Friday, June 1, 2012

The Library is my Friend

I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember.  I could lose myself in books with very little difficulty.  However how I developed this love is a mystery to me because in all honesty I can't remember my parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles having any interest in reading nor do I remember books in their homes.  In searching my memory for specific instances in my life of books, libraries, reading I came up with some interesting (to me, anyway) remembrances:

Remembrance #1 - My father was a barber.  Barber shops were known in those days for having an ample supply of magazines for the customers to read.  While I do remember my father having National Geographic, Life and Look magazines in his barber shop I am almost positive that he didn't subscribe to them and I am thinking that perhaps a customer would bring in his past issues to share.  Those magazines eventually made their way to our home but they were stored in the basement and were not of real interest to me.  I can't remember my brother reading them either.  They just sat in the basement until my mother tired of them and threw them out.

While my father was an avid reader of the newspaper there were no books in the house and not even any bookshelves.  I don't remember ever seeing my father with a book in his hands and only in her later years has my mother developed an interest in reading.

When I was about 8 I developed a love for the Nancy Drew series of books and began collecting them.  They were sold at the JL Hudson Department Store at the time and I could always count on a book or two (or maybe three) for a birthday or Christmas.  Slowly my collection grew and I was known for taking a book to bed with me and reading with the bed light on until my mother would 'catch' me.  I devoured those books and still have the entire collection to this day.  Not giving my age away but at least the first half of these books all have a copyright date of 1932 and have the old blue bindings as opposed to the more current colored covers and binding.

I can remember two instances regarding my Nancy Drew books.  One involved my search for one elusive volume - "Nancy's Mysterious Letter".  For some reason I was not able to find that book.  One day at school I was on the playground and there in the dirt and grass was a book with a burgundy masking tape binding.  I picked up the book and lo and behold it was "Nancy's Mysterious Letter".  I was ecstatic and picked it up quickly.  It had obviously seen some wear but I still have that book today in my collection.

The other instance involving my collection was when I was having my 10th birthday party.  It was the heyday of my love for Nancy Drew and my grandparents came over to the house for my birthday.  My grandmother was carrying a huge present that she handed to me.  It was so incredibly heavy that I was just certain it contained lots of Nancy Drew books.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the package to find NOT books but rather a very unusual gift for a 10 year old - a set of WHITE bed sheets for my bed.  My grandmother remarked to me "your mother needs sheets" and that is what I received.  To this day I still remember my disappointment and marvel at my grandmother's thinking - if she wanted to buy me sheets maybe some pretty girly pattern would have been better than stark white.  I laugh about it now but that memory has remained.

Remembrance #2 - My paternal grandparents lived in East Detroit as well as we did and were just a few miles away from our  home.  I spent much time in their home over the years and remember it well.  My grandmother was a very particular housekeeper and her home was immaculate.  What I remember is that everything was in its place, clean as a whistle and when we were there we were not allowed to touch anything or mess anything up.  It was a very scary time being there as my grandmother exuded a spirit of toughness.  My grandfather on the other hand was wonderfully loving and tried to temper her personality to little avail.  I do remember that while they had no books sitting around or even book shelves, no magazines and if there were newspapers they were quickly picked up, they did have two books in their house that were hidden away (probably so they wouldn't get dusty-dust was NOT my grandmother's friend).  They had a large round table with claw feet in the living room that had a series of drawers around the table.  Only one drawer opened and when grandma wasn't looking we liked to try and figure out which drawer actually opened.  In the one drawer were two books - "Andersen's Fairy Tales" and "Grimm's Fairy Tales".  If I asked my grandmother really nice, and caught her in a good mood, she would let me actually open the drawer and read one book.  

I had to sit still in a chair and was able to read the various stories in the book.  These were both old books, too, with copyright dates in the 1930's as well.  I don't have any idea where they came from but somehow or other I was given those books and still have them.

Remembrance #3 - My parents were very active bowlers and my brother and I had to accompany them to the alleys on the 3 nights a week that they bowled.  I like to say that I grew up doing homework at bowling alleys and that was true.  One of their mixed leagues included an elderly widower in his 80's who loved the game.  Sometimes we would drive him home after bowling and one time, noting my persistence with reading at the alleys, he invited us into his home.  He said that his wife had been a lover of books and that he had some books in his attic that he wanted to show me.  Up the stairs we went and I had never seen so many books in one place other than a library.  He told me that I could borrow any books to read at the bowling alley and after the season was over he told me to pick one that he would let me have.  I chose "The Search for Peggy Ann" by May Hollis Barton, copyright 1930 and have that book to this day.  I think I need to re-read it because I have no memory of the content of the book any more.  He was a dear sweet man with no children or grandchildren and I often wonder what happened to all those other wonderful books when he passed away.

Now in my home today I have bookshelves and more bookshelves.  Today I counted and I have 8 sets of bookshelves between my bedroom and my lower level office.  Between these 8 sets of shelves, there are 38 individual shelves.  Also in my living room is an 8 shelf unit built into the wall.  I will admit that all these shelves are full - general reading books, children's books, Nancy Drew books and, of course, many genealogical reference books.  

I have recently added a new medium to reading and that is a Toshiba Tablet with e-reader.  I am finding that I love the convenience of reading a book on my tablet and am delighted with this new concept.

The library has definitely always been my friend whether it is the public library or my own private library.  I can't see myself ever losing my passion for reading though my passion for genealogy sometimes gets in the way!

With the Internet, Google, World Cat, etc there is little doubt that any book one is searching for can be found with little difficulty or even after a 30+ year search.

What?  A 30+ year search for a book?  That's right and in my next post I will reveal the search I undertook for a valuable genealogical reference book that took me from 1981 until 2 weeks ago to actually find.

Stay tuned! 

 Above photos personal collection of Cheryl Schulte
 Copyright (c) 2012, Cheryl J. Schulte