What if I had known when I worked in this beautiful building, so many years ago, where my love for books and my experiences would lead me? in 1950, 1951, and 1952 this was my home for two hours a day, Monday thru Friday, and eight hours on Saturday.
This is the Hackley Public Library in Muskegon, Michigan, and it really was home to me. The Children’s Room was on the 2nd floor, and one of my most vivid memories is walking up the long, wide, and steep stairs, to where a world full of books awaited me. I was only about five when I started climbing those stairs. My mother made sure that I got there almost every week. There were many thousands of books because it was one of the best libraries in the United States, and it had been given to the City of Muskegon by a lumber baron, Charles Hackley, and endowed by him. He also gave a hospital, an art gallery, a school, a bank, and many other gifts. Every year we would have a program in our schools honoring him and then we would be free to go home, so as children we especially loved Hackley Day.
The library had a rule at that time that a child could check out books only from the Children’s Room until they got to the 9th grade. But long before that happened I had found friends and family members who would go with me to the downstairs stacks and check out books for me. My most prized possessions were my books, and reading was everything to me.
When I reached my 16th birthday the first thing that I did was go downtown to the library and submit an application for employment. My first job was upstairs with the children. I couldn’t wait until I could go there every day and read whatever I wanted to. The first year I shelved books, pushing a big cart, and I used to compete with myself to see how fast I could do it. By the second year I was typing catalog cards and helping to mend books. And whenever I could I was sneaking books that I wanted to read to the back room where I had a secret stash.
Every day I walked from our high school about 3/4 of a mile to the library. One of my good friends, Marion, worked in the library also, but downstairs, and we would scurry together. When my work was done I ran to the bus stop, a few blocks away, to catch a ride. Several miles later I stepped down and hurried home to the supper that my mother had ready for all of us. Occasionally I would miss the bus and then I would really hear about it when I got home late. In the winter it would be dark and cold, and I would be somewhat nervous walking the 2 1/2 blocks.
In the spring of 1952 I applied for work as a savings teller at the Hackley Bank, and was really excited to be hired. My father was so proud, because at that time 17 year old girls just didn’t work in banks. I felt right at home there, in a bank named Hackley.
Many years have gone by since those early days but I have never lost my love for reading every book that I find, and now I have carried it forward by writing about the love that I find wherever I go. Books are the bridge between us all, and watching our young children as they discover the fun of reading is one of the great pleasures in our lives.