Old Books, old friends.

Old books mean a lot to me.

Growing up from about age 5 -11, I didn`t have a lot of friends. I spent all my time reading.

I remember my mom driving the 6 miles to Mbg Library, the old building was on Main Street back then. I remember the feeling of expectation, as my mom parallel parked on the street by door main. At one point, we drove a snazzy Black Charger, later a conversion van, and most memories are of a charcoal gray minivan with rounded, not aerodynamic features. (a new concept, those minivans!- and we had one!). For some reason, I picture her in my mind, parking in the snow.

I loved the way you walked in, and all the librarians were sitting at high desks (think post office high) to the right. There was rotating art, and posters showcasing new books to read, on the wall high behind them. I always looked at the posters.

Heading to the aged elevator, I passed people with time on their hands, lounging on weathered leather chairs, with newspapers over their eyes. All the latest magazines were sitting upright on racks, with thick plastic covers on them.

I often walked up the winding staircase to the low ceiling-ed area, almost like a balcony, the lazy newspaper readers could be seen below- I sat against the wall with a stack of books on my lap.

I was really into Princess Diana and any other classic celebrities from a past era. I`m not sure why- I remember sitting up there looking through all the biography picture books and dreaming of eras gone by. Julia Roberts was new back then, no one had ever drowned in a smile like that before. Elizabeth Taylor was just moving past her prime, but she was still really interesting in a “her from the past” kind of way. Also, any actors from the 20s and 30s. We rented an old film projector with reels, as a family a few times when I was this age and so I really liked to do my research and follow up. Remember, that was before Google!

My favorite floor though was the Children`s Floor. I forget which floor it actually was, but you got to ride the quaint elevator up, to get there. That floor always had a watchful librarian in it, and a large circular table in the middle. The librarians talked gossip to each other and mostly ignored the few kids that wandered up there.

I was fine with that. I knew which books I hadn`t read. At one point I remember feeling frustrated because it was hard to find books I hadn`t already read.

Carolyn Haywood and her gang- Billy, Eddie, Betsy and Tacy. Barney buck, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, Sadie Rose, Bobbsey Twins, The Latchkey Kids, anything Beverly Cleary, Homer Price, Centerburg Tales, Little house Books, anything from L.M. Montgomery, The Mandie series, The Boxcar Children, Katie John, Robin Kane mysteries, the Christy Miller books, Donna Parker, Grandma`s Attic books, Joy Spartan, Pippi Longstocking, TRIXIE BELDEN mysteries- how could I forget Trixie Belden?

There were a few notorious ones for me. Before Harry Potter came and ruled the “not good for kids” genre.

The Soup books by Robert Newton Peck- they sometimes had coarse expressions in them that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Babysitters Club- which had to be sneaked out under by arm, and then stuffed in an unassuming bag since I was forbidden to read them. What was that series with the blonde twins, Jessica and Elizabeth in high school? Yes, I rarely got those because they were so… bad.

(EDIT: It just came to me- Sweet Valley High)

Anyway, you get the idea, the list goes on and on and ON.

(My Happy Hollister collection.)

(The HH I picked up for 2.50 the other day, is listed at around $20-56 on Amazon.)

Before I had children, I would often come home from work and sit down on the computer and order another old book from Amazon. My husband was in school full time, and we both waited tables when we could. We weren`t home a lot. Buying old books was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.

I dreamed of owning a good bit of the ones that were beloved to me as a child. My collection grew, but I never really knew how many I actually had, since I stored them in boxes. When we moved here, they were in boxes/suitcases and went straight to the attic.

(Donna Parker Books.)

Last week I did it. Trudged up and down, up and down, 3 flights of stairs and finally had them all, dusty and dirty, in one place. This built in cupboard had dishes in it until recently, but being that the cupboard is in what we have decided is a playroom- I was just DYING to get all my old books neatly and beautifully displayed.

Other people might not know the stories of my life that these book remind me of- but I know.

Donna Parker reminds me of my Grandpa Miller. He was a kind-hearted, gruff-speaking, round man, with a sweet white beard, and the ability to get jokes. I have only good memories of my Grandpa Miller.

