Brookwood’s 101 Year Old Author: Aileen Kilgore Henderson


Gracie Green, Editor-in-Chief

Aileen Kilgore Henderson grew up in Brookwood, Alabama during the Great Depression, she was an airplane mechanic during World War II, she taught school to reservation children in Texas, and she continues to write about her life experiences.

Henderson attended Brookwood Elementary and Brookwood High School. She lived in a farmhouse with six people as a young girl and she has firsthand seen Brookwood grow as a community.

In her book, Stateside Soldier: Life in The Women’s Army Corps, Henderson writes, “I don’t know anybody who has ever done such daring things as I have done.” She was referring to her daring decision to join the Women’s Army Corps during WWII. Henderson was one of six female airplane mechanics during this war. She joined the war to help the war effort and she was supported by her family entirely. Henderson tells stories of how the enemy during this war said discouraging things about members of the WAC but that it did not discourage her. She is very outspoken about women’s rights and how they have changed during her time. During her interview, Henderson says, “There are so many more opportunities for girls now. You guys can have better careers, you can go to college. It isn’t expected for you to just stay home anymore. Appreciate that.”

After Henderson was discharged, she attended college and received her degree in education; she went to teach at Northport Elementary School. Soon after, she received an opportunity to go teach at the Big Bend Reservation near the border of Texas and Mexico. Here, Henderson met students who she talks about very fondly. The school at Big Bend had never had a teacher with a degree before; the students were taught by parents and some of the parents were against having a stranger come to teach their children. Henderson recalls some of her most memorable students in her interview. Petra was an eight grade girl who Henderson refers to as a “wonderful student”; she had a brother named Elihio, who was in the fourth grade. Henderson also refers to a sixteen year old first grader who was in her class, his name was Bill. He had never been able to attend school before due to the distance. “He was put in first grade with one other little bitty girl and he helped her. Oh, watching him help her was just the cutest thing. All of the other children adored Bill”, Henderson says.

Henderson does not know the exact number of books she has written. Her first book, published in 1995, was The Summer of The Bonepile Monster. It won the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature. Henderson’s most recently published book, When the Wold Camped at Our Door, tells her story of growing up in Brookwood during the Great Depression. In this book, she mentions the “Howton Horror”, a monster who supposedly lived in Brookwood. When asked about it during her interview, Henderson tells the story of what happened to her sister’s boyfriend when he went home too late one night: “He got off from his ride on the highway and he had to walk through the woods to get to his house. Here came the Horror. He was terrified; he went thundering through the bushes and the trees, hollering “Mama! Mama, open the door!” The boy wouldn’t even sleep in his own room that night. The Howton Horror was loose, but it’ll come back.”

Currently, Henderson is working on a book of short stories and a possible new book that she has yet to submit for publication.