Longtime residents of Dayton packed city hall Wednesday to see pictures of their parents, grandparents or younger selves in a published book.
"I know about everybody in here," said resident Janet Buckamneer, who bought a copy and pointed out pictures of herself in the 1940s, her family and friends. "There's my mother."
Dayton showed its gratitude to the co-author and city historian Charles Tharp by giving him the key to the city and declaring Wednesday as Charles Tharp Day.
Tharp co-authored the Dayton installment of the "Images of America" series with longtime friend Deanna Beineke.
The book, published this month, is a pictorial history of the city, which has roots going back to the 1840s.
Tharp has long been the authority on the history of Dayton, where he has either lived or worked for 81 of his 82 years.
His family moved to Dayton when he was a year old and made a living there in dry-cleaning, the funeral business and real estate.
Tharp, who lives in Fort Thomas, still owns a real estate and insurance business that has been in Dayton for 57 years.
Always harboring a keen interest in history - it was his minor when he attended the University of Cincinnati - Tharp has collected photos and historical facts about Dayton for decades.
This fastidious preservation of the city's past paved the way for him to be only the fourth person in the past four years to get a key to the city.
"I got into real estate and was very interested in finding out when the buildings were built, who lived there and for how long," Tharp said.
Tharp struck a gold mine the day when he found an 1898 souvenir book assembled by the city for a convention of Union Civil War veterans in Cincinnati. That book helped him piece together the history and photographs of Dayton.
"It was for a national convention of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Army," Tharp said. "They chose Cincinnati because Bellevue and Dayton had the best bathing beaches in the Midwest."
The book's publisher, Arcadia, initially balked at publishing a book about Dayton, fearing too many books had been published about Northern Kentucky cities, said co-author Beineke.
"I told them Northern Kentucky is full of small towns that are full of people with fierce loyalties," Beineke said.
The enthusiasm of those who flocked to city hall Wednesday to buy the book showed the passionate audience it will likely enjoy.
"My feet haven't touched the ground since," said resident Elmer Perry, 74. On the cover of the book is a 1921 photograph of his grandparents' candy store.