As a fairly normal 10-year-old, I loved the long days of summer, and I was happy to have the two and a half months break from school. The first few weeks of vacation were joyous and carefree, and my sisters, my brother, and I filled the days with long bicycle rides, games of badminton, impromptu picnics (PB & J sandwiches with a thermos of Kool-Aid) on the lawn of the deserted “haunted” house, and “scientific” experiments with food coloring to determine how many different colors we could tint the Kool-Aid.
However, as the summer wore on, I began to get a little bored with the usual pursuits. Both our parents worked and we each had household chores, but the chores were usually completed well before noon, and the remainder of the day was ours. I was an avid reader, and as much as I loved the freedom from school, I missed the school library. I eagerly anticipated the delivery of My Weekly Reader via mail every Tuesday, but I was so hungry for something to read that I would usually read the entire thing twice, and even work the crossword puzzle, in less than an hour.
The summer I was ten, the Summer Reading Program came to the rescue. Mom was working in the City of Summerville Water Department, and, for the first time, my older sister Marie and I were participants in the program, and were allowed to walk from our house to the Summerville Library once a week. I was thrilled, as we were seldom allowed outside the neighborhood on our own (we had to stay within “hollering distance”), but mainly because of visions of the mountains of books that would now be at my disposal, and I made plans to do some serious reading.
We began our weekly journey from our house on Vine Street. Mom gave each of us a dime before she left for work, which we would spend on an ice cream cone at Jackson's Drug Store's soda fountain. Our halfway point was the rear entrance to the city cemetery and the Wilburn Hudson residence across the way. We always stopped for a moment to admire Helen Hudson's flower garden, full of the most brilliantly-colored zinnias every summer.
From there, it was only a short hop to our favorite street, East Washington. We loved this part of our walk not only for the stately old homes, but for the massive trees growing alongside the sidewalks, cooling them and giving us shade for the final leg of our trip. We quickened our pace as we walked down the hill, across the railroad tracks, past the Ford Dealership, and were greeted by a welcome blast of frigid air as we entered Jackson's.
I studied the paper cups in the dispenser as we ate our ice cream, fascinated as always by the scene of a young woman in a red, fur-trimmed skating costume hovering on her ice skates next to the words “Frosty Treat.” When the last drop of melted ice cream was toweled off our fingers, we made our way to City Hall, first to check in with Mom, then over to the most glorious place in town. We were greeted warmly by Miss Jean Pless, a beloved figure from my childhood, and who I secretly believed must be the luckiest woman in the world – she had the privilege of going to work at the library every day!
We were allowed to spend a luxurious hour or so browsing for books, and always left with our arms full, which made for a slightly longer trip home. We didn't mind, though, because we stopped again at our halfway point, and leafed through our precious reading material while resting on cool marble cemetery benches. Refreshed, we trudged the final four blocks home, poured ourselves a tall glass of the ubiquitous Kool-Aid, spread an old quilt under a tree, and lounged contentedly as we perused our week's worth of treasure.
Almost fifty years later, reading remains one of my greatest pleasures, and I still visit the library frequently to check out armloads of books. The Summerville Library is now the Chattooga County Library, it's no longer a small room in the back of City Hall, and dear Miss Pless does not greet me on arrival. But, my memories and experiences from the summer reading program remain with me, and the library will always be one of my favorite destinations for a summer journey.
After graduating with the CHS class of 1973, Judy Brooks attended Berry College for a short while before beginning a career that encompassed a number of diverse positions, from bartender and directory assistance operator to assistant grant-writer and office manager. She lived in Rome, Atlanta, and Paducah, KY before returning to Summerville in September of 2010, and is quite content to be back among family and friends.
In January of 2013, she established Pyewacket Publishing, and recently released Under the Electric Sun, a Kindle edition juvenile/YA science fiction title by local author and former Summerville News sports writer Matthew Curry. She would be thrilled to hear from friends, classmates, and other interested members of the community, and can be reached at https://www.facebook.com/PyewacketPublishing firstname.lastname@example.org or
Photographs courtesy of the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce.