"Have Books, Will Travel"

Pamela Perry Blaine 
© August 2004

“When I get a little money I buy books;
 and if any is left, I buy food and clothes” 

“It’s here!” I heard my friend say as I picked up the phone. 

“Be there in 10 minutes,” I said as I hung up and went flying out 
the screen door as only a twelve year old can. My mother 
yelled after me, “Don’t slam the door!” but it was too late.

I hurried down the road to meet my girlfriend.   It was summer break, 
school had been out for a couple of weeks, and now the bookmobile was here!

Like opening the doors of the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, 
so it was to enter the huge enclosed bus-like vehicle and reach 
up to the shelf, open a book, and enter another world.

The bookmobile came to our town during the summer and it was 
always parked next to the curb, sideways, taking up several parking spaces in 
front of the Baring Hotel.  There were bicycles along the curb also as 
children showed up to check out books.  I would usually see people 
outside visiting with each other as they waited because there wasn’t room for
everyone to be inside at the same time. It was a social event as well as 
a chance to check out new reading material. The bookmobile had air-conditioning, 
at least when it wasn’t on the fritz, so most people weren’t in a great 
hurry to leave anyway since nobody in our town had air conditioning back then. 

We had books in our home and a library in our small school but the bookmobile 
brought a variety of books on almost any subject you could think of, 
from biographies to historical novels.  If you wanted a book that wasn’t there, 
the librarian would write it down and try to bring it on the bookmobile’s next trip.

Many people in rural areas had very little access to books unless 
they traveled to a larger town.  In the 1950s there wasn’t a Hastings, 
Barnes & Noble, or even a Wal-Mart with a book section nearby like there is today. 

My love of books probably came from my parents who liked to read and
my mother being a schoolteacher may have had a lot to do with it too. 
She began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and finished her career 
as a school librarian so books were always around our house.

It wasn’t long until I had read most of the books that were at home 
and in the classrooms at school.  Some of us were hooked on reading from the day 
our first grade teacher, Miss Marie, taught us “See Spot run!  Run! Run! Run!” 

After the Dick and Jane books, I had moved on through all the series books 
such as Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, and Little House on the Prairie.  We yearned for 
more reading material and I remember my cousin once managed to borrow 
her sister’s book, Gone With The Wind, and we both read it when we were 
only 12 years old.  Now that we had the bookmobile, we knew we would 
be able to read more such books.

Although we think of the bookmobile as beginning in the 1950s, the idea 
had been around a long time. I have been told that books were once distributed
to schools and communities by horse-drawn wagons. After World War II 
books were sometimes carried in the trunks of cars to different areas.  Later, 
before specifically designed bookmobiles were in existence, 
school buses were converted for that purpose. 

The bookmobile no longer comes to town but we still have libraries. 
Books are always better than the movies they create from them because 
there is a lot more detail than can be put into a two-hour film. 
As author John Le Carre once said, “Having your book turned into a movie 
is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.”

Years ago, before television and video games, families would 
have “reading time” together. This summer why not turn off the TV, get out 
some of the classics like Tom Sawyer or Little Women and read with your 
children or grandchildren. If you don’t have the books, your local library does. 

You may not have a magic wardrobe or a bookmobile but if you just open a 
good book and begin to read, the book has a magic all it’s own to transport 
you to faraway places even though you have not moved from where you sit. 

I've traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners, 
Poets and artists, kings and queens, 
Old stars and hopeful beginners, 
I've been where no-one's been before, 
Learned secrets from writers and cooks 
All with one library ticket 
To the wonderful world of books.