Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Juvenile Fiction

Back in the day, the 4th-grade day, we had a thing called a bookmobile. The bookmobile, a little library on wheels about the size of two UPS trucks, dropped by our neighborhood in the summertime.

Almost the entire collection was aimed at children our age, and included all the classics – Maud Hart Lovelace, PL Travers, EB White, Burnett, Dahl. We’d step inside the sweating cab and be knocked for a loop by the pit smell of old-books. Open the Secret Garden, bend back the spine, and breathe in the musty perfume of other grubby little hands from years before. All those old novels steaming in the hot summer trailer – it smelled like a promise to me.

We’d usually pick up a potboiler as well, maybe the latest Nancy Drew. Sure, Nancy Drew and the blue convertible added up to a piece of crap. We knew that; we had taste. But sometimes, oftentimes, we chose not to exercise it.

And then, we’d take our books home and change into swimsuits and head out to one of the neighbors to spend the hottest part of the afternoon in the pool, perfecting our dives and greening our hair.

Some kids were our friends because of what we shared – a love to giggle, a love of animals, and a developing sense of the world around us.

Then we made some friends because of what they had -- A pool, a horse, a mother who knew how to whip up homemade 50-50 bars. We were opportunists and hedonists, afterall.

My friends and I, we rated each other on the shifting scale of best friend for eternity to best friend until September. The ranking would change daily. Friendship was like the next popsicle -- accessible, sweet, transitory. As kids of the ever mobile executive dads, likely as not, any or all of us would be pushing off within the year.

Kidlet days

24 comments:

  1. ... mmm ... noice ... I'll do an Oliver on that, please.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. You really capture the mood of childhood summers.

    Here's a song that reminds me of some of it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ztc_lAb5Ws

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nancy Drew, the pulp of youth. I read them all.

    I know you keep saying you're not a novelist... but girlfriend, you keep writing these great openings for a novel...

    ReplyDelete
  4. My only partner, in the days of my yesteryear, was the canvas bag on my shoulder in which I held copies of The Memphis World that I delivered, door to door on Tuesdays for $.10 and Fridays for $.11 a copy. At the end of the week, for each customer I earned $.11. The bag was also the satchel in which I carried the books that I read as I walked from customer to customer. It was during this time that I read all the orange books on the bottom shelf of our school library. These were the ones that covered the American heroes. Patrick Henry, George Washington, Betsy Ross and many others. YES! Betsy Ross. Ya’ got uh problem! My, self imposed task was to read all the orange backed books in our junior high library. My satchel was also was the repository for the dime store novels, comic books, and other treasures I purchased from the racks at the local drug cum grocery cum variety store in my neighborhood. These were my great finds of the day. They actually cost a dime! Many decades later friends from that time recalled me as the young kid with the bag, walking the paper rout and reading books. There I met Erskine Caldwell, Frank G. Slaughter (MD turned Author), and many of the first historical novelists that charted a path which I would travel in reading for the rest of my life. They were my childhood companions.
    You have not really lived until you have walked five miles, throwing papers on porches without looking up, waving at people you know, without looking up and reading a dime store novel that does not yet have the musty smell. Would I go back there again? Yeah! If I could. If I would. But then, you still can’t go home again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ah, summer poolside with a side of soggy Doritos (my cousin did it every time!).

    I've not read a single Nancy Drew book. It's not intentional, I've just never come across one.

    This is a great slice of life...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Supports the theory that good writers were avid readers as kids. (not me - I read some in Jr. High, more in HS and lots & lots in college when avoiding studying for exams). You sure do bring back the feel of summer days of young girls. Ditto on Mr. E's Wow.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks you guys!

    I also remember riding a horse while barefoot and wearing a swimsuit. No helmet, of course. Parents would be arrested for that today. Should come up with a list of those things...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Our local public source for books wasn't mobile and there weren't any readily accessible horses, but otherwise this sounds a lot like some summers I remember. Friends with pools were a very big deal.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have the fondest memories of bookmobiles in St. Louis, both as a child and later as an elementary teacher [one of many careers in my checkered past]. I'm something of a library geek and the whole idea of bringing the library to neighborhoods underserved by bricks and mortar libraries is wonderful, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Karin... This post takes me back to a slice of time I don't think of often enough. Bookmobiles! I had completely forgotten about them. You've transported me to those carefree, hot summer days and fickle childhood friendships perfectly. I'll be looking for your first published book one of these days!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I remember the smell of the bookmobile like it was yesterday...

    and, yes, Nancy Drew. The old ones (the originals from the 20s) were so much better, so much feistier, than the watered-down 70s set I grew up with that had the yellow spines. So much for the feminist movement.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Which did you lose most often -- your library card or your retainer?

    GG

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am really liking your summer groove. And now I will sound entirely uneducated, but what's a 50-50 bar?

    ReplyDelete
  14. I remember one summer when I devoured every Hardy Boys book I could find!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love your summer memories, really do. Margaret, a 50-50 bar was half orange sherbet and half vanilla icecream on a stick with whipped cream on top, licked energetically as it all melted down your arm.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I never understood the transitory nature of childhood friendships. It could be heartbreaking.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Maud Hart Lovelace, PL Travers, EB White, Burnett, Dahl...... who are these people?

    I vaguely recall the Betsy series being popular. Once I'd proved myself worthy of entering "special education" I was served a heavy diet of Juvenile delinquent literature.

    Do you think if I tell that story to the judge I'll get off this potential criminal case?

    ta

    making the rounds

    ReplyDelete
  18. What fabulous memories. I can definately relate...I also read every Nancy Drew book, spent most of the summer in or on the lake, and had a friend with two ponies. I always have said that I had a Huckleberry Finn childhood....not fancy, but perfect for me.

    And thanks for visiting my Journal!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Maud Hart Lovelace - my childhood reading. And the song was so nostalgic . . . thanks for the link. I used to eat 50-50 bars from the canteen at Eliot almost every day during our 10am break.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow! I live in Tasmania, Australia and your wonderfully rich childhood memories stirred many half forgotten memories of my own. We didn't have 50-50 bars, and the local river was our pool, but the mobile library and Nancy Drew sound exactly as I remember them. I've recently published a children's book www.thepizzagang.com) and can only dream of reaching as many readers as Nancy Drew. Thank you for a lovely walk down reminiscent road.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Bec, another 50/50 fan. And Betsy Tacy. I was thinking the other day that no movie was ever made from that series. I'm glad.

    Lori, everyone needs to look at your blog because you live in Brigadoon.

    Desiree, I've never heard Fullerton and intrigued in the same sentence before.

    Maureen, Tasmania sounds so exotic to me. So glad you stopped by. I see you have a pod cast of a portion of your book. I will definitely check it out. Wanted to write a children's book, but you actually did it.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm glad too! I probably would have boycotted the movie.

    ReplyDelete