Reading V’s recent post about our childhood sure stirred up memories. She’s right. Summer was divine. While school was always enjoyable for me, summer was the zenith of the year. We never went to school into June, and we did not return to school until the day after Labor Day, so we had a full three months off. Summer had a whole different rhythm of life than the rest of the year. Now that I am an adult, I don’t get to experience that change in beat (although V does, being a school employee).
My passion for reading dates from my early childhood; I’ve been reading since before I went to school. There came a time when I could not find anything in my school’s library to read because I had read everything that was of remote interest to me. For sure, I had read all the books on horses, dogs and native Americans, both fiction and nonfiction.
When I was a child there was no such thing in our area as branch libraries. The library downtown was the only library, and it was housed in a big old building. The children’s section was in the basement. Here’s a picture of the building, although I remember a parking lot to the right of the picture, and there is where we would park for our library trips. When Mom would take us or when the school went a few times on a field trip, we entered the basement through the back side of the building to the right. See those little half windows peeking up from the ground to the right of the picture? That was where the children’s department was. Far from being basement-dreary, it was like stepping into another world for me—a delightful world.
The library had low, child-high chairs placed at long, low tables. These had big picture books scattered here and yon, and we could just take a seat wherever and begin the journey to wherever the book we chose would lead us. As I grew older, I roamed the shelves, looking for titles. We were allowed to take six books at a time, and I recall going back to the car each library trip with my limit tucked under my arm.
In the summer a special treat was offered by the library: the bookmobile came every other week the three months we were out of school for the summer. Flyers would be posted around, and the children would gather at the appointed time in the parking lot of the school.
The bookmobile was a large Winnebago-type vehicle (not nearly as fancy as this one) which was lined with bookshelves full of books. I think it was designed for kids, as I don’t remember any adults looking for books there.
I remember that my mother would not let me ride my horse to get books. She was worried about the presence of the other kids there and about my juggling the books astride my horse. This was surely wise on her part.
So, we would walk the half-mile or so to the bookmobile, gathering friends as we went so that my brother and I might be accompanied by four or five by the time we got there to join the little throng that had already arrived. We would all converge on the bookmobile and wait our turn. The traveling librarian paced the number who could come in at once so there would be no crowding.
I can still remember the hum of the air conditioner as I looked among the books and how wonderful the cold air felt after standing on the hot summer pavement. This freebie was an event for us—a social event as well as one to give us summer reading material. I saw kids at the bookmobile who lived in the community just far enough away that summer meant no contact other than this. It was good catch-up time.
I don’t know for sure, but I just imagine that with the emergence of branch libraries in neighborhoods, the bookmobile has become more rare; at least I never see any around our town. I hope it still reaches out to small communities without their own handy library because it is such a good social tool.
Having this bookmobile come to us created a time for visiting with our friends, and excitement would build for the appointed day. For me, it reinforced the connection between reading and pleasure. It surely is a treasured summer memory. C