I remember going up to his house on the hill, ALL the time, me in my wool knee socks and two long braids, happy to be going somewhere adventurous.

My dad and grandpa had these things they DID, like retold jokes between them. One usual one, my dad would dramatically rave about the Hiland Hawks (local high school basketball team) and my grandpa would say every time in the SAME intonation, in the fake grouchiest growl.

“I couldn`t. care. LESS. about sports.”

(So that`s where I get it.)

My dad would laugh and laugh, it was like this thing they liked to run through.

My GM (Grandpa Miller) was a well, I will say pack-rat, because hoarder sounds too rough on him. I will say though, a real, live dead, yellow, school bus was NOT the only thing on his property so full you could not walk through it. The car had long given up being able to use the garage. The table was not used for eating. (We loved the table. It was always covered with hard candies, nuts,  and Nickles donut boxes. Snacks all day for the sneaky grandkids.)

But in the room down the hall, the very last one to the left, was the ME room. I spent every spare minute at GMs sorting through that room. It was where my GM would dump the boxes that you buy after estate sales- when the auctioneers fill boxes with all the “randoms” and sell them for a few dollars. He obviously loved buying these “after” boxes, but promptly forgot about them once they hit the back room.

Thinking of this room, makes me miss my GM, so many things I remember seeing in this room are things I know are valuable today. And valuable, not just in a “money” kind of way. Like Currier and Ives prints. To this day, they FILL me with nostalgia when I see them, and I collect them because they remind me of him and that old room.

He had acquired a few Donna Parkers from time to time- surely accidentally. Whenever I found a new one in my digging, I read it. Often right there, on the orange shag carpet- leaning against a box tower, my braids hanging over the words.

Is it sad, I can describe the carpet color/texture in every room of his old house?

(Katie John Books.)

In all my days of thrift storing, I have never come across any of these books. They are a little unknown. They are written in a way that evokes feeling like no other childhood book I remember.

In a few of the books she interacts with “Edwin”- I have loved that winsome name ever since- he had such a “can`t put a finger on it” character in the book. I was in grade school when I read these books and had a big crush on a boy named Matty Mickles (which I have written about before)- Edwin makes me think a little of Matty in my memory.

Not his real name, dummy. 🙂

Double Trouble for Rupert- yes, I collect every copy I get my hands on. If I can write a children`s book like this one day- well, I`d die proud.

The characters have names like Annabelle, Opal, Sylvia, Clayte, Milt, Dood, Gwen, Rupert… (Boy, spellcheck does NOT like those names!)

She describes Rupert`s annoying girl friends as “wasting smiles” and Opal, was always “speaking through her nose”. I always think of the Rupert book series when I write.
I read it for pleasure.

Well, I need to go- I was wondering though, does anyone ELSE have beloved books they remember. I love to “talk books”- old ones especially.

I could write pages discussing characters.

For instance: The Trixie Belden books- my observations, even though I haven`t read one of those for 20+ years.

Di Lynch had violet eyes? Really. Is that even a real thing? I was skeptical of that every time I read about them.

The only thing that ever stopped Trixie from running out the door to solve a new mystery, was all the dusting her mom asked of her. Somehow “Moms”- as they all called her- never noticed all the sweeping under the rug that Trixie had going on.

Sadly, Trixie never went to school. Either that, or she lives in a land where it is always summer.

Trixie`s little brother Bobby, was 6, (he remained 6 for all 20 books)- but the authors choose to have him speak at the level of a 3 year old. Another stress point for little Jenny. I had a lot of little siblings, had neither Kathryn Kenny nor Julie Campbell EVER met a REAL 6 year old?

Trixie somehow convinces her 2 older brothers to be in her Bob White Detective Agency club. The one is DRIVING AGE. How did she do that- pretty friends?

Trixie`s family is poor, but Crabapple Farm where they live, sounds anything but shabby.

Trixie is allowed to say “jeepers” whenever she wants.

Trixie is a tomboy and never wears dresses- but when she does- one event in every book- her friend Jim Fayne really likes it.

