Sunday, April 8, 2012

some of my favourite books - 4



this beautiful set of Collier's Encyclopedia, printed 1978, has many stories to tell (please don't anyone notice the dust or dirt on the floor. the string you see is one of our cats many entertainments - he likes to play with string and elastic bands!!!).

i was 11, soon to be 12, and had already owned my own library card for 6 and a bit years (when i was 3, 4 and 5 my mother let me take out books on her card). anyway, one fun day when my dad was working afternoon-shift in the pit (coalmine), a man knocked on our front door (always a sign that it is a stranger AND an out-of-towner as everyone in small towns in cape breton ALWAYS use the back door and NEVER knock!). the man turned out to be an encyclopedia salesman from the mainland. he was dressed in a fancy suit and tie and had this shiny, black case on wheels!!! THIS to me was so exciting as i often went to the library to use their encyclopedias to do schoolwork - i don't think it ever occurred to me that you could own your own set?!?!?!

the man opened up the shiny, black case and i was instantly in love! my mother nervously listened to his presentation, while i soaked in every word. he let me touch those beautiful encyclopedias and let me look up all kinds of things. the thing that fascinated me the most was that at the start of every new letter - you were given the equivalent letter from several other languages! once i owned these babies, i copied out every letter, and their corresponding equivalents and started teaching myself Semitic, Latin, Russian, Greek and German. these were the days when i first realized i had such an interest in linguistics!



anyway, my mother knew of my serious and deep interest - she was the one who taught me to read at age 3 and i was reading her Stephen King books and Harlequin Romances by the age of 7!!! she also knew the price of the set - $1,000 - or in back-then terms - waaaay too freakin expensive for a coalminer with a wife and 4 kids to feed. the nice salesman left after leaving his card with my mother (something else i had never seen before - imagine? people carrying around business cards?!?!!?

my father came home that night at 10:30. i was allowed to stay up to tell him about the encyclopedias. he rolled his eyes the whole time listening and eating his supper - he and all of the other coalminers always looked like Jared Leto with the permanent ring of black around their eyes! but he did listen. and asked my mother what she thought. she thought that i needed them as i was a very good student and would get much use out of the encyclopedias. my father then struck a bargain with me. i could have the encyclopedias - but i would have to pay for them. i had just started babysitting for a variety of neighbours and on a good week - i could earn $20!!! my father said that i would have to pay him $5 every week. he had already taught me about holding on to some money so that i would have money during dry weeks - but now he made me promise that i would always have $15 set aside in order to pay him every week. i promised.

the next day he called the Credit Union to see if he could get a loan - something he had only ever done 2 times before - both times he got a $500 loan because the pit was on strike. because he cashed his checque there every week for years, and had already established that he would pay back on loans, they gave him the loan pronto. they gave him a very low rate of return as well as a low monthly payment - my father put every extra cent that he made towards that loan and paid it off in just over a year. about a week later, the salesman returned with my encyclopedia set. the set came with a junky pressboard shelf stand that my father put together and my mother set up in the back wall of the living room - i wish i had a picture to show you!

i spent the next several years paying my father $5 a week - i never missed a single payment! that really taught me about having bills and debts and i will always thank him for that. needless to say, i also spent the next several years reading every single entry in all 25 books. i also poured through the index looking for interesting things to re-read. the books were printed in 1978 and already 3 years old when i got them - but none of that has ever mattered to me - i still love them! when i finished basic training in the military and was stationed in Kingston, ON for trades training - i saved up the money to have the encyclopedias shipped to me by train. i have carted those books around my whole adult life!

most people already think jambaloney and i are a little "strange" - but this next bit will surely prove it! we like reading together and we like reading to each other. we would sit out in the hottub at our place in the city and read the Bible to each other! but one of our favourite things to do on a sunny, beautiful summer day - is to lay out in the grass or down at the river each loaded up with a few encyclopedias, skimming through them until we find an interesting entry and then read it to each other. sometimes the entries are so outdated that we scream with laughter. sometimes the entries are just dead wrong. and sometimes the entries make us think. our favourite entries are the ones that get us laughing. like the one below - i must say that it is one of our all-time favourites!



last but not least, when i was doing my first tour of Alert, my friend Bella used to do a weekly "funnies tree". basically she would cut the funnies out of newspapers, photocopy them, colour them and then re-write the "funny" to be about someone in Alert. she would post the "funnies tree" in our common room and everyone would wait every friday for her to post it - we all loved the funnies tree. i saved a bunch of the funnies in a photo album as they still delight me to this day. here is my personal favourite:



bahahahahahaha! and yes - i took the encyclopedias to Alert!

