Words and worlds apart

Just last night I walked past the village library and I thought to myself what an anachronism a public library has really become. I actually remember using card catalogs and microfilm. Now with the growth of electronic databases and especially the Internet the need a common repository of reading material like a municipal free library is really out of date. When I was a boy I lived next to the village library and I spent most of my free time there reading books and discovering new things within their pages. Much of my early free time was spent reading. Books and the information they contained became my world. I read fact and fiction with equal zeal. I can remember reading about Horatio Hornblower and characters like Hawkeye and Uncas. My brother too was a tireless reader. I think he owned nearly every Hardy Boy’s novel which were then in print.

I remember three digit dialing and telephone operators. I remember my mother calling relatives in New York City and getting passed off through multiple operators until we reached Grandma or Aunt Mae. I remember the world before microwave ovens and ubiquitous fast food. We only had three channels on our television. I remember huddling next to an old AM radio to listen to Boston Celtics and Buffalo Braves games. I remember when gasoline was 35 cents a gallon and in one month it doubled to 70 cents. I remember the war in Vietnam ending and bells tolling at Great Lakes, Illinois where I was stationed then. I remember when Sunday Mass was in Latin and we couldn’t eat for twelve hours before communion. I remember when nuns wore long black dresses and there were so many priests that nearly every community had their own Catholic church. I remember nearly ubiquitous Catholic grammar schools. I remember getting shunned in the deep south for wearing a Catholic religious medal. I remember when a young lady got expelled for wearing pants to a public school. I remember the first personal computer I saw in a store window. It was a TI-994A. I thought that was an incredible device. I remember when word processing was called writing and you could get writers’ cramp. I remember when Republicans were liberal and Democrats were conservative. I remember Chuck White and Treasure Chest comics. It was a story basically about how the Protestant kid in your neighborhood could lure you into eating meat on Friday if you weren’t careful. I remember being in the Boy Scouts and nobody talked about social issues. I remember when some politicians were honest. I remember when a television day ended around midnight and each station played the national anthem. I remember waking up to a test pattern. I remember when nearly everyone was a veteran of some branch of the United States military. I remember when the Russians, Chinese and Vietnamese were bad people and we considered France our ally. I remember when nearly everything was made in America. I remember when stuff made in Japan or the orient was considered junk. I remember when …..well, I don’t know that it was better back then, it was just a lot different than today.

2 Replies to “Words and worlds apart”

  1. I remember card catalogs, too. I remember the check in/out cards that we had stamps for, and the old system for keeping track of overdue books. (Before I was an editor, I worked in several libraries.) I remember typing 6 cards for each book on the typewriter (3 card catalog cards, one check out card, one backup card kept in the office, and one collections management card), and loving it when we got an electric typewriter, because the keys were easier to press.

    I disagree, though, that libraries are growing obsolete. We still need librarians, if only to help us sift through all the information that’s out there. Okay, so I’m biased: I used to work in libraries, and my husband still does, but I can tell you that it was a mere 6 years ago that I was thanked by a library patron until I was blushing red. And for 5 of the intervening years, I’ve been an editor.

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