Books - they can be so many things - a source of learning, fascination, escape. I wouldn't say books were always a part of my life - but gradually I came to books and was hooked. In fact, I almost always refuse to lend my books to anyone for fear of not getting them back or getting them back damaged!
Looking back to 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade, books were an utter chore for me. I mean can you imagine? What are you even reading at that age (that is to say it should have been easy for me) - just didn't have the patience for them. There were small exceptions of course. When we went to the libray at school, I would always be drawn to books on sports, the military, picture books - a favorite was "PT-109" the story of John Kennedy's PT boat.
Then my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Prescott urged me to expand my reading habits - she made an attempt to get me to read fiction chapter books. Reluctantly I panned the shelves of our library and found such a book - "Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine" by Jay Williams. When I took it home and began reading it, I found I couldn't wait to see what happened in the next chapter - it would be the first time that I ever read at night in bed! Prescott had succeeded! I then started to read more books from the same series.
Above the first "real" book I ever read thanks to my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Prescott!
This all sounds like a great story right? - 8-9 year old kid discovers reading and..........Well I hate to admit this but it was very short-lived and back to the usual books I went. Later in junior high school and high school, I dreaded the Catcher in the Rye, The Good Earth, Of Mice and Men.
While books were a struggle for me in school (I messed around too much - I was having too much fun in high school!) I did however rediscover books in my twenties. History and non-fiction led the way for me though I occasionally read a novel or two. Today, I want to call my high school history teacher Miss Pinder and tell her - "I finally get it Miss Pinder - I finally love history! Thanks for trying so hard!"
Amazingly at this point in my life I'm discovering the wonder of poetry - I mean I've always admired people like Dylan and Lennon - their stories as told in song and poetry are incredible and are snapshots in time of how they felt about something in their lives. If you let it, poetry can seduce you - a few short verses can send you to another place and time, make you think and reflect - so much of poetry is timeless and very relevant. It's not easy to write poetry - I can't. Its not always about the rhyme obviously. You need to feel it - to let yourself go.
John F. Kennedy once said: "When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths, which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment." Is that relevant or what?
Poetry by people like Jackie Kennedy (and obviously so many others) - of course not known to be a poet but a voracious lover of books and poetry - can give a rare look at what that person is feeling at a given time in their life. In 1939, when she was 10 years old - she penned the following poem:
by Jacqueline Bouvier - 1939
When I go down by the sandy seashore
I can think of nothing I want more
Then to live by the booming blue sea
As the seagulls flutter round about me
I can run about-when the tide is out
With the wind and the sand and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish
Oh-to live by the sea is my only wish.
(The above poem is from Caroline Kennedy's "The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis")
What I like about a simple poem like that is how much the sea meant to her and that if at that young age of 10, all she could achieve in life was to live by the sea, it would have made her life complete. My mom loved the sea too - she loved anywhere that was near water. Our family didn't have a lot of money, but my mom always dreamed of living by the sea. My mom was also a frustrated writer - she always mailed stories that she wrote to magazines like McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping - in the hope that one of them might get published. I recall her being hopeful whenever a large envelope from one of these magazines arrived in the mail. She loved books too - she loved the places a book could take her and they inspired her to write stories and keep a set of 4 journals that she would write in from about the late 1950's through the 70's. Sadly I do not know what became of the journals.
When you think of writers and authors you think of them as practicing their craft some time after college - you know in their 20's or early 30's. One of the 20th century's great books "The Greek Way", was written by Edith Hamilton - it was her first book and she was 62 years old when she wrote it! She would become the author of many books and be the ricipient of many awards later in her life. She died at the age of 96. Of this book, Robert F. Kennedy said that reading it after his brother John died, saved his life.
Above, one of the great books of the 20th century. Written by Edith Hamilton when she was 62 years old. It was her first book and she would go on to write many more.
