‘I just had to have a raccoon!” My wife Liz has been a children’s librarian since 1967. She is passionate about getting kids “hooked on books.”
Growing up in a home filled with books did not necessarily make Liz and her siblings love books.
At age 8, Liz announced, “When I grow up, I only want to have one book in my house!”
A good remedial reading teacher turned her around.
For her brother Tom, learning to love books required the “call of the wild.”
“I’ve always had dogs, cats, snakes, birds and lizards. When I was 12, I decided I just had to have a raccoon. My folks were less than enthusiastic, but my mom came up with a plan. She felt that I didn’t read enough, and proposed that I read 150 books in the next year that she picked out at the library, then I would get my raccoon.
Tom never got a raccoon. He traded his “earned option” for a summer with his aunt and uncle on Illinois’ Rock River, where the fishing was spectacular.
But Tom, like all his siblings, became a voracious reader. He notes:
“Bud and Paula Ogren recently died. They left us kids a wealth of fond memories and many thousands of books.
“For months I’ve been selecting from their books to add to my library, and, ah, what wonders I have discovered!
“In the attic I found a boxful of life-changing books including ‘Chicken Every Sunday: My Life With Mother’s Boarders’ by Rosemary Taylor. I loved this book so much I immediately bought three more used copies to give to family and friends.”
Tom gave us a copy of “Chicken Every Sunday.” I was delighted to find a real, albeit somewhat fictional, piece of Western Americana.
Set in Tucson in 1912, it reminds me of Clarence Day’s “Life With Father,” except that both of Rosemary’s parents are eccentric to the extreme.
Emily Hefferen is the seemingly practical one. From proud Virginia stock made penniless by the Civil War, she is attentive to the destination of every penny.
Husband Jim is a dreamer, who leaves a steady job as a grocery warehouse manager to become an outside salesman for Arbuckle Coffee, “The Coffee That Won the West.”
Jim’s Southern Arizona territory included Globe, Bisbee, Douglas and the legendary Tombstone.
The name “Arbuckle” brought back some great memories of tales told by my mentor, the late Santa Clara County historian, Clyde Arbuckle. Clyde spoke of his family’s coffee salesmen who sold mining stocks on the side.
Jim Hefferen does exactly this and so much more. But Jim also has to deal with Emily, who from the beginning insists on taking in boarders to make that extra $75 a month.
Jim comes home from one of his rugged sales trips and finds that Emily has rented the couple’s bedroom. He has to sleep with his 6-foot body on a 5-foot sofa. Emily claims to have improved the situation the next night by adding an orange crate for his feet.
Meanwhile, daughter Rosemary has to deal with the boarders.
You can find thousands of inviting books such as “Chicken Every Sunday” at the San Luis Obispo Friends of the Library book sale on Thursday through Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Building, 801 Grand Ave.
Thursday will be a members-only night from 6 to 9 p.m. The open sale is Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dan Krieger is a professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly.