The other day I saw a library card: not the modern credit-card type, but the index card slid into a pocket on the inside cover of a book, with an accompanying slip attached to the opposite page and covered with dates.
I know current computerized library systems are models of modern convenience and efficiency. I myself frequently access archived newspapers through the library website. And it is great to check the card catalog from my recliner about the availability of some book I would like to read.
But I often find the old system equally effective, especially when I misplace that little slip of paper listing the books I have checked out and their due dates. With the old cards, the due date was right there in the front of each book.
Beyond the mechanics of the checkout process, however, is the “history” of any particular book. During my years at GHS when I worked in our brand-new library during study hall, it was always interesting to see which students had checked out which books. Years later when I returned to teach, many of those books remained in the GHS collection, my name and the names of my friends and sisters still recorded on the old library cards.
During those same years, my part-time job at the county library similarly allowed me to determine the popularity of books that crossed the checkout desk in the library on Market Street. The glued-in due date slips of some books were filled, while other volumes contained only a couple of stamped dates. I loved that old system: so simple, so quaint, so ivy-covered.
We all know fewer newspapers are actually printed on newsprint each year. I myself read the UDC from my computer screen. I prefer the on-demand availability and reduced clutter of the e-edition.
But I do miss the paper newspaper. I have no supply of old newspapers to spread out for messy jobs. Thankfully, I am not moving any time soon: how would I protect my dishes and glassware from breaking during the packing process? And what are papier mâché aficionados to do? I suppose messy people, dish packers, and papier mâchérs could substitute paper towels, but utilizing old newspapers allows two uses for one item.
In the fifth grade I became the proud owner of a diary and an autograph book. My mundane life made me only an occasional diarist, with the accompanying key unnecessary to prevent snoopers from reading about my boring existence.
It was a different story, however, with my dark red autograph book, measuring four inches by six inches and imprinted with simulated gold letters. The pages contained signatures scribbled in pencil and ditties written in blue ink – gel pens or ballpoints in bright colors were not yet available.
Mostly classmates and cousins signed my book. The boys usually scrawled just their names; we had been writing cursive only since the second grade. The girls were more flowery, with poems of the “roses are red” variety. Occasionally, a teacher agreed to sign my book in her proper teacher penmanship, and a relative sometimes shared a line or two of advice.
I suppose some kid now and then even scored the signature of someone famous. Of course, nowadays anyone can buy autographs of professional athletes – perhaps with the thought of later cashing in on eBay. But signatures of the famous and not-so-famous are simply physical reminders of a special moment in time. That is exactly how I still think of my autograph book: gentle recollections of sweet days gone by.
When the incessant, roller-coaster reports of politics-as-usual threaten to overwhelm, I flip to some old-timer channel for the familiar stories of Beaver Cleaver and the folks in Mayberry. These well-worn reruns depict life from my early years, when ladies did not leave home without donning a fashionable hat.
Although my mother’s everyday hat was the straw one she wore as she drove the tractor while my father baled hay, she stored the dressier ones – the kind she wore to weddings or funerals – on a shelf in her wardrobe.
About the only hats we see on females these days are ballcaps and toboggans, practical to be sure. Oh, there are the high society women in their stylish chapeaus at the Kentucky Derby and Buckingham Palace, and we cannot forget the ladies who have certainly earned their Red Hats. For most of us, however, headgear pretty much provides protection from the elements of nature.
But it is sad that June Cleaver and Aunt Bee no longer set fashion standards. Nowadays I see photos all over Facebook of little girls in tutus and tiaras. They may have clipped on some dangly earrings and could very well be clomping around in oversized high heels. There is, however, nary a bonnet or cloche from yesteryear to complete their mini-mommy ensembles.
I know! I know! Our libraries are doing just fine. We have more than enough ways to follow the news. An autographed baseball is surely someone’s treasure. Fancy hats are unlikely to make a fashion comeback, despite Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle.
But I will continue to miss cards glued into my library books, ink from the day’s newspaper smeared on my fingers, the autograph of a childhood pal, a Jackie Kennedy pillbox hat – and all the lovely past times they still conjure up in my mind.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.