Reagan's library
Dixon Public Library, Ronald Reagan frequented as a child. Dixon, Illinois, USA

“Be cautious especially when you cross Seventh Street,” she said holding my hands while looking directly into my eyes.

“Choose a book and come straight home,” she admonished.

I didn’t understand Mom’s trepidation at letting me walk the half mile to the Dixon Public Library. I’d done it a million times; this was the first alone.

That walk was an adventure like I’d never known. Being the youngest of four children, I was constantly accompanied by a sibling. Not today. Excitement pulsed through my body as I hurriedly stuffed my feet into my red Keds. Clutching my library card, I kissed Mom. Exhilarated by the warmth of the bright November Saturday, I skipped down the sidewalk heading toward Hennepin Avenue. I was the happiest first grader alive.

Decades later, I’m still walking to the library and feel a twinge of elation. I recently received a gift copy of Reagan – A Life in Letters and my journey took on new life. A chronical of correspondence President Ronald Reagan wrote throughout his life. It’s a perspective on Reagan portrayed through letters to hundreds of friends and colleagues.

Reagan grew up on Hennepin Avenue. I walked past his childhood home on my way to school and on library jaunts.

In his book, Reagan discusses his love for the library. “I remember with great warmth the old stone building. I would make the long trek on foot down Hennepin Avenue, up the hill and across the street to the library. It was my house of magic,” he explains.

I feel a link with Reagan and the Dixon Library. We walked the same sidewalks. We grew up in the same neighborhood. The old stone building has changed only slightly since Reagan’s days. I’ll continue to make the trek to the library that we both love.


Note: I have joined a writing group that is a bunch of fun! Requirements are that the story has to be exactly 300 words. There are also three required words the moderator of the group chooses – the very first word of the story and two others. I’ll put those words in bold. Enjoy!
Here is the link to the writing group if you are interested in joining! https://simonjwood.wordpress.com/contact/

 

 

5 thoughts on “Reagan’s Library

  1. What an amazing building, that round entrance and the little turret-like tower, surely Tolkien-influenced?! I’m wondering if visitors can go into the tower and whether you did as a child? A lovely and nostalgic piece, thank you Mary.

    Libraries used to hold a special place in our hearts, as book lovers. I’ve been racking my brains for such a memorable library in my own life, but alas there wasn’t one. They were all fairly modern in my neck of the woods. However, there was a department store in my home town, Welwyn Garden City, UK, where I grew up, and there was a staircase to a balcony that had the non-fiction section. How I loved to go up there as a child! When I heard they were closing their book department I wrote a protest letter – at the age of ten! They assured me it would never close.

    Visiting the store a few years ago, now ‘John Lewis’ for, I don’t know, perhaps thirty years? the book ‘department’ is now a fraction of the size and in a different part of the store. I think the balcony was knocked down …

    I have thousands of books now, but the very first ones I ever bought (probably with book tokens from doting grandmothers) were from the Welwyn Department Store.

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    1. Yes Simon the turret is a sitting area. Very peaceful and relaxing. The round window was formerly the entrance with a nice set of stairs but now the entrance is to the left. An expansion to the entire building was added in the 70s.
      I, too, had a favorite book store! It was called Edward’s Bookstore. It had hardwood floors and rows of books so close together it was hard to walk through. The owner was a bit of a grump & would say ‘Don’t touch anything unless you plan to buy it!’ I often had enough money to buy a book mark. After several visits and being very timid he got the idea that loved the store and he softened a bit.
      I would love to own a store like that! We do have a nice independent book seller a short walk from m the library- for those of us that love books!

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  2. Hi Mary, I saw a photo online of a big new extension with what looked like an entrance but it was on the right. I couldn’t find photographs of the interior but there is a painting showing the old entrance. Understandable how they decided to change it to a street-level entry!

    My local town, Horncastle, has several used book stores and some amazing antique/junk shops too, floors and floors of incredible stuff. There’s even a shop where you can buy three books for £1. I’ve bought some wonderful books there including a leather-bound facsimile of the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica for £1 (as it’s three volumes in a slipcase LOL). Yes, really!

    Unfortunately I’m out of shelf space right now (and already have thousands of books in storage) so haven’t visited recently. However, the owner has just opened yet another used book store! More ‘collectable’ stuff, but generally very reasonably priced …

    Would love to read a piece by you on Edward’s Bookstore 🙂

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    1. Hi Simon
      I believe the library was updated and expanded possibly due to the ADA – Americans with Disabilities Act. So yes the entrance needed to be changed.

      I have many books but not nearly as extensive as yours. My daughter is growing her collection, too.

      My dad loved to go to estate auctions and would inevitably let me bid on a box of junk with several books. I could spend days in antique/junk shops! We have some good ones in my area but I’m sure they’d pale in comparison to Horncastle.

      I will add Edward’s to my topic list!

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      1. Hi Mary, yes, anyone with a disability would have struggled to get up those steps. What were they thinking of?!

        It’s my ambition to have my own library. I’ve planned it all out, it’ll be circular, with space for 10,000 books and with a little cupola in the roof. I envisage angels in blue painted on its ceiling! Might not be this year though LOL.

        There’s one particular junk/antique shop in Horncastle that must have about 20 rooms, quite a number of them dangerous due to the amount of stuff crammed into them. And they’ve a yard full of table after table of porcelain etc. that stands out in all weathers. It’s an amazing place where I’ve bought a few books, although they’re a nightmare to look through. I did get a Victorian travel book in lovely condition though, for £1. It’s on Amazon for £50 – £100! Hard to imagine what will happen to that place over time though. Hoarding is a definite ‘disorder’!

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