Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Caught in the Web of Words - Part One - Post 33

I can't remember a time when I could not read. Neither do I remember being taught to read; one day I just could, and did, and have continued to do so, for about 70 years. The first book that I truly remember was one used in the kindergarten class I attended in El Paso, TX, in 1939. Bi-lingual education in the USA is nothing new, folks. My kindergarten primer was in Spanish and was titled Juan y Maria en Casa.

Our family moved to Las Vegas, NM, where I completed the first grade. Shortly thereafter, during the early summer of 1942, we moved to the much larger town of Albuquerque so that my mother could seek employment, my 55 year old father having been conscripted by the U.S. Army to be an instructor of automotive mechanics almost immediately after Dec. 7, 1941. That's another story for another time.

By the summer before I turned 9, I was spending my school vacation time in the Albuquerque Public Library. Albuquerque was still a relatively small town at the time, and it was quite safe for me to walk alone for the some 8 or so blocks from where we lived. I would stay at the library for as long as it took me to select as many books as I could carry (6 -10) from the children's section (and they weren't "picture-books," either); then I'd lug them back home and read. And read, and read, and read. My two younger sisters and my brother were being cared for by a housekeeper/baby-sitter, and I'm sure she was most happy to not have me under her feet as well.

In a day, two at the most, I'd be finished with those books and back to the library I'd go for another load. Before we moved (1944) to a new home about five miles from the library, I think I had read every book (of any interest to me whatsoever) in the children's section. The librarian also allowed me to browse in some carefully selected sections outside the children's area, and helped me select books that were not 'too adult' for me.

After we moved, I didn't have easy access to the library so I read my mother's books. I remember that she was quite flustered when she found me reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith -- promiscuity, several stillborn babies, and like ilk; Mama did not think I needed to read about that when I was 10 years old. However, I don't think she took it away from me. Truthfully, I don't remember much about it. It must not have warped my psyche too badly.


My father had a very large number of books, which were stored in boxes in our garage since there was not sufficient bookshelf space in our new home for them. Most were theological tomes from his days at Seminary and books of a religious nature he acquired while he was an active church pastor. I think I must have attempted to read some of them (readers must have books), but they were not the sort of thing that would hold a young girl's attention for very long, I'm sure. However, he did have some books of poetry (notably The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), some Shakespeare plays, and a few other non-theological books that I did read.

At that age, however, I was more interested in Carolyn Keene's 'Nancy Drew' books, and novels such as Lew Wallace's Ben Hur, Lloyd C. Douglas' The Robe, Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal, and The Magnificent Obsession. NOTE TO MY READERS: If all you know about The Magnificent Obsession is the 1954 film staring Rock Hudson, do yourself a big favor: Read the book! And Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal, which is directly related to The Magnificent Obsession. They're a pair.
To be continued. Part Two: in which we move from Albuquerque to a small Arkansas town, population 400 (if you count the cows), and my literary and vocabulary education continues.

PLEASE NOTE: The spider web photo is not mine. I got it from a Wikipedia article on Spider Webs. The photographer is Michael Hartl, and the photo is in the public domain. For a more close-to-home, and beautiful, photo of a spider web, check out Dot's blog, Strolling through Georgia (and sometimes Alabama), here.

18 comments:

Abraham Lincoln said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abraham Lincoln said...

Abraham Lincoln said...

Thanks for your visit to my blog Brookville Daily Photo this morning. I hope you enjoyed my post today showing the baby rabbit eating the hibiscus flower.

I am now taking a diminishing dose of steroids for my Rheumatoid Arthritis pain and it works. I am pain free. I believe the chemotherapy drug is spelled "Methotrexate" that is used to treat a lot of things from cancer to arthritis and it has side effects that are troubling. So I need to talk to my doctor about it before I take it. Just missing a dose can be a real nightmare.

Anyway, I wanted you to know I stopped-in to repay your visit and comment with mine.

I enjoyed reading your blog post for today about libraries and learning to read and I thought your photography is excellent.

I just got my first shipment of used books from Strand's bookstore in New York City. They have 18 miles of used books. Think about that. Anyway, they got here and I am totally happy with those I chose to read. I had to start out by just choosing a category, like photography, and go from there. I don't know how in the world they can keep track of so many books.