Her brother Mart always has Trixie`s same sandy curls. Cut your hair Mart, so I don`t have to picture you looking so awful in my head.

~~~

Got to go- I like it when you talk books to me.

jenny

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23 Comments

  1. Amber says:

    I love this post!!! The trips to the library on main st. were always the highlight of my week. I read lots of the same books you did. Except for Trixie beldon… how did I miss those?! Loved Babysitter’s club, S.V. Twins (S.V.H. were forbidden 😉 ) , Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and tons of others. I just love the Smell of the library! Crazy, I know. “They” are trying to raise money to move the library to a bigger building…I told the shocked librarian that I hope they didn’t raise enough. 😀 Ha! She thought i was crazy, but that’s ok. I’m sentimental like that and love taking my children to the same library that I ‘grew up in’. I don’t have a ton of old books, but you gave me the wish for them…I may be visiting ebay today. 🙂

  2. Nicole says:

    I can SO picture the library when it was there on Main Street! And yes, I can relate to loving to go there and that certain feeling when I would go there. It definitely had more character then the newer one. Glad I was one of your few friends back then :-).

  3. Marilyn Miller says:

    I believe we have more interests alike than what I realized. So often when I read your posts, I’m sitting here, going, “that’s what I used to read! That’s exactly how I feel! I so know what she means by that!” Ha. I have a great love for “old” children’s books, that’s the first place I go to when I go to a thrift store…so I’m thinking it’s a good thing we don’t know each other that well and we don’t go shopping together or there might be a fight in the book section. 🙂 I read a lot of the same ones you did and S.V.H. was also “forbidden” in my growing up years and oh how I wanted to read them so badly! I did read one or two I think. And the thing is, I probably wouldn’t of enjoyed them as much as I thought I would of but since they were “bad” it made it all the more enticing. I was also a big Miss Piggle Wiggle fan. And the Little’s. Did you ever read the Little’s books? I used to wish so bad I was a Little. 🙂 Enjoyed the post!

  4. Kristy says:

    Oooh la la…. love, LOVE, love your books….. I read most of those and yes, i tried my hardest to sneak a few Babysitters and Sweet Valley home to read with utter delight cause they were “naughty”. I have a lot of the HH and a few of the other ones. Libraries make me soo happy. I like the one in this town since it is so much bigger etc… but it doesn’t have that smell like the little one in Abbeville. 🙂 Did you read The Boxcar Children? I wanted their life so badly… it was just so romantic!
    So far my girls won’t read my old books and it causes me grief… maybe McK will yet!

  5. Heidi says:

    Loved this post Jenny, I to was a big reader growing up, Trixie Belden was my absolute favorite books, I remember pretending that I was her, and of course hung on every interaction between her and Jim, certain that they would marry someday. Thanks for the fun post, loved reading your old memories!

  6. JessicaD says:

    What is with so many having read SVH even though they were always forbidden? 😀 Me too. Babysitters Club? loved them!
    You mentioned a few I had never heard of. Trixie Belden? No clue. but this I know, I will take you r words for it and never pass one up. 🙂

  7. Joy miller says:

    Jenny, your posts always touch my heart. But this one brought a sentimental tear to my eye. So many good memories at the old library… I could remember the buliding and people pretty good but was excited you refreshed my mind on some of it again. Also grandpas house. I miss him. I remember and liked must of those books but I was a little later in life. I loved bill Pete and have a goal of owning the collection. Thanks Jenny.

  8. linda hershey says:

    i cannot believe how you remember all your characters. i have never heard of Trixie Belden books. never.
    but i do love me some old books and we are headed to the library this afternoon…going to make a list right here and now.
    i got all nostalgic when you described your library. every library needs creaky wooden steps and that hushed tone with a librarian who actually has a librarian look.
    i have an old hardback book here that i bought when i was a kid. it often makes me think of you and your love of old books. altho the books you describe make me think we had different book worlds.
    i bought about 15 Babysitter Club books. i would make money at the store and then go with my older sister to the bookstore and buy them. i guess mom was too busy to check if they passed or not. all my siblings dived right in and read them with me! now jacqui is glued to them.
