Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Family Museum Collections from A to Z - "B" for Books

There are so many stories I want to tell about our museum collections, I sometimes don’t know where to start. Then it hit me. What better guide to use other than the alphabet. So I started to make a list and stopped at the letter “B” because after listing several items I was anxious to start writing instead of continuing the list. I do not have anything under “A”. The only thing I could come up with is antique, however, all the things in our family museum don’t qualify to be an antique, at least not yet. And then my lovely husband comes into my office and chuckled at my idea. He said, “There is something that starts with “A”. “What,” I asked. “Album,” he said. And he’s right. But since I spent this afternoon writing about “B” for books, I will write about the albums tomorrow.  

Story on Books, Lizzie’s School BooksSchool. I was not a very bright student. At least that was what I was told. It was much later in life that I found out why. First, my eyesight was poor and I needed glasses which I did got wear until I was in third grade. By that time my reading skills had been sadly compromised. But worse than that, I had dyslexia, a learning disability that was not recognized when I went to kindergarten in 1955. Therefore, school was always a challenge for me but I got through it. Now, because of these malady’s, I was not fond of reading and did not covet books. But my dear dad, always the saver, held onto a few of my school books that I now sentimental to me.

One of the first things you notice when you open an old book is the smell. What is it about that scent that can take you back into another time, another world? Then you feel the paper. Substantial yet now with age, brittle. So carefully you turn the pages. What is even more special is that if the book has color pictures (illustrations) the colors are vibrant and rich. These images are simplistic and innocent. Compared to today’s schoolbooks, I much rather these bygone tombs than the glossy, computer-perfect text and images that are produced today.
So enough of my nostalgic trip down schoolbook lane and have a look at these now fondly and preserved books of my childhood.
Four books. That’s all. Not much when you stop to think how many books have passed through your hands from kindergarten through high school (I did not go to college).  I went to the John L. Marsh Elementary School in Chicago, IL from kindergarten through 4th grade.
Two books survive; the first one was the Basic Reader (1957) titled, We Are Neighbors (1957). The book I had was the revised edition from the Chicago Public Library (1959). When I opened the book again, I was delighted to see that it still had the original Library Card with the earliest date due of Jul 30. Also the library card that was stamped with the due date that stayed in the book; this one dated MAR 21 1961.
The lovely stories in the book all had to do with neighbors and neighborhoods. The sections were divided into storylines: Garden Street Neighbors, Animal Neighbors, Good Times, Story Fun, People Who Work for Us, Round Go the Wheels, and Storybook Friends.  All of these stories with their colorful illustrations made reading fun. I can’t remember if I did, but that doesn’t matter because I enjoy reading them today. One of my favorites is about the Milkman. Do you remember the milkman? As the story goes, a new milkman delivered the milk to the back door when before it was delivered to the front door. Mom found this out when she made a telephone call to the delivery company. All’s well that ends well. Even the cat and her kittens got their milk. When was the last time you called to find out why your milk didn’t come?     

The second book in interesting. Title, All Around Me, it is a work book prepared & published by Continental Can Company as a public service. A public service? After reviewing the 35 pages, the book is about identifying yourself, with little lessons and work pages and music. Part One asks the reader to write “Important facts about Me, What I see and hear around Me, and what I like to do. Part Two asks about “My Home and the people in it, what is Fun at home, What is a day at my house like, Who are helpers for the house, and The way we keep things. Part Three asks about My Town, Facts about my Town, Buildings in my Town, My School, How packaged goods come to my Town (this is most interesting because the Continental Can Company was a major packaging company), and People who work in my Town and who All my Friends are. The last page is a tear-out page with an illustration of a finger puppet with instructions on how to make it. I guess I didn’t care about this because the page is still there, but with a pencil drawing of a lady that I suspect my mother drew. It certainly was not the drawing of a 9-year old. After scrutinizing this workbook, I feel as if it was a publicity tactic to promote the can company’s agenda. And I am sure the book was given to the schools for this purpose. Do company’s still employ such methods? And as for the drawing of the girl jumping rope, I drew this. Other than having exceptionally long arms, I think she looks pretty happy to be jumping rope, something I did a lot when a kid.

The last two books are the legendary school workbooks. Need I say more? Here are two Spelling books, one from fifth grade (1960) and eight grade (1963) both published by Laidlaw Brothers for the Catholic School Spelling Series. (My family moved out of Chicago into the country, settling in a town called Mokena. There, my brother and I attended St. Mary’s School, hence the Catholic workbooks.)

I liked workbooks. At least I think I did. Both of these books taught everything that was needed to learn how to spell; vowel sounds, dividing words, open and closed syllables, vowel digraphs, derivatives, sounds, pronouncing words distinctly, etc. Several pages of spelling tests, and even a dictionary in the back. And every word  was written in cursive. Not one printed letter. Going off the tract a bit, I just read in this weekend’s paper how schools are reconsidering teaching cursive. What? You mean they don’t! I read that kids today are taught how to write in kindergarten (a child’s brain at that age trying to learn cursive when they have yet to know how to read is unreal) and in first grades only. Then they are taught how to type! If that isn’t bad enough, schools want to know what the public thinks. It asked, Do you think children should be taught how to write cursive?   
Back to my books. It is quite wonderful to see that I was pretty good at writing cursive and my spelling ability was satisfactory. However, I can’t say that about myself today. Thank goodness for spell check! As for the Spelling 8 workbook, lessons became a bit more complicated. By this time the student had to know plurals and compound words, how to analyze words, work with homonyms, word origins, suffixes and parts of speech, and of course, more spelling tests. The picture I captured from this book shows some pretty impressive cursive, but what I liked more is that I wrote with purple ink. WOW! I must have lost my blue ink pen. 
I hope you liked this little trip down memory lane. Do you still have any books from your school days? I wish I had more but at least my dad saved these. Thanks, Dad.

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