A notification arrived yesterday from a longtime friend that blog entries had gone missing over the last few weeks. My first reaction had been to wonder what was a blog entry? Oh, yeah. It came to me after a minute. My intention had been to post something at the website twice monthly that might be of interest to readers. And okay, there were some significant moments I could put out there. I can recall being on a pier in Wildwood, NJ, when Batman made his first appearance. I was about four years old, so it would have been around 1939 when someone in my family handed me the comic book. I’m not sure when I first encountered Superman, but I was listening to his radio adventures as early as I can recall. And I remember vividly Batman’s first appearance on the series. In 1941, the girls on my street became excited when Wonder Woman showed up as secretary of the Justice Society. Secretary? One of the girls pointed out that she could have taken down any of the JSA members. I became an early collector of comics. We had a lot of the early editions, including a complete run of All-Star Comics.
I became a fan of Captain Marvel. His stories had a crisp sense of humor. In my most memorable one, Captain Marvel was coming home after a struggle covered with dust and mud. He stopped at a lake, got out of his uniform and went for a swim. Somebody stole the uniform and he spent the balance of the story flying around in a barrel. In those war years, we were collecting paper and contributing it to the war effort. Not sure why the military needed it. But apparently that was the reason my collection disappeared. I recall showing my father a Wall Street Journal story twenty years later about the value they’d acquired. Some copies were at the time worth thousands of dollars.
All the kids on my street at the time were reading them. Consequently most of us could read pretty well before we hit the first grade.
Other books that made a splash in those years were the Big Little Books. They were small and compact. Each page of text was across from a picture. The books featured Dick Tracy, Captain Midnight, the Lone Ranger, Superman, Little Orphan Annie, and other big names. I still have one of them in my library: Joyce of the Secret Squadron. A bit later, in about the fourth grade, I got hooked on Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bought all the John Carter and Carson Napier books. Carson Napier, for those who don’t know, made the first flight to Venus.
I guess the bottom line of all this is that we may not be entirely aware of how kids acquire their reading capabilities. We tend to give most of the credit to the teachers. And they deserve a fair share. But if parents are smart enough to make the right children’s books available to their kids, they might ease the transition to their more mature years. And help them acquire a lifelong passion for books. I can’t imagine a life without books.
Most of our abilities fade. We had a basketball hoop outside the house, but after my sons moved on, we took it down. Reluctantly. But I had no use for it anymore. One of the more painful moments in my life was coming home briefly during my Navy years and going out to watch my old baseball team play. Most of my former teammates were still there. But I was relegated to sitting in the stands.
Fortunately, books never go away.