    loved this post. you could totally start an online blog on just books. are you part of a book club? you should be.

  9. April says:

    Oh my goodness Jenny! This post brings back so many happy childhood memories! The whole “I didn’t have a lot of friends but I loved books” thing, that was SO me 🙂 Your collection of books is enviable. L.M.Montgomery was my all time favorite, and the Little House series. I love the way you described your library, I feel as though I’ve been there. Libraries really do feel like magical places.

    One of the things I love about being a mom is getting a second chance at childhood. I’ve been reading so many of my favorite childhood books to the boys the last two years. I’m almost more excited to read them than they are! I love it when that ask to read “just one more chapter mom, please?!!”. Great post!

  10. Bevy says:

    I too remember Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, the Boxcar series, Little House on the Prairie…Grandma’s Attic, A Hive of Busy Bees…

    oh and the series of Sarah Jane and is it Mabel? (gee, I can’t remember her name now – nor the name of the two books).

    The story I remember of them is where they wanted to make their faces beautiful (as they had read somewhere) and they made a concoction of honey and wax… spread it all over their faces and you remember what happened there. Ouch.

    I love old books too. In fact I was given some seriously old books/original covers of the Bobbsy Twins and Bunny Brown series. I wonder what they’re worth.

    Do you remember the Mandie Series? Oh and how about the Grace Livingston Hill books? Christmas Carol Kauffman?

    Thanks for dusting off my memory shelves…once again. 🙂

    • Bevy says:

      I wanted to add.

      Did you grow up listening to the stories on the radio, too? Like Uncle Charlie (reading, Keys for Kids)?

      Ranger Bill?

      Odyssey?

      Unshackled?

      • Jenny says:

        yes, yes yes! i read every series you mentioned. GREAT to hear of a few i had forgotten. the mabel one was called “grandma`s attic series”- or that`s what we called it.
        and,
        yup, listened faithfully! to every radio show you mentioned. those days 80s and 90s radio- were so great and so innocent, i think.

        • Jenny says:

          Do you remember the Mandie Series? Oh and how about the Grace Livingston Hill books? Christmas Carol Kauffman?

          religious reader of all 3 of these series.

  11. Anonymous says:

    You are so good at writing. I’m just picturing the braids and you and your Grandpa. (Love that character!)

    Katie John is the best. And ah. Edwin. Positively dreamy. I also loved the Beany Malone books. And if I could even write like Beverly Cleary I would be supremely happy. It is just so much fun reading her books to my children. And now I’m seeing Victoria (who is 12) go from writing all these sappy little stories to admiring better authors and trying to emulate them. She sighs over how Cleary writes about such ordinary stuff and makes it So Good.

    Love your observations of Trixie Belden. My boys were just spouting off about how the Hardy Boys are forever the same age too.
    I never heard of Rupert. I’ll have to look him up now. 🙂

    When your girls are a little older, look for From Anna by Jean Little. And Carol Ryrie Brink (author of Caddie Woodlawn) writes some blessed books that we just discovered recently. I think that her Family Grandstand is almost as good as Caddie. It has a totally different flavor.

    Such a fun post. Sentimental sigh.

  12. Luci says:

    ^^^ oops. Luci Martin up there^^^^

  13. Rachel M says:

    I remember that library on Main Street and was sad too when they moved. But I love the “new” one now! I forgot some of those details of the old library, the leather couches, winding stairs, etc. Your post brought it back. I was fascinated by the lighted “pen” they used to use to swipe the bar code and would play library at home using a pretend “pen” to swipe the bar codes on my library books. Besides many of the ones you mentioned, another fav was Thorton W. Burgess books …. the real, hardcover, thick ones ….. I’d like to own the whole set someday (not the modern day paperback ones, but the old hardcover ones). Rachel M.

  14. Andrea Esh says:

    Seriously you sent me back to Millersburg Library. Those READ posters with Michael J Fox and other 80’s celebrities. Anyway, I have been searching the web this morning to see if I could find any (posters)–I can’t find a single one. What happened to them?
    I read a couple Trixie Beldon but not enough to remember all those details. I honestly think you are the most well-read person in kids lit that I know.
