Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where It All Began

Sometime this summer, I will reach the 20th anniversary of when I began collecting series books. First, some background to the tale is necessary.

During the summer that I turned seven years old, my mother pulled six Nancy Drew books out of the living room closet. She told me that the books were the first six Nancy Drew books and that she had purchased them for me when I was a baby, which was in 1972.

She told me which one was the first book, and I began reading it. I recall that I spent a good amount of time that day reading The Secret of the Old Clock. I do not recall any other details, but I must have liked the book.

My mother began buying Nancy Drew books for me. The books that she bought were a mixture of black and white multi endpapers, double oval endpapers, and quite a few of the Twin Thriller lavender double editions that she found in a local closeout store.

I later progressed from Nancy Drew to Trixie Belden. During the sixth grade, I checked out the first sixteen Trixie Belden books from my elementary school library, one at a time. I remember how thrilling it was reading about Trixie, Honey, and Jim getting caught in that horrible flood during The Happy Valley Mystery. I remember how much I loved reading those Trixie Belden books, which were the thin hardcover editions from the 1970s. How I wish I had those exact copies from the elementary school in my possession.

At some point after I read Trixie Belden, my mother brought some books home for me that she found at a garage sale. There were perhaps around six or so Trixie Belden books, covering all formats from the first format up to the books from the 1970s. She also had found an interesting old copy of The Clue of the Velvet Mask which was a picture cover edition with blue multi endpapers and the original text. I was utterly fascinated with that book. It had an old-fashioned illustration on the front cover, and I carefully compared the text to my copy and noticed the interesting differences.

I gradually lost interest in Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I began reading miscellaneous teen novels including Sweet Valley High very shortly after its launch when only around a dozen SVH titles had been released. After that I read Christopher Pike and later went through a phase in which I read most of Charles Dickens' works along with works by several classic English authors.

My Nancy Drew books never left my bedroom even after I lost interest in them. I did, unfortunately, use a bunch of them to prop up a broken leg on my bed, so the covers of some books have deep gouges in them.

I have now set the background. Sometime during the summer of 1991, I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show. During that time, I did not often watch Oprah, but on that one fateful day I was watching her show. That particular episode was one of her shows featuring items that people had found in their attics. Audience members had brought a variety of antiques and collectibles and were finding out what the items were worth, kind of like what happens on Antiques Roadshow.

As I watched that show, I thought of those books that my mother had bought at the garage sale when I was a child. I thought of those neat older Trixie Belden books and that odd copy of Velvet Mask with the original text. I went to my room and found the books. I then thought about how I could try to find more of them.

All it took was one hour of watching Oprah and remembering those old books from that garage sale. That summer, I began visiting garage sales every weekend. I went to used book stores. I traveled to local antique shops. And here I am 20 years later. What is your story?

4 comments:

Laurie said...

I enjoyed reading your story! My mother bought me my first Nancy Drew book for Christmas when I was a third grader, in 1973. "Secret of the Old Clock" was in my stocking. I lived on a farm and reading was a great time-filler. Mom would hide books in her closet and I would "buy" them, using my allowance. I received them as gifts at birthday parties and Christmas exchanges. I read a lot of bound editions from our old Carnegie library. My babysitter would loan me hers, as well. I finally had the whole set of matte covers and they moved with me to every apartment and house I ever had. I went to the Nancy Drew conference in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1993, and had the privilege of meeting Mildred Wirt Benson. She signed my "Clock" book. It was there that I learned about the unrevised editions and the different picture covers from David Farah, one of the guest speakers. My goal has been collecting all the Applewoods and the matte picture covers prior to revision. From there, I will probably refine my collection by replacing/upgrading to better condition or more desirable editions.

stratomiker said...

I started reading the Hardy Boys books in the third grade in the early 50s. Then I noticed the girls had Nancy Drews and I went bonkers wanting them, so we'd trade. I thought Nancy was incredible, a girl having all those adventures.

I was lucky enough to have a school chum whose parents had kept all their collections from the thirties and forties, so I was able to read almost all the series popular back then and became a bona fide series addict.

I had a writing club with two friends on my street and my sister so we could write our own series books. Because we were just kids, we didn't know how to write books - so we'd rewrite first chapters from certain books using our own characters and then try to take off from there. It was how I taught myself to write. I still have many of those stories. We'd turn Drews into Danas, Kay Traceys into Drews, Hardy Boys into Rick Brants, and on and on. Later in high school I would do similar with other series book friends from around the country, but we'd take an adult book and turn it into a Hardy or Rick Brant.

This was all fun and a way to write when we didn't know how to write. One of my favorites was solving the problem of there being no original canon Nancy Drew Christmas story. I did that by rewriting Hollow Oak into a Christmas version with all winter scenes in Canada.

It's amazing what fanatics some of us are! But my mania to write my own books was stronger than having to collect books - although I did that, too, of course.

Mike

Countess von Wilhelm said...

I feel so fortuante to still have my small collection of Nancy Drew yellow-spined books. I grew up with the Nancy of the 60's, which is different from the "original" Nancy. I have actually started re-reading them, beginning with the Password to Larkspur Lane (my all time favorite), Clue of the Broken Locket, and now Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes. When I was young, oh, how I longed for a homing pigeon to drop mysteriously from the sky with an equally mysterious message tied to its foot, or discover a secret key to a hidden door. I was also very particular about the illustrations. I'm not sure who the illustrator was, but the ones I really loved were in Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes, Larkspur Lane, Broken Locket, and I believe Phantom of Pine Hill. Re-reading them brings me back to a simpler time and I am enjoying getting lost again in River Heights. I try to collect anything I see that pertains to girl series books, and I have two Dana Girls that I picked up 2nd hand for next to nothing and they are in good shape as well, and a Doris Force book I found in a 2nd hand shop. I also ordered a "blue" Drew from you yesterday, as I recall happily reading those that I borrowed from my local library as well. Thanks for a GREAT site!!

sequesterednooks said...

I enjoyed reading about your start with reading and collecting all these series. That's really sweet that your mom bought the books when you were a baby.

I'm lucky enough to have a collection that came from my mom and aunts, including a bunch of blue/orange ones from my grandmother. I could never get rid of these, which is why I haven't bothered to upgrade any even though they don't have dust jackets.