24 comments:

  1. In 1967, two months after I married, the same encyclopedia company came to our door. We had no sofa, no tv, no night stands, nothing. We used folding chairs from a church for dining, had a small metal table that would barely hold our plates and glasses. In the living room, we sat on the floor with our backs agaist husband's trunk he carried to college with two cushions from and old sofa for our back's. I wanted the enclyclopedias and got them! We now had the tacky bookcase like yours, I imagine.

    Those left here about five years ago when I kept them in the wrong place and they became too musty for me to safely handle. They were one of the first casualties of rain in my home.

    I read these like novels. Ex could not understand my fascination.

    Since I was still in college at the time, they were handy. My son was born in 1968, so by the time he was in the third grade, he was using some of them for references. I also got the yearly update book for ten years, so I could give him current information on certain items.

    Oh, I forgot. Some of my son's first words were "look it up in cycopdia." My response to his questions had always been, "Let me look it up in the encyclopedia." Before he was two, he asked how fast tigers, bears, all animals ran. I looked it all up for him and told him which was faster when he asked. He is now a teacher--taught at college level and hs level. I like to think my early and ongoing response and lead with the encyclopedias helped to form the English teacher he is today.

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    1. PracticalP - we have so many similar experiences!!! i think my first words were "look it up in the dictionary" as that is what my mother always said to me, too. i am glad that even though you no longer have the books, that they gave you such joy and were so useful for you and then your son. i also read the encyclopedias like novels...when i was younger and would be reading an entry that was 3 or 4 pages long, i would get a little sad when i noticed that there was only 3 or 4 paragraphs left! and short entries would have me looking up other books on the subject at the library as i felt ripped off - bahahahah! i didn't ever get those update books that you mention tho, and am feeling ripped off again - bahahahah!

      i would have to agree that it was your response and lead with the encyclopedias that helped him become an English teacher - good job PracticalP!!!

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  2. I really should proof my comments!!!!

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    1. naw - don't worry about it. i always hit publish on comments and then notice my mistakes - bahahahah!

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  3. Thank you for such a lovely post Kymber. I was a little sad recently when one of the companies that manufactures encyclopedias was saying that they will no longer produce the books, and now the information and updates will be on discs, available digitally. One of the reasons our kids did well academically, is that there was always an encyclopedia available in actual paper and book form, and we actually let them use it whenever they wanted. In fact, we still have it. I like digital media but nothing can substitute for real books, real information which is available through the ages, and through power outages !

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    1. Jane - i am pretty saddened by that company as well - seeing as how they are one of the tops and most expensive, if they are no longer producing actual book sets, it won't be long for the others to soon follow suit! i think that this is a big mistake, personally, and one of the reasons i collect books and encyclopedias is for the future.

      anyway, i have met many people in my life, from all different walks of life. it's strange, but those who grew up using encyclopedias at the library or had a set of their own, regardless of their past or present careers; they seem to be the most interested in a variety of topics and they seem to be better conversationalists. college/university degrees are indicative of a certain type of learning...but show me a waitress who reads encyclopedias to her children and that is the person i would prefer talking to!!!

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  4. As a kid,I had a partial set of encyclopedias that was so old that it showed you how to build an "aeroplane." Alas, I had to part with them when both my wife and my mother went on a "de-cluttering spree" at the same time. I, too, used to read encyclopedias (and dictionaries)! Hang onto yours!

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    1. Mr. Smythe - i sure do hope you remember how to build that aeroplane - bahahahah! that's awesome! i am sorry that yours are gone, i would have loved to take them! and yes - i collect and read dictionaries as well - i love to compare entries from one book to the next! i will hang on to mine, Sir, every last one of them (i have about 12 full and partial sets)!

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  5. Oh Kymber - What a wonderful story behind your encyclopedias ! Thanks so much for sharing it with all of us. I remember a door to door salesman at our house when I was a kid too, and my father buying a set. They were Funk and Wagnalls. I had them up until we started moving around and the de-cluttering process began. As Gorges said - hang onto yours ! I wish I did.

    I'm going to send the parcel on Tuesday, because I believe the post office is closed Monday. I'll check anyways though.

    Love Always ... Helga xoxo

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    1. Helga - thank you for enjoying the story - i love those encyclopedias! and i am glad that you had a similar set! no worries about hanging onto mine - i will never let them go!!!

      yep - i am pretty sure that the post office is closed today. no worries about when you send the parcel, no pressure - just send it when you can. jambaloney will get yours off this week when he is in town. love always back, my dear sweet friend! xoxoxo

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  6. We had these fancy looking Britanica, all the other kids on my street had those wussy "World Book" Encyclopedias. They were thinner, so they couldn't be as good.

