Saturday, 31 March 2012

There were just two places to buy books

for children when I was in the primary school. That is, two places to buy something other than "Little Golden Books", cheap editions of "the classics" and books printed on poor quality paper with garish cardboard covers. Most of the latter were "Sunday School" reward type books. I may come to them later.
The real book buying experience however was something quite different. I can twice remember my father being given a sum of money from the School Council to buy books for the school.
On the first occasion we were living in a tiny settlement on the far west coast of the state I live in.  There were two teachers in the school, my father and my mother. No books had been bought for at least eight years prior to our arrival.  Most houses did not own a book apart from a Bible and perhaps the Country Women's Association "Green and Gold" cookbook.  Teachers had come and gone with their own small supply of books.  My father felt the school should have at least a few. He somehow persuaded the parents that a little money should be spent on books. He tells me that he thinks he was given £5 to spend.  It would have been a good sum of money in pre-metric days.
The books were bought by him in the educational supply shop that supplied the schools with books. Most of our textbooks were printed by the same company. They were in a lane off the main shopping street in the city. The main shopping street is now a pedestrian mall. The lane is still there. The bookshop has gone.
It had a basement area where the school and university text books were kept and, on the ground floor, there were books for adults. Most important of all in my not so humble opinion was the section on the back wall that was home to the books for children. My brother was of the same view.
That school holiday my parents spent an entire morning in the bookshop, or so it seemed to us. Most of the time the spelling, reading and arithmetic books were handed on from one child to the next but there were several older children who would be doing "Year 8" by correspondence. My father would supervise their work and there were books to be bought for them. That was dull stuff!
Eventually we all went up to the ground floor again and my parents chose books for the school "library" - a bookshelf in each classroom.
I think my brother and I were disappointed by their choice. Looking back I realise that apart from ourselves, the sons of the bank manager and perhaps two other children the reading ability of the students was low. They did not read at home. It was something you did at school, because you had to do it. My parents chose books to reflect that.
We went on from there to the stationery supply shop. This also supplied the schools with art and craft materials. And, upstairs this time, there was another area which sold more text books and books for children.
Did we want to spend our pocket money, those sixpences we had saved so carefully, on pencils and paper or did we want to go upstairs and get a book? Foolish question! My brother and I disappeared up the stairs while my parents bought bright coloured squares of paper, cardboard and other "art" material. Even the fascinating sight of all those pens, pencils, paper clips, ink, chalk and other things could not compete with books!
It was quiet up there. The area was run by a short, dumpling of a woman who loved books and children in equal measure. When the shop closed she went on to run her own bookshop for children. We were greeted with smiles and by name, after all she knew our father well.
Our parents eventually climbed the stairs and bought yet more books - which sometimes turned out to be various Christmas and birthday presents - but my brother and I would hand over a pile of sixpences and leave with a book each wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.
This was book buying at its very best.


jeanfromcornwall said...

I would have had more trouble than you deciding whether it was book or stationery - although book would probably have won, since stationery tends to get used up. A book is forever.

Anonymous said...

Ah JeanfromCornwall it would have been a nigh on impossible choice for me! Ros

catdownunder said...

We figured we were going to get some stationey anyway Jean!
How many pens did you own at last count Ros?

jeanfromcornwall said...

Futher thought - I had a couple of pre-school books that I loved- "The Colour Kittens" and "Little Yip Yip and His Bark". I am pretty sure they were Little Golden Books, so don't put them down too hard!

catdownunder said...

Oh no Jean I won't - I may even do a Saturday post about our Little Golden Books - I had The Colour Kittens too!