I have loved books from as far back as I can remember. In our house in Regent, North Dakota, we had a small desk that sat in the hallway. The lower half of the desk had several bookshelves where we kept all the books we owned.
Since I was five years younger than my sister, I was often left alone to amuse myself, and one of my favorite pastimes was looking through the few books we had.
This very same desk of ours is now in my daughter Joyce's home. After my mother died some of her belongings wound up in my sister Ivyl's house, and when my son Curt and Joyce got homes of their own, Ivyl decided one of them should inherit the old family desk. She didn't want to play favorites, so she had them draw lots, and Joyce was the winner.
Books were scarce in those days. I remember seeing books in one other home -- my friend Izeta's. I liked visiting there as we often sat down on the floor beside their bookcase and spent the afternoon flipping through pages.
Our desk held very few books. I remember a book of poetry by William Cullen Bryant, books about Sherlock Holmes, the Bible, some schoolbooks of my mother's, a few books from the series of children's books The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and a nursery story of The Three Little Kittens. This last book was my favorite, before I learned to read, because it had pictures. When I looked through this one, every time I got to the part where they lost their mittens and they began to cry, my tears would start and my brother never failed to catch me. He began to tease me about crying over an "old picture" that was not "even true." Well, I thought, he had no imagination, and besides, he was not a book reader anyway.
There was never enough reading material to satisfy me. I was in the upper grades before I discovered I could write to the State Library at Bismark, the State Capital, and ask for books for my age. I would describe the type I liked, and the librarian would select some, box them up, and send them to me postpaid. I would go down night after night to wait for Pa Ellickson, the postmaster, to put that important card in our box that read "Package." I could hardly wait to get home and open my treasure. Packages seldom came to us, so any package was exciting, but books were even more exciting.
Later on, some young marrieds in the town who belonged to a mail order Book of the Month Club, introduced me to more adult books and supposedly good contemporary books. The club picked out a list of "good books" and members were committed to buy at least one book a month from their list. Some of these ladies would pass them on to Hazel and me to read. I belonged to this club also, a short time after I began making money on my own.
Ivyl and her friends also traded books back and forth, and I sometimes got to read them. After all, there wasn't much for us to do in that little town, so reading was important. My mother's big complaint about this reading craze was that she said we stayed up all night reading, and she had a hard time getting us up in the morning to do our work.
I don't know whether or not my dad liked reading, but the family story is that it was said my grandfather Bradshaw used to walk 20 miles to obtain his books, when he was young. This later led to his graduation from the University of Toronto. My mother read when she was young, but she certainly had no time for that after we kids came along and she was making a living for us. Although my family just had a handful of books, we were never deprived of the joy of stories. My mother liked mysteries, and read a lot of Sherlock Holmes. When she could afford the daily paper, the St. Paul Dispatch, she took time out to sit in her rocking chair and read the news. Also in this paper was a weekly animal story and I remember us kids gathering around her while she read to us.