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I’m a compulsive reader—one of those people who read the cereal box every morning, even when it’s the SAME box. But I didn’t get that habit by accident. Both my parents were avid readers, each often engrossed in their evening reading.

My mother was a big fan of Readers Digest. Remember when it was as thick as a brick and had abridged versions of popular novels? Even as a kid, I liked the “Most Unforgettable Character” column and the one of funny or ironic events in people lives.

My dad, on the other hand, read those things often called penny novels. They were usually Westerns with a woman on the cover, wearing a torn blouse and exposing the top of her bosom. When I was very young, I asked my dad what he thought heaven would be like. He said, “Oh, probably the same as here, except I wouldn’t be able to read my books.”

As I grew, I became a huge fan of Nancy Drew books, reading every title published at the time. I especially liked The Hidden Staircase and The Message in the Hollow Oak. Nancy didn’t solve those mysteries alone, though. She had help from her sidekick, Bess Marvin, and her faithful boyfriend Ned, who chauffeured them around in his “roadster.”  

I understand that Nancy and her pals have been updated. More books have been added to the series by various writers operating under the pen name Carolyn Keene. Let me go on record as saying I don’t approve. I LIKED that the characters and their vehicle seemed old-fashioned to me even in the ‘50’s.

The internet tells me that various people slaved over the original series under the Carolyn Keene pen name, none of whom were actually Carolyn Keene. They were paid $125 per manuscript, with a contract stating they’d get no royalties. If there really WERE a Carolyn Keene who got royalties, she and her descendants could buy out Bill Gates!

About the time I got my first lipstick (Cotton Candy by Avon,) I moved on to teen romance novels by Betty Cavanna. Books like Paintbox Summer involved a love-struck teenage girl with a mad crush on whatever boy. My friends and I read them all, breathless, and then swapped books.

I like to think in my Old School dotage, I’ve moved on to loftier topics, but I remember fondly the eerie mysteries and titillating romances from my early reading days.


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