My kids have become great readers and great jocks - my favorite combination! I'll always recall the looks and the questions from my kids as I read book after book to them - the thrill of dicovery at a young age is priceless!
Hey even reading some of my classmates poetry (available in our various yearbooks) - I'm struck at how clever and how well these were written at such young ages. (Please go back on the blog and type in poetry in the search box to read some samples).
When my father passed away - I spent 24 hours writing his euolgy - I wanted to capture what my dad was - few people in your life really know you - some friends included and there are few people that you're even willing to truly show yourself to - you know, sometimes when you show yourself, you end up alone (politics, etc). Anyway, I captured my dad's life in what I wrote telling those present about things they may not have known about him and I borrowed a verse from Robert F. Kennedy who borrowed it from Shakespeare when he spoke about his brother (JFK) at the 1964 democratic convention in Atlantic City, NJ - it's a verse from Romeo and Juliet that is so riveting:
"When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun."
It made me feel so good - I took my dad's passing hard at the time and that verse made me feel he would always be there. This verse made me feel that my dad was all around me - it was soothing. That is the power of the verse and the power of books.
But back to the main story. The library at Glen School became a special world for so many of us!! The library would be the first place for many of us to discover the books that helped us on the road to discovering ourselves.
One person that was always discovering was Art Brierley. Artie had the blessed gift of being able to be himself - no matter what. He - like myself - shared a tremendous affection for his friends, his past and the future. He was as they say and eternal optimist. Life was precious to Artie even before his illness and books and music contributed a lot to that. Artie was a big, strong jock of a guy but he loved nothing more than to reflect while he fished off a little boat. One of his favorite books he was reading before he passed away was: "The River Why" by David James Duncan.
The library would become a place that most of my classmates would truly enjoy.
Cara Worthington says this about the library and reading in general: "(The library was) my favorite spot. I got hooked on a series about otters and books by Edward Eager."
Above, a series of books by Edward Eager among others got Cara Worthington hooked on books! Cara has gone on to write her own thoughtful articles and has had some published as well.
When in first and second grade, Cara recalls recess - she preferred reading! "Miss Mercer gave me (an) S- in gym in second grade for not participating!"
Says Cara, "I could walk to and from school up East Glen - sometimes with a book in my hand!"
Karen Eide loved the library too! "I LOVED the library and I remember our first orientation there, storytime and being taught the D(ewey) D(ecimal) System. My love of books came from that library and my parents!"
Ken Merrill shared this about the library: "You always had to be quiet, yet at times better to be there than in class!"
Katie Knight loved and discovered books here too! She shared this with me: "I LOVED taking out books from there! "Harriet the Spy" and the "Katie John" books, "The Yearling" and especially biographies. Oh and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". Even made a recipe from there. Reading was one of my favorite things to do."
Above, Katie got hooked on the "Katie John" series as well as others thanks to the Glen School Library!
Diana Wagner - well she actually worked in the library with Mrs. Ginsberg for one school year (1983-84)! She shared this: "I ended up working for Mrs. Ginsberg for 1 year in 1983-84. She retired at the end of the year. She hadn't changed .......since 1969. Talk about a time warp!"
Margaret Silvers had a funny typical elementary-school-kids memory! ".........about 6 of us were sitting in the reference area and Mitchell Purdue held up a picture from probably an encyclopedia showing an anatomically correct naked man and woman, just standing there. He had this......grin on his face, held up the pictures and we all were mortified, but laughing..............! I think Mr. Monitick (6th grade teacher) actually "caught us" - too funny!"
I asked Judy Davies what she remembered. "I remember it (the library) being stuffed with lots of books and I remember the general layout. It was directly across the hall from my 4th grade class…Mrs. Prescott....."
Above is a newspaper photo of (from l to r): Kim Vukov, Patricia Breitweiser and Mitchell Perdue. They're listening to a story read to them by the librarian - probably Mrs. Ginsberg. Thanks Kim for sending that!
