When I was in elementary school in Starr, S.C., a big cream-colored van used to pull up at the front door.
Our teachers would march us to the van, and we’d climb the three steps into the Anderson County library’s bookmobile to find filled bookshelves on each side.
I think my first book, probably in the fourth grade, was about a circus. It was age appropriate, as were the string of Dr. Dolittle books that followed.
Dr. John Dolittle talked to animals at his home in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. His dog was Jip, his duck was named Dab-Dab and his parrot, Polynesia, had taught him the animal languages.
Starr Elementary had its own library, but there weren’t that many books — I don’t recall any of Hugh Lofton’s Dr. Dolittle series — so we relied on the bookmobile.
In the summer, my mother would take me up the road to Shiloh Baptist where the bookmobile parked in the shade of some red oaks, and I’d pick out books.
I picked a big fat one one summer with nice illustrations of a young boy and a deer and parked myself in the porch swing. Two days later, I had finished “The Yearling,’’ and probably cut the grass to boot.
But I also read “The Complete Sherlock Holmes,” “Gone With The Wind,” “The Bounty Trilogy,” and, during one of my literary fixations, a lot of Asimov and Heinlein, all because the bookmobile came to the country.
I remember sitting on a school bus reading the first few pages of Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” that I had checked out from the bookmobile a few hours earlier. He wrote of seeing a cloud coming over a mountain.
“It came very fast and the sun went a dull yellow and then everything was gray and the sky was covered and the cloud came on down the mountain and suddenly we were in it and it was snow.”
Mark Twain might have said Hemingway didn’t have no truck with commas.
When I was attending the unpleasantries in Southeast Asia, the U.S. Army ran an expensive version of a bookmobile.
On resupply days, the Huey brought out C-rations, mail, some clean jungle fatigues, dry socks and boxes of new books. That’s how I came to read Steinbeck’s “Once There Was A War” in the highlands west of Danang.
This is National Library Week and Wednesday is National Bookmobile Day. It’s going to be hard to celebrate.
Georgia has 63 public library organizations, according to the state library system, but only 11 bookmobiles are still on the road between Brasstown Bald and the Tybee light.
Well, how about the St. Simons Island light, you ask. The Three Rivers Regional Library parked its bookmobile a long time ago when funding was down.
Then the system split like a church with a preacher and deacon board that didn’t agree on the color of the new carpet, and now Glynn County has its own two- library Marshes of Glynn Regional Library and still no bookmobile.
Bookmobiles are still needed because there are a lot of people out there who still read entire pages and chapters like those found in books. LOL if you want, but it’s true.
Some, although just a few, have no way to get to their libraries. That’s why Southwest Georgia Regional Library’s bookmobile still goes to day cares, elementary schools, nursing homes and assisted living centers to deliver DVDs, audio books and large print books.
More than 30 years ago, I followed the Okefenokee Regional Library’s bookmobile 20 miles west from Waycross to Millwood.
The shelves were all filled, but “Miss Shadron,” who did children’s programs, filled a cardboard box with books for a special delivery.
Before the bookmobile went to its normal stop at the post office, it bumped down the dirt roads to the south of the once thriving community and turned onto Sawmill Road.
It stopped in front of a four-room house that had probably once housed pulpwood, tobacco or mill hands. If it ever had a coat of paint, it had shed every flake long ago.
A rusty bicycle wheel mounted at the top of a slender pole caught a snowy signal from the Albany TV station.
Head librarian Susan Walker told me the books were for a young girl who lived there with parents who lived meagerly.
The girl would read all the dozens of books in the box, and the subject didn’t really matter, Walker told me.
The child was brilliant, excelled in school and could accomplish anything, she said.
If there’s another girl — or boy — like that in Ware County, there is no bookmobile. If there’s a child like that in Glynn County, they’re out of luck, too, although I’m sure they probably have cable TV.
The bookmobile in Hart County near Georgia’s northeast corner stops at five Dollar General stores including one at Reed Creek where my grandparents got married around 1905.
There were no dollar stores then but there were some five and dimes, thanks to Mr. Woolworth.
The Live Oak Regional Library’s bookmobile travels in Chatham, Liberty and Effingham counties and makes a stop in historic Midway.
The book-laden vehicle itself will probably be history itself someday, and that’s a pity.
Terry Dickson has been a journalist in South Carolina and the Golden Isles for more than 40 years. He is a Glynn County resident. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org