September 27, 2013: Reading is a Thriller

When my kids feign occasional boredom, I wonder how on earth they can be bored comparatively to my childhood. I grew up in a small town with few amenities to the comparative big city they live in. After visits to Remsen, the kids would ask what I did as a kid. Obviously they noticed there wasn't a mega-plex movie theater, outdoor shopping mall or Gamestop video store.

"Well, we swam and played at the park." <silence>

"We played with our friends in the streets and back yards." <more silence>

"And when it was too hot or raining, we spent afternoons at the library."

Now that got their attention. They couldn't imagine what we would do for hours at a library. Although they have participated in summer library reading programs, we bought most of our books at school book fairs and book stores. Going to the public library, let alone spending periods of time there, was not common in their days. But it sure was in mine.

The Remsen Public Library was a favorite and frequent stop for me as a child. Not only did I peruse books (everything from Agatha Christie mystery novels to Betty Crocker cookbooks), but I looked through the wide variety of magazines and colorful picture books. There was a room dedicated to only encyclopedias. Even sewing pattern books were available for viewing.

I would spend hours choosing books from the wondrous shelves and then finding a quiet spot to enjoy my found treasures. My brothers and I would wait our turn to inhabit the coveted music room. Here is where we were allowed to play vinyl records (also available for check out) into over sized ear phones. Pillows filled the floor and we would stay until forced out by the next in line.

Summers consisted of reading contests. We earned free ice cream cone tokens to the local drive-in and plastic rings to boldly wear on our fingers. Pages were colored to signify levels of reading achievement with the library walls filled with our reading-earned art.

As a teenager, I participated in a bookmark contest sponsored by our town newspaper and the library. We were asked to design bookmarks. The winning entries would be reprinted for distribution to library patrons. Using a black pen and Michael Jackson theme, I won with my entry "Reading is a Thriller". The bottom of the bookmark read "from MTV to your library". The newspaper printed pictures of the winners (of which I found in the bowels of my basement storage).

The library held a special place for my grandma as she was the cleaning lady; custodian extraordinaire. When I reached my high school years and she began wintering in Arizona, I would fill in during her absence. Vacuuming the floors in after-hour silence among the mounds of typewritten treasures felt like a "night at the museum" outing. The place came alive in its quiet glory. I loved that job. My boys have no idea what they missed out on.


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