Ken Mansfield answers questions about Philco

Book cover of Philco by Ken Mansfield
“ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME THERE USED TO BE this very nice place— America— a faraway place in time.” So begins Philco by Ken Mansfield. Ken explains in the book’s introduction, “I miss that place, a place that actually existed in my lifetime. It was a “let me help you with that tire ma’am,” “honest day’s work for an honest dollar” kind of place.”

The haunting and touching stories that make up Philco were inspired by Ken’s life experiences. “The people in these stories are real—I have wrapped their stories in the warm jacket of my imagination for the journey.”

Ken grew up in the northern Idaho Panhandle near the Nez Perce Indian reservations. After graduating from high school, he joined the Navy. Upon completing his service, he went to college and soon after graduating he became a highly ranked executive and producer in the music industry. His resume and bio are inseparable from the history of pop music and encompasses an impressive list of accomplishments including being asked by the Beatles to serve as the U.S. Manager of Apple Records. In the 1980’s, after experiencing an intense period of loss and difficulty, Ken found Christ and embarked on a new creative direction.

I first learned of Ken through his book the Beatles the Bible and Bodega Bay. (Ken’s book describing his time with the Beatles is the only book about the Beatles officially approved by them other than their own Anthology.) I loved that book so thought I would give Philco a try.

I was deeply moved and affected by the stories within, stories of friendship, heartache, loss, love, hope, redemption. These dream-like recollections combined with imagination are evocative of a different time. A time not without hardship, difficulty or conflict but a more innocent time. Some cynical people claim such a time didn’t exist, but I was privileged to have had a friendship with someone of the Greatest Generation, a World War II veteran, and I did get a tangible sense for a time and generation that was simpler, gentler and more imbued with values. Ken’s book definitely captures this and beautifully celebrates and affirms this without any of the angst and vitriol of politics that is so commonplace these days.

Ken was kind and generous to answer some questions I had about the book.

BRANDY W: Philco has a dream-like beauty and the poignant portrayals of friendships in Philco are especially touching since in our age much of “friendship” has become staring at social media on a device. Some of my favorites were the friendships with the Native American boy, the petty officer in the Navy, and the shoeshine man.  Philco was based on your personal experiences.

KEN M: Yes

BW: What did you most enjoy about bringing the real people, experiences, and friendships to life in your book?

KM: These people and their stories always bring a quiet happiness to my being as I relive beautiful times in my life. It is like visiting old friends and treasured places through a filter where nothing but the good of the occasions remain. There was a youthful innocence to my recall and like going home after being away for a long time I always felt welcome with each return visit.

BW: What were some of the challenges in making real people and experiences into stories in a book? Was the process difficult?

KM: Actually the writing process was very liberating especially by becoming my alter author Philco I was free of some of the daily, earthly encumbrances that each of us carry around in some informal way. I was able to step back and view things as a creative entity and so “Philco” was able to see things more romantically and expand on what was seen to include the unseen elements in the stories. The stories opened up elements of seemingly everyday experiences to how much there really is to each of us at times and the moments that we thought were just passing by expand in valuable content as they live and grow in our remembrances. They become new events – they become teachings as they reach back and embellish the depths and nuances of moments past.

BW: The story about Garland, the homeless man, some might dismiss as too made-up or far-fetched, but it mirrored my experience as a school girl selling things door to door for fundraisers. In the more affluent neighborhoods, it was not unusual to get a “No, not interested,” or a no response when they peeked and saw who was at the door. Most of my support came from the low or middle class people. And the scripture Matthew 25: 35-36 which was the centerpiece of the story, was an important seed planted in me before I became a Christian. Because I had these personal experiences this “far-fetched” story rang very true for me. So I am curious about the process and inspiration that came into developing the story.

KM: Garland was a simple man and like the gardens he loved there was a fertile place of common mankind where a lot of flowers, fruit and sustenance grew from deep within the interior spaces of his heart. It was my most real story and most embellished story at the same time. Rick Warren used Garland’s story as part of his Easter story for over 30,000 people who attended that year’s service at Saddleback.

BW: It’s definitely a good teaching story that can be grasped and appreciated by people at all levels of society and of all different backgrounds. Did you start with the scripture or the characters?

KM: Actually when I was finished telling Garland’s story the scripture found me and reminded me about another story. I can imagine a reader such as yourself at some point in Garland’s story sensing the story in scripture - Matthew 25: 35-36 running along side of it in your mind.

BW: Can you give readers a glimpse into your creative process and how that connects with your faith?

KM: I began writing about a single event and a single person when a myriad of pieces of cohesive experiences entered into my telling and the experiencing of many observances melded together to portray (once again) how much there is to each of us and those we come in contact with everyday and pass us by without notice. I saw Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God’s hand touching the events that put this episode together. I was very much expressing my faith and beliefs here – faith in God to fulfill Roman’s 8:28 and belief in the beauty that can be found in the most unlikely places. I know of another Pastor in Indiana who used this chapter and the rest of the chapters for a Bible study.

BW: That doesn’t surprise me. The chapter about Garland is very lovely and also grounded in scripture. The chapters are very touching and also relevant to the Christian walk. When and how did you have the glimmer or sense that you wanted to or needed to write Philco? How did the original leading or inspiration come about?

KM: I had been writing Philco for almost 20 years developing a theme that I was unaware of until a point in our society was reached that felt to me had gone beyond all the disciplines and decencies that I had experienced growing up. Nothing felt sacred anymore and it seemed as if the beautiful things that made our land so great were being hauled away to the dump yard of obscenities on the backs of ravenous greed and immorality. I wanted younger readers to get a glimpse of what a nation under God looked and felt like. I wanted the elders of our country to have a chance to go back in their hearts and minds to that other place in time when a man’s word was his bond and also his most valuable asset. Because I did write it over two decades it isn’t aimed directly at any political point in the evolution of this loss of love of God and country. These are such troubled times that I had to escape for a while and wanted to take some readers with me.

BW: What do you hope people gain and learn from the book?

KM: If I ever have a flat tire somebody will stop and give me a hand!

Philco on Amazon
Ken Mansfield’s Amazon author page
The Books of Ken Mansfield
Ken Mansfield on Wikipedia