Now, I don’t presume to speak for all country folks as to what their home libraries contained, but the people in my world (particularly my family) didn’t have much in the way of reading materials. I look over at my bookshelves and wish I had had a fraction of the books that I now have, but the little we had was okay.
For, instance, when I visited grandparents “A,” they never had any kind of reading materials, perhaps because they really couldn’t read. Vaguely I recall that there may have been an old catalog or some other old worn-out magazine that would occasionally appear in their house, but other than that, that was about it. When I visited Grandparents “B,” luckily, they had a few stray books. Actually, that’s where I found the little, old, worn-out copy of Heidi, my favorite childhood book.
Fortunately, we country kids had a small school library that had a few books that we could read during class time. I don’t recall that we could check them out, perhaps because there were so few of them, but even still, at least, we had access to books other than classroom texts.
Then, the junior/senior high school had quite an extensive library for a small town school. Fortunately, we could check those books out. That is where we got Dr. Suess’, “The Cat in the Hat.” That was our favorite book and it gave us many hours of fun and laughter and good childhood reading.
When it comes to our home library, I can probably count our collection on one (and only) one hand. As is true of most rural families, if we didn’t have any other literary journal, we definitely had the Farmer’s Almanac. Actually, this annual book appears to be the standard publication for country folks’ homes. And we spent endless hours thumbing through its pages. Not that there was that much to glean from it since it’s a magazine more suited for farmers and gardeners, but any paper with the vaguest images and pictures is a form of entertainment, because we didn’t have much from which to choose.
I believe the Farmer’s Almanac is the only magazine that we ever had. If there were others, they escape my memory. We may have gotten ahold of the Hope Star, our local newspaper from uptown. But, and if we got it, it was indeed a rarity. My parents didn’t read newspapers, so there was no reason to subscribe to them, not to mention the fact that they just didn’t have money for such luxuries.
Now, we did have an assortment of mail order catalogs that was more than fun to thumb through. I looked forward to receiving Spiegel, Montgomery Ward, J.C. Penney, Fashion Frocks, Lucky Heart, Blair, and Sweet Georgia Brown catalogs. They always had pretty clothing and shoes, the nicest smelling powders and perfumes, and of course our much-wanted once-a-year Christmas toys.
People call those catalogs “dream books” and “wish books,” and for the most part, for us, that’s exactly what they were. We got more wishes and had more dreams from gazing at their pages than we had dreams or wishes that came true. The catalogs comprised the majority of any kind of reading materials that were constantly in our house.
And last but not least, for a season, we had what some refer to as the country folks’ all-time favorite, Grit. Actually, we had this publication because at one time, my brother had a paper route and sold it to families out in our part of the country.
I cannot speak about what other country people had in their “libraries,” but I have a sneaky suspicion that even though some of them were a few notches further up on the financial ladder than we were, I still believe that most people just didn’t have the money to invest in such reading materials as we do today.
So there you have it for the printed presses from which our country family got our information and from which our eyes looked at and from which our souls, minds and hearts dreamed for things.
Photo by Fotolia/Africa Studio