    You must have some heavy luggage if you lug around Encyclopedias everywhere you go: and I though my luggage got heavy with books!

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    1. oooh Russell - you had the REAL DEAL encyclopedias!!! i am still on the look-out to finish off a set of Britanica - i have been finding the odd book here and there at garage sales and hope to one day have a full set.

      Russell - we shipped 70+ books here when we moved to the Manor - and that's after i had sorted out about 200 that we gave to good will. as for shipping them to Alert - you don't pay for what you ship there and i figured if i was going to be stuck in 24/7 darkness for 6 months - then i was bringing my favourite set of encyclopedias.

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  7. In 1975(?) my parents bought the Encyclopedia Britannica set. I LOVED those books, and when you grow up in a small town with a minimal library...
    Some 6 years ago my niece was given them (oh, you don't have room for them dear, and she can use them for the kids). Three years ago they went into the dumpster during one of her moves, I found out some 3 months later.
    Two weeks ago I found the same set, from a non-smoking household, on Kijiji for a nominal sum. They are now sitting in my living room. I am happy again :-)
    Old encyclopedias are treasures.

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    1. oh Elizabeht - you, too, had the REAL DEAL encyclopedias. i am so sorry that your daughter threw them out - OUCH! and yes - i do have room for them - bahahahaha! i am super glad to hear that you got another set - whew! good save there. i am happy that you are happy and couldn't agree more that old encyclopedias are treasures. oh, and if i need to look something up in one of them - i'll give you a call - bahahahah!

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    2. It's a deal :-)
      You might also check out the reprint series from Lee Valley. They have a four volume set of 'The Boy Mechanic - Things for a boy to do', originally published in 1919. These are amazing and include the whole 'how to build' for car, motorbike, and ice schooner!
      Example: book 3, page 4-5, gives instructions for... combined label and cover pad for preserve glasses, motor-driven entertainer for the baby, simple concealed locking device for cases of drawers, support for wagon pole arm aids in hooking up team, string-cutting ring made of horseshoe nail, teakettle cover held by dent in edge, candlesticks wired neatly for electric lamps.
      Whew!

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    3. Elizabeth - i will definitely check those out - thanks! jambaloney has Book 4, "A Book that Tells How to Make Things", published in 1925 - he likes and collects old books too! it is a real treat to read and also has things in it for men, girls and women. it has 1349 articles and 1320 pictures - awesome! we love reading these types of books so thank you for the tip!

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  8. Encyclopedia Britannica in our house but mine were from the early 60's having inherited them from my grandfather. I loved reading them too and miss those things. Sadly, my daughter won't know the joy because Encyclopedia Britannica is now out of the book business.

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    1. Ed - i read about Britannica going strictly over to digital and i have to admit, i was saddened. try getting your hands on a second hand set for your daughter. she will love you for it!

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  9. Amazing story! Amazing that you still have them! I love this walk down your favorite books!

    I have an old set of encyclopedias from the 1950's and love them too. We are a lot alike Kymber as I am an avid reader.

    Excellent!

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    1. oh Jen - thanks for saying that - i love my old books and i hate to sound snotty but this is my dang blog and i will write about what i want and i don't care if i am boring the crap out of people with the book series - bahahahahah! i figure if people aren't interested they can just skip these posts. i love to see other people's favourite books and the stories that go with them. and i am glad for all of the comments above and below because it seems to me that we are a dying breed of readers who want BOOKS!!! i love technology and i love how easy it is to look up a new topic and be able to research it without leaving home - but books are going to be needed in the future. anyway, off the soapbox now. thanks for getting me going spicey - bahahahah! xoxoxo

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  10. Aw, what a sweet story. I love that your parents saw your need and helped you get those books!!! I loved (past tense because I just don't have much extra time now) too, and as a child often got in trouble for reading too much - imagine that!! My parents weren't as cool as yours. But, I still have some of my favorite books from my childhood. Thanks for sharing, Kymber:)

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    1. thanks MM! i am glad that you enjoyed reading as a child - but getting trouble - bahahahaha - now that's a story i need to hear! and no probs about sharing - i love sharing - especially my gorgeous books! xoxox

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  11. Thanks so much for sharing this story. What a wonderful post.

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    1. oh Sci gurl - thank you! i sooo love my books, they are like friends to me - and i like friends! xoxo

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