Little Free Library Program
Reading: My story
Dick Morrow 2017
Reading has been a major factor shaping my life. Looking back over my 75 years – to date – brings focus to the power that reading can have over every twist and turn throughout one’s travel down life’s road. The richness gained from the printed word has provided education, adventure, entertainment, successful employment and personal growth beyond measure. To understand how it all began, I have taken the liberty below to describe the environment where this young Iowa boy was born and grew up.
I was born near the small village Wever, Iowa on a small farm. It was a frigid February 22, 1942. World War II raged and the entire United States was engaged. My first memories are after the war ended and our community was full of neighbors and relatives home from military service. Excitement and optimism were everywhere.
Our home was a small one bedroom frame building totaling maybe 500 square feet. My younger brother and I slept on a “roll-a-way” bed in the living room. (Later, my young sister arrived and had her own identical bed.) During the day the beds folded up against one wall. The kitchen and the big cast iron wood burning cook stove were the heart and soul of the house. We had an outdoor hand pump well, an outhouse, no electricity and no indoor plumbing. Kerosene lanterns provided our lighting. A primitive ice box served as our cold food storage. Clothes were washed on the back porch with big tubs and a hand turned roller contraption to wring out the water after washing and again after rinsing. A separator was there to separate the milk from the cream. We drank the skimmed milk and used the cream for butter, in coffee and cooking. A garden and dirt cellar holding home canned vegetables was our major food supply. Pigs, chickens, a milk cow, dog and cats rounded out the “family.”
Younger people do not understand living without electricity. There was no radio, no TV,
no record players, no video devices, no electrical or electronic devices whatsoever. We had no air conditioning, no fans, no central heat, no indoor plumbing, no toaster, and no microwave. The informational deluge available today was simply not available. An occasional newspaper or magazine, a trip to local business in Wever, or the rare visit to a town for a movie were my only contacts to the outside world. My physical world during those first few years had a ten mile radius for all practical purposes.
School began for me at five years old. Dad believed I was wasting time by not being in class. Our local school building was two rooms, two teachers, and eight grades. My class had five students: Philip, Linda, Betty and Richard, plus myself. Grades 1 through 4 were taught by Miss Buck. The other room holding grades 5 through 8 were taught by Mrs. Drummond. Total annual enrollment averaged about 35 students. The good news was the school had electricity; so we had lighting and a central coal furnace. No A/C, radios or television, thoug
Beginning first grade, I knew my numbers, letters, and some basics. Reading began quickly, and I discovered books. Starting with “Dick and Jane” readers took my life quickly beyond our farming community. It was exciting to discover the big world and learn that in addition to school texts, our room held a small library full of adventure. In that room began my roaming Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood, racing with the Black Stallion, jousting with Ivanhoe, roaming the Purple Sage portrayed by Zane Grey, swinging on vines with Tarzan, and all manner of global adventuring. When the library was exhausted, I scrounged for books wherever I could. Neighbors lent me theirs. I begged for a Hardy Boy mystery for my Christmas gift. Without leaving our farm, my life exploded with information and wonder.
Later, in the upper-class room, there was another small library to conquer. New worlds appeared, including sailing the seas with Captain Horatio Hornblower. In the 8th grade, I had severely exhausted my reading supply network and needed relief. That’s when I realized the 24-volume school encyclopedia set was ripe for tackling. We all used it for reference work, but no one to my knowledge, had actually read it from beginning to end. At that time (before the internet), this set represented an abbreviated collection of the world’s knowledge. I did read it completely. It was fascinating. For a little farm boy, I felt I had the power of knowledge. I believed I was ready to take on anything. Best of all, however, reading released me mentally from constant farm work and chores. Had I never known anything but farming and its never-ending drudgery, my life would have been radically different and certainly much less interesting and fulfilling.
My reading obsession continued through high school and in 1959, at 17 years old, I graduated. Life “out there” awaited me. My first goal was to work on the wheat harvest. I’d read about it and thought it was a good way to earn money and prepare for the future. Therefore, I walked down the driveway with my small “gym” bag of possessions and hitchhiked to Oklahoma. In the town of Cherokee, I found a job driving a combine and began working. That fall I went into the Navy and never lived at home in Iowa again. Since then, life has flown by via several careers and in different states. It’s been a blast! And not boring! I could have never asked for a better life-long voyage than the one I have been on.
Since leaving Iowa at 17, I have been to every state and many parts of the world. Everywhere I have traveled has always in some way been familiar, and I have felt like I had been there before. That is the power of reading. Somewhere in those countless pages, was a scene or description of where I then stood. I truly believe the entire world is but the local neighborhood for an avid reader. Reading gets us to a place first. If we are lucky enough to visit in person, we only confirm that “yes” we recognize that place from our stored memory bank.
Reading has taken this farm boy throughout the world and even around the universe. I recommend it!