IMAGE COURTESY OF PIXABAY
Reading is as essential as breathing to me. Imagine my joy when a salesman knocked on the door selling books! The Book of Knowlege to be exact! He even involved us children in the act, demonstrating its beauty and seducing us further by reading us “The Tale of Rumplestilskin.” The kids were sold, but alas, we had no buying power. I would have gladly traded one of my siblings for that set of books, but the salesman wasn’t interested. Daddy was not a reader, but the image of smart children hooked him, coupled with his proclivity for buying in that manner. He did want his children to succeed. Guess what! This entire compendium only cost three-hundred dollars! That must have been the going rate for door to door sales back in the fifties. Daddy went for the whole deal: The Book of Knowlege, Grolier’s Encyclopedia, Lands and Peoples and the dictionaries. One fine day, box after box of books arrived. We were giddy with joy, but Mother made us wait till Daddy got in so he could open them. Solemnly, he took each volume out and stacked the sets on the floor beside the empty boxes. He thumbed through a few volumes, before handing each one on to Mother to peruse. It was like church.
Then we got the talk. We were never to touch the books without washing our hands. Volumes were to be returned to the shelf, IN ORDER, immediately after use. Volumes were no to leave the living room. Never eat or drink with a book. These books were not to be treated as toys. The books belonged to the whole family and treated with respect. We were not to behave in our usual heathenish manner around these books, very good advice, indeed.
I loved those books and spent endless hours emmersed in their pages. I particularly loved the stories they told. I was disappointed to learn “The World Book” was preferred by my teachers, but “Grolier’s Encyclopdia” sufficed. I particularly enjoyed the images of the naked people in “Lands and Peoples” when I could be sure of privacy. Equally pleasurable were the classical nude statues portrayed in “Groliers,” though the fig leaves confused me. I’d sneaked a peek at a few naked baby boys who didn’t look anything like that.
I was sharing all this with a family acquaintance and he added his own sad story. His father sold insurance door to door. When the encyclopedia man came calling, they worked out a deal. Each purchased from the other, so both would benefit. My friend and his brothers enjoyed their books, just as we had. Sadly, neither man was able to make payments. The insurance policy was dropped and one sad day, someone came to repossess the lovely books. I can only imagine the heartbreak those children endured.