    I pretty much bought up all the Baby-sitters Club books as they came out.
    Awesome awesome post!

  15. Thelma Musser says:

    i loved the nostalgia you evoked w/ this post, esp w/ the previous commenters too:-) That’s so funny about the SV. vs. SVH. I never never read the high school ones either. baby sitters club, Sweet Valley twins, Grandmas’ attic, little house on the prairie, mandie, LM montgomery (absolute favorite, to this day) and all the others’ you mentioned, except for Trixie Beldon. Why do I not know about Trixie Beldon?? 🙂 I really hope my kids can at least get in a few of these in their time. The library here is so big and modern compared to the one we had growing up. We’d always go on Sat. afternoon after our chores were done.

  16. Aug says:

    What a FUN post! And charming! And so up my alley.
    Your memory is what amazes me the most. Because I do NOT have those kind of clear, ultra-detailed childhood memories and it bothers me that I don’t. I had no idea you read THAT much when you were a kid. I have heard of some of those books, like Trixie Belden and the Babysitters Club (of course — those were also cutting edge for our family, not sure if Mom really approved) but I don’t think I started reading so voraciously until I was closer to a teenager, so the books I read were mostly adult type books instead of kids’ books. I do remember the Mandy series. I think I read every one of those, all the way up to 25 or whatever it was.

    I LOVED how you talked about the Trixie Belden and your observations of them. I was the same way when I read books, noticing the inconsistencies or the things that didn’t make sense. We’re not stupid, ok, authors!! And also, my Grandpa on my Mom’s side was also the “junk man” at auctions, who would buy all of those $1 and $2 boxes. His place was a kids’ dream. Sometimes I think the people who aren’t so concerned with cleanliness and neatness are much more interesting people. You know?

    Anyway, loved, loved this post. We should talk about this stuff in person sometime. It would be SO fun! This post makes me miss you! 😉

  17. linda hershey says:

    check it out. i googled my Maud Lovelace book called Downtown(the only real oldie i own!!) and the one suggested price was $75!! i think maybe it is an original copy from 1943. anyway, just had to tell you that. and also, i have been so inspired by your LOVE of old children’s literature. been thinking about your extensive list ever since. so far Aleiyah hasn’t bought the “lets get some old classics” line. she is all over Junie B. Jones. No Sugarcreek Gang for them, i guess!

  18. Pauline Martin says:

    Have been quietly delighting in your blog for several months but this post cannot be ignored! Most of the comments already echo my own sentiments so I’ll just say that I’m old enough to have missed the BS Club & SVH but was one of the moms that believed them ‘too’ naughty also for my oldest daughter but ‘relaxed w/ the next one …..however, I do not remember her as being ‘into’ them. I also share ‘the passion’ for old childrens lit. & find it gratifying that both our daughters do as well. Trixie Belden after Bobbsie Twins but never was a fan of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys like my next door schoolmates were. I owned only a few Donna Parkers & did not have access to a public library as a ‘lil horse n buggy mennonite girl. (Our paroachial schools’ was very limited.)
    Now both my daughters have their own collections & I wonder if I’ve created ‘book hoarders’……..several yrs ago I ‘nabbed’ 2 old hb ‘Little House’ books @ our local libraries annual sale. The Long Winter is ill. by Helen Sewell & Mildred Boyle instead of Garth Williams. A bookseller beat me to the copy of ‘Farmer Boy’! My 17 yr old son claims Wilder as his favorite childhood series but now reads Tolkien.
    Unfortunately I also had access to my aunts Harlequin romance collection @ a tender age & didn’t discover my ‘now’ beloved LM Montgomery until much later in life. Hope sometime you’ll also share some of your favorite adult authors.
    Thank you for sharing, I must now share your post w/ my girls & sisters who are equally book ‘happy’!

  19. Shilah Hartman says:

    Jenny, one day I would like to see you again and talk over coffee. All the childhood reads you mentioned were my favorites as well and what you said about the gal with the violet eyes came floating back into my memories. I’ve kinda been on the look out every since to see if such a thing exists… Anyways, YOU need to write a book. You are talented. As I said already, I would love to meet you again now that we’re all grown up and all… Ha ha. Shilah

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