My favorite thing to do as a child…

My favorite thing to do when I was a child was to read. During the school year, we had chores to do after we got home from school. My brother and I gathered the eggs and filled the feeders and waterers. I cleaned and cased eggs every other afternoon, and practiced my flute and piano on the alternate ones. We raised as many as a thousand laying hens each year and sold the eggs to Kroger’s, so there was a LOT of eggs to process by hand.

Because I demonstrated early on that I was pretty much hopeless in the kitchen—mainly on purpose because I much preferred being outside—my sister, who didn’t like outside work, helped Mother in the house. That included fixing a hearty meal and getting it on the table by 6 o’clock in the winter or taking it to the field during planting and harvest.

After supper when there was no field work to do, Dad would read the paper at the kitchen table, while we did our lessons. I rarely had much homework, because I would hurry and get most of it finished at school so I could read before going to bed. My favorite place at school was the library. The one at Converse School was a tiny one, tucked into a little alcove above the principal’s office. I think I read practically every book and most of them multiple times! At the beginning of my sophomore year, the new, consolidated school at Oak Hill was finished, and the library was huge. The reading selection had swelled, but I missed the hominess of the little library and knowing where every book’s place was.

In the summer, my usual well of books dried up, as Mother almost never bought books for us and only took us to the library in Converse when she had to research something for a talk for one of the clubs she belonged to. I loved going there with her even though I knew I wouldn’t be bringing any books home with me. I remember thinking it very odd that my mother was an English teacher yet we couldn’t check out books from the library. I realized as I got older that Mother was not anti-reading–she was just pro-work! However, I learned to ‘make do’!

For quite a few years, Grandma Powell bought us a book for our birthday—Bobbsey Twins for me, Nancy Drew mysteries for my sister, and Hardy Boys for my brother, but we all read each others’. I confess I also regularly raided the bookshelves in our living room, which were off limits, because Mother wanted the books to remain new looking. By slipping an old book into one of the new jackets, I could squirrel the book away until I had read it and returned it to its shelf.

Now, in case you think I was deprived, I did have The Farm Journal, the Prairie Farmer, McCall’s and Life magazines and the Saturday Evening Post to read, in addition to the Marion Chronicle and Peru Tribune. And read them I did!

I confess I’ve downloaded a few e-books, but I found the actual reading of them a somewhat disconcerting experience, since more than once I reached for the upper right corner in an effort to turn the page! So, from time to time, I shop the online, used bookstores and delight in purchasing five books for less than the price of one at Amazon. I do have a healthy collection of bookmarks just begging to be used, and, really, what else can you do with a bookmark other than put it in a book?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll just remain ‘old school’ when it comes to my favorite pastime. There’s just something about the aesthetics of a book in hand that cannot be duplicated by anything other than a real book with real pages–and preferably a biographical novel or series that bears reading more than once.

Note: The Converse Library is one of 3,500 in the US funded by the Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie. The community has always been very proud of its library, which is in the neo-classical style. Carnegie’s story at is really interesting, especially the symbolism of the stairs and lamppost common to the libraries. The list of Indiana’s Carnegie libraries—and pictures of many of them at reveal the dates and amount of the grant awarded for each town’s library. I find it sad that a good number of them have been demolished.

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