Look up Strand books or copy and paste: http://www.strandbooks.com/app/www/p/home/

Hilary said...

Pat I love reading about your childhood memories. I felt like I was trudging alongside of you, weighed down by those books. In fact, I do remember the feeling of those books digging into my skin as I'd shift them from arm to arm on my own walk home. I LOVED the library when I was a kid.. still do. Thanks for your memories. Looking forward to part two.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Wow, great post for a number of reasons-- we moved here from Alamogordo (north of El Paso)NM (south of Albuquerque), so that was fun-- and then books. Love hearing how others got hooked reading. Can't wait for the next installment.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

I enjoyed this post. I was also a very young reader. I remember going to school sleepy-eyed because after Mom put me to bed, I would take a flashlight and read under the covers until the wee hours. I devoured books like they were candy.

Louise said...

I've been reading your blog for a while and always find it so interesting. And today was even more so!

I grew up in the Missouri Ozarks and lived there for nearly 30-something years before moving to Albuquerque more than 5 years ago.

And I lived in books as a child. (I wish I had more time now to do the same.) I understand reading everything you got your hands on.

Countrygirl said...

When we would stay at our Gramma's house we could walk to the library, at our home we were always too far from town. Your stories bring vivid pictures to mind. Thanks.

Mental P Mama said...

I love reading about what people read. These are some great titles. I, too, was a bookworm, and am happy to report that my daughter is as well. Such a rich life you live when you can read....

TSannie said...

I loved Nancy Drew books growing up - I'm pretty sure I've read most of them.

As per Abe Lincoln, I've had the pleasure of visiting The Strand bookstore and it is wonderful, as only a booklover would love!

Love your stories, Pat!

rhymeswithplague said...

Very good post, and I loved the spider picture next to the clever title, "Caught in the Web of Words."

Like you, I started reading early and often. Some of my best memories as an only child involve being curled up on the platform rocker next to the maple bookcase, reading from The Book of Knowledge and, later, Grolier's Encyclopedia!

I'm looking forward to Part II also.

Bob Brague

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This brought back so many memories. I spent a lot of time at the library too. We lived six blocks away, and I used to read as I walked home.

Thanks for sharing this part of your childhood. I look forward to more.

JC said...

What a beautiful posting. I can picture a little girl at the library, lugging books home, sitting reading and digging through dusty boxes of books.

As for me, it is a wonder I ever made it though school. I'm truly grateful for smart friends.

Thanks for the info on the vine. He has got to go. I left you a message on my site in the comment section. I love your site. JC

Small City Scenes said...

It is interesting to learn about others and books. I feel I have always read---our whole family does the reading thing. My brother, sister and I lived in the library when we were young. I always said I read every book I was allowed to in the Wilmott Library. I don't think it is even there anymore. When I married and had children we lived in a rural area and the bookmobile would arrive and we would be there with our wagon ready to fill it up with books. My father belonged to a Book Club and remember hiding behing the Wing chair reading books I was told not to and I never did know what was so bad. As kids ya don't know what adults do. My mother is still reading like a mad woman---she is 92---and reads a amazing variety of subjects. Enough blabbling. I enjoy your blog thanks for visiting mine. MB

Kelly said...

A great story today! It reminds me a lot of my own love of reading!

Just Roaming The Cities said...

I, too was a fanatical reader as a young girl. Now as an older, make that busier, woman I still read but just not as much as then. I liked reading about you lugging books home every few days, great story-telling abilities you have, no doubt from all the reading you've done. (good readers are usually good writers).

My favorite was a bookmobile. Did you have one of those? I can still smell the inside of it...books and air conditioning on a hot summer day...
Thanks for all your wonderful comments to my blog. I appreciate them!

For The People said...

Dropped back by to say thanks for stopping by my place. Hope you are having a great weekend!

Digital Polaroids said...

Amazing Catch!

"JEANNELLE" said...

Early reading memories.....fun to read of yours! My parents gave me unabridged editions of Tom Sawyer and Little Women for Christmas when I was eight years old and I dove into them right away.

Yes, Nancy Drew books were an obsession at around 5th grade.....we reading friends would trade them back and forth. I remember reading Ben-Hur and The Robe, too, in high school. I loved Agnes Sligh Turnbull books, too, for some reason.