Monday, June 23, 2008

Rediscovered Treasures

The saga of the soggy basement continues! In watching news reports covering the recent onslaught of tornadoes and floods, I am always struck by the strength of people who were so hard hit. Many expressed their frustration over not knowing what to grab first. I wonder how one can make a monumental decision like that knowing there is no turning back

I had enough foresight to get as much off the basement floor as possible before the dam broke, so to speak. This past weekend, I began the task of mold seeking, and determining what to toss and what to keep. I started with the books. I am by no means a book collector, but the approximate 200 books shelved there all have special connections to people and events in my life. It was fun sifting through the piles and remembering.

Some books, like the one above, were tag sales purchases. I love the quirky covers and contents of these vintage pieces. For example, this book on charm contains copious notes on bowel movements, immediately followed by advice about foods to fuel the body. I am happy to report that Marianne Meade considered chocolate of major food fuel! In the same pile, there was a book called How to Improve your Personality by Reading with recommended novels specifically for the "Catholic reader."

I also came across several books with Manitowoc connections. Inside the front covers hide beautiful inscriptions from gifter to recipient. In 1921, Bernice Benedict, longtime principal of Franklin Elementary School, received a copy of Bright Ideas for Entertaining by Mrs. Herbert B. Linscott. Ormand Benedict gave Bernice the book. On page 109, the author suggests spending a literary evening with friends. "In the note of invitation, each one should be requested to wear something suggestive of a book title. Upon arrival, each guest should be furnished with a card bearing the names of the entire company. When one fancies he has discovered a title, he should say nothing about it, but write the title opposite the name of the impersonator. At the end of the evening, a victor is declared based on the number of correct identifications."

The Complete Cheerful Cherub had once been owned by another Manitowoc educator, Lillian Marsh. Throughout the book, adorable little cupids recite tiny poems about a myriad of subjects, beginning with "Abandon" and ending with "Youth."

The bio of Chicago born author, Rebecca McCann, was unique in many respects. First, it was in the front of the book. Second, it was six pages long. Third, it was written as though each reader had been personally connected with this author/illustrator. The story of her life ends like this -"Her last year was a joyous one and it pointed ahead to happiness. She married Harvey Fergusson, the novelist...They were going to spend Christmas with Harvey's family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She went to San Francisco to buy some clothes for the expected holiday gaities, for she loved pretty clothes....a slight cold turned into a heavy one as feverishly she gaily danced at a fancy dress party. She was ill for only a few days. And then -. For the last time she went to Chicago."

A bit water stained, but still very much intact, was a copy of John and Rose, written and published in 1914 by John Schuette. The front piece offers the lengthy subtitle seen below. The pages are filled with pictures of Manitowoc in the 1900's, and of the Schuettes' grand home. The book focuses on the family finances, including balance sheets, and even once called "Rose's Expenditures and Income."

Written in third person, the book carefully chronicles, each year of John and Rose's marriage. "The third year was the most interesting in their lives, by reason of the arrival of their firstborn, a son, whom they named Adam. Though this was an increased tax on their finances, they were glad to bear it, and as a consequence Rose got an extra $60 a year allowance (bringing that total to $660.00), while John got a $100.00 raise in his salary.

Most of the books I rediscovered in the aftermath, have little or no monetary value. That wasn't a consideration when I bought them. I am a sucker for derivative books - especially those inspired by the fine youth serials that ran on the original Mickey Mouse Club. My "Annette" and "Spin and Marty" books came out unscathed, as did my copy of Up the Down Staircase...a book I read religiously each year while I was still teaching. The Bobbsey Twins are fine, as are Donna Parker, Cherry Adams, and that cute little Honey Bunch.

Best of all, I found, safe and dry, my copy of The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp...autographed by the entire family! Believe it or not, I picked that one up at a yard sale in Manitowoc for a quarter. When I discovered it was signed, I returned and spoke with the gentlemen who sold it to me, and tried to explain the potential value. I distinctly recall him saying "I put a quarter on it, a quarter it is." I also have a scary recolection of singing an emotional, albeit sour, rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" to get him to understand just who Maria Von Trapp was. I think he was happy to see me and my twenty-five cent book leave!

What am I reading? The Name of the Rose meets The DaVinci Code in this fast-paced thriller set in modern Barcelona. Antonio Gaudi, the revered architect, was entrusted with the responsibility of guarding a sacred relic belonging to a secret, ancient brotherhood. Pledging to forever keep the relic from evil hands, Gaudi hides it within his most precious work, entrusting its fate to a young apprenctice who will succeed him. When the apprentice dies, he leaves the duty of guarding the relic to his grand-daughter. She knows nothing about the relic's history or its whereabouts, and only has a cryptic note from her grandfather to guide her.

Hopefully, these shelves will soon be filled agian!