My father used to drive me and my older brother to the library. He would sit in this 1960 white Chevolet Impala, drinking Hamns and reading his crime tabloid. My brother and I would go into the library and head for the children's section with all kinds of cool books. Some titles I remember. Some I can't.
My favorites were The Lost Uranium Mine* by Bamman Whithead and a picture book about the Mariner space probe missions to Venus and Mars. I've never been able to locate that book again. My brother would read the Matthew Looney series. There was a shelf devoted to ghost and mystery stores, like The Thing at the Foot of the Bed* by Maria Leach.
My brother often found an illustration book on the history of flight. I can't remember the title. We sat a reading table. I recall looking over my brother's shoulder - "Don't crowd me," he would push me - and following the progress from 18-19th century balloons, elegant single-engine planes, bi-planes, WWI planes, jet fighters to Apollo spacecraft.
Favorite books in hand, my brother and I check them out with are library cards, orange paper inside a plastic sleeve. The librarian behind a counter would take our library cards, the white index cards from inside the book cover and pass them into a mysterious humming, clicking machine. The cards went into one slot and out another.
We went outside, and if we didn't see the white Impala parked at the curb, we waited by the circular water fountain. The lights in the fountain illuminated the water shooting of the small pipes in the concrete basin. I searched for quarters among the change on the fountain bottom, wondering if I would get into trouble for snatching the money. Or we run around the trees on the library grounds to pass the time. All the time inhaling the intoxicating smell of hot dogs from the Doggy Diner across the street.
We knew our father was at the local magazine store to get another police crime tabloid and would return shortly. He kept us on a short leash.
I always checked out a book, but my brother didn't. My father would yell at my brother for not checking out a book. I felt sorry for my brother. It wasn't that he didn't like reading; my father unfairly compared my voracious reading habits with him.
Unwritten Family Rule: Children Cannot Leave Library Without Book
However, my mother had her own judgment.
"What did you get?" she asked me.
I showed her my favorite picture book about the Mariner 2 space probe to Venus. She was displeased. "Why do you always get the same book?" I supposed she wanted me to expand my literary tastes.
Children s Section
Doggy Diner is gone, but trees still shadow the library grounds. Books line the shelves. Children still go. Too bad about the fountain. I miss snap of catalog cards, the sound of index drawers slamming shut.