I was fortunate to come from a long line of readers. Granny and Grandpa Lohr’s house contained a treasure trove of reading material. I spent hours there reading National Geographic. There was a bookcase upstairs with such treasures as an illustrated Smith Family Robinson.
Everyone in my family read the local newspaper, the Stettler Independent, and Mom and Dad had subscriptions to The Western Producer, Western Horseman and other magazines. Dad had copies of books on his interests such as birding, horses, nature, and the history of Western Canada. Dad read us bedtime stories—usually his books. Often he nodded off during the reading, and I recall jumping on the bed while he slept, until Mom came in and stopped ‘the bedtime reading.’
Dick and Jane readers comprised the reading curriculum in grade one. I surreptitiously read ahead, my finger tucked in the page where the class was taking turns oral reading in case I was called on.
Erskine got a new school the fall I entered grade two. Sixty years later, I can close my eyes, see that library and feel the awe—an entire room full of books just waiting for me. It was my mission to try to read as many of those books as possible.
When I entered high school, the William E. Hay Composite School Library had even more books. I moved in with Grandma Collins in Stettler and walked to the public library—at that time in the basement of the Town Hall Building on Main Street. My favorite authors were John Steinbeck and Leon Uris. I added some large print books for Grandma to my stack of books and carted them all home.
I read everywhere and anywhere. I recall going to a regatta on the Red Deer River with Dad when I was fifteen. We took the truck and camper and, of course, our lunch so we’d have a place to get out of the sun and eat. I spent the entire day in the camper absolutely glued to Gone with the Wind. Dad came into the camper for his bologna sandwich and asked if I was going to come out and see what was happening. There was no time for that—Scarlett and Rhett were my focus!
I don’t have many positive memories of my year in nursing at the University of Alberta, but my favorite time was spent in the library where I had a part-time job. I recall sitting at the check-out desk surrounded by the dusty smell of books combined with the ancient nurses’ residence building, basking in the relative quietness. The library was my escape from the chaos of dorm life, plus working there provided me with some much-needed spending money.
On one of our early dates, Doug took me to the Alix Auto Wreckers where he searched for car parts. I started carrying a book in my purse or bag, and I never go to a car event now without at least one good book. Last year, a stranger passing by at a car event in Pomona, California, asked why I would want to read a book when I could be looking at all the old men on their way to the next building filled with cars. I chuckled and kept on reading.
The Library in the Education Building at the University of Saskatchewan was my second home during my years there as a student and then as an instructor. I knew all the staff and who to ask what question. Saskatoon also had amazing public libraries, and I was a regular patron over the twenty-three years we lived there. I took our children to the libraries. They particularly enjoyed ‘Pooh Bear’ story time in the evenings.
As all parents of young children know, there isn’t much time for private moments spent reading or otherwise. Sometimes, I would lock the bathroom door and spend as much time as I could in there reading. I recall our daughter on the floor peeking under the bathroom door saying, “I know you’re in there!” Her statement would bring me back to reality from wherever the book had taken me, and I would sigh and come out to continue my mother role.
When Doug was out of town on business and the kids were settled for the night, I would go on reading jags. I’d look at the clock on the nightstand and realize that it was 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. I knew I had to get up in a few hours, get the kids to daycare or, later, to school and be at work. Still, I would read on, just to find out what happened.
The years went by with many changes, but reading was always a constant. When we moved to Calgary in 1995, the neighborhood library seemed like a cold, unfeeling space although I still checked out books. I never did bond with it the way I had with the Saskatoon libraries.
In October of 2005, we moved into our home on the acreage in Foothills. One of the first things I did was go to the Okotoks Public Library and purchase a membership. I remember walking through the doors and feeling the warmth and busyness of a well-managed library. Staff members were friendly and helpful. I attended a few programs and started to volunteer one morning a week. I knew that I had found my new ‘second’ home.
In October 2017, I joined the Library Board and have since spent numerous hours at Board meetings and promoting the library in the community. Now we are beginning to write a fundraising plan to help with the future expansion of the library.
Today, when I enter the Okotoks Public Library, I still feel the awe I felt as a seven-year old child, amazed at all the wide variety of resources and programs waiting for me. But, the books are still my favorite.