The library was also the place for quiet study. I remember learning how to use the encyclopedia for the first time there for the many reports we were required to do. Using the encyclopedia was fun and clearly enlightened me - what a great tool to write the likes of "The Indians" or "California" or "Michaelangelo" just to name a couple of the reports I did at Glen School. I must say while I was bad on tests I always got E's on my reports - the E was equivalent to an A today. I couldn't have done it without the help of reference books like the encyclopedia. Though my artistry could have used a little help - where was Eide when I needed her expertise!
Above, the "Michaelangelo" story by Ricky Flannery - found among my mom's papers. These reports would be researched in the library at Glen School using the various encyclopedias available in the reference section.
Our library was made up of round tables and chairs, lots of bookcases and a glass-enclosed office in the corner. The windows looked out onto the courtyard. Sometimes we would gather in a circle to hear stories. As we got older we would use the tables to research our reports. But regardless of our age, we couldn't wait to take out books for our own personal enjoyment.
Above, looking to the left as you walk in the door. Photo property of Rick Flannery - taken Nov 7, 2009.
Above, the general layout of the library with the glass-enclosed librarian's office in the corner.
Bea Blumquist's and Mrs. Ginsburg's office.
The library's first librarian when the school opened was a lady named Bea Blumquist - she was little and always cheerful and taught us how to use the Dewey Decimal System!
Glen School's first librarian - Bea Blumquist.
The second and probably the librarian with the most years at Glen School was Mrs. Ginsberg - though her name might be mis-spelled - its been spelled so many ways. She would retire after the 1983-84 school year. So there was one more librarian before the school closed its doors as an elementary school - anybody know who it was? Please let me know.
Above, Mrs. Ginsberg - longtime Glen School librarian - retired 1984. Photo cropped from a faculty photo.
Some of the later classes and faculty at Glen School would have their photos taken in the library - come to think of it I don't think there was a single location at Glen where a class photo wasn't taken.
Above, faculty photo from the 1970's taken in the libarary. Photo supplied by Zita Wilcox.
It was also a place where a teacher could have a quiet conversation with a student which was the case with Katie Knight. Katie shared the story with me which she says made an impact on her life. "Mr. Gauharou took me to the library for a one-on-one talk...........he asked me if I knew what a clique was. I said no. He said that it's when a group of people hang around only with each other and that it can cause a lot of hurt because others feel left out. He also said that he was sure that I didn't mean to exclude others on purpose but he wanted me to be aware. Truthfully, that discussion has stuck with me throughout my life and I've passed it on to my kids. My daughter was class president......in high school......the principal told me she had the ability to cross over into a lot of different groups of kids. I attribute that to Mr. Gauharou's talk with me (in the Glen School library)." Pete Gauharou - was one of those teachers who took his role seriously - not only in teaching the 3 R's but in also helping to shape what a child might become.
Ridgewood was unusal at the time - we had 2 public libraries for many years - The Ridgewood Public Library and the George L. Pease Library. In addition we had a library in every single school! The Ridgewood Public Library was opened in 1962 and was beautifully renovated in 1998. I have been back on several occaisions for my research of this project and am indebted to Peggy Norris for many of the old images you see in the Ridgewood sections of this blog. The George L. Pease Library was opened in 1923 and remained a library until 1998 when it closed its doors. It is now office space.
Above is the old George L. Pease Library located at 131 North Maple Avenue Ridgewood, NJ. It opened in 1923 and closed in 1998.
Above is the Ridgewood Public Library located at 125 North Maple Avenue. It opened in 1962 and was beautifully renovated in 1998.
The Ridgewood Public Library as it appears today (from the back).
The tables where we sat would be used to reaserch our reports, have one-on-one discussions with our teachers and learn about the Dewey Decimal System.
All in all the library would be the first place where many of us discovered books - a place where you could take out any book you wanted. We'll remember the Glen School Library with great affection!