the Baylor School faculty families and staff, who were a part of the school community from 1964-1974. Wafler, daughter of the late Sonny “Ira” Sumner, who was the tennis coach at Baylor during those years, lived in Lupton Hall with her parents and younger brother. “Though Georgie Girl is not a memoir, that childhood community of friends and loving, supportive neighbors helped inspire the characters and experiences reflected in the book,” explains Wafler in her acknowledgements.
The story takes place in the early seventies on the fictional campus of Virginia’s Browning School for Boys. But readers familiar with Baylor will recognize the “Mattson wagon” as a nod to Mattson Lewis ’74, Baylor’s chief advancement officer, who also lived on campus with his parents Doniphan and Stan Lewis in what is now the admission office. The school head is Dr. Banks. A fix-it man is G.B. Cross. The tower is the scene of Georgie’s first kiss.
Though Georgie Girl is not a memoir, that childhood community of friends and loving, supportive neighbors helped inspire the characters and experiences reflected in the book.
The students, decked out in Oxford cloth shirts and preppy repp ties are assigned to sit at faculty family tables for meals in the dining hall. This excerpt from the novel recalls an inevitable, frequent occurrence: “A cacophony of breaking dishes erupted from across the room. In the second of ensuing silence, a trio of silverware pinged off the floor as though its thunder had been stolen by the china. A hapless student had slipped and fallen on the greasy tiles at the dish return window. The room rang with raucous student applause, wolf whistles of appreciation.”
After dinner, the music of such bands as The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, or Sly and the Family Stone begins thumping from the open dormitory windows, while the faculty kids play kickball on the scuffed grass behind the dining hall.
It was a good life, a place like no other to grow up.
The school dances are held in the old gymnasium, where a brigade of faculty chaperones dole out punch in glass cups. When the boarding students leave for the summer, the faculty kids go dorm-diving before janitors perform their clean and sweep.
“ . . . on the third floor of Hampton we struck the mother lode: a slingshot, two albums, one a Neil Young, the other a Humble Pie, a Yankee’s pennant . . . a Rolling Stones t-shirt, and both missing library copies of Moby Dick. It was a good haul.”
“It was a good life,” recalls Wafler, “a place like no other to grow up.”
With four-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, Georgie Girl is going places. To a shelf in the Hedges Library. And to your favorite independent book shop.