The humanizing influence of America’s libraries

Sean is the son of the late Francie and Pat Flynn. He is a ‘77 graduate of GHS and is an ‘85 alumnus of SDSU. He is also the author of “Chief” “An Engineer’s War” and “Mission To Germany”.

During my elementary and junior high school years, I earned summer spending money by mowing lawns in my hometown of Gregory. On the days when my services weren’t needed or it was too wet to mow, swim, or play baseball, I could be found at the Gregory Public Library. My favorite section in the library was History, where I would stand or kneel before shelves of cloth-bound books, the titles on their spines tempting me to explore the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Civil War, or World War II. I would select a book that piqued my interest and present it to our local librarian, Mrs. Eva McMeen, a woman as orderly as a Prussian Army staff officer but kindly as a Cub Scout den mother. Mrs. McMeen would ink-in a due date and send me on my way. Back in my bedroom, book in hand, I was transported through time to the Plains of Abraham, the summit of Bunker Hill, the gun smoke-choked approaches to Cemetery Ridge, or the black volcanic sands of Iwo Jima.

As I entered high school, my summer responsibilities became more demanding and I made fewer trips to the library. When I managed to get there, however, my time was well-spent, compliments of Mrs. McMeen, who encouraged me to page through bound volumes of our local newspaper, the Gregory Times-Advocate. I selected a particular year - 1922 or 1923, for instance - and in a manner fairly methodical for a fifteen-year-old, perused the articles, columns, and advertisements. My questions were nearly always the same: How did people dress in 1922? What did they do for sports and entertainment? Where did they worship? How did they earn their livings and why did they govern themselves the way they did? What national stories mattered to them? What triumphs and tragedies altered their destinies?

 

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