500 Hats, 600 Books!

Don, a former Duluthian, shared his library story:

I owe a great deal to the Duluth Public Library because it was there that my academic future was shaped.

My father died in an accident when I was seven years old. My mother was forced to move herself and me to Duluth. I went from a one-room country school to a much larger city school where I knew no one in my 3rd-grade class. My mother took a job which was adequate to support us, but she began work each day at 7 am, was off from noon until 3 pm, and then worked until 6 pm. She had Thursday and Friday off but worked every weekend.

On Saturday mornings she would leave a silver 50 cent piece on the kitchen table for me. I would use five cents to take the city bus downtown. A movie at the Strand was 12 cents. The Strand consistently showed Roy Rogers and Gene Autry westerns, also Abbot and Costello comedies. After the movie, I would go across Superior Street to the Bridgeman Russell soda fountain and spend 18 cents on a double malted.

I soon discovered the public library about three blocks away. I wandered into the children’s section and began to read. One of the first books I read was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss, and I was hooked. Nearly every Saturday after that, I checked out the maximum of five books, returning them the following week. I rarely called on any of the librarians but they were always kind and helpful. I would catch the bus home for another nickel and give my mother back the dime that was left. This went on until graduation from the 6th grade, with an estimated 600 books under my belt and a vocabulary and syntax which totally disgusted my contemporaries.

During the summer after the 6th grade, my mother moved us to Spokane, Washington. I graduated from Washington State University and went on to graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I retired from the tenured faculty of the University of Missouri in 1998.

Oh, one final thing—I married a librarian.

Don and his wife gave a transformational gift to the Duluth Library Foundation that will help make it possible for the library to serve children like Don today and for decades to come—and to open up doors of opportunity for them.

Don, former Duluthian, and library supporter