Thursday, November 13, 2008

Old books or what I did instead of going to the gym last night

Back in 1992 JR and I were tasked with cleaning out my in-law's house. The brunt of this endeavor fell to me. Mostly because I worked from home and he didn't. I didn't really mind this sort of thing with the exception of the mouse droppings I'd found in the basement. We had gotten rid of the mice by the simplest method possible. We stuck our cat in the basement with a litter box and a big bowl of water. Two days later no mice and a little bit fatter cat. The leavings from the mice were left to me.

If you know anything about depression era parents or grandparents is that they never, NEVER, NEVER tossed anything out. I found grocery shopping lists written on the backs of junk mail, manila envelopes stuffed with recipes cut out from the newspaper, old moth eaten clothes, and tons of stuff that just wasn't salvageable. Then tucked away I'd find a gem or two or six. There was my MIL's wedding dress & hat, my MIL's aunt's hand hemmed table linens, the box of Life & Look magazines from the 1940s to the 1960s, my MIL’s parents wedding certificate, and books. Lots of books.

I couldn't help myself I wanted to keep all the books. After JR smacked me upside the head a couple of times convinced me that I couldn’t keep all of them. I buckled down to pick the ones that I wanted.

I had to keep the first edition Gone With The Wind. I didn’t know it was a first edition until a couple of years ago I just knew that my MIL really liked it and I was feeling very sentimental.

I kept several of her and her mother’s poetry books. They loved poetry. They cut poems out of magazines and newspapers. They wrote their own. They received books of poetry as gifts. Whenever I came across something they had written I placed it in one of their poetry books.

This Longfellow was given to my MIL’s parents the year after they were married. I couldn’t tell when by the inscription but probably within the first few months. The copyright on this book goes like this:

1874 by Henry W. Longfellow

1902 by Ernest W. Longfellow

1907 by Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

According to the publishers’ note this illustrated edition was released to commemorate the centennial of Longfellow’s birth. Speaking of the illustrations, they are terrific.

Who writes this way any more? Never in a million years could I achieve penmanship this fine. Which is not surprising since I can be fairly spastic.

Another of the poetry books that I kept was my MIL’s A.A. Milne books. I really kept all of them. When we had her funeral service I recited poetry that I picked from her Milne books. She would have liked that. I think it surprised my Brothers-in-law at the time that I would have thought of reading my MIL’s favorite poetry. I won’t go into my relationship with my BsIL right now but let’s just say it is strained.

I found a whole set of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia. These are very fun. I love the illustrations. These guys are HAWT! Not.

And last but not least and probably the most surprising find was this……

The copyright on this little gem of craziness is 1937 by the Eugenics Publishing Company, Inc. Five years before my in-laws were married. Hmmmm…..

Though it may explain a certain afternoon tea conversation between my MIL (age 80) and I (age 26) that revolved around comments by a radio talk show psychologist and oral sex.




  1. I'm glad you got to keep some of those treasures. I rummaged through my Grandma's cellar back when I was a kid and took all of her school books. They're still in my mom's attic, I think I might need to dig them out after reading this. The encyclopedia pictures? Awesome. Nothing like men in leotards manhandling each other. And the sex book and conversations are too funny!

  2. And don't think I didn't notice that you didn't hit the gym. Get books on tape, you can exercise AND read. ;) BTW, I have all of my Grandma's hand written recipes... on the backs of envelopes and postcards. I love them.

  3. I too have kept some the best memories from my grandparents and my parents.

    One of the saddest things for me to have was a trunk of memories my grandmother put together of her time with my Dad's first husband. After he died and my grandmother remarried she would never let Daddy look into the trunk.

    So for years and years the trunk just moldered in the basement. Then she died at 87 and her second husband decided that Dad didn't need the trunk and told HIS oldest boy to get rid of it. Ralph did, he took to Dad.

    My Dad was SO excited to finally get the trunk...he looked sort of through it, but they were leaving the very next day to go see my son in Alabama. Off they went, where he died from a massive heart attack. (Another story for another time).

    I got the trunk...if was filled to brim of wonderful happy memories of Pete, grandma, and Daddy. I wish often he could have seen them and known. He was raised as the unwanted step-child, and this would have brought great gladness to his growing up.


  4. Who wants sanity with sex??? Only those prudes in the late thirties could think that would be fun!


    Awesome book finds! How wonderful!


  5. Wow! These books are incredible. I can't imagine how hard it must be to throw out ANY old book, but I'm glad you're keeping the ones you are.

    And choosing books IS exercise. It s. :D

  6. Some more golden oldies. Do you display all your books?

    Will you be sharing a tidbit of your conversation?? LOL

  7. I love stuff like that. I still have a bunch of my parents stuff (and grandparents)'s so fun to look at. One in particular is a book that my grandmother gave to her dad in the late 1800's with an inscription, then my dad gave it to his dad in 1940 also with inscription. I'm saving it for my son to give to my husband when he is old enough to read it and put something thoughtful.

  8. That conversation must have been a real head-spinner! I love the old books and I bet the old Life magazines were awesome to read!!

  9. First edition Gone With The Wind? I envy you.
    When my grandpa died, my dad and his sister and brother found all kinds of money hidden in the house... and it wasn't a few hundred dollars, either. He didn't talk about the Depression that much, but there were little things he did/didn't do my dad says was because of what he went through during the Depression.

  10. Centerville?? I know where that is! If you only knew how many times we floated the Current River when I was a kid!!

  11. I love looking at old books. I was so upset when I found that my mum had cleaned out her bookshelves and tossed all her old Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc... which she had read as a child and which I had also enjoyed in my childhood. I did manage to salvage her really old copy of Little Women - but of course none of those books were as old as the ones you are posting about.

    By the way, thanks for the vote of confidence on my photos. Feel free to paint any of them that you like. I'd love to see your interpretation of them. I'll be posting some photos of mustard-coloured irises later today.

  12. Cool stuff. I love old books. I love new ones too, but the don't have 'the smell' yet.

  13. I would be so horrible if left the task of cleaning out someone's house. I would want to keep everything. Every single thing.