While I was busy growing up in the 60's and 70's, my home county in Georgia was busy preserving our history. A big, almost derelict house was returned to its first role as a stagecoach inn, a whole village was created with 19th century homes and buildings, and houses from the early 1800's, both occupied and unoccupied, were marked with little signs so visitors could identify the antique residences. And from the farm neighboring our family farm, a dogtrot log cabin was disassembled, each piece numbered, and reassembled in town, right beside the stagecoach inn's gardens. It became our local library.
It was a magical place. You walked up the wide steps to the center dogtrot, entered the right side for children's books; the left side for grown-up books. The librarian, a retired elementary teacher who had taught my brother and me as well as my father, had her desk on the children's side. In those days, I don't remember signs warning, "No shirt, no shoes, no service," and in the summer we were as likely to arrive barefooted as not.
There I met the Boxcar Children, and solved mysteries with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. There I roamed the Secret Garden and suffered with the Little Princess. There, with Johnny Tremain, I sought liberty. I met the Little Women from the shelf at the back of my 5th grade classroom, but read their story again and again over the next few years from the Library copy. You could look at the library card inserted in its pasted-in holder at the back of the book and see who had checked out the book before. One older boy, a big-time reader, was a good gauge for me. The best books he checked out mulitple times. (With privacy concerns being what they are, I'm sure this would never fly today.)
Recently I remembered a favorite author from those days, Phyllis A Whitney, and her juvenile mysteries. Now we are reading one of them, Earthgirl and I, and I recommend them for the 8-14 set. (I make this recommendation without having read or reread all the books, so take it as a light recommendation.) The author, a U.S citizen, was born in the orient. Her books usually feature children 11-13 years old, and are full of geographical and historical facts. I remember one book set in Capetown, South Africa, one set in the Isle of Skye, and one in San Francisco. I always learned new things in these books. From the one set in San Francisco (I think it was Mystery of the Green Cat) I learned the word "occidental." In the one set in South Africa I learned about, well, South Africa. I read all the ones at our library. Looking at her website now, I learn she wrote 20 altogether. I have not read all these books, but enjoyed the ones I did read. I'd be interested to know if anyone else read some of these. Ms. Whitney also wrote for adults, but I am not very familiar with those books.
We go to our beautiful big library in our town now. One row of shelves contains as many books as there were in the whole of my childhood library, and I love it. But I am nostalgic for the log walls, the little rooms, sitting on the steps in the breezeway, the scale of the place, where I could soak up every word in the room.
5 years ago